“Stick To Your Vision”
March 10th, 2009
There is a point in this week’s episode where I was reminded about what makes Project Runway Canada a really interesting counterpoint to its American predecessor. In the critiques for the challenge, which involves making dresses out of post-it notes for breast cancer survivors, Shawn Hewson stands up for one of the dresses which is labeled as a costume. He throws his hands up in the air as the other judges start throwing around the term as some sort of slight, and points out that they’re asking designers to make a dress out of post-it notes, and that there is a necessary element of costuming entering into this challenge. They were given a cheesy word of inspiration, a primary material which comes in loud and obnoxious colours…could they really be surprised to get costumes?
The problem the other judges were having was that some designers strove to make post-its into dresses, some of them achieving elegance, while others went in the opposite direction. Why this reminded me of my enjoyment of the show is not that it meant we had a really thrilling conclusion: the decision was made for the judges due to some serious taste/editing issues, and nothing that happened on the runway was going to change that. But, the difference of opinion of the judges was made clear from the outset: they had opinions not just about the fashion they were seeing, but about the nature of the challenge, and perhaps even the show’s basic structure. Sure, Hewson and Iman fight all the time (she hit him at a few points in this episode, especially when he had the gall to compare Jessica’s dress to fancy couture designers), but to see it boil down to the show itself is fresh and interesting.
The rest of the episode didn’t quite live up to these particular adjectives, trading fresh and interesting for the same ol’ same ol’ – while a step up from last week based on the slightly more creative element at play, the big problem is that this is still a two-horse race, and that there is something unsatisfying (but NOT unfair, Kim) about the way in which the winning dress was constructed. The result is another episode where it just feels like any of last season’s excitement has disappeared entirely, and much like Genevieve’s skirt it has the appearance of quality but none of the movement, none of the energy that we saw last time around.
There is no scenario wherein Sunny is going to leave this competition before the finals. As a designer, he is just too solid: working with post-it notes, he was the only one who went to the point of trying to turn them into something which would move like fabric, creating the illusion using some very carefully cut post-its in a variety of shades of blue. It was an intelligent move, and he really treated this challenge like every other one: the same top, but with a new bottom that highlights the goals of the challenge. He’s done it many times before, and the judges are calling him on it, but what are they going to do: push him out the door and let another designer take his spot in the finals? If this was a competitive season Sunny might have reason to stretch himself further, but when he knows that someone else in that room is going to implode, or put giant foam wings on their model, why would he bother? At this stage, stick with the status quo until the finals then break out the other ideas floating around in his head.
Jessica, meanwhile, kind of stumbled into the winner’s circle on this one. No, Kim’s attack on her wasn’t fair in the slightest: Jessica still had to put a lot of time into all of those cone-things that she created, and she definitely agonized over it, but I can see how in a high-stress environment it would suck to see someone’s dress win when it was constructed entirely on Day 2 after their initial idea failed. Either way, her dress used the post-its in some unique ways, maintained an element of drama, and even managed to get the judges to use the word couture. At a certain point, though, I wonder whether or not Jessica is getting this praise not for the quality of her dresses but because the producers realize that without a competitor this is going to appear on television as the foregone conclusion they already know it is.
Genevieve was the other competitor who seemed to really embrace the challenge, using a paper mache technique to imitate the look (but not the movement) of fabric, and creating a top that didn’t quite match but was in itself an intricate piece of work. Kim, similarly, had a couple of solid ideas (her painted leaves were visually interesting) but the entire package left something to be desired. I enjoyed how we got to see more of the judges’ reactions as opposed to just opinions: they noted how these two had the opposite problem, as Genevieve’s dress was stunning while the model remained still despite moving awkwardly, while Kim’s dress moved like that of some type of warrior but when standing still looked like, well, a giant gerber daisy as she had predicted. It was an observation that we don’t really get a sense for from home, at least those of us who know nothing about fashion, and was another sign that even if I don’t find it all that exciting I’m at least interested in the nature of their critiques.
Ultimately, there was no real challenge here, as the two people left behind in the bottom were two who both did something costume-like, but with one fundamental difference: Adejoke’s wasn’t fashion (but was well-executed as a themed costume), but Jason’s wasn’t attractive. Jason’s dress was downright hideous, recalling (as the episode did early on) that week one monstrousity that almost had him kicked out of the competition before it really began. Jason has always walked that fine line between falling into patterns like this one and making things that are much more attractive, but in this one it appears as if that inner demon that decided that train was a good idea won out. It was pre-ordained as soon as the editors included his admonished “I hope I don’t go out on post-its” early on, and I can kind of understand his frustration, but post-its or no post-its the dress was ugly.
Now, I do have to wonder if the producers should have considered potentially augmenting this problem by revealing this to be some kind of non-elimination: considering that they lost three designers in the first week, there could be room to have someone finish last and then just use the challenge as another piece of evidence of their potential, and maybe penalized them Amazing Race-style with a financial handicap in the next round. I can see why they don’t want to introduce those gimmicks, but I don’t really know how the season is going to shake out otherwise.
The episode’s other element, the message in support of breast cancer survivors, was a powerful one, made more poignant (and tragic) by news that Jason’s model, Janice, passed away between the taping of the episode and tonight’s airing. Just as Sunny’s own personal connection with cancer made this episode emotional, that was another reminder of how quick these things can change and how much of an impact it can have. While Jason might not have liked to go out on this note, I have to believe he looks back on his experience with Janice with fondness; plus, if he hasn’t quite smoking after Janice’s extremely personal warning, he deserves a smack in the back of the head.
- There is continued tension between Genevieve and Kim and, well, everyone else – Jessica, in particular is their new target after Jeff’s departure, and it really is just like high school. The problem is that, while Jessica is right that they are only attacking her because she received good comments from the judges, Jessica’s ghetto-talk and demeanor are so high school that I can’t really blame them for lowering themselves to the same level in their bitter jealousy.
- The real question right now is who takes the third spot in the finale, and whether Jessica can hang on (remember, she was struggling before these last two weeks). I’d say Genevieve has shown the most consistency, but if Adejoke can overcome her execution issues I think she can challenge. Meanwhile, Kim’s good looks won’t help her here – she is too defensive with the judges to get to that point.
- Next week returns us to the pure meaning of Project Runway: designing for a fashion model. It will be interesting to see how Jessica adapts to this challenge, in particular: she had two challenges about taking fashion and applying it to either a more personalized or a more commercial perspective, and high fashion is much more Sunny’s bag.
- You can bid on the dresses, in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, at AuctionWire – link wasn’t working as of 10:54, but I presume it will go live in a few minutes.