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"Project Runway": An eyesore?

March 18, 2010 | 11:00 pm
Proje4988(2) I was having lunch with a friend yesterday who is sensing a bit of "Project Runway" fatigue.  She largely blames Lifetime and thinks there was a drop in quality in the show's producing from the move from Bravo.  I personally don't see a big difference so I don’t concur with her there. She also thinks the challenges have been somewhat dull this season, and I can't disagree with her on that point.  While I enjoyed watching the contestants walking around the New York neighborhoods, trying to find inspiration for day and night looks from Harlem, Chinatown, the East Village and the Upper East Side, this type of challenge was not new. We've seen it before, typically when the designers were given a digital camera and asked to take a picture of something in the city and design a look from that. 

The designers were paired up into teams for the challenge, which usually brings a bit of drama to the episode, but I felt that said drama was actually on the mellow side, even if it did include Mila, who hasn't historically played well with others.  While Emilio Sosa cackled about setting Jay Nicolas Sario up with Mila and the two of them complained about how well they didn't get along, I actually didn't see a lot of strife between them. They didn't seem like best friends, but there was also no screaming or hair-pulling.

Maybe I should have known that it was going to be a bit of a dull episode when there was so much emphasis on Collier Strong, who really doesn't serve any purpose on the show other than to remind us of all the fine products L'Oreal carries. But I wasn't very excited by the runway show either, maybe because I expected stronger, more avant-garde looks.  For instance, while I liked Mila's signature black and white East Village look, it didn't seem like an evening design to me.  I also found her model's overuse of devil horns annoying. And while I liked Anthony Williams and Maya Luz's origami-inspired evening dress, I almost thought the Chinatown inspiration in their day look was too subtle. No, I don't think the model needed to carry a paper parasol and wear a silk robe, but as she came down the runway, before I could see the detail on the sleeve, I didn't see much Chinatown influence at all.

I thought I was insane when Amy Sarabi and Jonathan Peters' designs came down the catwalk because I thought maybe I just wasn't getting it, at least in Amy's case.  An Upper East Side look seems as though at worst it would be boring but easy: luxe and crisp and slightly snobbish. Instead, Amy's peach handkerchief-looking tunic didn't hit any of those notes and didn't even look like the shirtdress she was going for--as Nina Garcia said, it looked more like an upside-down umbrella. I didn't think it was so bad as to call it an "eyesore," as Heidi Klum did, but it definitely missed the mark.  While I thought Jonathan's look was definitely more evening than some of the others, I agreed with the judges that the panels on his architecturally inspired dress cheapened the look, and I thought it was too literal an interpretation in general.

Emilio and Seth Aaron Henderson nailed their Harlem look almost to a cartoonish effect with Seth Aaron's flygirl-inspired denim outfit (I think the hat is what sent it over the top for me) but it was well-made and looked like its designers had indeed been hanging out in Harlem.  I didn't love the look of their evening dress, but I did see the Cotton Club inspiration so I thought their team did execute the challenge the best, so it made sense that they beat everyone else in a historic -- historic! -- double win.

But even the hint of elimination excitement fizzled: Mila had promised to make it clear which work she did in order to separate herself from Jay's poorly-made top and pants, but it didn't come to that. The judges knew that was Jay's work and there was no arguing over separation of responsibilities.  However Jay didn't even get eliminated for his not-very-attractive or -inspiring tank top and cargo pants. Amy got sent home for the peach umbrella.  While I don't know if Amy's design was so bad that she needed to go home tonight, I think we all knew she was living on borrowed time after last week's cat in a baby sling. By the way, if you're one of the people who feel as though I'm maligning the "baby sling community," as one commenter last week put it, maybe you should take it up with Amy for tarnishing your image, not me.

--Claire Zulkey

Anthony Williams and Maya Luz sketch out ideas in Chinatown. Photo credit: Lifetime