Project Runway Season 12, Episode 1 - Pretty Pretty Parachutes

So begins a new season of Project Runway and as always a few changes are in store. Each set of designers has it's own personality.  In Season 11, there was some bitchiness at the start, but those designers who stood the test of time had depth of character.  Tim even mentioned this in one of the final segments. Hard to tell at this point where it's headed, but the opening showed several with ego issues. I am hoping they go home early.

There has been a growing trend to include more older designers on the show and this season is no exception. There are also a several with previous careers - professional modern dancer, former soldier, former model, costumer designer for stage shows such as The Lion King, art student and more. Then for the first time, there is a deaf designer - Justin. They used a sign language interpreter in the opening scene, but he recently had a cochlear implant so does hear some and speaks well. That said, he's probably still a long way from being experienced working with it.  He smiled as he said if the other designers bother him he can just tune them out by turning it off. He also shared that when he speaks to people on the street, they often assume he is from a different country because of his unique "accent".

Now for what is new. 15 designers were chosen through the normal process and then fans chose the 16th from a group of three designers involved in previous seasons. To make it dramatic, they had all the new designers standing on a private air strip to watch a small plane arrive and then see - surprise - Kate step out. The prize package this year is the biggest ever, worth 1/2 million dollars. The designers will also have to manage their spending this season by using a GoBank account and debit card. Not quite clear yet how this will work. Another twist is that the runway shows will be anonymous until after the judges have written their score cards. They are still told before it is decided who wins and who goes home. Last but not least is Tim's expanded roll. He brings in the top and bottom designs for the judges to look at up close and can answer questions from the judges. He also has the power to SAVE just one designer from elimination over the course of the season.

Kate Bosworth - Nina Garcia - Zac Posen - Heidi Klum
This week was an Unconventional Challenge - to create a look from parachute fabric. Skilled parachuters jumped out of a plane, soared dramatically to the landing strip and then walked off leaving their parachutes behind. One-Two-Three-Mayhem!  Yup, they had to race like competitive school children to snag the colour combo they wanted. Not pretty. Back in the studio they are given access to black and white ripstop nylon that could be used for enhancements, but the majority of material had to come from the parachute. 2 designers, of course, ignored this citing trusting their instincts and one was almost sent home. They had until 11 p.m. that night and the next day to complete their look. Guest Judge this week was Kate Bosworth and I found her comments very well thought out so kudos. The accessory wall is now courtesy of Belk Department Store. Heidi Klum sends them off with, "We want you to all go into this competition confident, creative and ready to wow us all." Tim Gunn adds, "The sky's the limit!"

Top 2 - Bradon (winner) left and centre - Sue right

I truly love the work of the top 2 designers and while I would be happy with either taking first, I think the judges made the right decision. 

Bradon (the former professional dancer) brought the whole package and had a story to justify it, giving his design a distinct edge. The colour blocking was wonderful and choosing to have a silhouette that billowed as the model walked gave the feel of a parachute filled with air. Even the cording from the parachute was incorporated - decorating the front and creating the straps. Judges comments include - "It looks like a real expensive dress, I love this dress so beautiful, love that it's short underneath, I think it's an incredibly thoughtful design, I'm excited to see what you do, it's nice you used the string from the parachute (only Zac didn't like the cording), I love the back because that's such a wow, I love the fact you took this light fabric and made a very dramatic and billowy design, there is a fragility to the string that detail kills me and I think you did a great job."

Sue was a disaster at first, even having to ask a designer how to use the sewing machine. Tim thought she would be going home. Instead she came back on day 2, put the fabric on a mannequin and found inspiration. The dress is made from the parachute as is with very little cutting. It is double layer to give it weight and all the shape is created with pleating and draping. This is not an easy fabric to work with so I was doubly impressive. Comments were all positive hands down and include - "It's beautiful how the colours bleed from one to another, I like the sculptural quality - very exciting, It looks very 40's but at the same time very elegant, the placement of the rushing is very elegant."

Angela (sent home) - Sandro - Timothy - Miranda
Angela was sent home and probably that was well deserved.  She wanted to create something that mirrored the shape of the parachute and yet chose to do a structured hoodie.  As well, she never got around to making the bottom half she had planned so just shortened it into a mini. Pretty unexciting.  Judges comments include - "Something is missing - the bottom, it has a very odd proportion, it feels like a disposable poncho I don't think you gave it enough thought, you look very chic but this is not chic, the back has a lovely surprise, the colours are good, the graphic breakup is quite beautiful and chic, unfortunately it's still runway and you have to create effect as well."

Sandro has a larger-than-life personality that all the judges enjoyed. His garment and choice of styling were not well-received, but his technical construction skills and the concept behind the design were commended.  Another serious problem was that the model's privates were hanging out (notice the model holding the cording in front to disguise it. Judges comments include - "Way too many references in one, she looks like a slutty cat toy, why are there chains, it's a disaster, you put so much energy into accessorizing when really the energy you need to invest is in the piece, the Mock-to-pus needs to go, it's amazing you got that impeccable fit it really is, the taste level is a huge question mark, less is more and looks a bit like costuming.

Sewing machines, makeup, hair products and shoes are out for this eco designer
but he feels it's okay to burn synthetic fabric and wear heels obviously made in a factory!
Timothy - not a fan so far. He comes across as promoting his eco focus as a banner to justify his work and takes it way too far. He has a solar backpack he carries around and doesn't use electricity at all - zero impact art. Hence the sewing machine was a no-no, he would let the hair stylist use any device that plugged in or any hair products (only braiding and pinning were allowed), decided not to let the artist put on make-up and wouldn't let her wear shoes. It all fell on deaf ears for the judges as he burnt the fabric putting noxious fumes in the air and wore a pair of deluxe high heels on his own feet that were factory made. He also spent a huge amount of time trying to get the model to do this dramatic performance of agony on the runway. The model overall was very unhappy to have to go down the runway and compete against models fully prepared.  They never said why - but she came out and did a straight runway walk.  Defiance or backstage manager decision we will never know, but Timothy was heart broken. Judges comments include - "Tinkerbell at burning man, a bit muddled, this is not one of my favourites, burning synthetic fiber is breaking all your rules, I want sustainable fashion to be gorgeous because otherwise it's a disservice, and a bit creepy as it looks like a burn victim. 

Miranda was one of 2 designers that decided to ignore the rules and made her dress 85% from extra fabric. They slapped her hand a lot and threatened to send her home, but honestly they all loved the design. It was hard to take the threat seriously when everything said before was all positive. Based on their comments, if she had found a way to do this in the fabric as dictated, she might have been in the top.  Judges comments include - "I love this silhouette, very now, loved the way you styled her, it's disappointing it's not all parachute material but really beautiful, very modern, most polished piece up here, very finished. great first impression and I would happily wear it."  Heidi was the one who had a huge problem with the material used, "This is the unconventional materials challenge not unconventional inspiration challenge. Is this fair to the other designers?" When asked, Tim echoed this as well, "The teacher in me would give her an F and I told her 


Helen - Alexander - Karen
Now for the rest of the designers. This is such a difficult fabric, I was impressed with those who did extensive colour blocking. I really think Helen's design is lovely, BUT she is the other designer who used mostly extra white material and only a few pieces from the parachute.  I think she should have been called out on this, but still am impressed with her work. Note - she has a very interesting tattoo of a scissor piercing her neck! (image at bottom) Alexander's is interesting, but there is a lack of shape at the shoulders and the small V's of fabric at the hem needed to be double for weight as they stuck to the model's thighs and rode up as she walked. Karen did some seriously impressive colour blocking, but the bulky shape is unflattering and the neckline doesn't seem to blend with the rest of the design.

Kate - Ken - Jeremy

I actually thought Kate's dress would be in the top as it suited her aesthetic as a designer, stood out as different from the rest, looked great from the front and back and was well-constructed.  Ken's dress is not my favourite, but kudos for getting a double row of pleated parachute fabric to stand up like that and hold it's shape. Not a big fan of Jeremy's look mainly because of the white top. The pants were incredibly detailed and well constructed - they needed a simple top that complimented it with a bit of colouring and detailing included to tie the look together. This all white basic has no connection to the pants nor is it interesting.

Dom - Alexandria - Kahindo - Justin

Not much to talk about here. Any of these could have gone into the bottom for me because, more than anything, they are not interesting. There is one story worth sharing here. The ego of Alexandria (former model and art student) was overwhelming. She was sure by the end of day one that she would be easily be the winner and happily shared this with the other designers over lunch. No one was amused. Her design is solid if not that exciting and her construction skills are good, but she needs a good dose of humility and a better eye in evaluating her own work in comparison to other's. We'll see how long she lasts, but so far I can only hope they don't give her much camera time.

To see view more runway images or to see larger photos go to Rate The Runway.

Promo image with naked models that was censored.
Not a great photo, but best image I could find of her scissor tattoo!