Project Runway 4, Episode Three

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

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?


20 Responses to “Project Runway 4, Episode Three”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Part of me wishes they’d given the designers at least an extra day. The runway isn’t nearly as much fun when it’s filled with poorly constructed crap.

    And yet … I keep flashing back to the awesome outfit S2’s Chloe made for Nick in the makeover challenge — a beautifully tailored shirt, vest and slacks in 2 days. None of the outfits last night looked anywhere near as nice as Chloe’s did, and like most of this season’s contestants Chloe had never designed menswear before. Why was Chloe so much more successful? Because her model was right in the workroom the whole time?

  2. Manolo the Shoeblogger Says:

    The Manolo had discussed the Chloe issue last night with friends, and that the was the exact explanation reached by all, Nick’s ready availability during construction coupled with Chole’s superior craftsmanship. Girlfriend could really sew and Nick was nearby.

  3. JS Says:

    I thought about the Chloe issue, too, and it was that episode that made me gasp “No! Not a suit! Don’t make a suit!” several times. But I disagree that this is the most boring season of PR so far. To the contrary, it’s shaping up to be my favorite. We have interesting characters (The Hippie Whackjob, the Former Motorcycle Gang Member, the Young Stylist Full of all the Bravado that Only Being 21 Years Old Can Provide) without the characters that inevitably make me change the channel (The Asshole, the Diva, the Person Who is Being a Bitch Under the Guise of “Keeping it Real” or “Just Being Who I Am”). I am invested in these people, and the time I’m not spent cringing at someone being an Attention Whore is more time I can spend on the outfits and the design process.

  4. Manolo the Shoeblogger Says:

    Perhaps the JS is correct and the Manolo needs to wean himself from the flamboyant Santino-Jeffrey style drama and concentrate on the more subtle drama playing out beneath the surface here.

    Naturally, despite his complaining, the Manolo has no intention of turning the show off.

  5. wannabe Says:

    Props to the Manolo for getting the thing just right. Though I note I thought V.’s jacket a little odd, and Christian’s get up both poorly fitted and all wrong for Tiki. I’m not so sure Elisa’s wouldn’t work for Tiki, though only if he were at home. Were he to go outside in those clothes, the “Superfly” vibe would be impossible to avoid. Kit’s outfit was excellent, but I give a slight nod to Kevin, who paid attention both to color and detail. The stuff looked reasonably well-tailored also. Maybe straight guys know something more about football players bodies than they readily admit.

  6. daisyj. Says:

    I liked Kit’s jacket too– it was creative without being whackadoodle and the choice of fabric was very sensible, but in terms of overall look I thought Kevin should have won. Jack’s outfit, with the matching stripes in the shirt and the pants, was not my favorite.
    I’m pretty sure Sweet P was saved by her tie.

  7. 1969 Says:

    I can say, without hesitancy, that I prefer Tiki without any clothes at all…..carry on.

  8. All Natural Diva Says:

    As always, the Manolo’s observations are dead on. I agree that this week’s competition was unfair. It was unfair to ask these designers to make something for someone so conservative, when clearly designers are rewarded on this show mostly for being “cutting edge”. It also made for an especially boring and forgettable episode. The Diva suggests they make up for it next week by revisiting the recycling center as done last season. Isn’t that what Chris has been waiting for?

  9. DavidDust Says:

    Click here for DavidDust’s recap of Episode 3 – “Fashion Giant”.


  10. Eddie Says:

    Manolo, the reason for the anti-drama this season has everything to do w/ the fact that so many people were bitching that last season was all drama, and little attention was paid to the craft of design. Bravo listened and now the people got what they so wanted, but now I think they appreciate the drama more and miss it.

  11. Meander Says:

    Manolo — thank you for describing the exact problem with a ‘menswear challenge’ on this show. It is exactly like I said to my wife, the Red Queen. Without the magnificent and sexy accent, of course.

  12. Manolo the Shoeblogger Says:

    Eddie, you are exactly correct.

    Indeed, after reviewing his own comments about the previous seasons of the Project Runway, the Manolo finds that he is the hypocrite, for he had complained often and loudly about the producers preference for drama over skill.

    There is no pleasing some peoples.

    By the way, one thing the Manolo especially appreciates is that the producers have greatly streamlined the show, cutting out much of the fluff to get at the designing.

  13. Phyllis Says:

    Tiki Barber is one of the handsomest men in the universe. I watch his NFL commentary solely to see that dazzling smile.

  14. Joan H. Says:

    By the way, one thing the Manolo especially appreciates is that the producers have greatly streamlined the show, cutting out much of the fluff to get at the designing.

    Oh, the Manolo, he is so adorable. I’m sure the fluff will return in full force when the contestants have been culled down a bit more. There’s no time for fluff when we’ve still got a dozen or more bodies to follow.

    I know this challenge wasn’t “fair,” but I loved it. It was challenging, and honestly, every single contestant had to know that there was the possibility of having to do at least one menswear outfit in the season. I mean, they’ve all watched the show before, haven’t they? They don’t have the excuse of it being an unknown quantity. Obviously menswear is going to be a weak spot for just about all of them, but they could have, and should have, prepared for it before episode 1 started filming.

    Is it OK for me to admire Ms Hippy-Dippy’s outfits but still detest her? The spit-marks just put it over the top, for me… she has no respect for her materials.

    I think the judges made the right decision in auf’ing Carmen, but I wasn’t thrilled with the winner — I would’ve preferred either the fleece jacket or the white jacket. I think all of the judges were shocked by how bad most everything was, because they’ve been touting this group as the “most talented, ever” for weeks now. This menswear challenge makes us all question that statement even more.

    Last: say what you want about Christian (as in: why the heck can’t he just walk like everyone else, why is he being toted around, literally?), the boy really is fast on the sewing machine.

  15. JK Says:

    Regarding menswear–don’t forget the great outfit Kara made for Santino! Nothing about that was awkward-fitting, and it suited him well.

  16. Eilish Says:

    My favorite was definitely Kit; I thought the jacket was great. I have to agree with Joan H.–I think the drama will be turned up once the herd has been culled. I was grateful that Carmen left (though her hair was somewhat entertaining).

  17. Laura Says:

    I hope this season will become more interesting once there are less designers. But I fear that this group is simply not as innovative as other seasons. Last season’s first challenge when the designers had to use the materials from their apartments showed us Keith’s dress made of sheets, Michael’s coffee filters dress and Laura’s bathmat coat Those innovative designs made me excited to see what they would come up next. I can’t say the same about this season’s designs.

  18. Cheryl Ann @ Evoluer Says:

    The challenge was ludicrous – What were the producers thinking?

    Cheryl Ann’s Fashion Diary.

  19. Thombeau Says:

    This was a ridiculous and unfair challenge that was obviously naught but an excuse to have some hot male models on the show. And I have no problem with that. Bravo obviously knows their audience!

    Yes, thus far the season is a tad boring, but it’s still a better show than most.

  20. Megan Says:

    I stumbled upon your blog from the Chicago Tribune’s Watcher blog, and I must say I enjoy it. I must agree, though, that the challenge was difficult under the best of circumstances (and as we all know, PR is not the best of circumstances).
    On a different note, was that Keith Olbermann to the right behind Tiki Barber in that picture? Yowza!

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