Wednesday, March 05, 2008


To Hair Is Human

Previously on Project Runway: The designers sought inspiration in the Metropolitan Museum. Chris laughed loudly. Jillian ironed a lot. Sweet P's model was late. Christian won. Jillian was in. Sweet P was out. Chris and Rami were both in -- provisionally. It's a walkoff!

Heidi assigns the next challenge: a collection of 12 looks for Fashion Week. They get $8000 and five months. Chris and Rami will create collections and show three looks to the judges to see who gets the third (official) slot. Tim comes out and warns them that he'll be dropping in. Off to the rooftop for a last toast. Heidi product-places the hotel, while Tim product-places the champagne. Toasting. Christian shows everyone how to strut a runway.

Packing. Dispersal.

Cut to 3.5 months later. Tim drives over to see Christian. He has a tiny room that serves as sewing room and bedroom -- he apparently hangs his bed on the door and flops it out at night -- so he has to keep everything very organized. Family pictures. Christian grew up in Annapolis and found his salvation working in a fancy hair salon. His collection is romantic and gothic. Tim advises him to edit; he's heading into costume territory. And we're done.

A few days later, it's time to see Jillian at her apartment. She's clearly not in Manhattan; there's way too much space. She is working on her collection full-time. She's building on the museum challenge, basing the collection on 15th century armor. Tim likes the combination of strength and femininity, but worries that the palette is "a cloudy day." Off to see the family -- parents, sisters and cute boyfriend. Her dad wears a Project Runway cap. Her mom reveals that she saw a clairvoyant who predicted fame for one of her three children, and Jillian admits that she grew up expecting to be famous. She's dead serious about it. But you can tell she's willing to put in the work, and it takes determination to make it to the top, so it's not entirely creepy.

Off to Los Angeles to see Rami. Tim arrives at his house and meets Jeff and Jen. They sit and chat. Rami talks about his family background. His mother was Miss Jordan and a fashion fan. (She looks a lot like Jillian.) Sadly, she died when Rami was five. His father remarried a couple of years later to a great woman. Rami hid his fashion interest because it wasn't very manly, but his family was supportive when they found out. Off to Rami's studio to inspect the collection. He's inspired by Joan of Arc and her "fighting gear." That would be armor, right? Tim is worried that too many pieces "look hammered and nailed" and heavy-looking.

Back to New York to see Chris. He's trying to reconcile his costume background with the demands of fashion. The most "provocative" decision he's made is using human hair as trim. I found that a little creepy at first, but I got over it. Tim, however, is ready to hurl. He likes the pieces better without the trim. Chris is not surprised. Tim has an analogy about a stinky monkey house -- Chris has been spending too much time with his work. He advises some restraint. Speaking of restraint -- they're off to see Chris's friends at the world's most lavishly decorated apartment. It's kind of like every palace in Europe stuffed into a New York apartment. Tim and I think it's utterly fabulous. Chris explains that his New York friends are his family. His other family, back in San Francisco, is used to him doing showy things. He got started by winning a costume contest. He left a successful costume business to move to New York and break into fashion. He likes making people happy.

Five days to show time! Designers arrive at the hotel. Christian and Jillian are together. Jillian worries because Christian hasn't been a pal. Chris and Rami are bunking together someplace less posh looking. They all hang out and catch up.

Four days to show time! Everyone heads over to the new workroom. There are only three work tables. Everyone loads in their stuff. Jillian is wearing one of those knit hats with a ginormous flower on the side, like she's a 1920s film star. Tim arrives and gathers them around. Chris and Rami will have their walkoff today. They'll have three hours to get things fitted onto their three assigned models. Since there's a lot of work, they get to draft an assistant. Rami picks Jillian, so Chris and Christian are working together again.

Frantic rushing about. Rami is definitely flustered. Christian is taken aback by Chris's use of hair as trim. Makeup. Hair. Adjustments. Time's up! No guest judge today.

The models join the designers for the grilling. Chris was going for "glamor goth" with some "unexpected materials." Michael and Heidi are kind of creeped out by the hair, but Michael appreciates his sense of adventure. The skirt of the suit is made from black chrome safety pins, which is another daring turn. Nina looks impressed by both choices. Michael thinks everything is too dark and overdone; the evening gown was a "velvet condom." Nina admits to being impressed, but thinks it could be too much. Heidi thinks it's all very creative and unique. Chris thinks he should win because it would be interesting to have someone from outside the fashion world show.

Rami wanted to show construction and his willingness to listen. Nina likes that he did tailored pieces, but of course she loves the draped dress. She worries that the coat has too much volume. Heidi would wear the evening gown but Michael thinks the pattern at the hips is unflattering. Rami wants to win to advance his career.

The judges confer. Nina notes they were both very dark, and Michael thinks they both over-designed. They all think Rami's second dress is a hit, and Heidi likes his gown as well. Nina dislikes the coat, but he gets credit for trying and not sending three Grecian goddesses down the runway. Michael is impressed with his creativity and craftsmanship, but he's still seeing costume. Nina points out that other people have made the jump from costume to fashion.

The designers return. Heidi repeats the "dark and overworked" criticism. Chris was creative. Rami was refined and different. Rami is in. Chris is out. He gives Rami a big hug. They break the news to Jillian and Christian, who hug Chris. Rami wishes they could both go, but he's happy to have it settled. Tim is also sad to see Chris go. Chris is surprised by all the love he's gotten from the show.

Oh, phooey. I like Rami, he's a nice person and a talented designer, but his work just doesn't grab me. The three outfits that Chris showed are really more to my taste, human hair and all. I just like his kind of drama. But he'll still be showing at Fashion Week, so good for him. I just wish he had gone full-out and done the couture collection he dreamed of, instead of toning it down for the judges. They were always going to see "costume" anyway, so why not be completely happy with it?

Tim's Take includes a comment that he knew Chris lost when the judges asked him to describe his client and he couldn't. Tim says he's still a costume designer. I had to comment, because I thought that was a little dismissive. Chris wants to be a couture designer. Who is the client for couture? Who was the client for the avant-garde challenge? If not being able to describe your customer makes you a costume designer, then what's the difference between costume and couture?


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