Project Runway S9 E6: Painted Ladies

Ah, the avant-garde challenge! I love the idea of forcing the designers beyond their ready-to-wear worlds to create something fantastic. Sadly nothing has ever lived up to the drama of the Organza! Extraganza from Season 4, but tonight did provide some interesting looks even if none of them felt all that avant-garde.

Instead of taking the designers to a museum or even out into the city for inspiration. They took them to the Harlem School of the Arts where each designer was paired with a young art student. The designers helped their students create a painting that would ultimately inspire the designers look. Best of all the student were give the chance to come in and critique the designers' work along the way. Many of them gave astute and useful ideas to their designers too. The students even joined in the runway so fun. (Thankfully, the spared them from the judgement portion). This may be one of my favorite challenge set-ups ever.

The Safe Designers
Anya hardly had any screen time during this episode. Her dress captured her painting well. The print matched the colors. The volume played well off the swirly feel of the desert-ish landscape. Also, for a woman who supposedly can't sew, she did a pretty good job with this one.
Becky worried me when I first saw her stuffed shoulder squares, but she got them to look a little sharper. As the dress walked the runway, Becky commented that she should have made the skirt more voluminous. I agree. The lack of volume meant we mostly lost the cool square cut outs on the dress. More volume would have showed off the swirling fabric and reinforced the spacey feel of her painting. I think she actually had a lot of really cool ideas here, but her execution made it a little boring.
Bryce created a look I actually really like. He just didn't push it far enough. I wish he wasn't so afraid of staying safe because this whole straight jacket idea could have been extremely cool and more avant-garde than anything else. I have no idea why he was afraid of the orange and blue (BLUE!) color scheme. It fit his painting well. I like it, but I want more, especially for an avant-garde challenge.
I was worried about Kimberly for this challenge because her clothes are so ready-to-wear. She actually did a pretty good job with a strong eagle look from her painting. I also like the styling she used here.
Of all the safe designers Viktor is the one I was surprised not to see in the top three. I loved the flowing dress with the cage structure on top and excellent draping and rouching he pulled off in two days. I keep comparing his to Laura's and wondering which I like better since they both did soft and hard. (I like Viktor better than Laura so my bias may be messing me up there). The more I look at it, the more I think this may actually be my favorite look of the week. (Why does his model look so sad?)
The Top Designers
Laura had a painting of a rose and avoided using the expected pink for her dress, which I kind of like. Also, she did a petal feel with the ruffles, but instead of doing something literal for thorns she played of the softness of the dress with a bold structure underneath that showed through the sheer fabric. Guest judge, Kenneth Cole especially liked the exposed corset. All the judges had a hard time seeing the connection to the painting until she explained it, but they all still loved the dress. It really came out beautiful, and I could see it on the red carpet.
Joshua M looked at his art student's painting of a dead tree with living roots and shrieked "I don't do organic." Well, he does now. He used neoprene to construct the skirt and then painted it for a wood grain effect. He even painted "carved" initials in the tree symbolizing that he loves his mom (awww!). All the judges, especially Heidi, loved the painted skirt. MK loved it, but wished it had been styled a little better since the styling overwhelmed the look.
Anthony Ryan, who is colorblind, echoed the brush strokes on his dual self-portrait painting with stripes of fabric for the winning look. I loved the effect of his dress, but I agree with Kenneth Cole that the execution could have felt more finished. Up close the strips just looked like they were stuck on. I which he could have woven them into the nude fabric or something. I wasn't terribly upset that this won, but I wasn't thrilled either.

The Bottom Designers

Bert, oh Bert. He did two things I liked this week. He actually said he was going to try to be nice, and he mostly succeeded (the previews for next week suggest he loses his resolve soon though). He also tried to get outside of his box. I appreciate that he actually played along with the challenge and tried to create something crazy. I hope being in the bottom doesn't mean he'll resort back to boring clothes. I think he had good ideas here, but it ended up looking dated and out of proportion.
I just wanted to hug Olivier through this entire challenge. He seemed so lost. He is an excellent tailor, and even Heidi commented on his wonderful portfolio. He just lost it this week. The dress looked terrible. Micheal Kors said it looked like mood exploded, and I assume he meant the neutrals section of mood. Everything came out looking as sad and lost as Olivier felt. The judges told him not to be afraid to be powerful. Maybe if he feels that power next week, I can put that into his garment.
Josh C. had to suffer the terrible fate of getting kicked off again. None of the judges thought his look was avant-garde. Michael Kors called it "Victorian cocktail waitress in Las Vegas." And later comment that Bryce was "still in love with his hooker" since he defended his tasteless (Nina would have said that if she had been there) look. Heidi decided she would be a hooker for Halloween (she won't her costumes are always way cooler than that). Kenneth Cole struggled to wrap his brain around the proportions. Nina stand-in, Zanna, reference how McQueen used many of the elements Josh tried to use with great success, but Josh failed to bring out that beauty like McQueen did (nothing like being compared to the best). I do think this look deserved to go home (although next week I'll probably be regretting that Bert didn't get ousted).
I think the challenge was a great one, but I don't think the designers as a whole really lived up to it. That said, I think this group did better than most of the groups from the past few seasons. I also think this season is going better as a whole. The clothes are more interesting. The talent level seems higher. I'm making fewer comments on how I could buy these clothes at Target. I also still think this could be almost anyone's game. Now that we have our top ten I feel compelled to start predicting our final 3, but I'm stuck. So far no one has two wins and seven of the ten remaining designer have had a win. Only Bert and Bryce have been in the bottom three more than once. And Anthony Ryan, Anya and Joshua have been in the top three the most. Anya hasn't won a challenge yet though. I've gravitating toward the work of Viktor and Joshua M the most. I think Anthony Ryan has a shot if he can keep editing himself. Anya also has a shot if her sewing skill hold up. After Olivier's breakdown I have less faith, but I do think he has the talent.

Review Questions
1. Which look was your favorite? Was it the winner?
2. Were you a little bummed by the lack of drama in the clothes for the avant-garde challenge? (I was).
3. Were you good with the loser or do you think Bert or Olivier deserved the cut?
4. Who do you think we'll be seeing in the top three or four? Who are your favorites regardless of their likelihood to win?
5. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke,


Tanya said…
I didn't really have a favorite, probably because I was hoping to see more "avant garde". I don't think any of the designers pushed the edge hard enough.

I really liked Becky's dress but I'm afraid the inspiration was not original or hers. I have a Japanese design & pattern making book on my wish list, Pattern Magic by
Tomoko Nakamichi. Becky's look is very similar to the garment showcased on the cover. She has more cubes on her dress but it's the same idea even the placement, starting at the shoulder. Sigh. I am actually surprised no one caught this like they did with the wedding gown in the past. I don't remember what season that was.

I really didn't like Bert's design mostly because he chose a safe gray for the base. The construction of the winning look was terrible and looked like a craft project up close. Granted it looked great from a distance on the runway. I just have a problem with poor construction.

Oh Anya, Anya. My late grandmother made gowns for the Kansas City Shirelles (I just think that's really cool). I grew up in her sewing room and she taught me to sew. So I find it very hard to believe Anya has picked up pattern drafting and sewing in just 3 months. Just my two cents based on my own experiences.

I really hope Oliver pulls himself out of the funk he wound up in this episode. He really vapor locked with this challenge.

I wish we were seeing a bit more of Tim this season. It seems like they have cut down his screen time a lot. Tim is my favorite part of this show.
Jael Paris said…
I was flipping through Pattern Magic just the other day. It's a very exciting book. [Glares at sewing machine.]
Rachel said…
1. I would have chosen Viktor's dress for the win.
2. Yeah, I expected a lot more from this challenge.
3. I'm bummed every time Bert isn't kicked off. But Josh's look definitely didn't fulfill the challenge.
4. Anya is probably my pick for the win.
5. I'm having trouble remembering a lot of the designers this season! Maybe because there's not really a super-successful standout?

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