"Project Runway" Season 10: Lower your avant-garde

You guys, arm bands do not equal high fashion


It was the final challenge before Fashion Week, and the Final 5 - Dmitry, Sonjia, Christopher, Melissa, and Fabio - were hauled out to a castle in Long Island, given some nonsensical make-up-based inspirations (seriously, I have no idea), and then tasked with designing avant-garde looks. I think it blows that we got our avant-garde challenge right at the end, when historically all of the contestants are suffering from killer fatigue. And I think that might have been at play here, since basically none of the outfits were remotely avant-garde. A couple of them were just plain ugly.

Before we get to that, poor Sonjia was getting the screwjob left and right. Not only did she return to Parsons to discover that the dazzling gold fabric she had purchased at Mood was mysteriously gone, but Tim Gunn basically gave her the business, saying she wasn't working up to her potential. (Tim, she's won three challenges, including the last one.) The fabric thing is especially troubling, because it is the second time this season that's happened to a designer: in a team challenge early on Elena also discovered that the fabric she bought to make a coat was nowhere to be found. I've seen people online accusing the producers of deliberately stealing fabrics to create drama. I hope that's not the case. I just don't understand how these designers don't go through their bags before leaving Mood, to make sure they have everything. They paid for this stuff, right? If someone at Mood forgot to pack it, shouldn't someone from the store bring it to Parsons? How is it fair that someone else's mistake means these designers are creatively hobbled to such a degree? None of it makes sense.

Anyway, as mentioned previously, I was not a big fan of almost any of these looks. Some of them were pretty but failed to meet the avant-garde nature of the challenge, some of them were out there but aesthetically unappealing. I'm sympathetic, because as Tim himself said, the designers were being asked to do months' worth of work in the real world in basically two days. You cannot expect them to knock out truly couture-looking creations in that time span. (Although I would point out that, in seasons past, we DID get some very impressive pieces in similar challenges - I'm thinking seasons 3 and 4, to be precise.)

Of the five works that came down the runway (you can see photos here), I guess I would have given the win to Fabio's. His upside-down jacket was interesting, and I liked his play on armored/exposed with the sheer skirt (although I hated that braided top). The judges went with Dmitry, who sent down an absolutely gorgeous, brilliantly tailored suit that had some interesting details on the shoulders, sleeves, and neckline. But come on, nothing about that look was avant-garde. It looked very much like almost everything else Dmitry has created for this competition. But given that I think he's sent down something slick and stunning each week, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just not in the spirit of the challenge.

I thought Christopher's was a total turkey - including those terrible arm feather things - and I'm surprised nobody mentioned that it was almost certainly a rip-off of CharlizeTheron's evil-queen character from "Snow White and the Huntsman" (which would have been all over the place around the time they were filming this season). On a related note, the designers have apparently decided that "avant-garde" means "arm bands," because Melissa too created ugly, unnecessary gauntlets for her girl. I liked the color mixing in her outfit (and remember, Melissa is NOT big on colors), but it read like three interesting separate pieces, not one cohesive look.

Alas, poor Sonjia got the boot. I guess I could see it - the dress was not great, particularly from the back, which looked very cheap with all the illusion netting. It's a shame, because in the beginning of the season I assumed it would be Sonjia vs. Ven in the finale. But the judges were right when they mentioned Sonjia's consistency issues. She has had moments of brilliance and a few real clunkers. I think part of the problem is she's not very good at planning; she just kind of wings it. There's real talent there, and her personal sense of style is F-A-B-O, she just needs to refine.

On that note, be sure to go online and find images of Sonjia's decoy collection for Fashion Week. I hate to say it, but it's just dreadful -- a mélange of disparate ideas all thrown together. I don't know if she was depressed about getting eliminated right before the big show or what, but it's a real dud. The sad news is that one of the four designers still in the running also totally blows this opportunity. I guess we'll have to see if that person makes it to the end, since it looks like next week we'll get yet another elimination. Ay...