Project Runway Canada: The Sticky Challenge
This week delivered a happy surprise with the airing of the seventh episode of Project Runway Canada. My post about episode 6 reflected my disappointment with the designers for failing to produce exciting and innovative fashion. I was not disappointed with the designs presented this week and in fact, I hope to see more of this creative risk-taking in the closing weeks.
Thinking back to previous season of this show and its American version, the challenges that I remember to be the most and that give me the most inspiration are the challenges that force the designers to work with non-traditional materials. What a delight it is to see creations made from grocery store items (remember Austin’s corn-husk dress in Project Runway season 1 episode 1) and most recently this amazing opportunity for the Canadian designers to use Post-It notes to create “an artistic, dramatic gown.” Funtastic idea!
This week was not without its dramas and rivalries. You’d think that some of the tensions would mellow since Jeff is no longer part of the group, but in fact, the bitterness and self-entitlement that some of the designers express seems residual and perhaps a symptom on the high pressure of these events. I wonder how much of the bad attitudes we see on TV is produced by the show. Can we really trust ‘reality’ TV?
Episode 7: The Sticking to It Challenge
The episode begins with Iman telling the designers that they will work with new models for this ‘sticky’ challenge and upon meeting Brian in the work room, the designers learn that they are doing a challenge using Post-It notes. More importantly, the design challenge is to create a dress that will be auctioned off for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the models for the challenge are breast cancer survivors.
The designers each choose a word that one of the breast cancer survivors wrote down as an associated word describing her experience and then are paired with that individual. The inspiration words are: Determination, Faith, Family, Beauty, Perseverance, Positive.
The designers meet their ‘models’ and along with the designers, we hear the moving stories of the surviving cancer patients.
We find out that many of the designers are deeply moved by this challenge. Sunny explains that his father died of cancer 4 years ago, Adejoké is moved to tears, and Jason deeply reflective, and Kim seems more demure than usual. The only one who seems to lack genuine emotion is Genevieve, who does remark about her model, downcast: “Lindsay is 30, same age as me. It hits home a bit.” She seems affected but her behaviour with her model is less-than-compassionate. When Lindsay describes how she felt sexy when she lost all her hair as a result of chemotherapy treatments, Genevieve exclaims “Oh my god! I love that!” and gives her a demi-hug. I’m just not feeling the Genevieve vibes- obviously.
In any case, it was a great time to drop the giddiness of this competition and give the designers a reality check.
Adejoké: “It’s like, serious business.”
Jessica: “It’s going to be an emotional one this time.”
Jason: “I was measuring her and she said, ‘You smoke don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And she said, ‘You should quit that- chemo’s no fun.’ To hear it from someone like that, it’s pretty intense, man… I was like, ‘You’ll be my inspiration to quit.’”
In the Work Room
The designers work from a fabric base but must cover it entirely with Post-It notes. Seems like fun-? Just ask Kim: she’s taking it out on the poor Post-Its.
Jason seems worried about working with paper: “I just hope everything works out. I don’t want to go out of Post-Its, man.”
Brian comes in for his first check-up on the designers and starts by cautioning Jessica’s design of moving from a cracked earth effect at the hem of her dress to an oasis at the collar. Her design is really tacky at this point and Brian tells her where to up the intensity and take it down. We completely agree.
Up next is Jason. He explains his design-in-progress, saying that he wants to stay working with pink because it’s the breast cancer colour and he describes the thematic movement along the silhouette and how he wants to build up the gown’s elaborate train.
Brian, to Jason (Hesitating, slowly): “I dunno. You’re kind of a gimmicky designer. And I think you have to be careful with that. You do remember what Iman said to you.”
Jason, to Brian: “Well you know, gimmicky and witty I think is totally different. When I design my own collections I don’t design gimmicky. I’m just trying to work with the guidelines that I’m given.”
Brian: “So, not sure about what’s going on down here, but edit as you go. Editing, editing, editing as you go.”
Is it just me, or did Jason just say that he’s producing gimmicky designs because it’s the challenges’ specifications-? It’s impossible that he’s been doing this competition with blinders on; surely he sees the work that others have produced- work that is not least gimmicky (mainly as seen in Adejoke, Jessica, and Sunny’s creations.) What-ever, Jason. I’m sure if you could find a way to make your dress move automatically like a robot and then transform into a rocket that can be launched from a swimming pool deck, you’d do it. Which reminds me of the Project Runway season 2 designer Diana who used magnets as fixtures to her dress design in episode 1. Remember her? Now that was totally on par with Jason’s work.
Brian moves on to Kim’s design.
Brian, to Kim: “I love what you’re doing over there,” (pointing to red feathers with gold paint.)
Kim bounces around and brings over the over-sized foam wing cutouts.
Brian, frozen: “What is that-?”
Kim, deliriously happy: “Wings!”
Brian, grossed out: “You’re joking.”
Brian, slowly: “Not sure we’re after costumes for Cirque du Soleil-”
Kim: “What girl doesn’t feel good when she puts on a pair of wings? Like, can you imagine what I’m talking about?”
Brian, lecturing: “She’s not at a children’s concert she just went through cancer.”
Kim, happy: “Exactly!”
Brian: “I’m finding it a little disrespectful, to tell you the truth.”
Kim: “I don’t find it disrespectful at all.”
Brian: “You need to honour the challenge.”
Kim: “I absolutely do. One hundred percent.”
Brian, diplomatic: “I think it’s great to have fun doing it. But most importantly, you’re going to honour, yeah?”
Brian walks away. Ouch- Kim just doesn’t want to change her design. Unlike Jason who supports the wings idea (looks like Victoria’s Secret ‘angels’) we agree with Brian and think it’s totally off the wall for this challenge and far too girlish. I can’t think of anything that says ‘little-girl’ like wings do. Well, that’s not true; maybe a tutu.
Kim asks the other designers if they like the wings or not.
Sunny: “I love ‘em because I want you to lose but I hate them and the judges won’t like them.” (Smiles at her.)
Kim: “Yeah, the judges won’t like them.”
Sunny: “They will not like them.” (Laughter.) “I want you to lose, so use them.”
Kim decides to axe the wings, saying ”even though they’d be glorious..” she’s going to stick to “just making a gown.”
Similarly, Jessica is struggling with her design and decides to scrap it and start a new dress made up of cones of paper.
Flirting in the Work Room
We’ve all watched the relationships between the designers develop into friendships: Sunny was close to now-eliminated Baylor, Adejoke and Jessica seem tight, and Genevieve and Kim seem to like each other on the surface but we hardly know since both are very competitive. But so far, there was little in terms of romance evolving in this group of designers- well, perhaps just a little flirting between Jason and Kim. In this episode, this camaraderie is produced to show that there is a touch more to this light friendship and we watch off-camera Jason giggling about his thoughts on Kim and her reflection about her looks.
Jason, about Kim: “She’s a lunatic… She reminds me of a crazy old homeless woman.. but way hotter.”
Kim: “My looks maybe have helped me in certain situations in my life but definitely haven’t got me to where I am today. I think I’m super talented and I have a sparkling personality and people are drawn to me for other reasons than what’s on the outside, and I truly believe that.”
To all of this I say: big whoop. I’m totally yawning at this produced clip and its only use is to show that Kim knows that she’s hot and tries to show that it doesn’t really matter or affect her designer cred. We know that Kim is talented and we know she’s attractive. Let’s move on.
Day of Runway Show
Off-camera, Genevieve: “Well I think everything I do is beautiful. That’s just my honest opinion. I’d like to win this challenge. I think it’s my time per se to win a challenge. … Jessica’s dress is hideous, it’s an afterthought, the whole dress is an afterthought. It’s so over-the-top; it looks like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I don’t think she is a.. fashion designer. I think she’s a fashion regurgitator.”
Genevieve continues to bury herself in self-flattery and in inaccurate and harsh criticisms of others’ work. I’m shocked- has she really no concept of how these monologues can affect her career? Who would want to wear her clothes? How could you ever be proud to wear her name?
The Runway Show
Guest judge: Canadian fashion designer Marie Saint Pierre.
Genevieve’s design: Stunning- her best work so far. The top is very origami and the bottom reminds of the colour shading in Japanese paintings. A success!
Jason’s dress: a circus show. The pixel-effect is distracting and makes the dress look like.. Post-It notes. Garish colour combo- totally tasteless. The shoulder straps do what, exactly? The dress’ train is cartoonish and bounces behind her like a hoard of puppies. Truly embarrassing. (Iman frowns deeply.)
Adejoké‘s dress: I’m totally shocked to see this absurd design. Looks like a dress fit for a Tarzanista. Not pretty- just bad taste.
Kim’s dress: Surprisingly lovely. The feathers look great as the model walks the runway. It’s a little Joan-of-Arc meets Big Bird, but the colour is stunning and the shape at the front hem of the skirt is pretty.
Jessica’s dress: Truly a marvel. It shimmers gold through the lovely colour gradients. Definitely my favourite! I love the large floral accents- like a lovely bloom or sea anemone. Divine!
Sunny’s dress: The skirt moves like it’s fabric- the shearing of the tips move wonderfully. It’s a lovely colour combination of the asymmetrical gold bustier with soft blues in the skirt. Gorgeous!
Genevieve announces that she chose the word ‘Beauty’ because she thinks that she designs beautiful things. I think that Genevieve totally missed the point about this challenge: it’s about the breast cancer survivors, not YOU. I’m so tired of her. Rita loves the dress, Shawn agrees, Marie interjects and has a problem with the top and bottom not bridging very well technically and aesthetically “made it less beautiful.” Genevieve smiles, looks down, and says nothing.
Jason’s turn is next and he’s already defending his challenge- saying that it was “tough.” Shawn is supportive and says that he likes that Jason has tried to create “something very very dramatic.”
Rita: “The other dresses look like a dress. Yours doesn’t look to me like a dress. It looks like something that you would see on a float.” (Later on, Rita describes the dress as looking “like a panic attack.”
Marie: “That dress didn’t move at all.”
Iman: “There’s nothing creative. It looks like a reject from a carnival… I was disappointed.” (Iman later describes the dress as “A Post-It paper mâché dress with a train. That’s a train wreck! What is that?!”
Kim’s turn, she describes her dress as a Joan-of-Arc freedom fighter. Rita likes the colour and the front better than the back and says that the overall execution falls below standards.
Marie: “The belt. I don’t understand when you choose an accessory it’s there to emphasize your creation, not to kill it. … It’s just the wrong touch at the wrong place.”
Iman jumps in and tells Kim that she’s not understanding what Marie is saying and that Kim could have dropped the belt idea and instead laced up the dress and left the tie-up strings at the back. I completely agree- the belt is distracting. Shawn says that he likes the tie as a belt, to which Iman interjects, “Don’t listen to Shawn, listen to me and Marie. It’s wrong.” I love Iman- there is clearly only one opinion that matters on this judging panel which is a weakness for the PRC production. Iman later says, “I liked it from the get-go, I didn’t like it from the go-get… I had nowhere to go.” Everyone laughs. Ah, Iman.
Jessica’s design is swooned over by Shawn:
Shawn: “I think it’s official that we have a new front runner in this competition. Once again you have the best for me, I think it’s the best one. And I’ll probably get in trouble from Iman for saying this (Iman slaps him with her note cards) but to me, this is very Galliano Post-It Couture.”
Rita: “It’s exuberant, it’s extravagant, it’s flamboyant… Post-It Couture, okay, we’ll give you that.”
Marie: “Execution: impeccable. It delivers a texture that could be recreated in fabric.”
Sunny’s dress gets the official you’re so awesome compliments- Rita tells him that his dress doesn’t look like paper, and Iman tells him “This is what we talk about when we say ‘innovation’. It’s a beautiful dress- it’s genius.”
Shawn makes a good point in Sunny’s disfavour: “We have now seen that top from you at least twice before.” (Pause.) “You know it.”
Adejoké goes down the same faux-pas explanation of her dress as Genevieve and says that her design’s word is ‘Perseverance’ and that she’s had a lot of things in life to persevere through, “including this challenge.” Uh- not funny. Very not funny.
Shawn calls her design “busy”, Marie says, “Ouch, simplify. Take off, delete. Look at your work.” Rita confirms by saying that the design is “too literal to really be fashionable.”
In the backstage waiting area, Kim turns to Jessica and says, “I feel all weird that they thought your dress took a lot of work. I don’t feel that it took a lot of work.”
Jessica and Adejoke: “Those rolls took a lot of work.”
Kim: “Yeah but you just put Post-Its up on the body. I don’t know… I was just pissed about that ‘cus you started a dress and then did another one and the rest of us were working tirelessly…”
Jessica: “I was making those rolls that whole time”
Kim says nothing. Jason tells her to join him for a cigarette outside. Adejoké, Sunny, and Jessica are left alone in the waiting area and Adejoké jokes to her, “Got the ‘hater-ade’ on you.”
Jessica: “I’m pretty sure I spent the same amount of time on my dress as everyone else. [About Kim] So what, you’re just going to hate anyone that gets a good critique? Yeah. Lame.”
I’m with Marie- “They have to learn not to defend things that are undefendable. I’m sorry.”
Iman calls Jessica’s work “Genius.” So it seems the title is shared between Sunny and Jessica-!
Shawn, defending Adejoke’s costumy design: “It’s a costume challenge, that’s what I’m trying to say.” All three ladies respond: “It’s not- it’s a fashion challenge!”
Iman: “Jessica, Jessica. She is right behind Sunny. She is on his tail!”
The competition is finally heating up. Yes- I did just call it a ‘competition’ after denouncing it after last week’s episode. In my defense, I think that Jessica’s now clearly a serious contender for the series’ win and I hope that we’ll see more edgy design and high-level craft from her, Sunny, and the other designers. They should be motivated to keep up with Sunny and Jessica otherwise the third-place finishing designer will be showing at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week just out of formality. Go Adejoké! Pick up the pace- we want to see a competition and we’re rooting for you, too!
The dresses created in this challenge are currently up for auction to raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Please visit auctionwire.com/runway to view the dresses and place your bid in support of this great cause. Bids are currently accepted and will be taken until noon on March 17.
I will be at Toronto’s LG Fashion Week next week from March 16 – 20 and will be reporting on this blog about the shows there. For more information about this event including show schedules, please visit the Fashion Design Council of Canada’s site.
Images courtesy of Global TV’s Project Runway site and 3M Canada.