Last night, Project Runway Season 8 saw its first group challenge. Two teams of six designers and no designated leaders sounds more like a social experiment than a fashion design challenge. It ended more like an episode of Real World, only the wrong person got kicked out of the house.
The Challenge: Create a six piece collection for fall 2010 using one fall trend concept and one fall textile trend. (They were given lists to choose from.)
Team Luxe consisted of Michael Costello, Gretchen, Christopher, Andy, Ivy Picks and A.J. They chose menswear as their concept and camel as their textile.
Team Military and Lace obviously chose military as their concept and lace as their textile. It consisted of April, Mondo, Michael D, Valerie, Casanova and Peach.
Each team developed very different strategies. Gretchen took the clear lead of Team Luxe. Instead of each of them creating a look, they (meaning Gretchen who once or twice pretended to consider comments from the others) came up with six looks and divvied up the pieces to the people who had the strengths to do them. Except they forgot create pieces that actually fit everyone's strengths leaving Michael C. to do two blouses he clearly didn't understand and A.J. to create a shirt dress. I know he volunteered, but it seemed like it was all that was left to him.
Team Military & Lace (M&L) went a more traditional route. They each designed an outfit that fit the theme and found ways to make the collection cohesive with the color story and embellishments. No one really took a lead. Valerie had a lot of influence, but she was careful not to overpower anyone. Peach worried that this was because they were clearly on the losing team and no one wanted to be responsible when they lost. How wrong she was.
Team M&L ended up winning. They understood team work, each kept their individuality and created a cohesive collection. Even when Casanova had a major meltdown his team and his model rallied around him to keep him from quitting. The judges loved what came of the collection. They felt it was cohesive without losing anyone's individuality. They complimented the balance of using lace with military style, acknowledging it can be a tricky thing to do. While I wasn't blown away by the collection, I do think they did a good job and deserved to win a hundred times over Team Luxe. Here is their show in order:
Mondo opened with not my favorite look, but it looked like Mondo while still fitting with the rest. The judges didn't really comment on him.
Peach did a good job with this high waisted skirt and lacy red top. She was originally going to put the red over the lace just letting lace peek out at the edges, but Tim advised otherwise and she listened. The judges and I agree that this is her best work yet.
April's look looks like April. The judges didn't have much to say, but she did a nice job. Also, for being so bitchy in the confessional parts of the show, she mostly kept her claws in during the challenge and worked with her team.
Valerie seemed the least brave with this challenge. I like her work, but I always wish I could get a little more.
Casanova nearly quit after Tim's critique, which warned that his blouse was going into granny territory, but when he pulled himself together, he created a look that had Heidi cooing. I bet she stole it off that poor model the second the taping ended because she kept saying she wanted to wear it right then. When asked who they thought should win everyone whose response was shown voted for Casanova so he took his first win tonight. It was a cool look, but not my favorite.
Iit's becoming a pattern, but I thought Michael Drummond should have had the win once again. He created a stunning closing look. He did amazing lace work for one day and kept the military theme with the shoulders and belt while making an otherwise very feminine look.
Team Luxe was losing team. They responded with shock and horror. They really thought they were the best. While the judges were talking to the winning team they developed their strategy--they would stick together; no one was the weakest link; they were proud of their work. However, their strategy fell apart in front of the judges. Actually, it was Gretchen who fell apart. After a tearful speech about how much they loved their collection, she quickly back peddled. She tried to throw Michael C under the bus, but he had immunity. This only forced her to make another awkward speech about the judges being fair and sending the weakest link home. She basically told them to break the rules and kick out the immune designer! Everyone else on the team blasted Michael C in turn, except A.J. who said he could only speak for himself, and he wasn't proud of his work.The judges pointed out that the proportions are all wrong (agreed!), something the other team predicted when they learned Team Luxe was splitting it up by pieces. They called various pieces "granny" and "Golden Girls" ready. Since Gretchen already had pieces called "grandpa sweaters," they were asking for a senior citizen theme. The collection looked almost as if Gretchen had designed and ironic, hipster granny theme, but because the rest of the designers don't really do ironic hipster like she does, it failed. The colors and shapes were drab and boring. Nothing in the collection made me want it. The designers owned up to which pieces they made and the judges sent them away so they could discuss this mess in private.
Heidi summed it up by saying "They designed with their hands all being handcuffed together." Michael Kors observed that they lost themselves and all failed to be self sufficient. They also criticized Gretchen's behavior. When the designers returned to the runway for judgement, Michael C. was dismissed because he had immunity. The other teams greeted him sympathetically. Next Christopher was safe, then Ivy, then Andy, leaving Gretchen and A.J. on the runway.
People may disagree with me because of her past history, but Gretchen should have gone home. She took leadership, and she should have taken responsibility for the sad collection. A.J. was humble and admitted not being proud of his work. He was sent home. I really felt he was growing and wanted to see more from him. While I think Gretchen has talent, she hasn't made anything amazing or game changing. She essentially designed six horrible outfits this week and failed to give proper, helpful instruction on how to best execute them. That negates two wins. Besides, Michael Kors even said this wasn't about past challenges. It was about this challenge.
After A.J.'s elimination, the usually pleasant Papa Tim came in with a rather unpleasant look on his face. He scolded Team Luxe for allowing Gretchen to bully and manipulate them. He was extremely upset to be sending A.J. home. I've never seen Tim get so mad, but they deserved it, especially Gretchen.
What did you think of this week's episode? Who do you think should have won and should have gone home? Do think Gretchen was as bad as she seemed or should we blame some of that on editing? Are you sad to see A.J. go? What did you think of Tim Gunn? Also, a lot of fuss was made over hair and there was no mention of it on the runway. What's up with that?