Project Runway: “Image Is Everything”
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Project Runway: “Image Is Everything”

B-

Project Runway

“Image Is Everything”

Season 9, Episode 9
B-

Project Runway

“Image Is Everything”

Season 9, Episode 9

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I can’t fill John Teti’s shoes (off the Piperline accessory wall, natch), but I’m honered that he asked me to cover the show tonight while he’s overseas. So rather than bemoan my inadequacy any longer, let’s get to the runway! No more sewing!

In the opening scenes at Atlas, Bert once again asserts his right to pretend he’s not on a reality competition, protesting that he hates the part where there’s “nine minutes to figure it out.” (This particular Bert trope reminds Noel of this Christopher Walken SNL sketch.) Anya mentions that “friends are friends until there’s high stakes,” which is a nice island variation on the perennial “I’m not here to make friends.”

I love the openings where they get Heidi all dressed up and get the lighting just right, and then she says two sentences and leaves. This time she sends them off to a performing arts center, where Tim tells them they’ll be creating a signature style for an unsigned band to wear on the cover of the Rolling Stone. (Well, in an advertorial therein.) “I’m thrilled to announce that the Sheepdogs have won that competition!” he exults. Sheepdogs? That’s my jam!

Team challenge AND menswear -- oh crap. Also Olivier recoils in physical horror at the guitar. I’m betting he enjoys listening to gentle wind sounds, punctuated with the occasional shocking bird twitter. The Sheepdogs perform an Allman/Skynardesque number, and the team members start strategizing which hippie beardo they want to design for.

On Team Untitled, Olivier takes the lead singer and delicately suggests he “has the most weight” and needs slimming down. On Team Harmony, Bert’s firsthand experience of the Summer of Love will be a “bonus” according to Anthony Ryan. I bet Bert was constantly bogarting that joint. Although he does loan Laura $150 out of his fabric allowance, trying to remake his image. Olivier drives Tim to distraction at Mood getting his thirty shades of beige fabric cut in time. Mm, taupe -- really pops under the stage lights. Chunky Ewan is sure to go for the nude look. But then, he gets to choose between that and Bert’s grape-jelly-dyed stripes. Meanwhile Laura is determined to give her band member the red denim he requested and grabs dye along with her fabric, while Anthony Ryan plans the whole “they were out of it!” defense.

Once again Olivier is distressed because the human for whom he is designing appears gigantic to him, and grouses that his dress form is a “normal size” while apparently he’s been asked to clothe a fat freak. “He cannot work with people,” Viktor observes succinctly.  

Do you get the feeling that the designers absolutely hate it when the makeup and hair-care folks summon them down to the salon? Oh shit, it’s Peter Butler from Garnier. There goes a half-hour of good sewing time. Hair is the theme here, since the band is shaggy. “It sets the curl and it looks polished,” Peter raves about a Garnier product. Folks, the last word that will enter your mind when you see Sheepdog hair is “polish.” If only some of the designers had asked for an “unwashed” look, they might have a chance of getting what they want.

Laura’s band member is worried that her tank is cut too low, since he is insecure about his chest hair.  (Nice work by the post-production team popping a little fur into the drawing with a little comedy “pop!” sound effect.) Ewan is uncertain about Bert’s pinstripe pants and purple floral print. “The fact you even called it a blouse!” Tim exclaims. Viktor has a pleather jacket with cowboy fringe planned that Laura doesn’t think he can distress enough in the time available. Kimberly gulps and hems and haws when the drummer zeroes in on a print she borrowed from Anya. Joshua is disturbingly forthright about how gay his design is, what with the crotch-emphasizing zipper. Joshua, just because they have a lot of hair doesn’t mean they want to dress like a hair metal band.

Olivier continues to build his case for failure due to ridiculous client proportions, with his usual tact: “Because he is visually bigger on stage … because I don’t have a model his size … yes, I have his measurements but …” You’d think Ewan was Paul Mason. Olivier gets raked over the coals for his bunchy pants, and chooses to lash out at his teammates for being concerned. Well, faux-concerned.

Tim makes the most of the contractual obligation to have Sheepdogs music featured by announcing their two songs for the judges as “a Project Runway first!” Viktor’s fringe has now shown up on Joshua's vest and Laura’s jacket. Bert’s tie-dyed tunic is described as “like a galaxy, kind of trippy,” or, from other contestants, like he’s about to fight in the Coliseum, or, from people on my couch, like the tail of it got stained by shit. Kimberly’s deep V-neck shirt for the summer is Waffle House uniform chic.

Heidi strolls onto the runway past the Sheepdogs’ set up and discreetly pulls down her dress. “Sometimes designers do fashion shows in different ways,” she asserts defensively. Then Team Harmony’s fashions take the stage. Anya rightly hates her terrible shiny gold tunic for the drummer. Bert’s look for Ewan looks as if he ought to be stepping out of a hot tub in 1978, with that unstructured top and cardi vest thing. A gay hot tub.

Team Untitled hit home runs with all their fringe, although Viktor’s pleather looks cheap to me. Olivier does the impossible, making his tone-deaf collared shirt with applique pockets look better than Bert’s Plato’s Retreat pajama top. And Kimberly managed to rescue the Alice Doesn’t Leave Here Anymore vibe of her top a bit. Is it possible that Team Trainwreck has managed to pull ahead?

In the critique, Team Harmony describes their inspiration as “modernized Jimi Hendrix,” and Michael Kors slags the Sheepdogs by saying he sees no Jimi Hendrix swagger there (then fellates Adam Lambert by claiming that he never copies anybody else’s look -- “You put your own spin on it”). Laura gets slammed for her blood-splattered tank top and “It looks like it came from a mall” paisley jacket with silk scarf. And everybody loooooves Bert’s swimsuit coverup. (Heidi even gives it a “we really loved it” when she sends him off the runway “in.”) Anya’s terrible Pocahontas top and butt-split jeans are rightly derided as amateur hour; “eighth grade production of Hair,” Lambert says. Anthony Ryan’s sleeveless blouse reminds Lambert of mushrooms (“which I think is appropriate! he says -- did we miss the part where Sheepdogs and Lambert ate some shrooms together?) but draws Nina and Michael’s ire for being Golden Girls-esque.

When Team Untitled hits the runway, Olivier joins the parade of designers who inappropriately feminize their rockers -- and ignores their dislike of his beloved colorless palate. Kimberly’s drummer must be a PR fan; “Somewhere along the way the shirt got lost,” he opines. It’s a bowling shirt, Brady kids at the fall festival, and Kimberly has no explanation for the buttons.  Viktor gets the best notices of the night for his braided pleather and distressed jeans, which actually fit; when the band member turns around, it’s stunning how much better that butt looks than any other butt on display. Competence ahoy! Joshua's overdone appliqued fringe vest print wampum thing get generally good reviews; when the vest gets pulled aside to see the top, suddenly it looks as good as the judges seem to think the whole thing is.

Listen, budding designers: If you apply to Project Runway, have a man’s pant and shirt pattern in your back pocket. (It’s like Top Chef -- bring a dessert recipe.)  There is no excuse for any confessional with the words “I’ve never done menswear” in any combination. You know you are going to have to do it. Why aren’t you ready? Viktor wins, and in a shocker, the judges finally decide to dismiss Olivier, not for his many past crimes, but for being unable to produce a man’s outfit although that’s, like, his job. Olivier heads off to high fashion where he will never have to deal with a human being with a waistline larger than the graceful willows from whence he receives his monochromatic inspiration.

Stray observations:

  • Effective product placement: Kimberly casually hums the Sheepdogs song as she starts cutting. Laura: “I think from their music they’re going to be a huge success.”
  • Olivier is going to be on the wrong side of the association for body shape acceptance after this week: “I never thought of making anything for plus-sized people.” When Olivier’s clients walk in the room, he sees the surface of his water glass ripple in time with their footsteps, Jurassic Park style. 
  • Canadians don’t wear dashikis, according to Bert. Anyone able to confirm? Also, with every mention of dashikis, the people in my living room were all mumbling to themselves, “Men in dashi-kis, with their leftist week-lies …
  • Oliver, robotically: “It is very stressful.”
  • Apparently the judges have to sit through the same song twice because it wouldn’t be fair to showcase the teams’ fashions in different songs. All together now: “Whooo do you be-long toooo?”
  • Michael is a bit too enthusiastic in his agreement with Heidi’s judgment of which band member is hottest: “Totally!”
  • If you are an unsigned band, do you want your image to be defined by a commercial announcer intoning that you rocked your Garnier Fructis hair care products?
  • Next week: Michael Kors is reduced to an incoherent, girlish scream of pure existential angst.

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