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Article 51 - Oct 31, 2011
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Reflections on Project Runway, Season 9: The Love Fest

Please keep in mind that these comments are the opinion of the writer (Jessica Harris), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Love to Sew. Feel free to disagree! Fashion design is a very objective and tricky topic. Also, be warned that here be spoilers. :)

By Jessica Lynn Harris

Reflections of project runway season 9 by Jessica Lynn Harris

     I have to admit, despite being a dedicated home sewer and fashion design and construction fanatic (who writes about it and teaches, too) I’ve skipped a few seasons of Project Runway.

     There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the show that turned me away, although I did feel that in some seasons, the personalities of the designers and their melodramas stole the viewing time of what I love to see--the design decisions, the construction of the garments, and the consultations with Tim Gunn. However, I couldn’t be more glad that I dedicated my Thursday nights to the cast of Season 9.

     There was something different about this season, and I feel Tim Gunn expressed what that is with his usual eloquence during Behind the Seams: “There was no villain.” Even if it’s good for ratings, I didn’t care to watch the cattiness of some past contestants. I don’t like the backstabbing, the stealing of ideas, the cruel comments, and even the less hostile but extreme competitiveness that has been prevalent in other seasons. That’s why Project Runway Season 9 was so refreshing. It gave viewers designers on par with the creative force and talents we’ve grown to expect, but these designers also showed an unprecedented capacity for solidarity and friendship.

     Here’s another confession of mine: Thursdays nights after Project Runway, I’m usually sewing until the wee hours of the morning. I’m inspired to create because of the sheer beauty of the garments somehow crafted in such in haste. But for the first time, what I have found even more inspiring than these garments was the interplay between the designers--how they helped, critiqued, and encouraged each other with honesty and integrity, and kept feelings of jealousy,  distrust, and egoism at bay. Watching Behind the Seams was touching, because it was evident how much the designers truly cared for each other and were grateful for Tim Gunn’s wise and compassionate mentorship.

     One person whom I felt really grew was designer Joshua McKinley. Early in the season, I disliked him because I thought he was a bully (incidents with Becky and Bert come to mind). I imagined myself being at the receiving end of some of his comments, and I knew I would be incredibly hurt. I felt he lacked the tact to express dissatisfaction without being rude. However, as the season continued, he grew less defensive of his work, more open to accept the talents of others, and allowed himself to be vulnerable. In doing so, Josh was able to make true friends with the other designers, which also helped him view his designs from a more objective perspective. I feel this contributed to his learning to edit better. Ultimately, Josh created a quirky, hip, and versatile collection. He even managed to use plastic to his advantage (a feat indeed). (And, to clear the air, I admit to adoring the neon green, corseted hot pants.) This is exactly the sort of growth and rise to the occasion that as an instructor, I hope to see in my students.

     So who did I think should win? I was voting for Kimberly Goldson. She was likable and the ultimate underdog. I also agree with her statement that she offers a unique perspective because the type of work that she creates is sorely underrepresented in the fashion industry. Kimberly’s looks were urban, young, now, and interestingly constructed. I want to see clothes designed for women, by women, who get women, and Kimberly is precisely that person. She had a bold, but successful use of color, and she took risks with shape and texture. Her style is not my style, but I was able to put this aside and see her work for what it is: artistic but marketable, strong and feminine, and to sum up in one word: daring.

     That said, I was disappointed that Anya Anyoung-Chee won. (I know many of you vehemently disagree, so please no nasty emails!) The fact that she could put those looks on the runway each episode with such limited sewing experience was impressive. She deserved that “Make It Work” trophy. I do agree with the judges that Anya has a very high taste level and a good understanding of prints. However, as a person who has been sewing for years, it was frustrating to watch her judged leniently in regards to construction; the same standards as the other contestants were not applied to her. And while simplistic is not necessarily negative, I felt that many of the pieces in Anya’s final collection were too alike and too easy to make. In contrast, Viktor Luna’s work throughout the season was exquisitely tailored, complex, and detailed. Because of this, what he showed at Fashion Week was judged with a harsher eye.

     Anya’s collection was beautiful, figure-flattering, cohesive, and easily identified as her own, but it was also the more commercial choice. Joshua, Viktor, and Kimberly all took more risks with their silhouettes, color schemes, variety of garment types, and outlooks. These three collections were more conceptual and finely crafted, which to me should have taken precedence over a collection that, however beautiful, appealed to a more obvious aesthetic. I do understand that there is a financial consideration. Fashion is both an industry and an art, and Anya’s work has a luxury beachwear point of view that has proven to sell well.

     This is why Project Runway has endured 9 seasons: the show never ceases to offer viewers an exciting new perspective into the world of fashion design, whether it is in the form of an absurd challenge (the stilts, anyone?), the designs, or the designers themselves. The subjective nature of fashion keeps viewers mumbling rejoinders to the screen at Michael Kors’s repartee or cringing as they beg a contestant to stop being so obstinate and take Tim’s advice. It keeps viewers arguing over who should win what challenge, and what exactly is art, is fashion, is new, is old, is tasteful. Project Runway Season 9 has reminded me of why I love to watch and why I love to create. The contestants’ personal and professional achievements and camaraderie really made it work.

     To the designers if they ever stumble upon this--your love for each other made all of us love you, too!


Chic Weekly: on-line Fashion & Sewing Magazine
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copyright 2010 - 2011 Love To Sew
Article 51 Oct 31, 2011




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