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Designers Go for the Gold on "Project Runway"

Before getting into specifics about this week's episode of Project Runway ("Rings of Glory"), I want to pause for a brief second to urge tanorexic Blayne to get some help. Like serious psychological counseling.

Anyone who is tanning themselves every other day has some deep mental issues to deal with and he seemed to be suffering from withdrawal in this week's installment as he bemoaned the lack of self-tanning into the production's rigorous schedule. I think we're talking intervention time here, people. The constant tanning may have affected his design sense, his language abilities (it could explain the use of the invented suffix "licious" after every word), and his very sanity.

But in all fairness, I thought that this week's challenge--delivered to the designers by guest judge/Olympian Apolo Anton Ono--was an innately tricky one as they were tasked with creating an outfit for the US Olympic team's female members to wear during the Opening Ceremonies (which are slated to air, of course, on Bravo's sister network NBC on Friday evening; how's that for cross-promotion?). Sportswear is difficult to pull off at the best of times and this had the risk of pushing designers in one of two directions: towards far too athletic looks that didn't have any fashionable elements or towards pieces that looked overly designed, even costume-y.

So what did our estwhile band of design divas pull off this week? Let's discuss.

While she may not have won this particular challenge, I am once again blown away by Terri's skills. This week, she created several pieces that could have come out of the sportswear collections of Ralph Lauren or even Michael Kors, designing an elegant ensemble that worked as a throwback to the sort of cricking uniforms that categorized the Opening Ceremony garments of yesteryear but which was also deeply rooted in 2008: a tapered white pant perfectly set off a strapless band top, itself contrasting nicely with a striped jacket that Terri magically whipped together in a few hours' time and topped off with a stylish ruffled scarf. The overall look was perfectly suited for the event, would show off the athlete's bodies, and was innately stylish. Well done, Terri.

Korto, who won this challenge, definitely put some thought into thinking about both the Olympians' muscular bodies and the temperature in China, designing an outfit that made use of lightweight leather and linen to create a breezy look that subtly made use of red, white, and blue without being overt or intrusive, offering a wide-legged pant, a lightweight leather vest and a belted top that looked cool, confident, and sexy to boot.

Rounding out the top three designers was Joe, who was irritating me to no end this week as he created friction with several designers, most notably Daniel, whom he accused of re-threading "his" machine, which he had been working on ten minutes earlier, and told him to "wake up." Whatevs. Get a grip, dude, and pay more attention to what you're doing and stop accusing other people of creating drama when you're doing that just fine yourself...

Anyway, Joe's outfit wowed the judges but I thought it was way too literal and in-your-face. Plus, squorts are just not okay, regardless of the event at hand. Were the multi-colored zippers a cute idea? Sure, but it wasn't going to win him this particular challenge, thank god. It was a little too sporty for my liking and a little too "USA" (made even more evident, if you couldn't tell from the colors, by the USA going down the side in red). I thought it was pretty meh; it seemed like Michael Kors agreed.

Stella: stop using black leather. You are officially warned now. I am amazed that the judges haven't called her out for this yet (maybe it's still too early in the game) but week after week she is using the "leatha" once again as the basis for all of her garments. Michael, Heidi, and Nina called out Rami constantly for his perpetual use of draping, so it's weird to me that they aren't telling her to do something different for a change. Time to step outside your comfort zone, Stella.

Ah, Daniel. I really don't know what you were thinking this week. The garment was atrocious and had no relevance whatsoever to the challenge, the client, or the competition, really. Daniel created an odd, purple-hued garment with red buttons which was really more of a cocktail dress than something that female Olympians would be able to wear at the Opening Ceremony. He missed the boat entirely with the athletic theme of the challenge and couldn't quite grasp the history of the Opening Ceremony or what it was really all about, despite that half-hour they spent at the Armory. Just... wow.

Similarly, Jerrell created something that, while unique and striking, had no place whatsoever in this week's competition; it was as though he heard an entirely different brief than the other designers, creating a 1940s inspired look (complete with hat!) that was modern and definitely different: a pouf-sleeved blouse with several handkerchief/neckties, a high-waisted belted skirt with leggings, and that polka-dot hat. It certainly looked avant-garde and designed but it had no relevance in a challenge in which he was meant to create a garment for female athletes who would look utterly ridiculous in that get-up. While I knew the judges wouldn't auf Jerrell for this, it wasn't a surprise that he got critiqued so heavily.

And then there was Jennifer, the self-proclaimed surrealist whose work so far has been dowdy, matronly, and boring... and has yet to show any signs of the surrealism she claims has influenced her work. Where was the art of Dali and Magritte in this week's garment, a girlish above-the-knee skirt with a plain top and cut-away cardigan? Seriously, I am hoping someone can explain this to me, because I am just not seeing it at all. Once again, Jennifer was criticized for injecting her own style into the challenge rather than using the challenge to create something beautiful; like Stella with the leather, she seems unwilling or unable to break out of her own little box to create something different. After barely squeaking by last week, I knew that Jennifer's time was up and, sure enough, the judges decided to send her packing.

I think it's for the best. She hadn't created a single design that impressed me in any way and she really needed to bring her A-game to this week's challenge, knowing that she was on the chopping block after last week's performance. Alas...

Which design do you think was the best and which was the worst? Discuss.

Next week on Project Runway ("Welcome to the Jungle"), it's time for more cross-promotional opportunities as Brooke Shields, star of NBC's femme-centric drama Lipstick Jungle, drops by for a challenge in which the designers must create outfits for working women.


Synd-e said…
While watching last night, my roommate and I agreed that the French team would have gone bonkers for Jerrell's outfit.
Anonymous said…
I think AJ is right.

I think you are too harsh on the skort. Look, I would never be caught dead wearing one, but it IS the choice of many countries at the opening ceremonies. Joe definitely knew the audience. But it was right that he didn't win.

I may be mistaken, but I don't think Stella used leather this week. She was talking about her fabric at some point and she definitely said it was something else. In fact, I even made a joke that Stella was going to make an outfit out of leather, but it was something else (satin, maybe?). I think that her problem (of so many problems) is her insistent use of black for everything.

While I didn't think Jennifer was long for this competition, I thought Daniel should have gone home for COMPLETELY missing the point. He designed a cocktail dress.
Anonymous said…
I also agree with AJ.

But, unlike Ally, I am happy that Jennifer was sent home. Daniel's dress was a mess but I'll take it over the boring, boring, boring designs that Jennifer has sent down the runway.

And I'm glad that Korto won but I have to say that my personal favorite ensemble was Terri's. I want that blazer! And the scarf too! Right now, I see Terri as the one to beat.

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