Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Sew Time: Project Runway returns for Season 5

This is my favorite reality show. Period. And while it may not be as life-threateningly competition-based as "Survivor" or as widely televised and viewed as "American Idol" (which is a close close second to PR) it also successfully strays away from the "Flavor of Love" or even other Bravo reality shows like "Shear Genius" model that follow the contestants around in their personal lives, exploiting their dramatic encounters with one another while back in their shared apartments. "Project Runway" keeps the interactions and the drama within a personal sphere, hardly ever resorting to after-hours drama between the contestants and instead keeping it to personal obstacles (not buying enough fabric to cover a model's body, having a sewing machine break on them, receiving negative criticism from Tim Gunn, the stylists' mentor throughout their journey) as opposed to who left their roommate's underwear in the freezer or spats over being "fake" and being on the show only for the money. All of these contestants are in it to win it, and while there is some backstabbing that goes on, it's usually minimal and confined to personal interview time, away from the other contestants. Everyone who comes on this show works their fingers to the bone, striving for fame and fortune. The only real element of personal drama comes during group projects, and since this first episode was merely a meet-and-greet and a solo challenge, we'll leave this discussion for later.

I share the tenderhearted feelings I have for this program with most of my friends, my sister, my aunts, and my mom, who for the past week has been sending me text messages counting down the hours until its premiere last night at 9 PM (on Monday, I awoke to a text simply saying "60" from my highly-anticipating mother). We've been calling each other for the past week during our work days, and whenever there's a slight lull in the conversation one of us will suddenly shriek "Bwwaaahhhhhh 5 more days!" It's not so much that this is television perfection, but with three Emmy nominations and a Peabody Award, you've got admit there's more to this show than your typical competition-based reality program.

Each season has gotten a little bit better, but in their own ways; Season 5, however, proves to showcase a multitude of diverse talents, although the promos for this season have been a little understated, the contestants more numerous, and the first challenge a total rip-off of the first season's premiere challenge: go to Gristides, a gigantic supermarket, and create an outfit out of items found within. With only $75 and nerves about their first challenge, most played it safe and opted to work with table cloths. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

The episode opens as each of the 16 contestants arrive in their Gotham apartment building in New York City, introducing most of them to the camera through cut-away interviews and snapshots of their portfolios. Some of the more interesting (at least in their appearance) contestants are...
a designer named Suede who insists on referring to himself in third person ("Suede needs to make millions for Suede!"). He also has several ridiculous catch-phrases during the first few minutes, sports a really irritating blue mohawk AND rat tail, and looks like he doesn't mind entering seedy bathrooms in a red-light district and just, you know, takin' a chance on an unknown guy. Not that I oppose that sort of thing. We don't get any insight into his design style, necessarily; maybe they did show a few snap-shots of his work, but I was too peeved by his hair and his voice and pretty much everything coming out of his mouth that I wasn't paying that close of attention. Mostly because I've already seen Empire Records and don't feel as though I need to relive it every week. Please, Bravo, off this guy soon...if not for his horrendous blue table cloth creation than for his personal style alone.

And then there's this guy. Blaine. His greasiness alone makes me want to give him a good scrub-down with scalding hot water, antibacterial soap, strong-as-shit flea bath and a healthy dose of hydrogen peroxide, although that might actually be something that mop on top of his head is used to. He admits that he is ridiculously obsessed with tanning, and comments to the camera "so, whoever I need to see about taking care of that..." Oh, ha ha ha. Your eventual skin cancer 15 years down the road is so amusing. Another contestant comments "Wow, your blue eyes really stand out with your tan skin." Yeah, so do their bulginess from your past heroine-starved street-crouching days. This guy classifies his personal design style as urban wear, but judging on this week's creation and that really smelly-looking red beanie with the punk-rock buttons stuck hap-hazardly on top, he's designing more for the certifiably insane curbside hobo than he is for runway fashions. My guess is this guy watched Zoolander a few too many times and took it a liiittle too seriously. Which now causes me to segue into the top and bottom 3 for this week. Since Blaine is the one guy I just LOVE to hate, let's start with him.

Really, man, is that a diaper? I just don't get where his head was when he thought this would be something that would make Tim Gunn, Editor at Large for Elle Magazine Nina Garcia and designer Michael Kors uber proud of him. He tells Tim in the work room that he was trying to be obnoxious for the judges, and guess what, Smelly? You have succeeded with flying colors!

Next up in the bottom three is this little number from punk-rock designer Stella. Her hopes and aspirations when she came on Project Runway were to step outside of leather and denim, and so for the first challenge she thinks it's a good idea to make patent leather-looking chaps out of trash bags, only to find that her material rips to the touch. Way to step out of the box, lady. In the last few hours she throws this together, and happens to be in the bottom TWO. The diaper with the jump rope detailing scored higher than this. Well, I guess it was a little more innovative. Which leads me to the horror, the terror, and the complete what-the-fuck-was-he-thinking, bottom of the barrel LOSING design:

Designer Jerry chose to make his first statement on the show a homage to serial killers everywhere, designing a rain coat out of a shower curtain and forcing his model to wear yellow rubber gloves to emphasize the whole prevent-me-from-getting-wet look. The look on the model's face pretty much says it all. He was the first designer in season 5 to be auf'd, and thank god he didn't pull a Patrick Bateman and go all American Psycho on everyone's ass. Someone must have had the forethought to hide the chainsaws.

Moving on to a brief highlight of the top three designs, and eventual winner...

Dubbed "the plastic cup dress", designer Daniel chose to make a basic sweetheart dress out of muslin and use about 400 iron-pressed blue plastic picnic cups to mold the bodice and the silhouette into a pretty cute, well-crafted design. He scored major points with the judges for breaking out of the table cloth-inspired idea and using a difficult material.

The only designer to use actual produce in her dress (come on, guys, it was a supermarket challenge) afro-ed designer Korto also took the well-traveled table cloth route, although her dress design was very well crafted, modern, and inspired. This was my favorite of the top three, and I think she didn't win because she resorted to an over-used and fabric-substitute material.
The winning design goes to:

Kelli, a young, rockabilly, tattooed blonde chick who sports red lipstick, was definitely the most creative of the group, and deserved to win. Utilizing vacuum bags, bleach, dye, coffee filters and spirals from a notebook, her dress was tastefully done and insanely creative. Not only would I totally wear this, she receives major points in the Pollack category for making splatter painting into wearable fashion.

And so today begins my week-long wait and anticipation for next Wednesday where we'll all see what the remaining 15 will sew up for us. So sue me for being obsessed with such a seemingly shallow program, but these guys are true artists. And they succeed in giving me fodder for weekly recaps. Thanks, Bravo, for starting up what should be another great season. And even if it isn't the best, you can bet my ass will still be on the couch every Wednesday night for the next few months.


Anonymous said...

having just watched the first episode, i believe wholeheartedly that this season is going to be the best yet. personally, i hope that the leathery witch stella gets kicked off very soon because she has a reprehensibly bad attitude, dresses like a transylvanian hooker and so clearly lacks the creativity that several of the other designers have in spades. My favorites of the night were: 1) korto's kimono inspired dress which embodied freshness by using real vegetables (i'm glad at least went there)placed artfully atop of the most vibrant shade of saffron... 2)jerrel's dress that looked like an acid trip and reminded me of japanese pop art. whatever it was made of gave it a lot of movement and it swung deliciously on its journey down the runway... and 3) the delightful winning dress, which showcased kelli's amazingly innovative spirit. i was particularly impressed with the back, where she had made a series of victorian style hooks and eyes using the metal from spiral notebooks. the way she studded the middle with push pin tops and splatter dyed the bottom with coffee(?? or something) was unbelievable. i can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

basically, if project runway is wrong, i don't want to be right. until next week. *sigh*

Princess Leah said...

Just to make Mr. Greasy even more annoying, I believe he spells his name with a 'y' instead of an 'i'.

I spell it with a 'why' myself. As in 'why are you here?'

New season = love!