Project UnFunway

Season 9 of Project Runway kicked off last night and as a longtime viewer of the series, I was interested to see who would be taking a stab at fabric design this go around. This interest persisted despite Tim Gunn’s ridiculous comments earlier this week that Hillary Clinton dresses as if she “is confused about her gender.” Shame on you, Tim, for not offering her any helpful advice privately, but huge disappointment on you, Tim, for making a transphobic attack in your criticism. Still, I sat down to catch the opener and see which of the 16—erm, 20—contestants would make it through week one.

Sadly, the first thing I do when a reality contest show runs through its exposition, is count the contestants of color, and try to discern which one will be sent home that first episode, because hello, first failures are often not white. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Nimma Osman, Season 4 of Top Chef, Lisa Turner, Season 1 of Top Design, Jerry Tam on Season 5 of Project Runway—it happens again and again. At least, it happens enough that I make note of who seems to be getting too much camera time in the initial week, because that’s going to be their 15 minutes of soon-to-be failure, right there.

This season the producers brought on 20 contestants, saying that four would be eliminated before the season even “officially” began. This meant that we’d have 5 auf wiederseins in the first 90 minutes, a lot even for Heidi Klum to get through. But the speed dating development gave the judges a chance to play it American Idol style, and they bickered amongst each other as if it were 2004 with Paula  fighting a manicure infection and Simon fighting an instinct to be nice. SPOILERS AFTER THIS!

Nobody really stood out in that there were several pleasant collections, and several boring ones presented to the judges. I was surprised that Gunnar Deathage didn’t make it to the pool of 16. Who doesn’t want a designer with the name “Deathage” to succeed, especially with his asymmetrical hairstyle? He was as close to “fierce!” as a young designer named Deathage can aspire.

Now we were in the main contest and Tim Gunn, who is clearly quite clear on his gender, woke up the male contestants while Heidi Klum roused awake the women. It was the start of the “Come As You Are” challenge in which the fashionestants had to pull their top sheet bedding and walk to the Parsons Art Institute in only what they were already wearing when the panty brigade broke in. I bet all the other art students at Parsons hate these people. Or maybe they’re not in session when the Lifetime crew is there. In any case, the fashionestants were given a cargo load of fabric dye and offered scissors.

If the cruelty of this challenge has any bearing on the rest of the season, we may see more mean-spiritedness than even Gretchen could muster last season. (Long live Mondo.) The intrepid, sleep-starved gang was largely not at their best, although Bert Keeter’s layered dress well deserved the win. Note to average US men: do not expect that your women will want to wear your old boxers on their chests.

Rafael Cox from Project RunwayGunn took another 20 points of wrong from me when he pressured on of the fashionestants to remove his do-rag and include it in his outfit. Come on, Tim, he’s clearly not comfortable going from bed to uncovered hair without the use of a vanity. But Tim put on the pressure, saying the judges would wonder why he didn’t use all of his “resources” at his disposal. Rafael looked like he was going to cry at one point. “I see you gulping,” said Tim, still pushing his point. We could all see him gulping, Tim. That’s a sign you need to shut up and back off.

Rafael Cox capitulated and tried to put the animal print fabric in his look, but it was disjointed and reminiscent of the Flintstones. Bye-bye, Rafael. It’s a white, white, I mean cruel, cruel world.

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6 Comments on “Project UnFunway”

  1. hsofia
    July 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I can understand creating challenges that are … well, challenging, and interesting. And after as many seasons as there have been, coming up with NEW challenges can’t be super easy. But … they need to REALLY think about challenges that might actually result in good designs. I mean what’s the point in watching these designers struggle just to put up mediocre products? That’s not good for anyone.

    • evmaroon
      July 30, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      I also think there’s something particularly humiliating about waking people up in their sleep clothes and forcing them to craft a design from that. It’s not boot camp, people. It’s a fashion design competition. I’m all for a few wild projects, like when people had to make clothes from an M&M store, but this particular challenge, out of the gate this season, struck me as a touch too mean-spirited. And yeah, I’d like to see the contestants get to make something great, not just shades of blah.That said, Kimberly sure does have some nice sleepwear.

      • hsofia
        July 30, 2011 at 11:34 am #

        You are right; that is especially mortifying for some people. It would be to me. I sleep in the nude most nights! There’s no need for a reality show that is actually about something to peddle in manufactured indignities.

      • evmaroon
        August 1, 2011 at 8:05 am #

        That would have been amazing to see, though. I suppose one their first night bunking up together, nobody was going to bare it all. But there was a woman who asked if she could at least put on a bra, and Tim told her no. Awful!

  2. August 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Some points:

    1 – I think they made a mistake with Deathage. That is one of the best names that has *ever* been on PR and they should have ridden it into the sunset.

    2 – The episode is titled “Come as you are” but it’s not about Nirvana? For shame, Lifetime, shame, shame, shame. You are so out of touch.

    3 – The challenge was not only mean spirited. It was pointless. There was no relevance to the “real world of fashion design.” It’s not like having a difficult client, or a difficult situation, or a difficult model, or a challenging/creative materials opportunity. It’s was just cruel for cruelty’s sake. There is no situation in the professional design world where the client is going to demand a dress made out of boxer shorts and dyed sheets in 24 hours. It reminded me of when they had to give their favorite piece of clothing to the person next to them and watch them cut it up. Why?!?

    • evmaroon
      August 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Lifetime goes with Nirvana like my dead grandma goes with Alanis Morrisette. At least last week’s pet store challenge was in line with the other Unexpected Fashion Material challenges in seasons past: the M&Ms store, the hardware store, paper products, etc. This Thursday, I think we’ll see a team challenge. Those are always good for fireworks.

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