PR: Weak Tea

Posted on September 02, 2011

We couldn’t help but picture Nina on her couch last night, drinking wine and snorting in derision at this debacle, thankful that she didn’t have to pretend she wasn’t looking at a runway full of Etsy castoffs.

The concept behind the challenge wasn’t a bad idea: fashion inspired by and produced in collaboration with young artists. We groaned like Viktor did when they introduced the kids, but once it became clear that the designers weren’t designing pieces for the kids, and the kids themselves would only have minor input into the designs, we breathed a sigh of relief. The only real problem was the insistence that this was an “avant garde” challenge. Bitches, please. Just call it an “inspired by artwork” challenge and leave the silly avant garde conceit out of it. It is virtually impossible for anyone to produce in less than 2 days a garment that would fullfill the judges’ rather limited definition of the term.  And besides, the criteria for this challenge barely differs from any other standard challenge except Tim told the designers not to worry about wearability and practicality. Uh…Tim? Most of them never do anyway.

There’s no better indication of the ridiculosity of this challenge than the judging panel. The arbiters of what constitutes avant garde fashion were: 1) a Victoria’s Secret model, 2)a sportswear designer, 3)an editor at Marie Claire, and 4) a shoe designer. It is, as they say, to laugh. Especially when the apparent #1 criteria among these judges was that they “see the inspiration.” “I can really see your inspiration.” “I can’t tell what your inspiration was.” What nonsense. Artistic expression – especially when you’re shooting for something strange and forward-thinking – is not about providing footnotes so the audience can easily determine what you’re saying. The very idea belies the notion of avant garde, if not artistic expression itself.

By the way, this was an uncommonly talented group of young artists, no?

Having kids in the workroom did get all the bigger kids to act in a slightly more mature manner this week.

There was a bizarre “Let’s all forget how ugly everything got yesterday” sentiment at the beginning of the episode. Don’t get us wrong; it’s admirable that everyone apparently wanted to grow up and move on, but the whole thing felt so … fake. Not exactly a shocking charge to make when discussing reality television, but with Season 9, it’s like we can really see the seams holding the conceit together.

It was Bert’s turn to get a little character rehabilitation this week and it was sorely needed. If he’d gone one more episode acting like a dick to the other designers, Heidi’s pet would have wound up hitting Gretchen levels of unpopularity with the viewership.

Interesting to note that once the phone call home became a product placement moment, they stopped being harbingers of doom. Used to be that when a designer called home, they were guaranteed to have a shitty time of it on the runway.

So congrats to Anthony. Your entry was as good a choice first place as any other, we suppose. When Heidi announced the 6 designers in the top and bottom, we had absolutely no idea which designers fell into which group. Even AFTER the critiques, we couldn’t figure out which ones were which.

Not a bad idea at all to mimic the brushstrokes of the painting. What kind of annoyed us was that was all he did. There’s no other reference to the painting. Nothing that would tie back to the themes or feelings of the painting. He didn’t even use the same color scheme.

We don’t share the judges’ need to “see” the inspiration at a glance, but it seems to us he was only inspired by one formal aspect. He might as well have made a dress inspired by the painting’s canvas or its rectangular shape. He saw was thick, bold brushstrokes and he made a dress that was nothing but thick, bold brush strokes.

But we’ll give Kenneth Cole some credit. He made some fairly good on-point critiques and he was the only one among the judges willing to insist…

… that the execution of this dress was embarrassing. We’d like to think Nina would have insisted against his win based on that alone, but Nina’s been smoking the crack herself this season, so who knows?

But not a bad concept at all, like we said. And it definitely was among the more interesting entries last night. It’s eyecatching and headturning and veers ever so slightly away from ready-to-wear, which was good enough for the extremely middle-of-the-road judging panel to declare it avant garde.

And it’s Auf2: Electric Boogaloo for Josh C.

To be honest, we kind of felt it was a bit cruel to bring him back. He clearly had a hard time handling the pressure and he never once made anything that the judges liked.

This looks like something from the costume closet of an old ’60s Hammer Horror film. Dracula’s Go-Go Daughter on Carnaby Street!

The judges all acted like he had such a great concept to work from, but frankly, we can’t imagine any wolf-themed look that wouldn’t have been criticized.

The blouse isn’t bad and we suppose that yoke/vest thing provided some interest.

But really, it was the horrifying skirt that most likely sealed the deal for him.

Here’s the thing: it’s all bad, and we absolutely think it’s better to get rid of Josh now than string him along, but let’s face it: there’s a hair’s breadth difference in quality and expression between this and quite a few of the other designs. It was a bit ridiculous seeing the judges wildly over-praise looks like Anthony’s and Josh M’s and then turn to this and act like it was somehow much, much worse. Bad, yes. But if we were to scale the looks with Anthony at a 10, this is really only at about 7.5 in comparison.

It was almost painful watching the delusion coupled with the just-under-the-surface hysteria. If we heard that high-pitched nervous giggle one more time we were going to lose it. His goodbye scene with the designers and Tim had so many high-pitched yelps and trills that it sounded like he had a combination of chronic hiccups and Tourettes.


[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/ – Screencaps:]

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