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Project Runway Canada: Winners challenge

March 9, 2009
PRC Episode 6: Hope Springs Eternal Challenge

PRC Episode 6: Hope Springs Eternal Challenge

I assume that we were all expecting the Project Runway Canada challenge involving primo accessories sponsor Winners to be revealed any time now and sure enough, we were served this week with what should have been an easy design project. Alas, this week seemed to reach a new low in fashion construction and general creativity. I think it’s fair to say that other than the designers and the judges, we’ve stopped calling this season a competition. Really- is there anyone left who still wonders who will win season 2 of Project Runway Canada?

But as the show continues I am content watching the creative process of this group of designers and I’m surprising myself by enjoying Brian Bailey’s mentoring. It helps that this season Brian appears more relaxed and helpful, having adopted a far more Tim Gunn-esque approach. Case in point: this week Brian even dropped the line “Carry on,” after which he paused, looking uncomfortable and unsure what to say next. Someone should have offered him a hug.

Let the Games Begin

Episode 6 starts with the designers randomly picking their models and the unimpressed Kim gets last pick, choosing to work with Ramada since her model Gabrielle was selected by rival Jeff. Kim isn’t happy but I am- this stirs the pot and makes raises the difficulty of the challenge. The group is off to meet Brian at Winners to learn about their new challenge.

For the first time ever, Winners will put into production the winning design and sell it across Canada

For the first time ever, Winners will put into production the winning design and sell it at select Winners stores across Canada

The Challenge: Hope Springs Eternal

Our group of keen designers is given $100 each to spend on materials to create the must-have spring dress for the stereotypical Winners shopper. In addition, the dress must be able to carry from day wear to night and will be produced and sold in a limited run for Winners. Sounds like a great prize for a piece-of-cake challenge, no?

Jason chooses snaps to make his dress' train convertible

Jason chooses snaps to make his dress' train convertible

At the fabric store, we can already tell that there are some bad decisions under way. Brian does his best to intervene and tell Jason that the green silk charmeuse fabric he chose is hard to sew and that Genevieve’s dreary colours aren’t in the least ‘spring’ tones. Meanwhile Adejoké chooses jersey fabric which gets cursed back at the workroom for being tricky to sew. Kim explains that “It’s almost impossible to have a day to night dress.” Really-?! I challenge that- although my idea of a day-to-night dress is a Furstenberg wrap or a little black dress. There- that’s two options. Get to it!

Kim: "It's practically impossible to make a day to night dress." (My thoughts: maybe in those colours.)

Kim: "It's almost impossible to have a day to night dress." (My thoughts: In those colours, yes.)

The Snickering

As expected, Kim is feeling slighted by her near elimination in the last challenge and from Jeff taking her model in the selection process this morning. Genevieve continues to dislike Jeff’s work and along with Kim, actively mocks his design throughout this episode.

Kim and Genevieve do what they do best: laugh at Jeff's work behind his back

Kim and Genevieve giggle at Jeff's work behind his back. Not their best moments.

The Gossip

The best part of the gossip exchange between Adejoké and homie Jessica was watching two-faced Adejoké refer to Kim and Genevieve’s behaviour “immature.”

Jessica and Adejoké gossip about Jeff's designs and Genevive and Kim's snickering

Jessica and Adejoké gossip about Jeff's designs and Genevive and Kim's snickering

It really wasn’t that long ago (Episode 4) that we watched Adejoké gossip with Sunny about Jeff’s age and creative potential. I’m starting to run out of people to love on this show.

“Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures”

Jeff’s ambitious reversible hand-stitched dress becomes increasingly unrealistic for him to finish according to his design. He tries to work the sewing machines to help him get the stitching accomplished and runs a lot from one room to another, laughing in his little way that seems to drive everyone bananas in the workroom. He finally decides that he simply cannot finish the dress with hand-stitching and so he resigns to drawing on the fabric the crosses that mimick the stitches.

Out of Time: drawing cross stitches of his dress

Out of time: drawing cross stitches on his dress

Everyone is laughing at him. This is, after all, the same designer who glued together his dress when he didn’t have time to finish sewing the seams. Wait- what’s that in his hand, now? Here comes the glue bottle again: Jeff is gluing on his blue rectangular accents. Unreal.

Trusty liquid glue does the trick for Jeff

Trusty liquid glue does the trick for Jeff

Beauty note: the master makeup artists in the L’Oreal makeup room work their magic again. These guys are really amazing and I wish we got to see more of how they achieve amazing looks.

This week’s Guest Judge: Nicole Gouveia, Merchandise Manager at Winners

Guest Judge: Nicole Gouveia, Merchandise Manager, Winners

Guest Judge: Nicole Gouveia, Merchandise Manager, Winners

The Runway Show

"Let's start the show!"

"Let's start the show!"

Sunny’s dress: to use his words, “like a cloud.” Fun and light but the slit detailing is passé. The dark brown belt accessory makes it fantabulous.

Sunny's design

Sunny's design

Adejoké’s dress: definitely mod Egyptian, grey with yellow trim. Except for the sagging underarms, this might be the most interesting of the group’s but lacks on the technical side.

Adejoké's design

Adejoké's design

Genevieve’s dress: Been there, done that. Another predictable fairy dress in the same shape we’ve seen her do. The model looks like she’s wearing Genevieve’s own clothes, but nicer. Can’t say I like those draping alternate colours in the skirt. Overall, a snore and totally not day colours.

Genevieve's design

Genevieve's design

Jeff’s dress: lame and even bigger snore than Genevieve’s. It’s just dowdy and those blue glued-on rectangles look cheap. Overall, a big mistake.

Jeff's design

Jeff's design

Jason’s dress: back to episode 1 gimmicks. Snaps are positioned on the model’s rear end and pin up the dress’ hem into a mid-calf length for day wear and when the model reaches the end of the runway and unsnaps her bum, the dress becomes a floor-sweeping gown at the back, shorter at the front (as per his usual). Ridiculoso. I’m actually laughing out loud as I watch this unfold. Iman will surely have a word or two about this.

Jason's design

Jason's design

Kim’s dress: Cuter than I expected. I would say that it’s too teen-aged for the typical Winners customer and the colours are rather dull; tan and dark brown for spring? Maybe if you’re Inspector Gadget, but then again, I prefer bright colours and I hate brown. Worse still, there are two weird pieces of dark brown ribbon flying behind her model- where are these ribbons coming from? Are they there so that she can hang herself should the need arise? I just don’t get it.

Kim's design

Kim's design

Jessica’s dress: Middle-of-the road. Not the most exciting shade of green nor the most innovative cut, this dress by Jessica is a little on the boring side. The one-shouldered design and the asymetrical cut aren’t exactly 2009.

Jessica's design

Jessica's design

The Judging

Adejoké wears a grey and white striped dress from H&M that I also own :)

Adejoké wears a grey and white striped dress from H&M that I also own :)

This week’s designer achieving safe, middle-of-the road status is Kim. She seems grateful to get a pass. It seems that Iman’s grant of one last chance has bought her another challenge.

First under the judges’ review is Sunny, whose dress’ slit is criticized by Shawn Hewson as being “passed flirty”.

Shawn: "Past flirty"

Shawn: "The side detailing is past flirty"

Iman: boundless enthusiasm for Sunny's work

Iman: boundless enthusiasm for Sunny's work

Rita says that she likes the tank top cut and the layering. Iman is up to her usual gushing over Sunny and calls the dress “fresh and breezy! I love it. Good dress.”

Adejoké’s dress gets its due finger-pointing at the poor construction. Adejoké explains that she chose jersey fabric and has little experience sewing with it. Iman comments that jersey “is a very unforgiving fabric.” (I can’t help but think that Iman is a very unforgiving fabric.)

Looking at Jessica’s green one-shoulder dress, it’s Shawn’s turn to be giddy: “It’s my favourite! I love that one! It’s great! Great colour, great fabric, great movement.” Iman is also eating it up and comments, “Touche.”

Genevieve’s turn at wooing the judges fails miserably. She starts by telling them that she prefers muted colours “not quite as Eastery” and that she would wear this dress for day with flip flops. All four judges tell her that the design isn’t meeting the challenge’s requirements in terms of being a spring dress that could be a day dress. Genevieve cuts them off and argues. I’m shocked about her confident insolence; Rita later on describes her design’s defense “as just sass in the end.” Finally, Iman has heard enough and interjects:


Iman, to Genevieve: “This is about a challenge and we’ll say, four of us, that you didn’t hit the mark… You would (wear it during the day)- that’s not the issue. When you’re talking doing a challenge that is specific about going from day to night, the rules change.”

Iman: not impressed with Genevieve's attitude

Iman: not impressed with Genevieve's disrespectful attitude

That keeps Genevieve quiet long enough for Iman to change the topic and move on to Jeff’s design.

Jeff describes his dress as “something a little different… It’s actually reversible… All the little hand stitching that’s holding on the fabric is more subtly on the underneath part.”

Rita, to Jeff: “You’ve got a lot of handwork here and along the neckline. So, tell us a little bit about that.”

Jeff: “I’m very much about the craftsmanship so that’s generally the way that I work is ‘quiet luxury’ so…”

Iman, to Jeff: “Those stitches, are they flat or is it like a stitch?”

Jeff: “It’s just cross stitch.”

Iman: “That’s what I thought.”

(Genevieve and Jason are exchanging looks and snickering. I think we’re all rather surprised by this obvious lie; clearly Jeff had a chance to come clean here and instead he chose to inflate himself as a fine craftsman. Totally absurd.)

Rita to Jeff: “One thing I just want to clarify: are you saying that this dress can be completely reversed?”

Iman: “I really want the model to go backstage and do that for me.”

(The model obliges and returns.)

Rita sees "raindrops"; we see misrepresentation

Rita sees "raindrops"; we see misrepresentation

Rita, gushing: “I think it’s quite lovely, like little raindrops coming down the dress. Very springlike, very poetic. I like it this way.”

(More loud snickering from the designers on the runway. Rita’s credibility is dwindling.)

Nicole: “I felt that the dress was a day dress and I’m not sure that it’s something that would stop somebody in their tracks walking through our store. It just didn’t feel like it had the design level of what we’re looking for.”

And now it’s Jason’s turn to defend his multiple-snap convertible dress.

Jason: "using jacket snaps for the customer to give their touch on the piece that they bought"

Jason: "using jacket snaps for the customer to give their touch on the piece that they bought"

Rita: “I’m not getting any kind of day vibe from this dress, whatsoever.”

Iman: “The other thing is the snaps. It was a wrong choice… Mm, no.”

Backstage, the designers wait for the judges to make the call as to whose design is just not measuring up. Genevieve kills some time by telling Kim that Jeff lied to the judges about having done the hand stiched cross stitches. Kim is shocked and says, “And nobody mentioned that he lied?” The group is very upset (although most of the noise comes from Genevieve, occasionally joined by Kim and Jason) and tell him that the judges could send someone else home and not him even though he lied about the confection of his garment.

Kim gets a recap from Genevieve about Jeff's cross stitch lie

Kim gets a recap from Genevieve about Jeff's cross stitch lie

Genevieve and Kim press him to “be a man and go tell them.” Jeff looks pensive and considers his options. His defense is that everyone hides their poor construction at one point or another with pins or tape or whatever non-sewing methods. I agree with him on this point but I think that his dishonesty on the runway is a problem and he really should come clean.

Jeff considers what to do about his cross stitch lie

Jeff reflects about what to do about his cross stitch lie

Final Words

Iman: “It was very hard to choose the designer who won this challenge and the one who is out.”

Jeff: “I just want to clear the air and let everybody know that the dress that I had presented was not the dress that I would have liked to have presented. The stitching.. ah.. I actually had to drawn all of that on. I don’t want to be deceitful about that.”

Iman: “Point taken. Thank you.”

And that was that. With little interest in pursuing what Jeff had revealed we’re led to believe that this confession was appreciated but not affecting the final decision. Iman saluted them off the runway one by one until the remaining two were left: sass-talking Genevieve or dowdy-designer Jeff. I doubt that there would have been any tears shed if they’d both been sent home. In fact, that would have likely generated cheers from the TV audience.

Ironically enough, this challenge is titled “Hope Springs Eternal” but I doubt that there’s much hope felt in the audience. We’re feeling starved for innovative and exciting fashion- we’d swoon if the designers were daring with their shapes and fabrics. As the weeks pass, we’d love to be revived and priding ourselves on the strengths of emerging Canadian talent. Where is the farsical, the futuristic, the gorgeous? My well of ‘eternal hope’ has dried up- all that’s left now is sarcasm.

Jessica Biffi’s winning dress is now available for purchase in select Winners stores across Canada. The dress is priced at $99; see it here on the Winners website and enter the contest to win it here.

Fellow blogger Rebecca at The Sub Adult Years went to Winners and tried on Jessica Biffi’s dress. See her wearing the dress and read her review here.

Images courtesy of Global TV’s Project Runway Canada website.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jordana permalink
    March 9, 2009 3:12 pm

    Kudos on this post. It “hit the mark” for me. Most of this week’s designs, on the other hand, just didn’t “measure up”. The designs were horrible. Where’s the creativity and innovation? Not to mention good taste? Except for Sunny’s dress, but even that wasn’t an absolute must have. Adejoké’s mod mini was pretty cool but horribly constructed. How are these people going to make it in the fashion industry? Are we happy to have them representing the Canadian fashion scene? The strings on Kim’s dress reminded me of reins. Giddy up. And there was nothing spring, fresh or fantastic with Gen’s (s)crappy frock. Jasons snaps and green satin? Are you serious? And don’t even get me started on the glue. Pathetic. Even I can whip up a fun dress in a day. Call me crazy but my idea of “good craftsmanship” seems a helluva lot different from Jeff’s. Home girl Jessica – yeah – basically she’s funny. Her designs – blah – I’m bored. Yo.

  2. March 12, 2009 10:58 am

    Speaking as a designer, it’s true, a day to evening dress is very difficult. It’s a lot to ask of one little dress. It will always be a bit frumpy at cocktails, and it always risks looking a little too out-there for the office. It’s a no-win situation. When I get someone asking for a simple little dress that can be worn to the office and then out for dinner and cocktails after I want to crawl into a corner, curl into a ball and weep quietly until they leave. None of the dresses were real must-have fly of the rack types.

    I don’t understand why none of the designers did a floral print. Florals, tie-dyes and the saturated crayon colours have been in the forecasts for this spring for two years, and as designers they should know about fashion forecast services. A floral is eye-catching, draws a customer to the rack, makes her think of warm days ahead, creates a need and then fills it. bright florals fly off the racks in spring. They are a perfect antidote to the customers winter blahs. I can’t make enough spring florals, there’s something about them that everyone wants, maybe a cure for a bad economy? Bad weather? I don’t know.

    There’s something about this season’s designers that leaves me cold. They all seem to be re-working ideas and designs that I’ve seen other do better in the past. There’s no real stand-out creative and visionary talent. There’s something about this season that makes me feel grouchy and cranky after each episode. It should make me happy, but it isn’t. There’s no one who is really outstanding, Sunny is good, no doubt about that, but I’m not sure about all the superlatives heaped on him.

    I’m not entirely loving this season, either. I’m happy to read I’m not the only one.

  3. March 12, 2009 9:38 pm

    Thank you for your comments! I think it is a disappointing season and worse still is that once this is all over, I wonder if these young designers will get their own collections realized. As you’ve both pointed out, they don’t appear to have consistent vision or talent.

    Linda, I like your comment about florals. You’re so right- why the heck didn’t they go for a fun print? It is a spring dress and prints are huge right now. Even a simple wrap dress a la Dianne von Furstenberg would have been better!

    I also agree that it’s not a feel-good show; quite possibly the only exception was the Post-It note challenge but that had a sad end with the closing dedications to Jason’s ‘model’ who has now succumbed to the disease. These women are an inspiration and I am happy that the designers had some fun with this challenge- thank goodness they weren’t left to their tired ways with fabric. I’d be happy to see them sew using non-sewing materials for the rest of the season! :)
    – Johanne


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