Understanding the Challenge: Project Runway #1

24 July 2008 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

I know this is an interior design blog but honestly, neither Deb or I have ever been very impressed by any of the interior design challenge shows out there. But Project Runway (and Top Chef, too)? LOVE.

That said, the final Bravo season of PR started off rocky for me. For one, it seems like every season they cram more contestants on which makes keeping them straight at the beginning a chore. And two, is it just me, or do Heidi, Tim, etc. seem a little over it? Maybe it was just an off-day for them.

Anyway, I love the fact that the producers repeated the grocery store challenge (and how could Austin keep all that foundation in place on what I know was a rather steamy day in NYC?) But what I found particularly interesting about this challenge was, as noted in many other comments about this episode, the choice so many contestants made to use the obvious textile substitutes available, rather that recognizing the challenge for what it was. 

Like any design challenge it was about breaking out of your comfort zone, thinking on your feet, executing on a tight deadline, etc. But the core concept of the grocery store challenge is the use of unconventional, unexpected or unfamiliar materials. Vinyl tablecloths and shower curtains are just fugly “fabrics”, absolutely not unconventional or unexpected, just unattractive. How could soooo many of the designers have missed this key fact? And with the previous, acclaimed winner of the challenge giving them the perfect example before they even walk in the door of the store!

I think it comes back to the fact that, in the design process, it frequently happens that you get stuck on one idea, one approach, and you work that concept, often to the detriment of other, better ideas. And often, client requests and other important issues get pushed aside, forgotten or ignored. Stella’s day-long dithering is a great example of this. She obviously thought she was getting “contractor” garbage bags and instead ended up with those cheap-@#$ bags that rip as soon as you try to open them! But hours and hours of fretting, worrying, taking smoke breaks (they didn’t show that but you know she did) without stepping back and re-evaluating  her idea is what happens when you become too focused.

She and Jerry deserved to be in the bottom two and both because they stuck too firmly and too long with ideas that just weren’t working. And they both got in that situation by ignoring the main purpose of the challenge and choosing simplistic textile substitutes. BTW: I think it was either Leanne or Jennifer, but one of them actually said something like “I wanted to be different and use a tablecloth…” Whaaaa? I think it must of been Leanne, because she worked the whole candy angle after Tim called all the faux fabric folks “slackers”. So at least she listened.

Which is better than Jerry did. When Tim tells you to “really think about this” as he said to Jerry at his first pass through the workroom, it means absolutely the opposite of “carry on!” Adding yellow rubber gloves and constructing, badly, an ugly dress, is not the solution. I’m wondering if Jerry felt his dress was so bad that he instructed his model not to open the rain coat. Because you only really saw how sad it was when he was called to task by the judges.

It was difficult to tell during the broadcast which finished piece was worse (another problem with having so many designers at the beginning, the runway portion itself gets shortchanged) but if Stella is hoping to be this season’s Jeffrey, she better snap out it!

And, Deb and I are in a Project Runway league over at Fafarazzi. If you’re interested, pick three designers and join us! I’m going with Jerrell, Terri and Blayne for episode 2.

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Entry filed under: Project Runway. Tags: .

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