Advertisement

'Project Runway': rating the first runway

Project Runway is back for its last season in the Big Apple and its last season on Bravo. This disappoints me: The show is moving to the Lifetime network, and, apparently, Los Angeles next year. L.A.? Sure, the City of Angels is more fashionable than say, Charm City. But a PR without the Parsons The New School of Design workroom and the hustle and bustle of Eighth Avenue just doesn't seem right. Don't convince me otherwise: N.Y.C. is the fashion capital. I'll have to savor this season, I guess.

Which brings me to the first episode, which was fabulous. As in, it was fabulous TV. Fabulous fashion? Not so much.

Advertisement

The much younger cast includes some designers that catch my eye. Among them: Jerell, 28, who has designed for Saudi royalty. Jennifer, 27, who describes her style as "Holly Golightly goes to a Salvador Dali exhibit" (I have high hopes; I'm a huge Breakfast at Tiffany's fan). Suede, 37, who has experience designing jeans and is tired of making millions for other people. "Suede needs to make millions for Suede!" Suede also talks in the third person -- bleh! And who could forget Blayne, the 23-year-old who is obsessed with tanning and likes neon. Enough said.

The first challenge begins at 4 a.m. with Tim Gunn knocking on contestants' doors. Soon, the gang is heading down the street to Gristedes grocery store. The first challenge is a repeat of the first challenge in Season 1: Make an outfit from items in the store. Special guest judge Austin Scarlett (still pale, still dramatic) fills us and the designers in on the details: Each designer has a half-hour to shop and a $75 budget. Originality is emphasized.

Austin won this challenge four seasons ago with a dress made of corn husks. You'd think that by Season 4, these contestants would have learned from past designers' successes (say, a dress made of corn husks) and mistakes. So, when the judges say be creative, be creative! Do NOT grab a tablecloth and drape it around a body and call it a dress. But that's what a good number of contestants does. I think the ones who grab a horrendous black-and-white checked tablecloth are especially doomed. Hounds tooth is not in, and a tablecloth that resembles hounds tooth is more unfortunate.

Back at Parsons (which L.A.'s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising should NOT replace), the designers realize that their materials are AWFUL. Most of the episode centers on Stella, a 42-year-old rocker who is working with the flimsiest trash bags I've ever seen. With a $75 budget, she certainly could have sprung for the Hefty Cinch Sacks, no? We're treated to about 10 straight minutes of Stella griping about her "fabric." "My fabric is trash!" she whines. Why, yes, it is, Stella.

As Stella stares at and tears her trash bags, lamenting that she'll be a joke if she's the first eliminated designer, Tim assesses some of the garmets-in-the-making. Daniel is creating a cocktail dress, with a sweetheart top, out of blue plastic cups. He's using an iron to melt the plastic. I don't find it particularly pretty, but it's certainly innovative. Kelli, 27, is using coffee, bleach, etc. to stain vacuum bags for the bottom of a skirt. The top is made of burned coffee filters, push pins and spiral notebook binding. Blayne takes the cake when he announces that his outfit is going to be "girlicious." What he's creating looks like some kind of black-and-neon diaper-leotard thing. I have no words, only laughter.

Tim doesn't laugh, but he does say that he thinks judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Scarlett will say the designers are "a bunch of slackers." Wisely, tablecloth-grabbers Leanne and Korto dress up their pieces with cookies and candy (Leanne) and vegetables (Korto). But not Jerry, the self-proclaimed next big thing in fashion. The 42-year-old doesn't want to ruin his look by piling on extraneous purchases. Oh, no, his raincoat made out of a shower curtain, which covers up possibly one of the worst dresses I've ever seen, will do just fine. I'm a sucker for cute jackets (perhaps that's why I'm such a big Jillian Lewis fan), but this coat, while well-structured, is uninspired and looks like, you guessed it: a shower curtain. It only gets worse when his model must pull on yellow rubber cleaning gloves. It looks like she's ready to walk a runway at a Superfund site.

A lot of the pieces on the runway are forgettable. I really hope that what we're seeing isn't an indication of this pool's talent. The vegetable trim is a smart move for Korto, who along with Daniel and Kelli, is in the top three. The bottom three includes Stella (no shocker), Blayne (ditto) and Jerry (double ditto). Kelli wins, but Daniel's cocktail dress is a close second. Korto gets recognition for being the only designer to use produce. And though she used a tablecloth, the yellow dress is impeccable. Blayne's Playboy-bunny-on-acid outfit is panned (to make matters worse, he's written "girlicious" on his model's leg! AND he thinks it's wearable for a night out on the town!), but he's safe. Stella's trash is trashed, but she, too, is safe. I figured as much, because the editing was such to make us think she was going home. Jerry is sent packing.

Overlooked pieces of the night? Terri's top made of mops. The design is intricate and pretty. Joe's oven-mitt top and pasta skirt. The skirt was just OK, but the top was cute! Check out all the outfits here.

Best moment yet to come: A clip shows Tim Gunn saying, "Holla 'atcha boy."

Advertisement
Advertisement