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.

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