Thursday, October 21, 2010

Project Runway Season 8 Finale Part I -- The Live Blog

Though I have read and participated in many live blogs, this is the first time I've tried my hand at such a venture. Bear with me as I try my best to keep up with the twist and turns of tonight's Project Runway--If all goes well it should be a fun and snarky adventure, and if I crash and burn in a haze of sequins and puckered satin...well that could be exciting too.

Tonight's questions are many: who will need some extra Tim Gunn inspiration? Who will need to "make it work?" Will Gretchen redeem herself after a season of arrogance by appearing normal and likable with her family? Will Michael C. be able to design without Tim as a sounding board? Will Andy actually use a suit of armor for his new collection of warrior women, or might he find a softer side? And how did Mondo's family react to the revelations in episode 10. (Apparently he used the episode as an opportunity to raise $8000 for gay youth in Colorado with the help of Michael C. Good for you Mondo!)

Before we get started, let's take a look at each of the remaining designers, and because I live in Las Vegas, where odds are put on everything, I'm going to do a little handicapping on each designer's chances of winning. It's only my opinion of course, so by all means let me know if you think differently in the comments!

First up, Michael Costello:

Wins: 2 (Episodes 4 & 6)
Chopping Block: 4 (Episodes 5, 9, 10, & 11)
Best Look: Episode 4, "Hat's Off to You" Took a difficult inspiration and nailed a coordinating look without being too literal. Both the hat and the dress shine in Michael's first winning (and most deserving) win.
Worst Look: Episode 10, "There's a Pattern Here" Failed to showcase his own textile pattern in a dress that was Renn Faire up top, underpaid secretary down bottom in a narrow miss for elimination.
Should win because: Michael has shown the most willingness to take criticism and grow with each challenge. He might not know the technical aspects of construction, but his raw talent is undeniable.
Won't win because: He's mostly raw talent. He's not formally trained, and it shows too often. Michael's inability to edit himself consistently is bound to come out on the final runway. Expect a collection of beautiful clothes that lack focus or an overall narrative.
Best Moment: Michael C.'s spot on (and hilarious) impression of Michael Kors critiquing his Statue of Liberty-inspired dress before the runway show.
Odds of winning: 8-1 I expect Michael C to be in the final 3, but only as the "wild card" the judges seem to like to include in the finals. (See: Wendy Pepper, Santino Rice, and Mila Hermanovski)

Mondo Guerra

Wins: 3 (Episodes 8, 9, & 10)
Chopping Block: 1 (Episode 7)
Best Look: In a season of many great looks, I'll give it to his Jackie O inspired look in Episode 8, "A Rough Day on the Runway" by a hair over his HIV+ inspired ensemble in Episode 10.
Worst Look: Episode 7, "What's Mine is Yours" Mondo's overly adolescent take on resort wear was his only Runway miss of the season.
Should win because: He's been the most consistent and innovative designer. No matter the challenge, Mondo comes through with a look that wows the judges nearly every week. He's been in the top 3 a whopping 8 out of 12 challenges. His three wins are the most of any designer this season (and the first time a designer on any season has won three times in a row.)
Won't win because: On Project Runway, nobody is a lock. Several times the season's strongest designer has been surpassed on the final runway by a different designer who used the break to recharge creatively and wow the judges at fashion week. (See: Jay McCarroll, Chloe Dao, Jeffrey Sebelia, and Seth Aaron Henderson)
Best Moment: Coming out about his HIV+ status on the runway in episode 10 provided one of the most moving and poignant moments in Project Runway history.
Odds of winning: 2-1 Mondo is the designer to beat, and a win would possibly cement his status as the best Project Runway contestant ever...even over Episode 12 guest judge Christian Siriano.

Gretchen Jones

Wins: 2 (Episodes 1 & 2)
Chopping Block: 3 (Episodes 5, 11, & 12)
Best Look: Gretchen wowed the judges with winning looks in episodes 1 and 2, but it was her cropped faux-leather jacket and Tina Turner skirt made from party store supplies in episode 3, "It's a Party," that really showcased her skills.
Worst Look: Gretchen's bossy personality got her into trouble with the judges in episode 5, but it was her safe and uninspired skirt and jacket--when the finals were on the line in episode 12, "We're in a New York State of Mind"--that should have almost got her auf'd.
Should win because: Gretchen's obviously a talented designer. She's only been seriously in danger of being eliminated once, and she's made a reputation as the best stylist of the season. With a long break to design her runway collection, Gretchen--who was obviously creatively drained by the final challenge--should have the time to recharge her batteries and find the designer who made Project Runway history by winning the first two challenges (and almost the first three.)
Won't win because: As strong a designer as she is, Gretchen seems stuck in a beige hippie box. She'll need to show more range if she wants to compete with an innovator like Mondo. Plus, the villain rarely wins on Project Runway; the judges keep them around long enough to create drama in the finals, but don't like to hand them the $100,000. (See: Wendy Pepper, Santino Rice, and Kenley Collins)
Best Moment: Hard to pick one for the acid-tongued and pretentious Gretchen, but her tears upon seeing her mom in episode 10 seemed genuine and gave this season's villain a much-needed shred of humanity.
Odds of winning: 3-1 It seems likely that given the time to design an entire collection, Gretchen will find herself and her voice again and the judges will be reluctant to leave the only remaining woman out of the finals. Whether her collection will surpass Mondo's is a bigger question.

Andy South

Wins: 2 (Episodes 3 & 11)
Chopping Block: 3 (Episodes 5, 8, & 10)
Best Look: Episode 7 (What's Mine is Yours) The only thing more stunning than Andy's resort wear bathing suit and wrap is that he didn't win the challenge. I expected nothing less from the Hawaii native.
Worst Look: Episode 10 (There's a Pattern Here) Andy blamed this unfortunate look on the visit from his mom, but I blame it on a boring pattern and lack of color, fit, or styling.
Should win because: Andy is the youngest remaining designer, and his youth makes him willing to take chances. He'll need to break out of his warrior woman aesthetic if he hopes to win it all.
Won't win because: Andy's youth has been as much of a liability as it has an asset. He's seemed creatively limited at times, unable to think outside of the box he's created for himself. His taste level has been suspect.
Best Moment: Andy's win in episode 3 with a dominatrix dress made from black bows gave the designer the confidence to make it to the finals and ended Gretchen's insufferable run to start the season.
Odds of winning: 10-1 Unless Andy comes up with an entirely new concept for his runway collection, I'm afraid the judges will think his design (and his ability) have played out.

Finale starts on the West Coast in about 50 minutes. See you then for what is sure to be an eye-opening start to the Season 8 Finale!

Welcome to the Finale Part 1. From here on in we'll be treated to visits from Tim Gunn at the designers' homes, a preview look at their collection in progress, and then a final runway that will determine the three finalists.

Here comes Heidi to greet the final four. She's wearing a gray dress that's really quite subdued for Heidi. She often saves her flashiest looks for the final runway, but this is low-key even for the initial runway greet.

Tim tells the designers they will be back in six weeks. That seems short. That's a lot of look in a short time. But the designers all seem confident; I guess when you have gone through the Project Runway gauntlet, six weeks seems like an eternity.

Tim Gunn visits Andy first. He really does live in Hawaii! I'm surprised though, because Andy's home isn't pretty like Hawaii's supposed to be. In fact it kind of looks like a dump. He even lives with catfish, which Andy says look like Chinese men, but Tim Gunn shrieks and says he's "never seen a Chinese man look that unattractive!" Does Tim Gunn have a secret thing for Asians?

Tim meets Andy's family and they have an outdoor lunch of what looks like traditional islander food. Andy even cracks a coconut using a machete--yikes!

Andy admits to being worried about only having two weeks left. I knew that short six-week time frame would be a problem for at least one designer. Andy starts bringing out his materials, and wow! he has all sorts of beautiful crystals and metalwork jewelry. If he uses them judiciously this could really work. Tim lets him know that too much look could be a hot mess, and knowing Andy that may be where we're headed.

Next visit is to Michael C. in Palm Springs. Guess what Tim? Palm Springs is hot. Now you know.

Michael introduces Tim to Richard. Who is Richard? I've thought all along that Michael's previous marriage was a beard, and now I am starting to suspect I was right.

As usual, Michael has made more looks than he can use on the runway. He has 12 completed looks and 6 reject looks. It's "Design Diarrhea!" Tim exclaims and tells him to "STOP designing! It's time to edit." I'm shocked that Michael C. needs to find focus (not!). But at least what he shows Tim is mostly complete and looks interesting...much better than what Andy had.

At dinner, it is revealed that indeed, Richard is Michael's partner, and that Michael's parents haven't always been supportive of his life. Aww, Michael has a sob story too! No wonder he and Mondo bonded!

All right, first commercial. That was a lot before a commercial break! POST!

Next up Denver. And Mondo! I can't wait to see what Mondo has to show Tim. But before we get to his workroom, the first thing we see is a PINK living room. OMG, it's blinding. How will Tim be able to see his designs?

Mondo starts explaining his inspiration. He's using his Mexican neighborhood and some Day of the Dead motifs as well as clowns and the circus. That feels like it could really fit with Mondo's aesthetic. Ooh...there's an adorable black and white plaid dress in the back. Show us that!

He shows Tim a Day of the Dead Clown--terrifying, but somehow very Mondo. Tim doesn't seem to like the hot pink pom-pom embellished top that Mondo pulls out next. I'm skeptical too, but if anyone can make it work, Mondo can.

Finally--lunch with Mondo's family. I've been dying to find out their reaction to his outing. At dinner his family seems jovial and proud of him. His mother admits trying to make him more macho, and his dad wanted him to play sports. Mondo explains that he went along with the sports so he could take piano lessons. How cute. It was a trade-off and he has no regrets. It looks like Mondo has made peace with his family and I am happy for him.

Next, Tim heads to Oregon to visit Gretchen. We meet Gretchen and her mom (does she have any friends besides her mom?) packing up her house.

Gretchen tells us that since returning from Project Runway, her relationship has failed, she has no money, and her life is in shambles. Next thing we know Tim is giving Gretchen relationship advice--wow, now that's a Project Runway first! Despite Gretchen's headbutting with Tim during the show, she says she missed him and she wouldn't share her pain with anyone besides him. Next Lifetime reality series...Tim Gunn's Relationship Help!

On to the clothes! Gretchen's inspiration is rural cultures from around the world. Tim seems confused by some of her pieces, and frankly, so am I. Her work room looks like a thrift shop. A high end thrift shop like Buffalo Exchange, but a thrift shop nonetheless. Can Gretchen pull a cohesive line out of that mishmash? I'm not confident.

The lunch with Tim is the shortest of the lot. Gretchen's mom tells Tim that Gretchen is a control freak (duh!) and that's about it. There's no other deep revelations. Gretchen doesn't come across as obnoxious as usual, but maybe when she gets back with the other designers the sparks will fly.

Okay. Commercial. POST

Mondo is the first designer back in New York and he greets Michael C. with a running hug. They really did forge a strong friendship during the show! Awww. Mondo asks if he scared Michael, and Michael says, "No, but your pants scare me." Sure enough, Mondo's skin tight multi-colored leggings are eccentric, even for Mondo.

Next Andy walks in with hair down to his waist. Michael says he looks like Pocahontas meets Naomi Campbell. Hopefully he doesn't beat anyone up during the show--we alreadt know he knows how to use a machete.

Gretchen's entrance is subdued, but surprisingly pleasant--hugs all around. Before long, Tim shows up carrying the infamous button bag. The designers are terrified, but then Tim reveals the bag contains vacation getaway trips provided by Hilton! Wow, what a welcome back gift. That's another Project Runway first. I guess they felt bad for giving them only 6 weeks to design.

Finally we get to the workroom! Let the sniping begin. The first jab comes from Mondo towards Michael C and his 20,000 ruffles. They're friends, so you know Mondo means well. Besides, he does have a point.

Now Tim shows up with a real twist that we all knew was coming. The designers have to show two of their looks on the runway and then make a third one in the next two days. The three looks they show will determine who goes to Fashion Week.

Mondo has trouble deciding what he needs to add. Tim's advice: do a riff on something you already have. Sounds like a plan.

At Mood, Andy selects a shimmery green fabric and explains that pleating the fabric will give it extra depth. I'm worried that the judges will need sunglasses to see it.

Back in the workroom, Mondo starts a form-fitting jersey dress that combines a color-blocked Mexican motif in aquamarine with a brown stripe. It's not hideous, but it's not up to Mondo's standard, and he peels it off the dress form saying he will start again. "Yet another day wasted in a two-day challenge." Hopefully Mondo can get it together tomorrow, because not having Mondo in the final three is NOT an option.

Commercial 3. POST

Day two in the workroom starts with a check-in from Tim. Michael is as indecisive as ever. He can't decide which two completed works to show. He must have had a favorite. This is Michael C.'s biggest problem. Will it be his downfall?

Gretchen is much more confident. She knew what she wanted to add, and she knew what she wanted to show with it. Tim agrees with everything she says (maybe for the first time ever this season) and lets her be on her way.

Mondo shows Tim his failed jersey dress (Tim agrees with his decision to trash it). Then we see a cute checked skirt with a patent leather detail (wouldn't be Mondo without a patent leather detail!) It's cute, but Gretchen thinks it looks too subdued. She may be right, but then again knowing Mondo, a subdued look is just what his collection needed.

Andy shows Tim the acid green dress. It's not as bad as I thought, covered in scalloped waves of pleating, but it's a lot of design. Tim thinks it's amazing that Andy made the pleats in such a short time. In fact, it's amazing that Andy's collection is as complete as it is. The boy can work fast.

Tim's pep talk is two-fold. He tells Gretchen, Mondo, and Andy to "Carry On on this fabulous trajectory!" But then he turns to Michael C. "Don't Choke!" Yikes. Michael C. must be even more lost than we thought.

Suddenly it's day 3. Michael admits to *still* not knowing what looks to show. He may be in serious trouble. Then again, this may be the producers red herring to throw us off.

The designers take their models to the L'Oreal Hair and Makeup salon. I have mixed feelings about the extended makeup sessions we've had this season. On one level it's cool to see how the designers make their styling decisions. On the other hand, if I hear "smokey eye" one more time, I might take that eyeliner pencil and give you bloody eye instead!

Now we hear how much getting to Fashion week means to each designer. Usually weepy Michael C. is the only one who doesn't come close to tears. Is his investment the same as it was when he was here before? I'm wondering if he feels like he has already proved himself just by making it this far. If he's lost that drive, Fashion Week may be auf wiedersehen.

Commercial. POST

Back to the Runway. Heidi is wearing a black dress that almost looks a tunic and tights. The top is matte black with no detailing at all. I'm surprised. After her first look, I was expecting the volume to be turned up to 11, but this is pretty quiet.

Andy's looks are first down the runway. His model is wearing an alien space suit complete with antennae. I don't hate it, but it's not my taste. It has a ruffled collar that saves it for me. The next "outfit" is actually a swimsuit. Andy proves that he *can* make a beautiful swimsuit. This one isn't as stunning as the resort wear challenge look, but the gauzy "cover up" does make it feel elegant and sophisticated despite the lack of material. His third look is the green dress. This model has antennae too. And the dress feels out of proportion. The skirt is too short for the pleated top. Andy says he loves the look, but I don't buy it. The only relation to the other two looks is the sheen of the fabric. I'll be interested to hear what the judges say.

Next up is Michael. His first look is the new dress, and wow, my first reaction is love. It's off the shoulder free form with a beaded strap that gives just enough embellishment. It's loose and flowy without being shapeless, and for once Michael seems to have nailed the color. The next look is an enormous feathered skirt. The model may as well not be wearing a top because the bottom is so distracting. Michael Kors gets saucer eyes trying to digest it. He recovers quickly, but Kors' look says it all. The last look is a sequined/scaly/palletted (?) pant with the stringy top Michael showed Tim in Palm Springs. It's reminiscent of the 70's, and not necessarily in a good way. The three looks do show a lot of range, but the bronze-y color palette is old by look three. Michael may be in trouble.

Gretchen is third. Her new look is a fun sun dress. I think it's cute until the model turns around and I realize she has a tail. The second look looks like Gretchen's attempt to combine prints a la Mondo. She failed. The two prints are too similar to work together. I had to look three times to decide if the model was wearing a jumpsuit or if it was separates. On top of it all, the fabric just doesn't look expensive. I don't hate the look, but I'm shocked this is one of Gretchen's best looks that she thinks will get her to Fashion Week. The third look is a shiny sport-coat/bathrobe thing over a bathing suit bottom (?) It doesn't appear the model is wearing anything under the jacket, and there's quite a lot of cleavage. This doesn't feel tasteful. I'm a little shocked, frankly. Right now I can't even predict whose going home. Inevitably the judges will love one of these designer's looks, but I can't figure out who it will be.

Mondo's looks are last down the runway. The first look is a mix of black and white prints embellished with pink. It's cute, but not a showstopper. It's like "Mondo at the office." The second look is his reclaimed jersey dress. He definitely salvaged it. The model is not wearing a bra, and the clingy top makes this clear, but overall the look is sexy and surprising. He dressed up the subdued skirt with the bright blue jersey from the original dress, and for me, it works. The final look is a polka dot, full-length sleeve of an evening gown. It's extremely optical, and quite eye-catching. I feel like the judges will like it, but they may feel like it isn't anything they haven't seen from Mondo before. I'm biased here, but Mondo feels safe to me. I'd be shocked if the judges don't put him in Fashion week first.

On to the judging. Heidi calls each designer by name and lets them know that one designer will be out. Critiquing looks takes a long time. I'm behind! POST!

The judges decide to critique the designers one at a time. Mondo is first. Talk about the hot seat.

Michael Kors loves the new skirt and the top from the "office" look. Heidi loves the dress. So far Mondo's getting almost all positive comments.

Uh oh. Nina LOVES the boldness, but she thinks the dress may be too much. Michael supports Nina's opinion, but it sounds like they like it overall. Mondo promises they will be surprised by the rest of his collection. Michael says that's what they want to see. Based on these comments, I think Mondo will get a chance to surprise them.

Andy is up next. He explains where his materials came from and his inspiration. The judges jump on the new look green dress. They are surprised it's the new look. They like it, but they point out a lack of range among the three looks. The judges want to know why he didn't show them more than two evening dresses and a bikini. Andy says he didn't want to give it all away...Andy Andy Andy...Fashion Week is on the line! You should have known better.

Michael is up next. He explains he wanted to show range with a gown, the skirt, and the pants. Michael Kors singles out the gown. Heidi loves the string top. Nina hates the one-color palette. I knew that lack of color would bite him when I saw his three looks come down the runway. Heidi finally talks about the elephant in the room--the hideous skirt. She says it looks "bedazzled." Ouch. The judges don't hate the clothes, but he has the same problem as Andy. Not enough range especially when it comes to color.

Gretchen says her three looks are essential to her collection and reveals she also designed the jewelry. Gretchen says she wanted to show the judges just enough to pique their interest. Nina immediately jumps in: "My interest was *not* piqued." Oops. She says it feels a "little crunchy granola"--well, duh, this is Gretchen and she *is* from Portland. Nina's favorite is the shiny jacket, but overall there's not enough "oomph." Heidi actually likes it. That surprises me, because I can't see Heidi wearing any of this. Michael Kors doesn't think it looks bad, but it doesn't look expensive. Gretchen claims to have higher end looks in her collection. So why didn't she show them!

The designers are dismissed, and now it is time for the judges to deliberate. Based on the comments I think it is between Andy and Michael for who gets Auf'd. Mondo seems safe, and I suspect the judges will be willing to see Gretchen's more expensive looks.

Heidi feels "bad" for being mean. Aww, c'mon Heidi, that's why we love you. Michael complains that Gretchen's looks were granola but needed to be "granola deluxe"--he must mean the kind with dried fruit and M&Ms in it!

Nina feels that Mondo needs a little bit of Gretchen in his looks. Now that's a scary thought.

Michael Kors is using future tense when talking about Mondo. Yep. He's safe in Michael Kors' mind. But not so Michael C. It sounds like Heidi would have liked to see three Michael C. gowns rather than what he showed. Michael Kors laments that Michael C. lost the simplicity of what made his looks so good during the season.

Nina sounds sad when she talks about Andy. She obviously likes him as a designer, but hated today's looks. Will the judges rely on what they know about Andy or judge simply on these three looks?

It's between Andy and Michael C. when the designers are called back out. But of course: commercial. POST!

Back on the runway Heidi starts by softening the impending blow by complimenting them all. But...

Mondo is safe! Heidi cheers him on as he leaves. "Yay!" she says with child-like glee.

Gretchen is next...and she's safe too. "Remember that your clothes are going down the runway," Heidi warns as Gretchen walks off.

Now it's between Michael and Andy. Gretchen and Mondo commiserate. Who will be safe? "It can really go either way," says Gretchen. And she's right. I have no idea what to expect.

The dramatic music starts back on the runway.

da-duh da-duh da-duh. Andy you did yourself a disservice. Michael the monotone color scheme really worried us. da-duh da-duh da-duh.

Andy...congratulations. You're in, and you're showing at Mercedez Benz Fashion Week.

Michael is in tears. Andy is too. He gets a hug from Gretchen in the green room, while Michael is left on the runway. Andy expresses guilt for taking the last spot, but he was deserving. Michael was unfocused the entire time in New York. His inexperience showed when he couldn't even decide what to show the judges. Shouldn't those decisions have been made before leaving Palm Springs?

Michael barely keeps it together as he leaves the runway and then completely breaks down in the green room. And it's Gretchen who is there to comfort him. Ironic.

Michael laments having to tell his parents he didn't make it. "I tried so hard!" and I can't help thinking he tried too hard. If he had put up three gowns like his new look, I think he'd be in the finals.

Tim comes in to play therapist, but Michael is inconsolable. Gretchen expresses her concern to the diary cam that she's worried for Michael. But I think he'll be fine. He's learned so much, and he's always been open to learning more. If he keeps that attitude, he'll be fine.

The designers say their goodbyes and Mondo says how proud he is of Michael. It's a touching moment.

I really liked Michael. I wish him well. And for the remaining designers: next stop Fashion Week!

Whew! The end. POST!


Renée T. Bouchard said...

I'm already stunned. This initial breakdown of the finalists is already better than any PR post I've done in the history of StNB. For real. I'm going to try to stay up for the live blogging as late as I can! :)

sestinatim said...

It took me quite a while to put together; I'm worried I won't be able to keep up once the show starts.

Renée T. Bouchard said...

You'll be fine!

Renée T. Bouchard said...

OMG- I was dying laughing at Tim Gunn and his reaction to the catfish! Hilarious!!!

Lisa said...

Tim, GREAT JOB!!! I didn't get to read this until the morning after, as I am on the east coast. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading your commentary even though I had already seen the drama rollout. Your front-end breakdown of the finalists is fab. As much as I knew that Mondo was the designer to beat for a place at Fashion Week, I was hoping that Michael C would be able to self-edit enough to earn a place in the final three. He's very likable. Andy's personal look is more interesting than his competition concepts. And Gretchen's beige in a hippie box? Yawn. Loved the catfish moment, too Renee!

Renée T. Bouchard said...

Tim- Thanks again for doing this, you really did an amazing job! I hope you'll want to do it again next week for the finale! :)

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