Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2.5: Pyrite

"There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else." -Oscar Wilde

Paul:  And now we come to the topics of social class, economics, distribution of wealth, and envy.  Our designers are to design a dress for Nicky Hilton, the Hilton who has produced fashion design while existing entirely in the shadow of her swollen silk-stocking sister.

Oh, if I can make it through this without singing The Internationale it will be a miracle.

Conrad Hilton was the magnate of the Hilton Hotel chain, the great-grandfather of the Hilton sisters, and the source from which their wealth flows.  He started the Hilton Hotel line by buying a single hotel and working his way up, which sounds like a great Horatio Alger American Dream story until I think about buying a single hotel.  Even the single-story, drive-up "Bates Motel but with meth instead of murder"  across the street from me is above my paygrade.

Laurie:   I'm pretty sure I heard that there was a murder there several years ago.  But even so, as you say, we'd have to at least quadruple our wealth before we could afford to purchase the Budget Inn.

Paul:  So, it seems like a "rags to riches" empire story for sympathetic purposes, but really it's more like "upper-middle class to riches" empire story.

Boy oh boy, am I ever being a catty little Have-Not over this episode.  My point is that everybody knows that the game is rigged.  The Feudal Spirit is alive and well in America and there is a ceiling dictated by your last name, skin color, or gender identity.  There is the con that this is not the case perpetuated by those whose goal is to maximize their profit margin and those who are trying to get people to vote for them.  Everyone knows that sharing amaretto at the Four Seasons with the beautiful people, carefullly shaded from the cloying cameras of jealously, is much nicer than yesterday's Yuban in the break room across the silent table from Murray who is trying to get a middle management position by constantly pointing out your flaws to your supervisors.  
Murray buys the illusion of upward mobility, but there is only so far he can climb.  In what may be clever subversion or entirely unintentional on the part of the show, the designers are carefully taught that if they want the best slop, they must buddy up to the fattest hogs.

Laurie:  A recent article in The Economist discussed a report which posited, as did Wilde, that the poor can be just as complicit in this as the rich. No one wants to be on the bottom. This "last-place aversion" hints that everyone needs someone to look down on to feel alive. Self-worth, it appears, is relative and measured by comparing or associating ourselves with others. Self is central and others peripheral, valued or devalued based upon whatever currency, emotional or otherwise, they have to offer us. So there is a sense in which both rich and the poor depend upon there being someone poorer than themselves for their own happiness.

Paul:  Right!  We saw some of this in this episode I thought.  Nicky Hilton makes her appearances and does give a bit of an air of being "above" it.  Arguably that was necessary to maintain the illusion of a socialite deigning to bestow her largesse on the unwashed masses.  However, taking a step back we see the show promoting her line and, indeed, her persona.  In other words, she used Project Runway for a boost and Project Runway used her for a boost.

The designers are invited to a party in which Nicky Hilton makes an appearance.  The designers are reminded that part of the role of a designer is not just to sell a design to the client, but to sell their image or some such rot.  In other words, Santino is a shoe-in (as it were) and Emmett and Diana are doomed.  

Laurie:  As though every drop of praise might be the last in the parched Project Runway desert, Santino exhibited incredible discomfort  whenever anyone else's designs received credit.

Santino is an irresistible character.  Petulant one moment, hilarious the next.  Gifted beyond his ability to restrain himself, in more ways than one. He reminds me of a little boy whose maddening behavior is offset perfectly by his devastating charm, disarming smile, and apparent lack of guile. You don't love to hate him. You want to love him in spite of the obstacles he throws in your path.

Paul: There is another lesson here which I think flows nicely from the Daniel Franco episode.  Faced with the low ceiling of circumstance beyond any control of the individual, one is either faced with a life of frustration (the broad path) or the option to base one's values and importance on those things which are not dictated by the grand pecking order (the narrow road.)   If one is able to transubstantiate what is of value in this world from the monetary to the virtuous, one suddenly has a paradigm in which the ceiling is removed.  While the Hiltons of the world seek to miniaturize camels, a much simpler and more universally attainable and rewarding task is the daily attention to the condition of the soul.  

Another lesson from this week's episode is to bear in mind that if you are living in an enclosed space in which there is food available to you, running water which need not be boiled to prevent you from becoming horribly, immediately, and likely deathly ill, and are, in fact, able to read this, congratulations!  You are among the richest people in the world.  If you're starving to death without a home, it's not much of a difference (at least initially) between the barest minimum of government food and housing or living in hotels with your own name on them.  We are the fattest hogs, and the global economy is currently hitting the blip of having evolved to existing to feed that hog on credit and then panicking when the bill arrives.

This body and these things can come and go so quickly.  Out of every 25 people you see in a day, one will be dead next year.  Focus on virtue for a life with real flourish.

Laurie:   Wow, we've covered just about everything but the fashion this time around, and failed to mention the good deal of fun that was had.  How about I get that little thing out of the way.  First of all, the fun.  Once the awkward kissing-up to the heiress part of the party was over, and she unceremoniously ceased to be there, the designers let their hair down and played for a while.  They treated us and themselves to a rip-roaring good time by holding a "walk-off", with each of the designers doing their best representation of a runway model. Santino, a born mimic, made his appearance in slacks and stiletto pumps (yes, really), and stole that show. As good design would have it, he also went on to steal the challenge. His winning design is below. 

Santino's design image via sfgate.com
This is also the week we say hello and good-bye to Guadalupe Vidal, who I fear we've yet to mention here, due to a design better suited to Helena Bonham-Carter than Nicky Hilton.  Guadalupe's funky aesthetic failed to come across in the Project Runway challenges, though I could see the charm in it.  (I, for one, have always thought Helena Bonham-Carter gets a bad fashion-rap. She is who she is and dresses accordingly.  Though you couldn't pay me to mimic her style, I think there is something amazing about the image she presents to the world.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2.4: Redemption Song

Paul:  Lingerie was upstaged by personal drama and a rather remarkable character arch.  I imagine somewhere in the remaining seven seasons we will have occasion to talk more in depth on the topic of lingerie.

Daniel Franco was in the first episode of Season One.  We were guided to dislike him immensely and did not give him another moment's thought after he'd gone.  I even forgot his name.  He danced around, he seemed arrogant, he dismissed Tim Gunn when he was trying to give Daniel advice (the only thing I remember about him in that first episode.  You just don't do that!), he talked about following your bliss.

Laurie:   I remember him from his brief appearance in Season One much more vividly than you do.  He was the picture of self-esteem run amock.  "Arrogant" doesn't quite do the trick. He gave every impression of having had a mother who played Tony Robbins tapes under his pillow while he slept - for his entire childhood. He believed in himself in that peculiar way of a child who has never experienced anything but praise - ever.  He was beyond annoying and on to infuriating.

Paul:  That seems to have been my impression as well.

The second season opened with the auditions which included Daniel Franco.  Everyone was amazed to see him walk through the door.  Daniel made the case that he felt he wasn't given a fair chance.  Tim Gunn extended grace.

This season we have observed a very different Daniel Franco from the one we were shown for a few moments in Season One.  He was humble, he worked hard, and eventually he sacrificed his own place on the show for his lingerie team members who he could just as well have sold up river.

Laurie:   Perhaps I should interject some detail here. Our designers were first given the challenge of sketching up a lingerie concept to pitch to resident famous-lingerie-model and host Heidi Klum.  Ms. Klum chose her favorite four concepts.  The designers were then divided up into four groups for a dreaded "team challenge".  (These seldom fare well.)  Each team was to work together under the leadership of the designer to execute his concept. There would be three people on each team. The entire losing team would be "out" - as in off the show. High stakes that one would hope would produce high motivation and cooperation.

Paul:  Instead, we have another instance of "teams" which devolve into a runway show of clashing egos.  I would especially note Santino's characteristically high concept lingerie which seems to be a theme of some form of a Germanic.  I seem to remember Heidi being called upon to choose the lingerie concepts and the scene being awkwardly Oedipal as the third trimester supermodel gives her opinion of "sexy" designs.  [Laurie: Yes, we've somehow managed to get this far into the season without even mentioning that Host Heidi Klum is profoundly pregnant throughout. Oh, and Santino's original sketches actually showed one pair of undies with the words "auf wiedersehen" stitched across the rear end]  Paul: In my final word about the actual content of the design challenge, I think that there was nothing resembling marketable in the designs.  All of the designers over-thought and put their concepts on a high shelf.  It was a bit like having a neighborhood proletarian beer bar, trying to introduce some food, and deciding to hire a molecular gastronomist as your chef.

An immodest example
But back to Daniel Franco.  This season we have watched him prove his ability as a designer, but we have also watched him prove one of the best behaved contestant on the show (with the exception of Emmett whose whole character on the show can be summed up as "well behaved.")  In this, his final episode, his team turns on him like a pack of cornered and wounded raccoons.  On the runway, he decides that as a leader he should be prepared to take responsibility for his product and the judges as happy to oblige him EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT DESIGN THE LINGERIE IN THE PICTURE ABOVE!  

Laurie:  Well I would differ with you on one point.  I thought our other Daniel, Daniel Vosovic, who was the winner of this challenge did manage to come up with some marketable looks. He chose the theme "Revenge", as in dressing in your cheating lover's clothes to seduce your next lover, (Okay, it's lingerie. Not the stuff of high-morality.) and created a sleek, modern, and wearable look.

Now back to Daniel Franco.  His designs were a bit dowdy, with the same black lace ruffling every which-where and rearranged in three different shapes. Ho hum. Yet in this episode Daniel F. managed to make a more profound impression on the Mathers' household than a whole parade of near-naked ladies.

Daniel Franco was a changed man.  The transformation in his character from his first appearance on the series until this one could not have been more complete.  Throughout this challenge his teammates were catty and cutthroat.  Throughout the challenge, Daniel treated them with respect and good humor. During the final judging, as Paul already alluded to, they threw him to the wolves, taking no credit whatsoever for their own lack of cooperation in the work.   Daniel responded by accepting full responsibility and stating that he would not let his teammates take the fall.  His teammates, Chloe in particular, who had been his most vocal detractor throughout, was in tears - shamed by his kindness.  But in that way that true kindness has, she was shamed not into hard cynicism, but into humble, loving admiration. Daniel had overcome evil with good. My eyes still well up at the memory.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2.3: Project-ing

Source: http://ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com

Paul:  In this absurd world, humans seem hard-wired to project their internal life outward.  They identify with external attributes that they like.  They identify with fantasies and create emotional connections to people that they will never meet.  They mimic the behavior that they observe in those people:

Now take this concept and apply it to an object rather than a person.  Of course, the advantage is that a piece of plastic on the shelf is not going to make an embarrassing statement or a scandal.  You can project on it whatever you choose and it will not undermine the illusion.

Take your naked doll and clothe its naked villainy as you would like to look.  Identify with it.  Worship it.  Who are you?  Who do you want to be?  Have you fallen short of your image? 

Better yet, take the doll and mass-produce it.  Advertise it to humans in their imprinting stage of life.  Suddenly you have immense power in your hands.  It's an old story, but we'll tell it again. 

Barbie is a popular children's doll which features variations on a young girl.  [Laurie: I would say "young woman".] Paul: About ten years ago, Mattel, the doll's manufacturer, launched a line to compete with the popular Bratz dolls.  It is called My Scene Barbie (which, thoughout the episode, my brain kept hearing as Miocene Barbie.)  The line seems to be an attempt at a slicker, hipper Barbie, perhaps for the demographic referred to in some circles as "tweens," which is to say the phenomenon of pre-teens who are no longer children and long to be teenagers.  Why anyone would long to be a teenager at any point in their life is a complete mystery to me.

Miocene Barbie and friends
"Scene" hair image from allhairstyles.org
Laurie:  In my experience, the desire to be one "age group" ahead continues until just about age 35, at which point the pathetic attempts to freeze time or even travel backwards through it begin. And to prove that great minds often think nothing alike, I'll take this moment to mention that whenever I heard "My Scene Barbie" I kept envisioning a My "Scene" Barbie - which according to information gleaned from having recently parented teens would have more closely resembled this:

Paul: That reminds me of my goth club days and something I observed back then.  There would often be "that guy" at a goth club who was over the age of 25, often up to the age of 40.  It was generally understood by all of the children in attendance that there was something horribly wrong and creepy about that guy.  Which was true, but there was the unspoken lesson about the childishness of the whole "scene."  I think everyone knew in some capacity that they would either outgrow this by the time they were 25 or be "that guy."

Laurie:   But you digress.

Paul:  Tim Gunn announces that the designers are to meet a major fashion icon.  They are taken to a toy store and "introduced" to My Scene Barbie.  They are given the challenge to create an outfit for My Scene Barbie.  They do, but they also make full size versions of the outfit for a runway show. 

Boy oh Boy, I sure don't remember many of the designs.  I remember that Nick won with a cute little splashy greenish dress.  I remember Santino had a cute little purple thing that maybe was too advanced for the tween crowd.  I remember someone getting in trouble for using middle aged colors.

Laurie:   Yes, here's Nick's winning design. Splashy indeed! Very fun. Absolutely appropriate. A well deserved win.

Image via nickverrreos.blogspot.com

Santino's design, image via AOLtv.com
Laurie: Santino's dress is at left. Cute.  Were it not for Nick, he would have been the winner, and he knew it.  Nick's win was well-deserved, a fact Santino was in no way ready to recognize.

Paul: Santino is subsequently more upset about Barbie dolls than I have ever seen an adult male be.  Granted, it would be a high watermark in anyone's life to have an internationally famous doll with your design on it (which I just checked to find that they are currently selling in collector's circles for around $200.)  And so we begin to see Santino's fierce competitive side although in stark contrast to Wendy Pepper, we are still guided to love him.  He is a remarkably charismatic young man and no amount of his snark has dissuaded me from numbering him among my favorites (albeit in my second favorite season out of the one and a half we've watched so far.)

Laurie:  This episode's losing design has a back-story that deserves a mention.  The designer, Raymundo Baltazar, from the moment he was given the challenge began to express his rather strong feelings that little girls ought to be allowed to be little girls and not dolled up like strumpets.  (My words, not his.) His distaste for the My Scene Barbie look was evident, though he didn't express it outright. He thought that little girls aspire to be like the real grown-up women in their lives - mothers, sisters, etc, and so set out to design something that would reflect little girls' respect for their appropriate, tasteful, role models. This was a noble goal on his part, but exactly opposite, so far as I can tell, from My Scene Barbie's.  I was sincerely touched by his concern for the preservation of little-girlhood, and the treasuring of the females in his life that this clearly represents.  I liked the dress and would happily wear it, without the jacket that is.  I'm pretty perky for a middle-aged woman, but I'm no Barbie, and therein lies Raymundo's problem. He did seem like a genuinely talented and nice guy, though.  I hope he is doing well.

Raymundo's design via Hollywood Star News

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2.2: This Shirtless Back

Paul:  The designers are invited to a party.  Happy at the opportunity for some recreation in an otherwise tense and competitive atmosphere, they dress in the clothes they have packed most suited to a celebratory occasion.  Several drinks down the party, it is announced that their challenge is to create an outfit using only the material of the clothes they are currently wearing.  Oh, that deceit should dwell in such a gorgeous palace!

I remember when I was a child reaching that point where I became interested in chores.  I was a lonely boy with few friends, and I have a strong memory of loving to dust and wash dishes.  Also one reaches a point in their childhood where they are ready to just get on with the damned thing called life, frustrated by the societal expectations of small children to be unemployed.  I have a strong recollection of standing at the sink in my parents' kitchen and, as they will, a mug slipping from my grip and breaking on the counter.  I was horrified, expecting to be asked to pack my belongings and find somewhere else to live.  My mother reassured me that it was fine, don't worry, things break all the time, and "it's just stuff."  I imprinted on this experience that people are more important that stuff, a lesson I am fairly certain that my mother intended to communicate from that situation.  I feel that a disappointed or angry parent in that situation may instill a highly inflated importance on material possessions on a small child.
There was a lawyer who moonlights as a designer (far right in the photo) whose name has fled my mind   in hopes of making room for more relevant information to the rest of my life.  [Laurie:  Wikipedia, which exists for just such moments, reminds us that her name is Kirsten Ehrig.] Paul: There you go.  In death, a member of Project Runway has a name.

Kirsten chose to wear a Porsche t-shirt to the party (I am so increasingly discouraged to live in the age of the t-shirt) and she fashions it into a something like a dress top, but more something like a t-shirt cut apart and stitched loosely back together.

I consider wearing any item with the brand name of an expensive car on it to be a cheap attempt at looking expensive. I would think owning the vehicle would do nicely.

Yes, and a Porsche t-shirt is a bit like a Happy Meal with an Ivy League theme.

In and of itself, it is bad design.  But there was a key element to this episode, glaring in its omission.  The lady had a silk scarf at the party with sort of a gold Versace pattern on it.  She did not use it in her runway outfit.  Her reasoning is that it was an heirloom or some such nonsense.  This does not explain why she did not simply tie in around the models neck.  It is not used and it was one of the more elegant materials at her disposal.  Opportunity: Squandered.  Home she goes.

I agree. She didn't even have to cut it. She could have draped it over a hip, or tied it around the neck, knotted it into a bustier, or basted it with discreet stitches to some other fabric.  This incident, for me, represented an inexcusable imagination gap.  Even as a little girl, the presence of a scarves in my mother's dresser drawer captured my whimsy.  I loved to pull one, or all of them out, and test a hundred ways to wear them.  This is the unique magic of a scarf.  It's very existence in its unprescribed form, hints at a world of lovely possibilities. 

Besides this,  I'm sure each of these folks watched Season One and should have remembered that there was a similar challenge then.  That time it involved cutting up their pajamas, but I don't know why anyone who was going to be on that show would risk packing a single item of clothing he or she was not willing to cut up.

Paul:  Consider Santino's design in light of this.  He reveals on the runway that he was wearing his favorite jacket, but that he saw it as his opportunity to make something beautiful out of it.  He sees that it is just a thing and I'm sure it stung to take a scissors to his favorite jacket.  But he did it and it looked fabulous.

I've said before that I think Santino may very well be our best natural talent this season.  I think the lesson of this episode is clear.  Everything is transitory.  Create beauty where and when you can.  Don't cling to things so tightly.  I felt that it was one of the better lessons explicitly and intentionally taught by the series so far.

Chloe's dress
Laurie:   And yet, Santino was not the winner of this challenge. That honor was reserved for Chloe Dao, who didn't have much to work with, yet came away with the sleek little number at right.

Andrae's design
Over all, none of the designs in this episode particularly knocked my socks off, but there was an unforgettable moment near the end of the judging.  It involved designer Andrae Gonzalo whose ill-conceived and hastily assembled dress came very close to being voted off.  When asked by the judges to explain his concept, he began to disintegrate, erupting into a flood of random words and tearful hysteria.  The judges looked on stone-faced.  By some miracle he was not eliminated.  Or should I say, he was saved by the fact that he did not cut a Porsche t-shirt into a Porsche haltar top.

Daniel Franco
Oh, and before I forget, how 'bout we end on a happier note? Daniel Franco.  You'll remember he's back from Season One, where he was the first designer eliminated.  I think it's fair to say that we were all in shock here at Casa Mathers at the rare burst of Project Runway goodwill that gave him a second chance. Then in the first episode of Season Two he finished second to last, leading many to wonder if it would not have been better to have let someone else, someone fresh to fill the spot he occupied.  In this challenge, however, we got a really good look at Season Two Daniel Franco and found him to give every appearance of being a changed man.  He was humble.  And, believe me, that was heartening enough, but beyond that, his creation was very, very nice.  It is something I would happily wear - tasteful, crisp, and well-tailored. If that were my own suit, I would wear it with a crisp white blouse, or maybe some black lace or more brown sating peeking out.  Very nice.

I have little doubt Daniel F. will give us more to talk about than just clothes in upcoming shows.

Paul: Yes, we haven't heard the last of Daniel Franco.

Friday, September 9, 2011

2.1: Turn and Face The Strain

Paul:  I am going to start on an extremely geeky note and make a Star Trek comparison.  I think it's okay for me to do that as this season is slightly geekier than the last.  More on that in a moment.

My mother and I were both Trek enthusiasts while I was growing up and I am old enough to remember the first episode of The Next Generation on its original airing.  Having grown up with the originals, I can still remember my reaction after the first episode of The Next Generation, which was something along the lines of "What?!!?  A Klingon? An empath? A robot guy? A quiet British captain who is always going on about diplomacy?  Boy oh boy, is this going to suck!"  And then I soon ended up a confirmed Picard man, far preferring TNG over TOS, coming to loathe Kirk and love everything Picard.

Like the first day at a new job or a new school, we are introduced to many new faces and think "Oh, I don't know about this.  Where's Jay and Austin?"

Laurie:   Ah, I see what you're getting at.  That's funny, because I was just thinking this morning that it reminds me of how I feel every time we get a new Dr. Who.  It always takes me a while to get over losing the old one, and to forgive the new one for not being the old one.  But then, eventually, I've always grown to love the new one.  The jury's still out, though, on the Season Two designers.

Paul:  It is the temp's nightmare and the job-leaver's dream.  It is the feeling of very big shoes.  It reminds us that all humans are of equal value to other humans regardless of the previous connections we've made.  It reminds us of the beauty in strangers, the potential in everyone to love, so often squandered out of neophobia.

Although there are a few hopeful notes.  There is a nerd in the cast this season.

Diana makes clothing with nods to science.  She made a skirt with magnets that didn't work because the polarities reversed and she gets to explain that on Project Runway.  Although I appreciate the freshness of vision that she is attempting to bring, I am already concerned that she is far too enamored with gimmicks and novelty.

Laurie:   Yes, and fashion does appear to be her second love, after science/tech geekiness. She seems rather inexperienced, which could lead to trouble later.  Besides that, I'm not sure how ready I am to have my clothes married to my technology, or, as you say, Paul, to have them be gimmicky.  I'm pretty conventional in a lot of ways.

Paul:  It is one of those things in life where I am happy that it exists although I doubt I would ever have any practical use for it. 

Daniel is back, but we're playing catch up at this point (we're on episode 4 and trying to write about what we've watched so far.  The show is like eating potato chips and it's way easier to watch it than to write one of these blog posts.)  We will have much much more on Daniel in the forthcoming episodes.  Actually there are two Daniels this season, but don't lets muddy the waters any further than they already are.

Laurie:   Okay, so you're saying I shouldn't get going on the return of Daniel Franco, so I'll try to control myself.  Let's just say it was a shock, and not a happy surprise.  He was truly an annoying character last season.  I wasn't too keen on reliving that experience.

Paul:  The time for that will come soon enough. Daniel provides a wealth of material to write about.

There's also Santino with the eyes of Rasputin, oozing charisma and danger.  He seems the likely candidate for the raw, unfettered talent of this season, but he also seems to have a bit of a mean streak.

Laurie:  It's been bugging me and bugging me. This guy's eyes remind me of someone, and I just can't place it.  Hopefully I'll figure it out before the season is past and can make the announcement here.  Until then, I can say that I've found Santino, so far to be kind of fascinating. Very talented. Very charismatic. Very aware of both. A tad catty.

Paul: My favorite so far is Emmett, mainly because he seems to me the only person who has appeared on this whole series so far who would likely be able to make a proper cup of tea.  He wears white linen suits with hats at a jaunty angle.  Sort of a "what Tom Wolfe would wear to a summer garden party thrown by Gay Talese or vice versa."  In other words, precisely how I would like to dress.

Laurie:  I rather like Emmett too. He's a grown-up near my own age, who behaves himself as an adult of that age should. I like his calm demeanor.  He quite handsome  and reminds me of James Spader from Pretty in Pink, only not evil.

Paul:  Yes, he is arguably the first grown up contestant on the show.  He behaves himself.  I am signing on to Team Emmett.

But I am reluctant to say too much about any of them as all will be revealed in the fullness of time.  So far we only have thumbnail sketches of our core characters.  We will learn from them as we go.

Their first challenge is to make a dress that most communicates the artistic vision of the designer.  The designers are given a week or two before the show to make it in the comfort of their own homes on a decent budget.  One guy gets voted off for admitting that he only spent about 8 hours on it.  One girl gets voted off for, as Nina Garcia said in the judgment, "Sometimes pretty can be boring."

Laurie:  To be more exact, they were give six yards of plain white muslin, $20, and one week.

Paul:  Oh, that's right.  I remembered the muslin part because of how often I had to work with that material back in my theater days.  

Laurie:  And it seemed to be a surprise to all that they voted off two.  I guess they're mixing things up a bit to keep everyone on their toes. This first episode really felt like a whirlwind of faces.  I didn't come away from it very compelled by any characters yet.  Hopefully someone will capture my imagination along the way.  Oh, and another early observation.  Added to the prizes for the winner is a new car.  It would appear the budget for Season Two has been helped by the success of Season One. 

Paul:  And so I find myself settling in for what I am realizing is a very long haul.  I knew when I started that I had nine seasons ahead of me, but the first season was so flashy and new.  I know that there are probably seasons that are better than others and I am already suspecting that 1 > 2.  As snap judgments seem to rule the day, I find myself gravitating towards team Emmett this season.  Interesting.  I do the same thing when thrust into any new group of people.  I look for the person most likely capable of making a proper cup of tea and hang next to them.

This shouldn't effect this blog in any way as our goal here is not actually to write about the show.  Hang on.  This may be a bumpy ride.

Laurie:  Be that as it may, I find the show satisfying if only for watching the creative process.  I just love seeing what these designers come up with and how their designs really come alive on the runway.  It's so true what my mom used to say, "Sometimes you have to see the dress on."  In fact, I have lots of clothes like that, and they are usually the items that I receive the most compliments on.  I've often found them on the clearance rack, where the clothes that require a snippet of imagination to appreciate often land. My gain!

Santino's winning design.
Perhaps we should mention that Santino was the clear winner of this first challenge. As you can see at left, his design and detail were lovely. Daniel Franco, back for a second try, finished a depressing second to last, and I'm finding myself feeling much sorrier for him than I did the first time around. Perhaps he's mellowed a bit.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Eleven Minute Coda

Paul: Jay McCarroll walks into a small office, a high end New York restaurant for a magazine interview, a busy dressmaker's room to talk to the serious middle aged man in a white tanktop who is going to construct his clothes, a New York fashion week tent.  Jay is wearing sunglasses so large that they make him look like he has insect eyes.  The lapel of his blazer is speckled with novelty buttons with humorous slogans on them.  He wears a hot pink tie and sneakers.  He has made his hair into a pompadour.  He is dancing, joking, swearing.  He is a mess of insecurity.  He also has everything planned out.  He disarms you from the suspicion that he is an intrepid businessman.  He appears to take nothing seriously, but the arch of his story reveals that, in fact, he took it all seriously.

Completely by coincidence, we find ourselves back at New York Fashion Week in our project even as the actual 2011 New York Fashion Week goes on in New York.  Let's not get too excited.  Considering how often we talk about fashion week, it was inevitable.

Our first venture into the other sections of the Project Runway DVD menu was the curious category of "Where Are They Now."  It began with a section chronicling Jay's immediate reward for having won the season's contest: a photoshoot in Elle. In a bit of foreshadowing, Jay and we are disappointed.  The photographer does not want to accept Jay's vision.  The dresser wants to mix and match his design with other clothing, essentially destroying his vision.  In short, it took about 30 seconds for people to start scuttling Jay's work.  And then the "spread," which Jay and we had imagined as 12 pages of full page photographs, turns into one page with a short interview with Jay and maybe three photographs, one of which is of Jay himself.

What is not mentioned anywhere on the Project Runway disc is that Jay declined the $100,000 prize and the Banana Republic mentorship because of a clause which would give 10% of profits from Jay's designs IN PERPETUITY to Project Runway.

Laurie:  I love that story! The part where Jay's artistic and personal integrity will not allow the quick buck to blind him to the future costs.  Accepting that money would marry him to Project Runway for the rest of his career. Some might be willing to live with that. He was not, and he followed his conscience.

Paul: We finished the final disc of season 1 and somehow I became aware of a small art film from 2006 or thereabouts which was a documentary on Jay's first post-Project Runway New York Fashion Week show.  It's called Eleven Minutes.

There's a lot to be said, sure sure.  It's a very interesting look into what goes into a fashion week runway show as well as the predicaments which face a new designer.  Jay's collection is wonderful.  We wish it would end up in stores, but it doesn't really aside from a few scraps snapped up by Urban Outfitters (who would have been the perfect match for his looks.)  In the end, we are bowled over by the fantastic collection, but Jay seems to be living in some parallel universe where the world surrounding him seems entirely unmoved.  That was 2006.  In 2011, Jay is still designing.  He has a tie for sale on his website that I desperately want.  He has a line of fabric.  I really like his line of fabric. 

I find myself a little sad at the end of all of the Season 1 material.  I have doubts that anyone coming will capture my imagination like Jay has.  First there are all of the aforementioned aspects to his character: his insecurities, his humor, his strong work ethic.  There is also the fact that I have yet to see a piece of film in which he bites the hand that fed him.  I think the PR lady in the movie compared it to "child-star syndrome."  He would have to rise above his initial fame source to sustain for a career.  I look at Jay in the video above and he is older, thinner, and completely able to communicate a very good product.

Jay has a career and is supporting himself with his work which is about as good as it gets.  I hope he is very happy because he has brought a lot of beauty into this world.  But Jay is forever linked to a very short and unconventional time in his life which catapulted him from young unknown to forever chained to Project Runway.

Laurie:  I hadn't thought of it that way.  He's still married to the show in spite of turning down his prize money. I suppose, though, that $100,000 is not nearly as precious as integrity, not to mention what that would add up to over the course of his career.

Paul: At this point in my life, I look at Jay's story and wonder how much control we actually have.  To what will The Fates tie us?  So many of us find our adult lives on paths that we either didn't particularly choose or are the result of capricious choices when we were younger.  We try so hard to express ourselves with art, entertainment, the promotion of things that we love, and the people we surround ourselves with.  But in the end, regardless of how we clothe ourselves, we are all so much under the dictates of circumstance.  I suppose, faced with the great equalizer of the graveyard, what ends up mattering is what we do within our circumstances.  Jay has chosen to work hard and focus on creating beauty.

Laurie:   The way I see it, what matters dearest in the end is who we were as we did what we did within our circumstances. One man fills his world with life, love, honesty, and integrity while doing nothing more beautiful than digging ditches, or cleaning toilets. Another creates art and wealth, filling the world with beauty and treasures while walking the path of greed, self-seeking, and trampling of souls. Both men
enter the grave alone. Their ditches and toilets, their masterpieces of art, music, and architecture must remain behind. They are left in the end with nothing but the men that they became.