Hey guys! Nick, here! I’m filling in, covering the season 12 premiere of Project Runway. This is my first time watching the show, so hopefully you guys fine it interesting reading a newbie’s take on the show. Should be fun! So let’s get to it!
So right off the bat, we have a major decision to get out of the way, as the viewers have been given the power to vote in a past contestant. Of the three options, the designer chosen by the viewers is…
KATE PANKOKE FROM SEASON 11!
The reaction is split more or less down the middle, as half are excited to see her, while the other half are dreading having to work with someone so notoriously “bitchy”. Heidi announces that the grand prize this season is a prize package worth over half a million dollars, the biggest prize in the history of the show. With that announcement, Heidi gets into the specifics of today’s challenge, which is an Unconventional Materials challenge. Once a group of skydivers appear overhead, it becomes immediately apparent what materials the contestants will have to use. In one of the most amusing moments of the episode, a set of parachutes (of all different colors) are spread out for the contestants to choose from, but it’s first come, first serve, so everyone races to get to the parachute they want, and Kate stumbles flat on her face right away. And, naturally, the other contestants skip right over her. This season is already off to a great start…
After everyone has their parachute, we get to meet the contestants and learn a bit about them. There’s former rocker Angela, who quit the band she had with her boyfriend at 22 upon realizing that she enjoyed the wardrobe aspect of rock stardom more than actually performing the music. We also meet Alexandria, a Swedish girl whose parents forced her into modeling at age 14 out of their own obsession to make their daughter famous; Bradon, meanwhile, was a dancer for ten years, but left the troupe because he felt he was too old to keep doing it. Other contestants include former Army mechanic Miranda, described as a literal “Rosie the Riveter”; the tattooed, confident Helen; and Timothy, an eco-minded designer who’s happy to have another Wisconsin native in the competition in the form of Miranda, failing to realize that Miranda absolutely cannot stand him. She feels he’s too conceited and that they don’t click at all, and while I initially liked Timothy, I started to agree more and more as the episode went on, and Timothy couldn’t go five minutes without spouting about his sustainable fashion ideology.
Tim Gunn explains to the contestants that they will be managing their own spending using their GObank accounts, taking charge of their challenge finances and keeping track of their budget for the season overall. We meet Alexander, who has been doing costume construction for Broadway shows for seven years, and he feels pretty confident in his ability to win the challenge, since he’s worked with nylon before. Less confident, however, is Kahindo, who compares the parachute material to plastic in terms of its slipperiness. We also get a bit more facetime with one of the most colorful characters of this season: Sandro, who moved from Russia to the US to become a fashion designer, believing that clothes shouldn’t just be pretty — they should tell a story as well. His signature is in the complicated details of each piece, but at a deeper level, his chief characteristic is his borderline-obsessive desire to be seen as humble. He gets on Alexandria’s case about appearing stuck-up and conceited, not realizing that in doing so, he comes across as intolerably self-absorbed. Meanwhile, Dom is a young Philadelphia native who doesn’t necessarily trust the advice Kate is giving her, although she admits that she’ll at least listen to the advice, even if she isn’t sure she’ll end up following any of it.
As the challenge continues and the contestants are hard at work in the studio, the design choices start to come together for many of the contestants. Timothy continues to focus on sustainability and environmentalism, hoping to reflect his core values in his work. He plans on a minimalist take on a WWII paratrooper uniform. Ken, a designer who was accepted into Savannah College of Art & Design but couldn’t afford to go, is keeping things relatively simple in the early going, finding ways to shape the material in interesting ways. Quirky, dreadlocked Sue, meanwhile, is going for a pleating technique that will allow her to sculpt the material. Deaf contestant Justin is able to focus by tuning out the other contestants, although he already has a fan in the form of the bubbly redheaded Karen, who thinks he’s brave. As the competition continues, we meet the handsome Jeremy, who has a husband and two kids. He resolves to win for their sake, but his design choices leave much to be desired, as his initial design doesn’t look like much of anything, at first sight.
And he’s hardly the only one facing complications. Sue isn’t that experienced with a straight-stitch sewing machine, and though nobody says it to her face, some of the contestants privately confess the patent absurdity of a designer that doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine. However, Dom helps Sue out, even while acknowledging that it’s pretty crazy for her not to know how to use the device. But I don’t think any decision is as crazy as Timothy’s refusal to allow any electricity to be used on his model, such as a curling or straightening iron, citing his sustainability practices. He takes it one further by suggesting that his model shouldn’t even wear makeup, prompting the stylist to react like he’s just seen an upskirt shot of Elaine Stritch.
Though I’m not crazy about Miranda, I find it hard to disagree with her assessment that Timothy relies far too heavily on his mission statement, and it’s a point on which Helen agrees, believing Timothy is full of it. Apparently, Timothy plans to go for a conceptual performance piece in which the binding around the wrists will compel the model (who will go barefoot) down the runway. Bradon loves the ambition of Timothy’s concepts, yet he’s hardly the only person taking risks. Miranda catches a stern reproach from Tim Gunn when she steps outside the parameters of the challenge by using extra materials other than the parachute, a decision which could get her in trouble. However, this all pales in comparison to the difficulties involved with Sandro’s outfit: Tim Gunn feels that Sandro can’t actually send a model down the runway with it, since it’s only a bottom of an outfit with no top. Sandro insists he’s making a jacket for the outfit, but Tim worries that making it will be a very time-consuming venture. Sandro ultimately completes the jacket, but he somehow fails to recognize that the model’s vagina is completely visible. And if the model herself notices, we aren’t told, but the other contestants certainly notice. Many cringes are had, and it’s some of the funniest material in an episode that I’m not sure was ever supposed to be this funny.
So we get to the runway portion of the show: Heidi explains the grand prize in detail, and there’s so much at stake that it takes somewhere along the lines of three minutes for her to explain it all: this season’s champion will receive $150,000 from GoBank; $50,000 of next generation technology from HP and Intel; a year’s supply of Resource Natural Spring Water and an all-expense paid spa retreat for two to the exotic Maldives, courtesy of Resource Water; a chance to design and sell an exclusive collection at Belk; a complete sewing and crafting studio from Brother Sewing and Embroidery; a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine; a 2014 Lexus IS 350; a $100,000 fabric allowance from Tide Pods; and a $50,000 styling contract with L’Oréal Paris. She reiterates that this is a prize package worth more than half a million dollars. In addition, the model paired with the winner of the competition will receive a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine and $25,000 from L’Oréal Paris. So yeah, the stakes are pretty damn high.
So onto the modeling. Bradon says his heart stops when he sees his model walking down the runway, as well it should: it’s the first dress we see, but it’s also the best, a flowing blue number with a billowing tail of multiple colors. It sets the bar too high for many of the other contestants to clear: Jeremy sees Amelia Earhart and modernity in his outfit, but all I see is a homeless person. Meanwhile, Kahindo’s model looks like she’s auditioning to be in a workout video with Kelly Kapowski. We then get to the best moment of the runway portion, as Sandro’s model hits the runway looking like an aquamarine hooker. Her vagina is showing, and I haven’t seen such a brazen display of fashion contrast since Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. Helen’s outfit looks like Bjork’s infamous swan dress from the Academy Awards, except with more colors and far less fowl. Karen loved her model’s presence and walk, and it’s a nice enough dress, simple and black. But the positivity about the models stops dead in its tracks, as Timothy hates that his model opted not to do his hilariously awful performance suggestions (which included “awkwardly smelling” her armpit).
Justin’s dress is a stunner, a pink number that’s both modern and savvy. I also liked Angela’s hooded jacket number, even though the model ends up looking like Donald Duck, all blue on top and naked on the bottom. But the model really works the attitude behind the number. Alexander’s, however, is less successful: while his design is pretty slick, the dress material gets caught on the model’s leg and starts riding up, a development that leaves him understandably mortified. Meanwhile, Dom loves what the model is doing with the jacket she created, exhibiting real attitude. Kate’s simple yellow dress is another standout, as is Ken’s orange number, which wraps around in front and creates a conical fringe that frames the neck. Miranda’s is an eye-catcher as well, looping the bright colors of the parachute through the black material she used to augment the design. However, her choice to use outside materials has her worried about her prospects. And, as it turns out, she’s right to be worried.
Heidi announces the highest/lowest group: Angela, Sandro, Timothy, Bradon, Sue, Miranda. Kate is thrilled to be safe, but kind of disappointed not to be in the top group (don’t go countin’ chickens, girl). Ultimately, Bradon is declared the winner of the challenge, and that’s a point I find pretty hard to argue, even if my only fashion cred comes from having been raised by two women and a gay black man. Sue is also safe, as is Sandro, for reasons I can’t possibly fathom. Miranda is scolded for bending the rules, but she’s also declared safe. This leaves Timothy (in sparkling high heels) and Angela. Timothy is saved and Angela is sent home, and I’m left scratching my head, as I have absolutely no idea what the judges saw in Timothy’s design and would love to have someone with better knowledge explain this to me. Tim Gunn decides not to use his one save of the season, although he tells Angela she’s a very talented designer, and that if she’d had pants in the ensemble, it might have been a different story. Well, hard to argue there. But I did like her outfit. Then again, I’m all about hoodies.
And that’s the premiere! For my first time, I thought this was pretty damn interesting. If I had to pick a winner, I’d go with Sue. I know smart money says Bradon, but I just have a hunch about her. Although Justin could be a real dark horse in the competition. You never know — or maybe you do! Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think! Thanks for reading!