On this week’s very special episode of Project Runway, we learned that Heidi loves mullet skirts, Southern women wear plaid, and the judges have found their crack pipe…but I get ahead of myself.
Heidi sends our remaining designers off to a “Southern Brunch” at Juliette.
By the way, as the mother of a girl I have recently learned that part of my parenting duties is to learn how to make her hair look like Heidi’s. Who knew? So, I’ve subscribed to Cute Girls’ Hairstyles and I’m toiling away, mangling French braids and twists and waterfalls.
I digress…Heidi here looks like she’s going to devour the contestants instead of brunch.
The remaining contestants are no fools and they say, “no one gets a morning off,” and, “it’s a trick, get an axe.”
But…a free brunch is a free brunch so the designers choke down their terror and manage to devour French toast and eggs.
Tim walks into the brunch and I’ve never seen any group of people so sad to see the marvelous Tim Gunn. Of course, he’s here to let the designers know that they will pay for their brunch by designing a dress for the “Modern Southern Woman…the Belk customer.” She is apparently “vibrantly and expressively, fashionably put together” and likes “color and feminine details and accessories.”
To up the stakes, we later find out the winning look will be sold at Belk department stores and online.
Ken says he sees this woman every day, every moment. It is NEVER a good sign when a designer claims this is his or her challenge. NEVER.
Helen, on the other hand, is skeered of the Southern Woman. Too much sun in the South, I imagine.
Alexander says he dresses like a modern 80s woman, not a modern Southern woman.
I really think challenges like this need a design brief. Having lived in Texas for a couple of years and joined the Junior League there, I have an ideas of what I think they might like. However, it just isn’t something I would expect every designer to have in their mental reference library. Sure, designers should have some idea of major touchstones in design history…but regional style preferences? I think they needed some more guidance.
The designers have $200-250 for their fabric and it is time to get sketching, shoping, and sewing!
At Mood, Dom finds a black and white silk graphic print. Kate also wants a print and is looking for bright colors. Bradon wants a bright, lightweight plaid. Alexander also pulls a plaid. Ken was looking for a print but then decides everyone else has prints so he’ll go for a color that works well with all skin tones.
Seriously, what is with the plaid? When I hear “Southern,” I do not jump to “plaid.” “Florals,” yes, but not plaid.
Back at the workroom, Helen wants to know if a cotillion is an actual thing or just something she sees in the movies.
When asked what he is making, Alexander responds “…a straight jacket…for myself.” For his inspiration, Alexander is thinking of (“Gone with the Wind,” pipes in Ken) “No,” continues Alexander, “Steel Magnolias.” Yeah. These are some dated references.
Tim walks in with a lovely summer tie that matches Bradon’s fabric to give critiques.
Bradon says he is afraid his silhouette is too 50s. Tim tells him not to try to second guess what judges will say.
Justin has a coral fabric that Tim worries reads as Halloween orange when paired with black.
Jeremy is working on a tailored jacket over an abstract floral which he claims will be ladylike but not “Mother of the Bride.” Tim warns him to keep it fresh and innovantive…then asks if the shoes are too matchy-matchy? Jeremy claims they were there to throw the other designers off. Sure…
Dom is waffling and doesn’t know whether or not to ditch her print. She asks Tim if she’s over-designing but Tim worries that her dress is too simple.
Alexandria is just falling apart. She’s got a plaid and some sort of patchwork and a circle skirt and something kerchief-y and I don’t even know what she’s doing. Alexandria clearly has no reference point for the American South and I can’t blame her. Tim asks if it is too Bohemian and urges her to go back to other design.
Ken misses his mommy, who asks over teleconference if his “other side” has shown itself. Clearly Ken has this problem enough that his alter ego has a name. Ken has been very vocal on Twitter about his experience on Project Runway…
Was I suppose to look at the floor and say, “Yes, Masta I’d pitch da needle and thread?” #Failed
— Ken Laurence (@_KenLaurence_) September 13, 2013
Alright, let’s hit this Runway…with Tim Gunn, guest judges John Thomas (of Belk) and Stacy Keibler, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen. Awww…Zac went with the theme.
Stuck on the Porch
Helen Castillo: The Daisy overlay on top of yellow is sunny but it has been done. It would have been cute, if a bit trite, as a sundress. As a gown, it was just too much. Amazing fit, though. She should have used the overlay in a more limited way and shortened the dress.
Justin LeBlanc: – Too simple and it looks a bit off in the stills around the sleeves.
Alexandria von Bromssen: Alexandria must have felt so relieved she was safe because this was awful. The top is stiff and the skirt looks like picnic napkins belted on. The sheer skirt appears unintentional. This was a train wreck and she knew it.
Southern Heat (TOP)
Bradon McDonald: I thought it was just okay. Heidi apparently LIKES the mullet skirt, saying it is modern and has sex appeal. Does anyone wear these off the red carpet? Zac says the fabric could go tablecloth but felt fresh, modern, Southern…but something you could find in a store. Nina says that he took an expected fabric and made something unexpected. I guess to some extent I could see that fabric in Southern menswear and making a feminine design is somewhat unexpected…but mostly I think it is just cracktastic. What do I know, though… because Bradon wins.
Kate Pankoke: To me, this best fulfilled the design brief. Sure, the pattern and color combo read more South Asian than American South but it is bright and colorful and she used the pattern well. I don’t agree with Heidi that it looks like maternity wear but I think the cupcake silhouette runs a bit junior. Nina says the dress has hanger appeal. Zac thinks it is a happy dress and Kate knows her customer. Belk dude says that the dress is something he can sell.
Alexander Pope: I like this one better than Bradon’s but it seems too full around waist. Handkerchief hems make me twitchy. This one in particular seems derivative of Vivienne Westwood and says British punk to me more than garden party. Zac does note that it is beautifully made, which seems to be true of Alexander’s clothes consistently. Heidi says it is sexy and sophisticated. Belk dude says it has a beautiful pattern and movement. Stacy Keibler says the volume balances the top. Nina likes the bodice and movement. I think it is a decent effort but wrong for the challenge.
It All Went South From There… (Bottom)
Ironically, two of the three Southerners on the show (Dom and Ken, Justin is the third) end up on the bottom.
Dom Streater: I was sort of surprised to find Dom in the bottom here. Although the dress was a bit simple and seemed a bit overworked on top, this is a dress that would be flattering on a number of shapes. The color pairing was a bit odd to me but not so hideous that I couldn’t imagine someone liking it. Heidi said it was not fashion forward. Nina agrees that it is too safe and hates the “scrubs” color. She calls it a “pageant” gown. However, the Belk guy says he could sell this. That is the crux of the challenge–most department store customers don’t take huge risks with their wardrobe, whether out of a more conservative sense of fashion or simple economic necessity. The Belk dude also points out that this is an evening look, which limits the market.
Jeremy Brandick: Jeremy chose a fabric with potential–a colorful, abstract, almost floral print–but then does exactly the wrong thing with it. The fabric itself already leans a bit 1990s/early 2000s Casual Corner. Then, he gives it a silhouette that screams back-to-school night teacher on a budget and a hem that says “church lady.” To top it off, he designs a jacket that completely obscures her waist. There’s conservative and then there is unflattering. Heidi asks Jeremy if he thinks it is “modern” and then looks at him skeptically as he says “yes.” No one can stand the length.
Ken Laurence: I think everyone with whom I have spoken is pretty much done with Ken…unfortunately, the producers are not. Ken chooses a gorgeous color but creates a gown that lacks originality. Zac says it looks like a purple nightgown. Belk Boy says that he’s seen it before and it looks like a bridesmaid’s dress. Heidi wants to know, “where is she going?”
Heidi says that none of the designers seemed to grasp the challenge and Ken’s head implodes. So, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN PROJECT RUNWAY HISTORY, she sends the bottom three back to the workroom. They can use any remaining fabrics, the aid of one other designer, and one hour to tweak their look or create a new garment.
Okay, that’s TECHNICALLY true–it is a Project Runway (full stop) first for HEIDI to do this…but it did happen on Project Runway All Stars, when Joshua McKinley and Uli Herzner were given one hour to deconstruct their Paris couture-inspired designs.
The designers head back to the workroom and Ken is sticking to his gut (but is going short and more fitted); he picks Kate to help him. Dom is going with her first idea and picks Helen. Jeremy is starting from scratch and grabs Alexander.
Ken Laurence: Tacky clubbing dress. Not at all “Southern Woman.” Nina calls it an impressive transformation and Keibler could see a young girl wearing it. Heidi says it went a little short and the earth stops spinning on its access. Mark the date: Heidi thinks a dress is too short. Zac likes the draping and prefers this late night party dress.
Dom Streater: Love it! It moves beautifully and reminds me of Uli on her original season. I don’t think it says “Southern” so much as “warm weather” but now we’re at least in the right climate. I find the draping on the right arm a little odd but Dom did only have an hour to design and construct this. Heidi loves it and would buy it. Boy, Heidi, you really like those mullet skirts! Zac says it would have been in his top and Nina says it is edgy yet easy. Keibler is ready to fight Heidi for the dress. Belk Boy says it looks great coming and going.
Jeremy Brandick: This is much easier and more youthful but it lacks “design” and color and doesn’t read as Southern at all…maybe “Southwestern.” Zac says it is not the most interesting dress but it is pretty.
In a big twist, Dom uses her second chance to go from the bottom to sharing the glory of the win–she’s getting manufactured, too!
Jeremy’s yawn of an asymmetrical slip dress loses to Ken’s hoochie purple clubwear and Jeremy is out. He’s a class act about and is glad he can go home and see his kids and get drunk…hopefully not at the same time. Bye, Jeremy, we’ll miss the sparkle in your eyes.
Tune into Project Runway Season 12 on Lifetime Thursdays at 9/8 central.