Thursday, February 15, 2007

Project Runway 1, Finale: "Homeless Heiress" versus "Fly-Girl Fashions," female problems (souls & soles), & from slaves to fashion


Today, I awakened during the wee, small hours and watched the last 45 minutes of Project Runway's, Season 1 finale. It's way too early in the morning to fully review the episode, but several issues beg to be blogged about.

First, let me share: Project Runway hooked me fashionably late. The show snagged my attention midway through Season 3, just in time to get the hang of the personalities and care how the contestants fared. Leading up to and during the Olympus Fashion Week finale (Episodes 13 and 14), runners up Laura and Uli (and sometimes, Michael) showed fashions I'd love to flaunt. As for Jeffrey's winning wearables: not so much (although I grant him kudos and wish him well).

Obviously, my sensibilities differ from the judges'. The only Project Runway, Season 3 judge whose vision and mine were consistently eye to eye was Teri Agins, author and lead fashion writer for Wall Street Journal. She was the guest judge during Episode 11: What the Elle? (which first aired on September 27, 2006).


I disagreed with the judges' Top Designer selection during Project Runway's, Season 1 finale, too. Jay ("The Wild Card")'s "Homeless Heiress"-looking fashion line might have bagged the prize, but it was Karasaun ("The Professional"), whose Howard Hughes-inspired collection was the kick-ass winner. Her sexy leather-fur-metallic fashions were fly.

I also preferred Wendy ("The Longshot")'s duds to Jay's designs. Most of Wendy's collection (save the black "peek-a-boob" number), was comprised of clothes I'd wear.

To Jay's credit, his mostly DTM (Dyed to Match) collection was creative, colorful and powerful. He clearly sewed his heart and soul into each piece, which the judges clearly appreciated.


It's interesting to note: Michael Kors said the opposite about Wendy. Eerily, Wendy had been warned, earlier in the episode, by soul-sister Karasaun that Wendy had no soul and would one day need one. Yikes.

The producers painted Wendy as having cardiac challenges, too. She and her competitors all made reference to her having come across, all season, as a black-hearted backstabber. (Given Wendy's aggressive, confrontational behavior, however, no one could accuse her of being lily-livered.)

Back to the runway. Although Jay showed a few pieces that, taken individually, I could see myself in, I couldn't say the same for any of his ensembles. Each was talking too loud[ly] and saying something foreign to me. This is was what I heard: "Look at what Jay might wear if he were a woman." But I'm just saying, not hating. Kudos to Jay. I hope he "breaks a stiletto."


Karasaun's footwear proved to be a sticky widget in several ways. First, one of the manufacturer's representatives visited Karasaun and lent a helping hand, gratis (which kicked off complaints by both Wendy and Jay).

Second, Karasaun narrowly escaped being booted off Runway for skirting the rules. She'd custom-designed shoes and boots for the show, which the manufacturer made gratis.

After Tim Gunn said accepting free favors like that was out of bounds, Karasaun stepped up and paid $15 per pair, but that was still unacceptable. Rather, Karasun was given three choices: scrap those shoes and use whatever was left among those donated by Michael, buy others from her decimated budget, or keep the custom-made footwear with the understanding it would not be reviewed on the runway. Karasaun chose door number three.

That choice tripped up her models. The shoes snagged on some long dresses, putting a crimp in the styles and the models' strides. Michael said one model's difficulty walking was "fatal" for one of the dresses, whose showing was ruined "the minute the model turned the corner."


Another thread that weaved through the show made me clutch my pearls. It started with Tim's house call to Wendy in Virginia. During the visit, Wendy proudly showed Tim a mansion her family had turned over to an historical society.

Tim was favorably impressed. I was impressed, too, but unfavorably. My relatives were slaves in that state, and may well have worked on that plantation.

But that wasn't all.

Later, Wendy went on about Karasaun having a sense of entitlement (about the footwear), which was ironic. Here was a southern white woman whipping herself into a frenzy, ostensibly because an African American had taken unfair advantage of free labor. The real reason Wendy became unraveled was this: the playing field wasn't even and Wendy wished she'd had taken affirmative actions to avail herself of free labor, too.

It might not have mattered. The judges' comments indicated that the final cut - which Nina Garcia said was difficult to make - was between Jay and Karasaun (whose controversial footwear didn't help, and might have kicked down a peg).