As far as I can tell, the goal of the entirety of this week’s Project Runway is to get everyone in the cast to say “balls” as many times as possible. (Balls. Balls! BALLLLSSSSSSS.) “Spin Out” asks the designers to create two new uniforms for the staff at Spin New York, the ping-pong bar owned by Susan Sarandon (and frequented by many A-listers, Tim Gunn informs us knowingly). Yes, there is a ping-pong bar in New York! It is much hipper than we will ever be. These kids these days, they knock back a couple of beers and get wild with those ping-pong paddles. Tim knows what’s up. He’s all nodding and winking as he trots out the requirements for the challenge—in addition to designing something serviceable for the staff, the bar’s logo and motto need to be screenprinted on everything.
Spin New York’s motto? “Balls are our business.”
Let the puns begin.
The main problem with “Spin Out” is not that it’s boring or showcases bad designs (though more on that in a second). It's that the challenge is not clearly defined, and that means the whole episode suffers from narrative incoherence. It’s not totally botched like last season’s “avant-garde” fiasco, but it’s clear that Tim, Heidi, guest-judge Susan Sarandon, and the contestants are not on the same page. The result is a perfectly average episode of Project Runway, with some great designs and some lukewarm ones. The judging feels fraught, and a few of our resident divas get cranky, but that's about par for the course over here.
The second problem is that the show’s narrative switches back on itself—twice—in an effort to be more suspenseful. It works, but only kind of, and it reminds me once again of the limitations of the 90-minute episode. Essentially, the editors introduce the idea that the Dream Team is going to crash and burn—then makes it look like it’s going to win—then has it lose. The tonal shifts are abrupt, and neither transformation is fully believable (either that Dream Team made everything work overnight or that Keeping It Real fell apart over the course of a few hours). If the episodes were shorter, they wouldn’t need to struggle to hold our attention. As it is, the switches are disorienting, and kind of unnecessary.
Anyway, in the overall challenge, Team Keeping It Real wins again, and Dream Team loses yet another member. I agree with the judges’ choice to auf James Martinez, who is both a bad designer and an annoying person—a losing combination, for sure. But that Daniel-Layana win? I call shenanigans. I like the skort, but that vest is hideous. (What is that collar? What is that back?) Poor Zac Posen tries to point out that the asymmetrical racerback is kind of ugly, but he acquiesces to Susan, Heidi, and Nina, who all love it, because it denotes a worthy degree of “serving” and doesn’t have “too much boob.” (Heidi points out that when servers are too hot, “as the girl, you don’t like that,” because you want your date to look at your boobs instead. Thanks, Heidi! Feminism 101 with Professor Klum is now in session.)
Their second choice is pretty shady, too. For some reason the judges fawn all over Stanley’s misshapen shirt-and-pants combo, and well, I love the pants with their little diagonal pockets (as Professor Klum says sagaciously, “It’s what young guys are wearing”), but the shirt just straight-up-and-down does not fit right, and Stanley literally serges it in the 30 seconds before the models walk out to the runway. (The neckline in particular looks really strange to me.)
I do like the other runner-up, though—Richard and Joe’s ball-retriever outfit (the puns, oh god, the puns!) with the design-y pockets and that simply fabulous black-and-white colorblocking on the shirt. The harness (the ball-catcher harness, so help me god) is less thrilling, but it looks cool, even if every server there is going to ditch the harness after about five minutes.
But I’m not sure I understand why Cindy from Dream Team was in the bottom two, instead of Benjamin—he more obviously derails his team this week, and both of his contributions are sub-par. (The shorts would have been better if they’d fit right, but they really don't fit anything.) Generally, I think everyone is a little too hard on the blazer-shorts outfit—Heidi makes it sound like being a “receptionist in the suburbs” is a terrible thing, but I happen to know from experience that receptionists in the suburbs are really cool. Danny's is much, much worse by comparison.
As strange as the denim kilt idea is, it upsets me that a decision openly okayed by Tim gets mercilessly picked apart by our gendernormative runway queens, not to name any names. Zac is the only one that makes the critique about how the outfit works instead of something about “masculinity” or appropriate levels of trash/class. Heidi turns up her delicate nose at the slogan on the flap—it’s too trashy. (You can practically hear her expensive haute-couture sensibilities running in the other direction.) And yet, one has to wonder—if the bar’s slogan is the extremely suggestive balls are our business, are they really going to be that offended by something kind of near the crotch?
But that’s just it. How much is too much? How outrageous is too outrageous? Susan wants functionality, and Tim wants out-of-the-box, and Zac wants ready-to-wear, and Heidi wants classy, and Nina wants—well, who knows what Nina wants. But it’s not clear, either to us or to the designers. I trust the judges and respect their expertise, but not if the game is flawed from the start. This challenge has excellent elements—I particularly enjoyed the screen-printing emphasis and that so many designers chose performance fabric—but the narrative falls apart without clearer guidelines.
It’s a little sad that Dream Team is down so many members at this point, because their stars are being bogged down—Michelle is clearly talented, and I think Tu and Samantha have quite a bit of potential, as well. They’re lost in the mess that is Dream. My guess is that the team assignations are not actually going to affect who gets into the final three, because the teams are probably going to be aggressively switched up in upcoming weeks, but expect some hand-wringing about certain members “bringing down” other members as we go forward. The excess fat in Keeping It Real might have to start pulling their weight soon. That being said, a leaner team could also perform better—and Dream has to win sometime, right?
- So Daniel learned to design on the streets? What do you think that looks like?
- As a former resident of Providence I just have to say that OF COURSE the mountain of cats on a sweater guy is from Providence. OF COURSE.
- Who do you think is getting voted off next? Unfortunately I think it could be Cindy, which would make me sad, because I always root for the “dowdy” ones.
- My notes from tonight’s broadcast: “IS DANIEL WEARING AN ANTLER? YES YES HE IS”
- “Hey, ain’t she from Thelma And Louise??” As it turns out, yes!
- Which outfits did you like? Which ones sucked?