Project Runway, Season 5, Episode One

Manolo says, and so the latest season of the Project Runway begins, not with the exciting dash across the verdant fields of Bryant Park, but with the early morning Festival of Gristedes, the ritual that many of us who have lived in the City of New York know quite well.

Indeed, who among us has not rushed into the Gristedes first thing in morning, and emerged the half hour later with our bags full of plastic shower curtains, rubber gloves, vacuum cleaner bags, mop heads and enough gingham table clothes to go all Christo on the Grand Central Station?

Ayyyyyy! And all the Manolo really wanted was some half-and-the-half for his coffee and maybe the Drake Cake!!

And so the indistinguishable mass of badly-dressed, and bizarrely-coiffed youthful aspirants were off and designing. What followed for the next half hour, was the confusing mass of moving images, as the various designers blended together in one giant hairball of bad material and worse ideas.

Look! There was the sort of cute, almost mousy girl doing something or other with candy, or was that the almost cute, sort of mousy girl, who was doing something with candy? The Manolo could not keep them straight. And there is Retro Girl, looking vaguely Betty Page (as they usually do) and making something fascinating with lawn furniture and beach balls, but then we cut away to the curiously named Suede (who annoying refers to himself in the third person, and the Manolo knows exactly how annoying that can be) who goes all wickety-wack on his creation, because Tim has frowned in his direction.

And poor Tim Gunn, he looks so tired and oppressed, as if the demands of being the kindest, smartest, and most sensible person on television have finally taken their toll. Please, dear Tim, take the few weeks off and go to Bermuda, and let your mighty brain rest and recover. You are the national treasure and these desperate times require you to be in top form.

Speaking of not being in the top form, what has happened to Austin Scarlett? Yes, he was all flouncy and lispy, but he was also nervous and overly cautious. Perhaps it is that old story, the responsibilities of the gainful employment have dampened the enthusiasms and charms of youth. Frankly, the Manolo found him sort of boring, with his serious answers and platitudinous advice.

And so to the final judging, when the various creations were strutted down the runway, accompanied by the exasperated, heavy, angry sighing of Nina Garia, who each season seems to move slightly closer to becoming one of those pinched up, dried apple head dolls, albeit one dressed head-to-toe in Balenciaga.

In the end it was the same old story, the over-the-top, personality-rich designer with the terrible, awful, hideous creation (in this case, Blayne, who looks like the blond, overly-tanned version of Speedy the Alka-Seltzer boy) is kept around, while the sober, serious, hard-working designer who has erred (Jerry) is sent away by the judges. The demands of plot and character development must be respected, even if the result is the minor injustice. But, do not worry, Jerry will be fine. He will have the full and meaningful fashion career. But for the desperate attention-seeking Blayne, it is all down hill from here.


Project Runway Returns!

Manolo says, ayyyyy! The new season of the Project Runway is beginning this evening and the Manolo is living in the Malibu home that does not have the television set! Measures must immediately be taken!

In the meantime, while you are waiting for the commencement of the new season (which apparently includes the contestant with the provocatively leathery name of “Suede”) you must go check out the indispensable and always informative Blogging the Project Runway blog. There you will find more Project Runway news than you can reasonably process, all of it given to you in the most pleasant and entertaining manner.


Project Runway 4, Grand Final Finale!

Manolo says, this was perhaps the most anti-climatic Project Runway grand final finale ever. Indeed, as soon the Manolo heard that Victoria “Posh but Ridiculous Spice” Beckham was going to be the celebrity judge the Manolo assumed that Christian would be the winner.

Victoria Beckham’s own peculiar tastes run so much to the spectacularly unwearable that only Christian could satisfy her increasingly outrageous and idiosyncratic ideas about fashion. Indeed, Christian designs clothes that could only be worn by Victoria Beckham, very tall 14-year-old Slavic girls, and himself. No one else could possibly fit into those super-skinny pants.

Please note that the Manolo is not objecting to the choice of Christian as the winner. He fully deserved to win. He is the most talented of all the designers, he has the undeniable sense of drama and style, and he produces beautiful and striking clothes. All the Manolo is saying is that the choice of Christian was both predictable and out of character for the judges, who have in the past tended to reward wearability and accessibility.

Christian, for all of his youth and bravado, produces clothes that would not be out of place on European runways, or in the streets of Milan or Paris. Not everything worked for the Manolo (the hat and ruffled neck piece, for the example, could only appeal to someone as silly as Posh Spice), but overall it was masterful.

By the comparison, Rami, the gracious, elegant, and mature man, produced the gracious, elegant, and mature collection, one which was only hindered by his choice of colors. (The Manolo must now note that the critical comments of Nina and Michael Kors have never been more exactly on target. Virtually everything they said, the Manolo agreed with.) Rami’s great strength is that he is excessively and finely attuned to shape and form. He knows what looks beautiful, as surely as Christian knows what looks dramatic.

As for Jillian, it is easy to see the influences of Ralph Lauren on her collection. She produces handsome and interesting clothes in the American idiom. Unfortunately, her native insecurity and indecision causes her to go beyond what is required, and to edit her clothing in ways that are detrimental. She has the brilliant ideas, but too often goes back to add something unnecessary, or change something that diminishes her original vision. She needs to develop the confidence to stay with her good ideas, which, as her knitwear proved, can be very good indeed.

So, in the end, it was Christian who was the clear and undeniable winner. Now, one waits to see if he has the ability to go beyond this specific Christian Siriano look. What comes next, Christian?

Laura K. and Blogging the Project Runway

Manolo says, there is the marvelous article in the Arizona paper about the Manolo’s internet friend, Laura K., who is the founder of the Blogging the Project Runway blog.

Laura Kluvo has a big secret.

It’s about the winner of Season 4 of Project Runway, the Bravo reality series where rookie designers compete to be the next big thing in fashion.

She won’t say who it is or how she knows – until it’s revealed properly on the show’s finale next Wednesday – because she hates spoilers.

The stay-at-home Scottsdale mom runs the show’s ultimate fan Web site, called Blogging Project Runway,

Her blog is a hub for all things related to the show: a place to go for podcasts, interviews, live blogs during episodes and compiled news links about contestants and hosts.

She asks herself: What would the show’s biggest fans want to read about, whom would they like to meet and what would they ask them? And then she does it.

She has become friends with several of the designers and co-host Tim Gunn, the show’s breakout star. Project Runway alum Emmett McCarthy designed a floral-print coat and named it the “Laura K.” Gunn went for a ride in the Kluvo van when he was in Scottsdale in November.

And, most recently, she sat third row at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, where she watched this season’s finalists show their collections at Bryant Park.

What separates Blogging Project Runway from other sites that track the show is Kluvo’s mission to remain positive and supportive of the designers, which has helped her foster relationships with them.

She doesn’t take sides. And, most importantly, she never includes spoilers about the show in her blog.

The article even includes the mention of the Manolo! Go read it now.


Project Runway 4, Renunion Show

Manolo says, the reunion shows, they are always so boring, with the tedious and contrived confrontations, the sad outtakes, and those lame “greatest hits” montages.

Tim: “Designers, Ms. Mamie Kerpslach of Abilene, Kansas writes in to ask if Nina Garcia is really the bitch she seems to be on the show. Well, Mamie, the producers have put together this montage of Nina, dressed head-to-toe in Chloé, biting the heads off of live sparrows to prove that it’s all an act.”

Please, spare the Manolo from such maudlin and sentimental, phony-baloney moments.

Better to get on with the cat fighting right away.

But last night even the brief hint that those sorest of sore losers, Victorya and Carmen, might jump ugly with the producers and other contestants, was not to be delivered upon, not even after Heidi taunted Victorya in that aggressive Germanic way that caused the French so much trouble in 1914.

Speaking of the Heidi, what is with the ridiculous bangs?



But back to the woeful lack of cat fighting. The Manolo still remembers last season’s reunion show when everyone cornered the sociopathic Jude-Law-look-alike Keith and forced him to hear of his many crimes. He tried to smile through this even as his eyes darted around the room looking for the knife, or the scissors, or something, anything, with which to cut someone.

That was the sort of thing that makes for good television, unrepentant evil punished. Sadly, this season has been lacking for the villains, as Carmen left too quickly, Victorya seems merely petulant and snooty, and Christian, while annoying, is sort of endearing in his own arrogant fashion elf way.

Manolo asks, ubi sunt the villains of yester-season?

As for the rest of the show, the Manolo does not remember much, other than that Chris and Rami could not keep their hands off of each other. The Manolo nearly dropped his kir royale when Rami made the googly eyes at Chris after announcing that they had grown “close” during the final weeks. Ayyyy! Get the room, you two.

Well, good for Chris and Rami, who seem like the nice people, although the Manolo, himself, he would have preferred to have the over-sized check for $10,000.


Project Runway 4, Episode Eleven

Manolo says, Once upon the time, there was the poor tailor who was in danger of having his head chopped off if he did not complete the fabulously fierce outfits for the evil queen,

and her court…

…jesters, Toothy Orange Bottom and Brunhilde Valkyrie.

The tailor worked for many days without sleep, cutting and sewing, sewing and cutting. But, as the deadline approached, there were as yet fifteen yards of organza to be worked into the designs he had chosen, and the unhappy but honest tailor became worried and began to despair.

Even his acquaintance, the wise wizard who lived down the block, could only offer platitudes.

“Make it work,” said the wizard most unhelpfully, as he left the tailors shop.

“Ayyyyy!” shouted the tailor, “I am doomed. The Queen will have my head!”

The tailor collapsed into his chair near the fire, put his head in his hands, and wept the bitter, bitter tears, knowing that all was lost. After many minutes of sobbing, he fell asleep, certain that the morning would bring his execution.

It was then, while the tailor was sleeping his uneasy sleep, that the most miraculous thing happened.

First, there was the faint sound of tiny bells, followed by the strong scent of Aqua Net and Elizabeth Taylor’s “White Diamonds”, and then, with the audible pop, the tiny little fashion elf appeared out of no where!



Project Runway 4, Episode Ten

Manolo says, Ayyyyyy! Lady wrestlers! Spandex! Tim Gunn!

This challenge, to make the costumes for the modern-day Fabulous Moolahs, out of spandex and spangles, was completely ridiculous and yet also terribly entertaining.

And nothing was more delightful than the lady wrestlers themselves. Yes, they were tacky, with their giant fake breasts, tanning-booth tans, and rigorously gym-toned bodies, but they were also lively and funny and seemed to be genuinely happy. When they entered the sewing room it was as if the lights were turned on, making everything brighter and sharper.

Query: Were the lady wrestlers sexy?

Answer: No.

The wrestling ladies in their tiny costumes and big breasts had all of the signifiers of sexiness, but it was just the simulacrum of eros, as the raw and enthusiastic physicality of their presence, their innocent joy in being young, beautiful, and athletic, and the absolute cartoonishness of professional wrestling, swamps any possibility of the erotic response.



Project Runway 4, Episode Nine

Manolo says, after studiously avoiding the internets and the television, the Manolo was finally able to see the latest episode of the Project Runway without having heard any results. And now the Manolo can give you his impressions of this moderately amusing episode.

In short, this was yet another good challenge, to take the sack full of Levi’s jeans and jackets and turn them into the “iconic denim look”. Although, what is meant here by the word “iconic” the Manolo does not fully understand.

The truly iconic item appears only rarely, when design and culture achieve perfect symbiosis, and so to ask the designers to produce the iconic item is to ask them to compose the musical masterpiece of enduring importance and popularity. One might be able to maybe, possibly do this, but only if all of the stars are in perfect alignment.

And so it is with the clothing. Clothing designers produce hundreds and thousands of different designs each year, of which none ever become “iconic”. Indeed, if one is very lucky, one might produce one such item over the course of the entire lifetime of design.

Perhaps what was meant was “iconish”, meaning that the final piece was to be vaguely reminiscent of the truly iconic Levi’s 501s.

But, whatever. The Manolo quibbles, as the obvious intention was to produce the piece that could be creditably sold by the Levis Company, something much more achievable than “iconic”.

And so, after being given their instructions, the designers were off and lumbering across the dirty warehouse floor, grabbing up the denim and preparing for the challenge of making this blue-jeansy item.




Manolo says, ayyyyy! The Manolo has been travelling this week and tonight he has landed at the hotel whose television system does not have the Bravo channel, and tonight is the Project Runway!

Do not worry, though, the Manolo will watch it tomorrow and give you his report tomorrow evening.


Project Runway 4, Season Eight

Manolo says, this week gave us yet another admirable challenge, to produce the avant-garde work based upon the wacky hairdo of the model, and then to take this look of avant gardedness and turn it into the ready-to-wear outfit.

This was perhaps the smartest challenge yet presented to the designers, as it allowed them the most freedom to explore their art. And because this sort of detailed and extravagant work takes so much time, the Manolo did not resent the natural decision to divide the designers up into teams, even though such team challenges are patently unfair to whomever is chosen to be the leader. Of course, the designers clearly know it is unfair. Witness the cowardly, passive-aggressive behavior of Victorya and Jillian as they tried to avoid the burdens of leadership.

It was also the burdens of leadership that gave us the biggest revelation of the week, that the character of Rami proved to be so inflexible and pissy (there is no other word for it). Prior to this the Manolo had assumed him to be the fully formed adult, possessed of grace and good humor. Now we know that he is not someone you would wish to work for, as he is given to acting out, even when things are going well.

The second biggest revelation of the week was that Sweet P.’s elegant prom dress of the last week was not the fluke. Her ready-to-wear interpretation of Rami’s wickety-wack-covered, Rami-drapery thingy, was wonderful; so fresh and fun. She is turning out to have far more talent than either her earlier performance, or her loathsome and disfiguring tattoos would indicate.

In the end, the Manolo completely agreed with the decisions of the judges, the thing so rare as to be worthy of comment. But, the Manolo should note that the decisions about who should be rewarded and who should be banished were quite obvious the instant the models strutted down the runway.



Project Runway 4, Episode Seven

Manolo says, savor these words, dear internet friends: “New Jersey High School Prom.”

Such delicious and horrifying images are conjured up, no?

And yet, for the most part, the young women who were selected to be the “clients” were smart, and sophisticated, and somewhat knowledgeable about fashion. And they seemed to provide enough guidance to the designers so that some of them were able to produce attractive and flattering gowns.

Undoubtedly, some of this precocious knowledge is attributable to Project Runway, itself, for it has popularized the production of fashion like nothing before it. Certainly, the fashion blogs also deserve much credit here, as they have demystified fashion and made it accessible, so that for the first time the voice of ordinary enthusiasts can be heard and respected.

This is all so encouraging to the Manolo, who hopes for nothing less than the complete democratization of fashion, in which talented young peoples in New Jersey, and Manitoba, and Minas Gerais, and Botswana can produce beautiful clothes and sell them to people on the other side of the world.

But back to the Project Runway, and to the designers who were confronted by these young women who had definite ideas of their own. Predictably, Christian, who is the most immature of the designers, had the most difficulty adjusting to the demands of his outspoken client.


Project Runway 4, Episode Six

Manolo says, ayyyyy! The best challenge yet, to grab the giant fistfuls of second-rate but popular candies and candy merchandises in the candy store and to transform this mass of junk into the fashion.

This was the sort of challenge that made the original Project Runway so delightful, and not something about which Michael Kors could ecstatically shout “super commercial!!!!”

For the Manolo, the best part of the evening was that the likable chubster Chris, over whom the Manolo had begun to despair, showed that he could produce the completely wearable, and yet also sophisticated, mature, and attractive outfit.