PR: Gunnar Deatherage Decoy Collection

Posted on September 20, 2012


We were quite surprised (as were most people, we suspect) when Gunnar’s collection started walking down that runway. An African tribal-themed collection would have been pretty much the very last thing anyone would have expected coming from him. On that level, we salute him. On more practical, stylistic levels, the whole thing fails. Skinny little white gayboys from Kentucky probably shouldn’t attempt a collection like this until they have a better understanding of the cultures they’re pulling from. These just look like he flipped open a couple National Geographics and started sketching.

Let’s start the show.



That skirt is not bad at all (even if it’s too voluminous and sits too high), but the top is horrendous. The makeup is flat out offensive. It’s the kind of tribal makeup you would have seen in an old Tarzan movie, or King Kong. It’s not an homage to tribal styles; it’s a bastardization of them.




Interesting effect with the weaving of the fabric, but again, this is just too big all around and the grey does nothing for that print.


Everything about this is awkward, from the sheer grey fabric ruched and layed over the print, to the clumsy halter neckline stapled on to a poorly fitted pleather bustier.


That skirt is probably the first interesting, wearable thing we’ve seen yet. It’s still too stiff and the painted bottom looks crude, as does that top she’s wearing.


Horrible color story. None of these pieces really seem to have anything to do with the others. These feel like leftover pieces that he just threw together to make a look.


Just okay.


That dress is pretty nice. We like the sheer coat, but we don’t think it works well with the dress.


Once again: a slightly interesting (but too full) skirt paired with a nothing of a top.


Take away the horrific styling and the Flintstones jewelry and this could be quite a powerful and sexy look.


Utterly hideous in every way.


He gets all the credit in the world for going way outside his comfort zone and having the good sense to hire models of color to show off this collection, but that’s where the compliments end. You can’t take a bunch of black women, airbrush their faces and stick them in a bunch of ugly earth tones with their bellies showing and call it “Tribal.” Well. You can, but then people like us are going to roll our eyes at your ignorance.

Stick with dressing genteel Southern ladies for now, Gunnar. You don’t have the reference points to step outside your comfort zone. Get yourself a passport and do some traveling before you decide to start tackling this kind of fashion.


[Photo Credit: Getty]

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  • VestigialMe

    I would’ve liked the stovetop dress and sheer coat more if he hadn’t done the significantly better second dress/coat combo a few looks later.

    • 3boysful

       And except for those two ensembles, it looks like his total COLLECTION budget was $39.95.

  • Just… yikes.

    • Pinup Ghoul

       “Yikes”, and “eesh…”

      • Yeesh and cringe. 

        Also: no.

        • Terrie_S

           I’ll match your Yeesh, cringe and no and raise you a Blech.

  • ghopping

    I couldn’t believe he was this literal with this collection. It’s absolutely offensive and does not draw reference to tribal culture but emulates it in the worst way possible. TLO said it best, “bastardization” of tribal style.

    • SassieCassy

      this is not even literal, because like to me literal implies a direct line of inspiration.

      this is stereotypical bullshit. its exactly one notch above those dumb native american costumes young ladies wear on halloween. and only because im guessing he used better fabric.

      • Hear, hear. I have students who go on study abroad trips to Africa every year and the pics they bring back show amazing diversity of color, tribal art, and integration of old and new. Africa is full of so many different cultures and aesthetics that this show just reiterates the western stereotype of Africans as all being vaguely the same – brown people in brown clothes. If you put up pics of women from Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Congo next to each other you’d immediately see the cultural differences. 

        • Pinup Ghoul

          Yes, this. Every time I hear someone say that they’re going for a vague African ‘tribal’ theme for something, I always wonder, “Which tribe? Why?”
          Too many young designers like Gunnar seem to forget that Africa is an enormous continent, full of so many cultures!

          Before I was swept up into the crazy world of music-majoring and singing opera, I was an anthropology major, and worked closely with a professor from Liberia. He would talk at length about this very topic, and I learned a lot from it. I’m hardly an authority of the subject, but I can see how it would be really, really frustrating to have one’s culture misunderstood and then be commercialized. I don’t know if Gunnar’s ever been to any part of Africa, so I can’t speak as to his source of inspiration, but no matter what it may have been, it came across as rather costumey, rather than an homage.

      • It doesn’t really look like he used better fabric… that boob patch dress looks highly flammable. It’s not only offensive and ignorant but hideous as well. Sometimes, if you make beautiful clothes, you can mock an entire culture and people will call it “ironic” and “subversive”, I’ve seen it happen. Alas, not the case.

    • Introspective

      Can we talk about the makeup?? The hideous dots? The way it does nothing but reinforce the offensiveness of this shit show? And then theres the matter of the shit show itself that is those fugly garments?? I just cant.

      Gunnar: girl bye.

  • This is the most inept collection I’ve seen since… Joe or Suede, someone like that.

    • Oh God, I had forgotten about Suede’s collection. Now I’m twitching. All those heinous fabrics…

  • lovelyivy

    Oh T and Lo… preach. Preeeeeach!

  • EverybodysStarling

    To step outside your comfort zone, you first need to have one. I haven’t seen any peticular POV of Gunnar yet. He needs to find his style, his trademark, before trying to surprise the crowd. Cause this is just like: wtf, where did THAT come from?

  • The boob patches in the last dress are just a crazy idea. Word, to the rest of the critique.  I’d like to hear Gunnar try to explain exactly what he was thinking in going tribal and  being so blatant about it, and not in a good way.

    • SassieCassy

      that entire boob patch dress is so fucking ugly i can’t even

  • Stefanos Mantyla

    Everything from concept to execution is so kitsch. And that last dress got even uglier when I saw the back.

  • I can’t help but look at this collection and think that none of the models knew what they were going to be modeling or the makeup they’d be put in.

    • roadtrip1000

       They look pissed.

    • H3ff

      They were probably just told they would be walking in the tents at NYFW. It must have been a funny moment when they discovered what they would look like. 

    • HobbitGirl

      I have no real idea how Fashion Week works, but I wonder…is it still a benefit to these models to say they walked in NYFW, even though their outfits were fugly? I’d guess it would be, but I don’t know.

      • Pinup Ghoul

         I would say yes, if only for the networking opportunities.

  • Vanja

    U.G.L.Y. you ain’t got no alibi. That’s ugly. Eh hey that’s ugly!

  • MzzPants

    Love the zig zag print.  Otherwise it looks like a school assignment to me.

    • ballerinawithagun

      Yes, that first zigzag print on the sheer is fabulous. You’re right, freshman year clothing assignment.

  • I feel my gorge rising,…

  • mjude

    seriously, why would he choose this theme?  makes no sense at all.

  • Spicytomato1

    I was just starting to like Gunnar and didn’t think he deserved the auf last week but this collection makes me realize he was not destined to be a finalist. It just blows, from beginning to end…with the possible exception of the cocktail dress with the black swirlies down the front. 

    It really does look like it was copied out of a National Geographic. By an 11-year-old.

  • Sobaika

    Is he for real?

    This is so darn out of touch and insulting I can’t believe I’m wasting time on it. GTFO Gunnar.

  • Gunnar sez (via Blogging Project Runway)
    GD: I met someone just before I left for the show, and I had no idea
    if he would even be waiting for me…but as it turned out, I came home
    and there he was. He was studying Australian culture and tribal culture
    and it was very easy for me to jump on board and just be inspired by
    the tribal vibe. 

    • Sobaika

      GROSSED OUT that he heard about Aboriginal cultures of Australia and thought of this shit.

    • The hell? Aboriginal Australians are better dressers than this nonsense. “Tribal” is not a vibe, either. It’s like those stupid generic black tattoos of pointy lines that people call tribal to explain what it is. “Tribal” as a term could apply to any one of thousands of groups of people on the planet, none of whom would sport transparent coats.

      • adnama79

        Once, when teaching Pre-K, one of my 4-year-olds asked me what a tribe is.  That was a thinking-on-my-feet moment.

    • MissMariRose

       I call BS. I think this was a calculated move on his part. He saw the “Navajo” or “Native American” trend (which has little or nothing to do with real Navajo or Native American textile and art, btw) and thought he’d score some points by adopting a tribal theme from halfway around the world.

    •  I hope he left him after he saw this colonialist, racist monstrosity of a collection. I’m even more offended that he heard Australian Aboriginal culture and decided ‘hey! Crappy ideas of some imaginary amorphous ‘African’ tribe would totally be great!’

      • CarolinLA

        I think that’s a bit unfair, especially the racist claim.  He wasn’t trying to offend.  He’s just inexperienced.  He’s only 22.  He’ll see eventually that his twas a misstep but he’s just not there yet.

        • ecallaw1977

          I absolutely agree.  He is unbelievably ignorant, leading to gross stereotypes, but he doesn’t even seem to have any idea how negative his collection is.  He has no malice or ill intent to deserve the title of racist.

          • Racism doesn’t require malice or intent. Only ignorance.

          • Sobaika

            Agreed 1000%.

          • Melissa Zade

            I disagree- part of racism is the belief that one race is superior or inferior to others.  I think labeling him a racist based on how the clothes were made is going a little too far- stereotypical, poor taste, bad judgement, ignorant…all those are better descriptions than racist.

          • No, that is one version of racism. Racism is also making assumptions about people based on their race or making assumptions about races based on a small sampling of people. In other words: ignorance. Prejudice and ignorance go hand in hand.

            To be clear, however: we have not even implied that Gunnar is racist.

        • MBP

          I’m 22, and I think this is racist as shit.

        • Jane_Lane

          Looking at a large, diverse group of people and deciding they all have the same culture is racist, whether it was done out of malice or not. Gunnar has a choice, he can get angry and stubbornly refuse to admit he made a mistake or he can examine his actions and resolve to stop thinking of “Africa” as a place filled with identical brown people. We live in a society where racist attitudes are so ubiquitous that people don’t know that they’re racist, rather than fighting the messenger, people need to think about why someone might call something like this racist. 

    • muzan-e

      … Australian?!

      Okay. Suddenly it makes so much sense.
      He’s done precisely what third-graders here do when they’re first instructed to take a stab at recreating indigenous art:

      Aboriginal artworks have dots and stripes
      So I’ma paint dots and stripes all over this thing!

      Color wha – ?

  •  PS – Gunnar, he better have been cute!

  • Judy_S

    Thanks for letting us see this and for the commentary. Some of these fabrics are nice. Um…

  • Oh, God. I feel bad for his models. They all look embarrassed.

    • gsk241

       Yes.  They look miserable.  And like they have razor stubble.

      • smellyelly

         Yes! I was wondering if anyone else noticed the 5 o’clock shadows.

  • Cat

    I spent four and half months living in Botswana and some of the leather tops, fabric patterns, and skirt shapes he used look exactly like the traditional outfits I saw at events that called for less modern clothing. Actually, I bought a skirt very similar to the first one TLo liked (minus the cropped leather shirt) at a cultural fair.

    Obviously, this collection was incredibly clumsy and the styling is atrocious. But if he had gone less “literal” and focused more on shape and pattern instead of trying to throw stereotypes at dress forms, it could have been something interesting and evocative.

    • SassieCassy

      thats funny because he was apparently trying to reference indigenous australians? this collection is truly so wtf its crazyy.

  • janetjb

    I never would have guessed this was Gunnar’s work.  

  • SassieCassy


  • maggiemaybe


  • vidacelina

    there’s using all woc models in a beautiful way that defies expectation – see: philip treacy’s show. and then there’s this. 

  • Rand Ortega

    When will they ever learn…?

  • NDC_IPCentral

    Yow.  I agree with Tom and Lorenzo’s critique.  I’ve traveled in North, East and South Africa, and Gunnar should, too, when the resources and opportunities present themselves to him.  He’d get quite an education.

  • sashaychante

    TIM GUNN  Someone get Tim Gunn.  This is what happens when these young ones don’t have Tim to guide them.  I actually ended up liking Gunnar after the client challenge.  He really seems to enjoy designing for clients and the personal interaction.  He really just needs more experience…and Tim Gunn.

    • SassieCassy


      speaking of, is anyone going to buy his book?

      • Judy_J

        I bought it….it’s FABULOUS!  Very entertaining and educational.  Worth every penny.

      • Call me Bee


      • Lilithcat

        I’ll have to browse through it in a store first.  I’ve enjoyed his other books, but I’m not sure his writing style is suited to the subject.

      • Lisa_Cop

        I went. Very interesting with LOTS of good PR takeaways. Like if Tim isn’t in the workroom he is in a control room watching the workroom. Tim sees EVERYTHING. And he claims the editing is kind.

      • boomchicabowwow

        So, I’m an idiot and didn’t know he wrote.  Can anyone give me a rundown?  I’d just like to know (breifly) what his subject matter is?

        • SassieCassy

          Fashion advice stuff.

  • hughman

    What, no banana skirt? Josephine Baker haz a sad. Mainly because she has nothing to beat Gunnar over the head with. 

    • Rand Ortega

       Princess Tam Tam would burn every item in this collection then create a fabulous dance # to commemorate her triumph.

    • Bet Josephine never kitted out the Rainbow Tribe in this kind of dreck either…

  • This all seems to be rather overworked, student-type stuff.  It is not visually pleasing, to borrow from Ms. Garcia.

    • Winter_White

      I’ve appropriated both “it’s not visually pleasing” and “so…what is your Plan B?” from Nina, and am grateful to her.
      Don’t recall who introduced the insult “student work” on PR, but it’s appropriate here. 

      • MikeW_PHX

        if I recall correctly, “student work” was one of the Duchess’ favorite lines before he started throwing out bon mots like “orange disco ball” and “molting turkey kick line”   

        • Winter_White

          Figured it was either him or Tim Gunn.  I don’t dislike MK, but he just became so predictably unhelpful and tiresome that I started to tune him out a few seasons ago!  Will start paying attention again, though, because someone here said he’s been better this season…? 

  • e jerry powell


  • why didn’t the makeup artist tell him this would be offensive and guide him into toning it down?

    • Sobaika

      Even worse: What if the makeup artist did tell him so and this is the toned down version?

  • StellaZafella

    Raja had more fun with various pokes at “Tribal” inspired couto…couat…fashion.
    And he’s a skinny little gay boy from LA…and a drag queen.
    This isn’t even fun drag…sad.

  • snarkykitten

    those models must be dying of embarrassment. I can’t see any of them using this in their portfolio.

  • Winter_White

    Oh my god. I’ve managed to avoid spoilers about the FW collections…and this was so worth waiting for!!  The jolt, the SHOCK, was probably really good for my heart!

    Gunnar, I didn’t like your silly villain act on the show, but this is so ghastly that I feel a little sorry for you now.

  • peacockprincess

    Why aren’t you calling it ‘ripping the collections’ anymore? 

    I hate to say this but if you ignore the styling I think there are some interesting ideas and fabrics here.  Granted some of the outfits are beyond help but several could be quite fun and chic with a little tweaking. 

    • He has some skills, but I think when he steps outside of his comfort zone he has taste issues

  • MilaXX

    Agreed tenfold. Some of the pieces are okay, but a lot of them fit awkwardly and make the models look like either linebackers or oompa loompas. The makeup borders on offensive. It looks like costuming from The Lion King an brings a so so collection down.

    • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

      The first word I thought of when I saw this was “costume”. 

  • agentilities

    Really, Gunnar? “inspired by tribal vibe?” The word “TRIBE” in itself has negative connotations.

  • Sarah Thomas

    …and I think I’ve just seen the designer who is going to have the most mainstream success from this show yet. Every Urban Outfitters buyer in the country is rushing to their antique French bicycle right now. 

  • The funny thing is, as a Black woman, I look at this and I’m not offended. Rather, I just shake my head, say “oh, you poor thing,” and hope that eventually he learns what a schlocky, stereotyped mess that he put together. Plus, apropos of nothing, it’s not that well-made, either. 

  • Judy_J

    The cliche’s in this collection make me think of Bugs Bunny in the big boiling pot with cartoon natives dancing all around.  Not good.

  • Now, if he had done a collection of Junior League lunch frocks, stuck the pearls on the models’ heads and called THAT “Tribal,” he’d have been onto something …

    • Adriana_Paula

      YES.  That’s brilliant.  If you’re going to do “tribal,” have some fun thinking about all the things that term might actually mean.

  • TieDye64

    This is a joke, right? What a pile of horse manure. 

  • CurbGirl

    Wow. I thought this collection said “I got auf’d on the culural heritage challenge and I’m pissed”

  • Snailstsichr

    Aren’t we all happy we didn’t spew our first/early affairs of the heart all over a stage at fashion week? Poor baby. there were a few nice looks that were spoiled by the “styling.” Sweet thing needs an editor and some time.

  • joe_tey83

    These are not costumey. They ARE costumes.

    •  Yes. In fact, the long red dress with the sheer coat over it is very much what Princess Leia wears in Cloud City for dinner with Lando Calrissian.

  • Call me Bee

    These are Australian Aboriginal designs, not African.  (I only know that because quilting a “thing” in Australia, and there are many fabric lines based on Aboriginal fabrics.  They are beautiful and wild and fun t work with.) 
    But sheesh–this really does border on offensive.  I can understand wanting to base desgins on this really interesting culture, but I agree that Mr Gunnar (Scand) Deatherage (Old English) should stick to what he knows, and refarin from being so literal with other cultrues till he’s a bit more experienced and established.   

    Just sayin’.

  • gsk241

    This was the collection of a Project Runway contestant?  The entire franchise needs to hang its head in shame.

  • YousmelllikeAnnaWintour

    Who is his mentor?  Gretchen?  (shudder)

  • mjude

    and another thing, back in the day wasnt there only one decoy? 

    • Call me Bee

      It’s becasue of the timing.  They used to time PR so that the top three or four would go off and do thier thing, then return for either Sept or Feb Fashion Week.  The entire season would end at actual Fashion Week, in Set or Feb. 
      But since moving to Lifetime, they start the season too late, so they have to have everyone who’s still left in the episodes show at Fashion Week.  If they just had the finalists show, the audience would know who the finalists were, even though the episodes haven’t caught up yet.   (Still with me, here? LOL…)  

      But that’s why there are so many decoys.  *whew*

  • Gunnar makes a valiant run for the title but Suede still reigns as worst decoy collection of all time.

  • Tracy_Flick

    SHOCKED by this collection. I thought maybe he had been auf’ed and put on this horror show as a “fuck you”. But that doesn’t explain the blatant insensitivity to indigenous cultures. 

    • Spicytomato1

      I can’t imagine anyone doing something deliberately bad. Even though it’s a decoy collection it still gets plenty of attention, so I think it’d behoove the designer to do their best no matter what their feelings for PR and its producers. Therefore I sadly conclude that this was, in fact, his best effort.

  • There are some pieces that I like, but I’m floored that someone didn’t pull Gunnar aside and say, “Your make-up choices are offensive. Lose the facial dots and stripes.” 

  • michelle shields

    It just keeps getting better….NOT!

  • random_poster

    I find it sad that having ended his time on PR in a sympathetic light he may now be remembered for this collection.  I don’t know how many influential members of the fashion community attend this show, but if I were one of them I would be hard-pressed to ever look on him fondly as a potential new talent.

    • Sobaika

      If anything they will look down on him for producing a poor and trite collection, not for the inappropriate theme. The fashion industry has a long way to go in terms of basic respect and non-terribleness. There was a recent NYFW event with a Native American-Themed Dream Catcher theme that involved guests decked in warpaint and fake tomahawks.

      But in delightful news that will remind you that not everyone is an asshole, the brand responded in the best way possible: by correcting their behavior, working with the Native American community, and donating proceeds to a Native American cause.

      • random_poster

        Yes, the poor/trite collection is what I was going for in my statement.  Personally I don’t remember details of many collections, but I can usually remember things I like/don’t like.  For example, I remember enjoying the decoy collection from Laura last year, and that Nina Garcia called it out as a favorite, so I’d be inclined to look for any further work from her.  At this point, I have no interest in seeing what Gunnar might do.

  • I think he’s just much too young to do this collection — I applaud the reaching beyond his boundaries, but he simply doesn’t have the experience to do a “tribal” collection well.  It’s a VERY difficult theme to pull off without being offensive or cliche.

  • avolpert1

    He is still very young.  Yes, there is a lot to be offended by, but there are a few salvagable pieces.  One thing I noticed about the styling is that the makeup darker than the natural skintone and the severely pulled back hair both are making the models looked pin-headed.  Better styling might have mitigated some of the proportion issues.

  • Jacqueline Wessel

    Even though I haven’t watched PR in quite a few years, I always read these posts. Kinda sorry I clicked on this one. Now I have to go wash my eyes out with some beautiful Fashion Week posts from earlier. 

  • Oh ugh. The 7th look was good, but everything else was offensively bad. 

  • At least he tried for something different.

  • Zippypie

    The dress with the spirals and the sheer coat is the only thing that works. And you boys are right about the sheer coat not going with the dress, but at least it’s not flat-out ass like that last gown.  WTF is that?!!  And the back….my eyes!  It burns us!

  • THANK YOU. And here I got raked over the coals for pointing out how offensive his interpretation of the African tribal theme was. Anyway, that being said, I kind of like the first skirt.

  • minnye

    I thought the top two gowns and the one with the lattice-ish skirt were cool, except for the zigzag print.

  • joything

    This reminds me of a couple of “Star Trek: Next Generation” episodes, which also insulted “tribal” communities.

  • john v

    it looked like he was trying to copy last spring’s Michael Kors and Donna Karen runway shows but in a much cheaper and ignorant way

  • owerrigurl

    I’m a first-generation American of Nigerian descent. I grew up loving African wax and the beautiful, bold colors that characterize traditional West African clothes. This entire collection is not only hideously ugly, but also, completely offensive, from the “makeup” (Hah!) to the jewelry.

    And let it be known that this isn’t a literal rendering of anything tribal. It’s just stupid and crass.

    • Rand Ortega

       Thunderous Applause!!!!!

  • Scarlet39

    I didn’t think I would ever see a collection worse than Suede’s…

  • Candigirl1968


  • I’m sorry, but it’s like I said the first time around. The makeup and the clothes look like the Lion King Broadway Show, poorly interpreted. It’s sad when your best looks look like an interpretation of an interpretation. 

  • MK03

    I stand by my previous assessment: Community theatre production of The Lion King.

  • Citric

    It’s like one of those Disney cartoons from the ’30s that Disney pretends never happened. 

    That said, some of the pieces aren’t too bad – well that last dress is completely awful, but I quite like the one with the spiral print – though that said some of those infamous Disney cartoons had well done animation.

  • rainwood1

    It really is hideous in every way.  I wonder how the models felt walking out in that makeup and those clothes? 

  • Your first ever fashion week show really shouldn’t be the time you decide to step way out of your comfort zone, even if you’re only a decoy.

  • guest2visits

    I think the descriptions ‘awkward’, and ‘crude’ said it best.
    What was worst for me was the pairing of the sheer evening-gown-appropriate fabrics with the more heavy, coarse looking 
    weaves/materials in a completely slapdash way. The styling also seemed to separate the designs from looking like a serious
    translation to a mostly sideshow depiction.   But, I loved the one grey-weave gown; to me it was interpretive and interesting
    and fashionable too.

  • CozyCat

    If this was truly how he came up with his inspiration, it really shows how uneducated he is as a designer.  To think that you can master a major culture/s in the few weeks allowed for a PR final collection is the height of hubris.
    I’m watching the re run of the print challenge right now, and Sonjie refers to the source of her design as being tribal.  Whether you saw Native American (as some did) or African masks (as I did) that print shows how to use a tribal influence as the source of design–you can pick up the infulence without it being literal or costume-y.

  • ASK26

    I like the two sheer coats and the outfit in the picture between them.   Otherwise they vary from WTH to meh. 
    I was surprised because I thought his work during the competition was better. 

    I’ve posted before that I wonder if they lose the right to the designs that they show in the decoy collections and figure that they one have so many “winners” and are not going to give them to PR?  (if they have no chance of winning.)

  • mom2ab

    This is what happens when the show runners choose to make the show a generic reality show rather than a reality show about fashion.  This is a 22 year old who has never left Kentucky who has no business being anywhere near a NYFW tent in any capacity other than wretched assistant for at least another 10 years. 

  • quiltrx

    There are some little touches here and there that are the seeds of good ideas…but NOT in this collection.  Stick with what you know, Southern queen, and work on making your ‘wheelhouse’ looks more professional and polished.  There’s potential, but it’s all over the place.

  • LesYeuxHiboux

    Ambitious for a decoy. I would be interested to see him again in a few years on an All-Star season, after he’s had a little more time to percolate.

  • Le_Sigh

    Uck.  Can’t get past the racist makeup / styling and when I do, the clothes are just crude and hiddy.

  • Megan Bowman

    Does anyone else think this is Gunnar’s over-the-top reply to the “my heritage” challenge? It bleeds irony to me.

    • holdmewhileimnaked

      i dont think he’s clever enough. or sophisticated enough. or, you know, even jerky enough. i think he’s sincere & slightly misguided. but mostly he’s just really young.

  • Megan Bowman

    Does anyone else think this is Gunnar’s tongue-in-cheek response to the “my heritage” challenge? It bleeds irony to me.

  • I stand by my earlier assessment of this collection when I first saw it: it IS a mosaic of many things: woven pieces, textures, tones, trims, embellishments. I DO (still) think he tried to encapsulate a cultural experience. Did he succeed? No, not quite. Did he fail? Not quite. Let’s take a look:
    1. The styling is indeed crude. The most offending element is that stripe (designed to mimic face paint) splitting the models’ faces. That is TERRIBLE, ill-informed, and misappropriated.
    2. The jewelry: When accessorizing a tribal-themed collection, you want to use chunky, wooden, artisan jewelry. I look at the necklace in look #7, and I think it meets the above criteria. Is it particularly attractive? No. The bangle in look # 3 works, too.
    3. Technical skills: The volumetric skirt in look # 1, in particular, displays technical prowess. That could NOT have been easy to execute. The weaving in look # 2 is less successful, but I can appreciate it on an intellectual level (the idea behind it). The sheer coats work (good job introducing a gauzy fabric).
    4. Counterpoint: There’s a definite attempt at it (fitted top paired w/ voluminous skirt, or hard earth-toned fabrics juxtaposed against soft, gauzy fabrics. Did it work well in every look? No, but he did put in the work.
    5 Overall: I commend him on his hard work. This collection is not a throwaway. It shows diligence. I can tell he committed to this collection. I would have liked to have seen hints of wilder (or less literal colors) like hard and primary reds. I wish he’d have included some kente cloths (either preexisting or self-made using weaving techniques).

    • Qitkat

      Regarding your points 2 through 5, I agree with your thoughtful assessments. However I side with those who were not necessarily offended by his styling, but did find it puzzling and poorly chosen and unattractive.  

  • write_light

    This isn’t tribal, it’s James Cameron’s Avatar.

  • I saw all the 8 collections from the third row. While I was VERY surprised with Gunnars direction…I was impressed with the incredible amount of work and detail he chose to impue into his collection. There is nothing RACIST about his styling…paleese! Why do so many people jump on the “I’m offended wagon” nowadays at every chance put out there? That being said if he had done contemporary styling and makeup his collection would have been received better. Looking back at last year shows…Gunnar’s ability to create a design with ” fabric manipulation and construction” far outshines last years winner! For a kid as young as he is he did damn good!

    • Qitkat

      There is nothing RACIST about his styling…paleese! Why do so many people jump on the “I’m offended wagon” nowadays at every chance put out there?
      I agree with you. My initial knee-jerk reaction to his collection was that I just didn’t like it, but I wasn’t offended. Upon more thoughtful viewing, it is evident that he spent a great deal of time and effort with detail and technique. He is culturally naive but that can be remedied through travel, educating himself more in depth, and maturity.

      • PinkLemon

         Just want to note that I, too, agree everyone jumps on the ‘OFFENDED’ bandwagon too quickly these days. I’m not saying this isn’t offensive, just wanted to agree. We choose to take offense, people. We CHOOSE to take offense.

        • SassieCassy

          sorry girl, but no. I dont CHOOSE to be offended. its like a visceral reaction. i can choose to make a big deal about it or shrug it off as just another dumb stunt but i dont make the choice about my immediate feelings.

          if it were that east i would choose to never be hurt or offended or marginalized. that would be awesome.

          • PinkLemon

            To me, being ‘offended’ is pointless. What purpose does it serve? Does change actually come of claiming offense? No. Saying you’re offended at something doesn’t make progress towards an ultimate goal. You can say something is politically incorrect and needs to be changed without being ‘offended’. I’ve noticed a few commenters on here get offended at some of TLo’s jokes recently. To me, that’s just absurd. They know they are meant to be jokes, not meant to be offensive. So why take offense? As if said jokes were specifically aimed at the readers? I know I’m the minority on this one. I’ve just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic for awhile now.

          • SassieCassy

            about as relevant as asking ‘what is the point of being sad’ ‘what is the point of being angry’ ‘what is the point of laughing’

            these are reactions and they are real and valid. they are worth bringing up in a forum like this because its all about our various reactions to one specific subject. they serve a purpose in it could make someone else think twice about picking up that urban outfitters headdress or maybe gets someone to not take this shit so seriously anymore. maybe gunnar will read this and think again about his next work. maybe not.

            i dont know what tlo jokes your talking about, but the rest of us are talking about this atrocity of a collection. and as pointed out NUMEROUS times in the comments, not INTENDING to be an ass doesnt change that one was still acting as an ass.

            i resent that people are claiming offense like its some sort of coupon. i dont choose to go through life this way. when people do offensive things i get offended (shocking.)

            im assuming we are on two different pages on this topic or like two different books altogether, so this will be my last comment regarding this issue.

          • “Does change actually come of claiming offense? No.”

            Every single civil rights victory negates your point.

          • PinkLemon

            I’m curious as to what your impressions have been when people say that a joke you give is offensive. What do you think of that? Does it make you want to change the way you speak? Roll your eyes? Ignore it altogether? And I’m genuinely curious. I’m not trying to be malicious or facetious here.
            My biggest gripe is the *over-use* of the word ‘offended/offensive’. We can make change in the world without blurting out THIS IS OFFENSIVE at any whiff of offense. You’re right, civil rights victories are always a huge accomplishment, but they weren’t always put in place from someone saying specifically, ‘I’m offended”. Again, my biggest problem with it all is the * over-use* of that particular word. IMO, it’s the verbal equivalent of a toddler tantrum. When most people say they’re offended, they’re just saying it to say it, not to try and induce a change. But I suppose that’s all changing now what with the power of the interwebz. I guess I’ll get over it with time. I have no choice, it seems. Ya’all can burn me at the stake with this stuff, I don’t really care. I’m not arguing this collection isn’t offensive, it clearly is. Just enjoying this conversation.

            We’ve concluded now that Gunnar is simply ignorant, and to me, that’s where the change has to be made.

          • We have absolutely learned from our readers and changed our writing style over time when we realized we were displaying some form of ignorance or privilege. Not every claim of offense is equal, but that’s no reason to discount the very concept of offense, which is what you’re doing or obnoxiously characterizing anyone who ever claims offense, which is also what you’re doing.

            Essentially, your thinking comes down to “Anyone who doesn’t think like me is not worth listening to.”

            And you’re being a bit pedantic. No, no one fought civil rights or inequality by literally standing up and saying “I’m offended,” but the very act of fighting against inequality stems from feelings of offense.

          • PinkLemon

            I suppose I’ve discussed the issue in the wrong thread. I’m not discounting just how offensive Gunnar’s collection is, and I’m not trying to over generalize, no matter how I come off. Being offended is obviously a necessity to an extent. ‘Not every claim of offense is equal’ – *this* is what I’m talking about. “Essentially, your thinking comes down to “Anyone who doesn’t think like me is not worth listening to.” – couldn’t the same be argued for those who take offense? Obviously (or not, I suppose) I’m *not * referring to the racists of the world, but more minor issues/quibbles that cause offense.

            Then again, I clearly come from an overall different line of thinking on the matter. “Agree to disagree” so to speak. I knew going into this it would be heated. That’s why I’ve restrained from bringing it up before now. I suppose I should’ve had a :WARNING – RANT AHEAD: embedded in my response. Honestly peeps, I’m just. so. sick. of that word.

            Don’t mean to come off pedantic, this is just how I am. It doesn’t hurt to observe the other hand of taking offense.

            :RANT OVER:

            Thanks for the discussion. I’ll show myself out.

          • ” couldn’t the same be argued for those who take offense?”

            Only if they follow it up with “And those who AREN’T offended are obviously just saying so for attention/having a tantrum/jumping on the ‘not-offended’ bandwagon.”

            In other words, there’s worlds of difference between stating an opinion and dismissing the opinions of others.

          • ASK26

             I don’t know that it is totally pointless but it often hurts/upsets you more than the person who is supposedly offending you.    

            As a woman in a man’s field, I’ve learned that you have to understand that it is not always about you. It can be frustrating but it you learn that it is not all about you, you can deal better with others’ (mis)perceptions…and you can actually make more headway by positively influencing others perceptions than by slamming them and calling them “offensive”.     (in some cases their perceptions may be based on their own experiences which may be very different than yours or what you think theirs should be).

    •  Spoken like a privileged white man, Bert.

      • boomchicabowwow

        Love me some Burt, bought his “challenge win” dress even, but this ^?  That’s funny stuff right thur.

    • Sobaika

      Bert I very much like seeing your thoughts on this blog, but I can’t agree with you here. I don’t think in general people walk around searching for things to be offended by or are overstating their reaction in the comments.

      Racism is a very loaded term that usually carries images of white hoods and slurs. Obviously not what Gunnar was doing, and I don’t believe he had any negative intent. But intention and result are two different things. To present such a stereotypical, appropriative, exotified, and fetishized collection speaks volumes of implicit and institutional racism. A very different thing than overt and historical racism, but offensive all the same. “Here, witness the ‘other’ in all its jungle glory! Such funny creatures they are, with odd stripes and dots on their faces. We have no actual experience with these people, but will profit from them and forget about them once the fashion part is over.”

      While I’m sure there is technical merit to some things he’s done, I can’t see past its presentation. Also that final dress is pure ugly and the back looks like Halloween gift wrapping paper.

      • thaumasia

        Thank you.  Perfectly stated.

    • ASK26

      Some will give you shit but others appreciate your opinion.

  • The outfit with the big black circles over her boobs wasn’t utterly hideous… it was udderly hideous.

  • “what, huh?” was my first reaction, followed by “…isnt this offensive?”

    but to be honest, i wonder how much the fact that hes a skinny white gayboy from kentucky has colourd my perception of this collection. truth be told, i dont know enough about various “tribal” cultures myself to be able to see how sensitive/insensitive this is.

    hand wringing about cultural (in)sensitivity aside, the boob pads are unforgivable.
    i like the first two looks, and the red, sleek one. the models are gorgeous.

    • DecentDiva

      Thanks, kingderella, for your humility and self-awareness. As noted above, bigoted comments about bigotry are of course deeply problematic (and so common!). Thanks for showing us all how it’s done (or should be done). Also, best name ever, in my book.

  • My eyes are bleeding.

  • afabulous50

    I liked the first two looks…but after that?

  • SewingSiren

    The rust colored maxi with the sheer coat (and Flinstone’s styling) #9 is the best of the lot. The rest are bad. The peach skirt is Suede level bad. 

  • ohayayay

    I find it kind of odd that people are getting offended by Gunnar’s ‘tribal’ reference without having any idea of what his actual ‘tribal’ inspiration was. The knee jerk ‘this must be some racist pan-African stereotyped bullshit’ just because he used some models of color, including some of African heritage, shows a pretty narrow reading of all the possible tribes in the world. Australian aboriginee is a very specific reference that apparently, some people (includjng, perhaps, Gunnar) cannot look at without just seeing ‘generic tribal garb.’ Is aboriginal clothing Gunnar’s to use/own/profile from/borrow wholesale? No, no, no, absolutely not. Is this a white boy who has no concept of heritage, his own or other people’s, and his own privilege? Yes. But was this collection interesting as hell, and did it show potential for growth? Yes.

    Gunnar is no Karl Lagerfield…but when people like him continue to receive accolades, prestige and millions of dollars for doing essentially the same thing, only with white models, you can’t be shocked when young designers try to do it too. The difference is that Uncle Karl probably has a better understanding of colonialism and the poser dynamics at play, and just laughs all the way to the bank. Gunnar is not going to be making money on this. Yes, he deserves criticism for this, but frankly so does the entire fashion industry.

    • “I find it kind of odd that people are getting offended by Gunnar’s ‘tribal’ reference without having any idea of what his actual ‘tribal’ inspiration was.”

      That’s kind of the point. No (or little) effort was made on his part to research or reference any specific tribal styles.

    • Qitkat

      I appreciate your take on this controversial subject.

    • Sobaika

      Agreed that it speaks to a much larger issue within the fashion industry.

    • l_c_ann

      In his interview with Project Runway Blog, he gave his inspiration: A friendship that had begun before he left for the PR season and who waited for him to return.  That friend is very interested in Aboriginee art and life and that was his inspiration, not Africa. 

      I don’t know if that would change any of the cultural criticisms, but I think it should be taken into account.

  • piecesofconfetti

    Did he put his models in a subtle form of… blackface?

    • holdmewhileimnaked

      no. he just put stupid dots on them for no reason whatsoever.

    • PinkLemon

       It kind of looks that way….there is some sort of airbrushing going on. They have strips of lighter skin running down the middle of their faces. Either he did the lighter part, or the darker part, but yeah. Questionable.

    • PinkLemon

       It kind of looks that way….there is some sort of airbrushing going on. They have strips of lighter skin running down the middle of their faces. Either he did the lighter part, or the darker part, but yeah. Questionable.

    • Sobaika

      I don’t think you could call it blackface. He just used a paler stripe of makeup down the middle of their faces to evoke ‘tribal’ makeup. Tacky and offensive. 

    • piecesofconfetti

      I couldn’t quite tell… some of the models look like their facial skin is a shade darker, but it could be an optical illusion from the lighter line down the middle. Either way, ew.

  • lisaepc

    A couple of the dresses were ok but still very “student show”. It was hard and I am still trying to find answers to classic Tim Gunn questions like, Who is this woman? Where is she going? What’s her day like? Does she work? Is she on vacation?

    I understand Gunnar is still very young and I see talent there but he needs time in a design house learning his craft.

  • holdmewhileimnaked

    i still really like the first two dresses. i honestly like the first one well enough to buy it, were it available, medium sized & not terribly expensive. i should note, though, that what i really like is the skirt. i cant tell very much about the top but if consensus is it’s dreadful, okay, i can probably go w/ that. but the skirt i think is gorgeous.

    the only other items here that i like are the clear coat & the outfit second from the bottom. i couldnt possibly wear that one but it is pretty.

    the rest of it, eh feh, i’m sure it’s been chewed up & spit out many times hereupon already & i dont have much to add that i didnt say the first time i saw the stuff: i think he thinks he’s being very radical, very controversial, etc & ect. i dont think he’s an actual serious racist–my guess is that he thinks he’s gonna make a Big Statement–you know, in the way a person who has just crested legal drinking age often thinks. & maybe for his tiny kentucky coterie he is. probably not–although i bet he will raise an eyebrow or two, which, of course, will just end in indulgent clucking & neither the terror-filled trembling sighs or sophisticated congratulations i would imagine he might have imagined.

    &, of course redux, in three – five months, approximately, maybe more maybe less, just about all of it will be forgotten. i dont even know if he registered enough w/ the viewership that the PR PR people will bring him back for any happy returns. or unhappy returns. or anything. in any case i gotta go to sleep now. later today is another day here too.

  • SapphoPoet

    Props to him for trying, but, yeah. Great advice for him to do some travelling before attempting something like this again. Generic “tribal” fashion does noone any favors; the best collections are rooted in specifics.

    Having said that, I think he came close to a couple of good looks (the dresses with the sheer dusters) and I liked some of the fabrics.

  • adnama79

    I hope Gunnar learns and grows.  This is ignorant – but he can learn and do better in the future.  I hope.

    Sigh.  C’mon, southern people, let’s grow.

    • meowing

      Being an ex-southerner, I feel some responsibility to say that not all Southerners are ignorant or untraveled.  Gee, some of us even own not only a library (or is that liberry?) card, but also a passport.  Gunnar is super-young:  let’s hope that time, talent and travel will teach him lots.

      • adnama79

        I’m still in Texas, trying to love it and make it better. :/ Gunnar is young and I hope that he learns lots and that others let him.

    • DecentDiva

       “C’mon, southern people, let’s grow. ” Are you kidding me?  C’mon, bigoted person, let’s see better. Bigotry has many forms. You’re soaking in it. Sheesh.

      • adnama79

        Who’s bigoted and at whom?  I am bigoted at southern people?  Or…  what?

        I’m from Texas and I do also get frustrated when, for instance, stand up comics can have free rein making fun of rednecks or southerners in ways that would be considered offensive for other groups – HOWEVER, as a group, “Southerners” have largely floundered when it comes to relating to the rest of the country.  And we *do* need to do better. 

        I lived briefly on the east coast and was pretty frustrated with the lack of understanding about poverty in the south and the effects of history on all its people, but at the end of the day, we have to prove to ourselves and the rest of the country that we are better than they think we are by *being* better than they think we are.  And a lot of us still have a long way to go on that, especially when it comes to relating to other cultures, which is harder to learn when you haven’t been living in a large diverse city interacting with people from lots of backgrounds.  The south *does* have cities like that, but you wouldn’t know it from the way a lot of southern people continue to represent themselves.

        I love Texas, but I can’t deny that I’m embarrassed by a lot of the things that go on here. I’m always hoping that when there’s another national news story that people realize we don’t all agree with Rick Perry – but you know what? It took a majority to elect him. Over and dadgum over. So even though I don’t like it when people make fun of Texas b/c of Perry, even though I voted against him, I can’t really say that the people mocking are totally wrong, you know?

        I do think that people on the east coast perhaps underestimate the
        difficulty and expense of travel for people in the south who don’t live
        near travel hubs (even from Austin, if I want to travel internationally,
        it’s 2 flights before I actually get on the airplane that’s leaving the
        country – never even mind if I lived out in the country and had to
        drive 200 miles before I got to an airport of any size), not to mention
        our typically lower wages (as compared to the rest of the country). 

        Library cards are helpful for expanding cultural understanding when you can’t physically travel internationally or move to a large city.

  • msdamselfly

    I think it’ shows some talent and originality

  • If he’d just focused on African prints, and tried to show them off well (like Uli or Korto could have done), that would have helped. It does stay in his wheelhouse of brown and leather, though, which was one of his highest scores on the show (the last team challenge).

  • VivianAdvanced

    I don’t know. I thought Gunnar did pretty well with this collection. I actually like the crude paintings on the top and skirt, and think the last “hideous” gown is quite striking. It does help that the models are lovely women of color. Pale blondes couldn’t pull these off as well.

    • VivianAdvanced

      Whoops, looks like I’m in the minority here. Poor Gunnar. He bit off more than he could chew.

      • mhleta

        Come. Sit with me. We’ll stew.

  • EEKstl

    I just find this supremely…odd.  It’s like it’s his fantasy of a stereotype of a fantasy.  And with a couple of exceptions I am NOT in love with the clothes, they’re actually pretty unattractive IMHO.

  • The only way this could have been more offensive would have been white models in blackface! I don’t think he’s an evil guy, nor am I accusing him of having white sheets with eyeholes in his closet – but you can be moronically ignorant, offensive, and yes subconsciously a bigoted twit without having actual evil intent. And to just add insult to injury… the clothes are just ick. With a side of trite and badly made.

    • mhleta

      Please, why is this morally offensive and bigoted? Did Sarah Burton need to become a bee keeper to design the McQueen collections? Why is it offensive or bigoted to reference a culture other than one’s own in a way that is kind of beautiful? I need to understand.

      • Yeah, remember that centuries-log tradition of white people invading, enslaving, and exoticising and eradicating the cultures of bees? Come on now.

        The reason this could be seen as offensive is precisely because it’s not referencing any one culture. It’s offering up a Tarzan movie version of it.

        • So he is to blame because some of our ancestors (mine all lived in free states) had slaves?  And because he is from a state that used to be a slave state that means he must be inwardly racist?  That sounds like a bunch of  big-city crap to me, and I’m a New Yorker at heart.  I know someone that has a confederate flag in his truck.  That’s racist.  Racist people would NEVER design a tribal-themed collection.  Also, he references a range of cultures and called it tribal.  So?  Would you rather he only chose one culture and called only that one culture tribal?  Because that is racist. There are MANY different kinds of tribal, from Native American, to Australian Aborigines, to African tribes, etc.  Also it sounds from interviews that he was inspired by Australian, not African tribes.  So I really don’t get the slave racist thing.  You can say you’ve seen the tribal thing before, and it was nothing new, but don’t insinuate racism just because of that.  I would NEVER defend racism.  I just really think you went overboard with that.

          • “So he is to blame because some of our ancestors (mine all lived in free states) had slaves? And because he is from a state that used to be a slave state that means he must be inwardly racist? That sounds like a bunch of big-city crap to me”

            It sounds like some plain old horseshit to me because I didn’t say anything like that. Don’t put words in my mouth.

  • Emma Rae

    The last one, all I could think was ‘boob pockets’!

  • Jessica White

    Oh, my God, they look like extras from Stargate.  

  • a_liking

    Did he really put blackface on some of his models. Because that’s what it looks like. And that is really, truly terrible.

    • mhleta

      Really? Where did I just see a designer send the models down with cages on their heads. It struck me as incredibly misogynistic, but I never heard a peep about it. This doesn’t strike me as anything close to blackface. Look at me. I’m defending Gunnar, but seriously. I think he’s getting a bad rap here. 

  • siriuslover

    I am almost embarrassed for him. Some of the dresses are almost nice, but the whole styling, sheesh.

  • ccm800

    I think that makeup COULD have been cool had it just been the subtle center stripe – and a lighter shade of the models skin tone instead of darkening everything else. The long dress with the long sheer coat as you said is promising and likely my favorite. For some reason i see svelte older lady of great style in it. Like Diane VonFurstenberg-ish kinda gal.  

  • This is nice.  I especially like the maxis which I plan to wear more of in the future to hide my expanding hips!!!  #truth  The last one is bad.  Yikes!

  • DCSheehan

    The circles dress with the sheer coat works for me. There’s the start of a great collection there and if he’d riffed off this and some other better pieces it could have been great. But boring it ain’t, unlike the blandness of many of the other finale collections.

  • DecentDiva

    Yeah, Gunnar, and maybe when you’ve traveled the world a little more you’ll have evolved enough in bigotry to equate being from Kentucky with cultural backwardness and being oh IDK just a little less human than your superiors.

  • kathryn_dc

    I totally saw a Miranda Priestly-style pursed lips expression for that last look. Those boob shields don’t look professional at all in execution!

  • mhleta

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. Something about this collection thrills me and I can’t explain why, because I don’t normally gravitate toward tribal. And is it so terribly wrong for a white boy to design a tribal collection? Is it any worse than a man designing for women? Does an African American woman born raised in Brooklyn have more rights to create something like this than Gunnar? I don’t know the answers but I think it raises some interesting questions about authorship. In the literary world it’s “Write what you know.” Does that have to apply in the design world as well? Do we even know where Gunnar drew this inspiration from? Has he spent time in Africa? Anyway, this also made me think of the great Iris Apfel and the way she would coopt culturally loaded pieces like gigantic coconut bracelets or ceremonial breast-plates and wear them with her designer outfits in a really inventive way. I could see these pieces working in real life, for example, the first skirt with a gold lame top, or the diamond cutout skirt with a denim shirt and a great pair of boots. Gunnar got on my last nerve, but this collection of his really made me reevaluate his creativity in a positive way. 

    • mhleta

      I think everyone’s moved on from this, but it’s sort of stuck in my craw. I was curious about Gunnar’s inspiration and found a little bit on the PR blog:

      BPR:   Of course we have seen your collection, it was a complete surprise.  Is there any specific connection to these tribal influences?GD:  I met someone just before I left for the show, and I had no idea if he would even be waiting for me…but as it turned out, I came home and there he was.  He was studying Australian culture and tribal culture and it was just very easy for me to jump on board and just be inspired by the tribal vibe.

    • Dottie Cate

      I totally agree, sorry  TLO.    With one or two exceptions, I loved all of them.   Colors were beautiful.   Makeup – not a factor for me, as I am looking at the CLOTHES!!!!

  • I liked all of the designs except the last one.  Bravo!  😀

  • I agree that the styling and makeup are terribly ill-considered, although I really don’t think Gunnar was trying to offend anyone. I think he is a young designer who obviously got very excited about some new ideas and imagery he’d been exposed to and then went bonkers with it without taking time to think the cultural implications through fully. Obviously, white privilege is something he’s not thought much about. I think it’s fine to be influenced in one’s designs or art by other cultures, but one has to be careful that in being “influenced”, one isn’t just appropriating elements wholesale. As it is, these outfits have some wonderful moments in them, such as the weird balloon hem on the first look, or the sheer jacket, or the weaving on the second dress, and the textiles are lovely and fresh. But too many elements read as costumey, and that it what pushes this collection over the line from “inspired by” to “appropriated from”. I appreciate that he used models of color, but they would have looked so much more beautiful if they were allowed to look like fresh, modern women of color.