Project Runway 4, Episode Three

Manolo says, Ah, the menswear, it looks so simple: the pants, the jacket, the shirt. It is not as if the male fashions have really changed in the past 75 years (other than the deplorable trend toward 24/7 casualness), and yet why is it that so many famous and talented designers produce such utter crap when they turn their hand to the menswear?

It is simple. Menswear does not fall under the purview of the fashion designer. It belongs properly and only to the tailor, to men who have devoted their lives to the arcana of button holes and pick-stitched lapels and French facings, and who know that what matters most in menswear is material, cut, fit and detail.

You cannot really learn this at the fashion college. Such knowledge can only be acquired through long apprenticeships at the feet of masters. Yes, the big fashion firms can mass produce the similacra of good tailoring–the off-the-rack suits that look moderately presentable on the size 42 regular–but it is not the same.

And so it was the nearly impossible challenge that was given to the Project Runway peoples last night, one made truly impossible by the choice of Tiki Barber as the model.

Tiki Barber“Here, Project Runway designers, make something that Tiki Barber, this beautiful and exquisitely tailored man, would wear. You have two days.”


Impossible in two weeks!

Maybe, in two months, but even then, only if you spent the first seven weeks looking over the shoulder of someone at Henry Poole or Huntsman, and outsourced the cutting and stitching to Jim’s Tailor Workshop.

In the end, the results of the challenge spoke for themselves. Not merely in the spectacular failures of Carmen, Ricky, and Sweet P, but in the simple fact that not one single item produced by any of the designers was properly fitted. If you do not believe the Manolo look at the pictures.

Of the course, the smartest of the Project Runway designers realized the impossibility of doing the traditional suiting and aimed at sportswear. And so, to the mind of the Manolo, it was Kit, who by using fleece and khaki, avoided the most serious pitfalls inherent in the challenge, and thus succeeded about as well as one could have.

As for the winner Jack (whom the Manolo finds annoyingly unattractive, despite his objective hotness), his shirt and pants screamed “meh”. Yes, there was the bit of interest in the way the shirt material was used, but otherwise it was boring and safe, as were the pants, which were produced with the help of the make-shift pattern, which, although allowable, seemed liked cheating.

Yes, Tiki Barber would wear this shirt and pants, but only if real tailors, working with real material, made it to his proper measurements. (The fact verified by the video of this morning’s Today Show..)

Manolo must now give props to the other designers who did interesting or very smart things.

First, the Manolo liked Victoria’s white jacket. It was the boldest and most original choice of the evening, and one could imagine Tiki Barber wearing this, but only if his wife were away on vacation, and thus not at the door to reign in his more exuberant impulses.

Eliza’s earthy, hippy-dippy outfit was not bad, completely her, and entirely not Tiki Barber. However, because of this outfit, the Manolo has decided that she is slightly more talented than he first suspected. She is good at draping and material.

Chris cleverly went with the monochromatic black, knowing that this would hide most of the unavoidable flaws, and could not possibly get him eliminated. It was the smart piece of gamesmanship.

Kevin, with his lavender shirt, was perhaps the only designer to understand that Tiki’s wife allows Tiki to express his natural exuberance through color.

It is the classical restraint imposed by Mrs. Barber that makes Tiki the fashion icon.

Left to his own devices, his ebullient personality would riot in color and flash, but restrain and encase that magnificent athlete’s body in traditional English-cut suiting, and then allow him to pick the colors and the accessories, and he becomes the epitome of style. Undoubtedly it is his beautiful but stern-seeming wife who is the genius behind the suits, and it is this tension between exuberance and restraint that makes Tiki what he is fashion-wise.

None of the Project Runway designers seemed to understand this.

Finally, is it just the Manolo, or can this be called the most boring Project Runway season yet? Where is the excitement? Where is the drama? Where the Hell is Andrae?

P.S. The Manolo apologizes for not doing the recap of last week’s episode. The Manolo was too busy giving thanks for all of the bounty he has received. All he can say was that Victoria deserved to win and Marion deserved to be sent away. What was that material he used? Burlap?