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‘Project Runway’ Review: “A Times Square Anniversary Party”

Project Runway
Lifetime

Project Runway‘ has returned for its 10th season, throwing a giant anniversary party in Times Square (note: the show has been on for just over seven years, not ten, because math) to show off the newest crop of designers and their design aesthetics.We all know the first handful of episodes of a new reality show are the worst — too many contestants make it difficult to single anyone out. That said, the premiere of ‘Project Runway”s tenth season is a solid introduction to the designers, with only two that sort of creep in out of nowhere in the middle of the episode.

The Challenge:

The designers are tasked with making an outfit that encapsulates their design aesthetic before the competition. This week’s challenge is the old companion piece bit: the designers must create a piece to compliment their first design, which must also highlight their individual aesthetic.

Our first trip to Mood for the designers to select their fabrics for the challenge gives us our first Swatch dog sighting! It also gives us the first contestant who was absent up until this point in the episode — Andrea, the eldest designer of the bunch.

There’s an early rivalry brewing between Gunnar and Christopher, and like Highlander, there can be only one. In the workroom, Sonjia comments that everyone is so nice, but it’s still pretty early in the competition, and this comment is immediately followed by Dmitry expressing his annoyance with the colorful Buffi. When describing her clothes he says, “It’s like a diarrhea.” Mean, but apt.

Dmitry is so serious — like he could quietly assassinate you without leaving a trace, but also knit you a sensible sweater. And of course he used to be a professional ballroom dancer! And of course he has amazing hair.  ”I have passion for fashion,” Dmitry expresses, briefly breaking from his seriousness. I look forward to more of this awkwardly cheesy Dmitry.

Tim drops in, and seems most confused by Kooan, Sonjia, and Buffi’s designs. They definitely have the wackiest, most eccentric cast of contestants this season. Tim’s hand-wringing and confusion when talking to Kooan is too precious. Tim does drop some helpful advice bombs on Fabio and Beatrice, of the House of Knitwear.

Elena, who looks like Olivia Wilde, says she is inspired by fencing uniforms, but I think she means she’s inspired by that bad ‘Tron’ sequel (Olivia Wilde… ‘Tron’ sequel… this is a conspiracy). She actually wonders if white is “too much.”

Another designer makes his first appearance in the episode after the model fitting: Nathan.

The Runway

The guest judges for this week’s challenge are actress Lauren Graham and costume designer Patricia Field.

Ven: Ven seems more sophisticated and classically trained than the other designers. His work is tailored and structured beautifully, though the fuschia/white pairing feels a bit old.

Beatrice: I’m really into this wrap she has on the first model, but the knit dress seems cheap, like something I would ignore at Target. The second look is interesting — she took Tim’s advice and layered a crimson fabric over a fluffier knit, and the end result is visually appealing on top, but the mix of the sleek fabric with the fluffy knit is off-putting.

Lantie: Her first look is like a vintage doily in dress form, and I dig it. It’s something Karen Carpenter would be all about. The second look, which incorporates some puzzling snake skin and brown tulle, is not complementary.

Andrea: Andrea reminds me of Milla, who appeared on ‘Project Runway All-Stars’ last season. She does some similar color-blocking techniques with black and white, and I enjoy the way the thick black strip cuts across the breast at the top on her first model, creating the illusion of a very short empire waist. Her second look is a little confusing — an A-line, poofy black and white striped number that seems to have some structure built in to create various volumes, but drops off suddenly at the bottom, making her model look like a pregnant, inflatable holiday lawn ornament.

Christopher: His first look is a beautiful cocktail dress with a fantastically layered textile that he clearly labored over — it looks just overworked enough, though the zipper has some warping issues in the back. His second dress is longer, and he creates a similarly striking effect with the fabric.

Alicia: Her first look is Red Riding Hood’s romper, but her second piece is fantastic. She created a slim-fit, well-tailored pant with just enough of a sag below the waist to express her more masculine inclinations. I could never wear pants like these, but I love them. The top is more feminine and flowing, but nothing memorable.

Elena: Is clearly designing for Nicki Minaj in ‘Tron.’ Her first outfit is a black and white, heavily structured dress with angular shoulder pads. “Severe” would be an understatement. Her second look is an all-black, similar version of the same dress with structured hips and shoulders.

Buffi: First up is a black and fuschia satin halter dress with a high-waisted belt. Buffi seems to rely heavily on color and not as much on actual design. Her second piece reflects the same, combining fuschia, lime green, and black draping for an over-the-shoulder, retro-inspired piece. Some films rely heavily on shock value to be successful —  Buffi is the human equivalent of that.

Dmitry: His first gown is a stunner, evoking 80s soap-glam with a black and gold sequined evening dress. The second dress is more muted, with a softer, deep gray fabric that shows off Dmitry’s sophisticated tailoring. I think Dmitry could give Ven a run for his money.

Kooan: Welcome to Bonkers Town, population: Kooan. His Tokyo street aesthetic is colorful, wacky, and just ridiculously fun. Even the cold Nina Garcia can’t help but smile when his clothes come down the runway. The first piece incorporates a cutesy blue polka dot overall, and the second piece is like Kooan’s interpretation of early 90s rappers — a purple metallic dress with chunky gold chain accessories.

Gunnar: His first piece is a sleek chartreuse dress with thick black details that feels clean and elegant. His second piece incorporates the same color scheme in the collared halter top, but the flowery pants just read like grandma’s sofa upholstery.

Nathan: This guy makes me sleepy. His first outfit is a Kelly green, heavily draped dress, and his second piece is a longer, cheerily red dress with a similar draping aesthetic.

Sonjia: Her design is confused — a brown jacket with a giant bow detail over a leopard print harem pant (stop it) with day-glo yellow-green waistband (seriously, stop it). Her second piece is, somehow, worse. More of that awful day-glo mixed in with some metallic black and a very busy fabric that reminds me of a Geocities background I used that one time I made a website.

Melissa: The first dress plays with geometry well — a simple, black, off the shoulder piece that has a definite edge to it. The second piece is Fiona Apple 2.0 — severe, high-collared jacket accompanying a long-sleeved, floor-length, tight black dress.

Raul: His first model sports a very stylish gray jacket and pants combo over a flirty, sheer, light pink top. The pants in particular are beautifully tailored within a millimeter of that model’s life. I’ll take eight of them. The accompanying piece is a dreamy pink dress featuring a fabric I’ll just refer to as “fluffy lace.” It is delicate and feminine and I want to wrap myself in it.

Fabio: The top on his first model isn’t particularly stunning at first glance, but the close-up reveals the subtle, dark striping — it’s sharp. The homemade feel of the gradient wrap skirt is quite lovely. His second garment is a frumpy black dress that lacks definition and feels a little too easy.

The Judging

Kooan, Ven, Lantie, Christopher, Beatrice, Melissa are singled out as the designers with the best and worst scores. I think Kooan and Michael Kors need their own ‘Odd Couple’ show. Nina’s major concern with Kooan is that he might not be joking and that he takes his busy, street-inspired aesthetic very seriously. His particular fashion sensibility may not be as comfortable for the judges and their more homogenized views of fashion, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented.

The judges seem to agree with me about Beatrice in that she doesn’t appear to have much of a point of view and her knit aesthetic is yawn-inducing. They feel similarly about Lantie, who leans too heavily on “vintage-y” fabrics and not as much on legitimate skill.

Melissa, Christopher, and Ven all receive high marks for their impeccable construction and simple, straight-forward, sophisticated aesthetic. Christopher wins for his gorgeously textured dresses, inspiring some jealousy in Gunnar.

Lantie and Kooan are spared this week and Beatrice, the Queen of Knits, is sent packing.

Early favorites for personality: Kooan, Dmitry.

Early faves for talent: Dmitry, Christopher.

Early favorites for  crazy names: Buffi Jashanmel. Gunnar Deatherage, which I like to pronounce “DEATH RAGE.”

Early favorite for Trent Reznor’s Russian Christopher Walken Impression: Dmitry.

Already disliking: Gunnar, but he’ll be fun.

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