After each episode of Project Runway's seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters gather to dish about the show. This week the "Garnier challenge" was to design a look inspired by one of the elements. Jonathan Peters was the winner; Ben Chmura was sent home.
Hanna Rosin: I suddenly have a strong urge to rush out to the CVS and buy some Garnier Fructis. Anyone else feeling that?
June Thomas: For some reason, I want to go to Paris on a blue fly.
David Plotz: Ben made many mistakes tonight, but none more serious than his phone call to his husband. It's an automatic death sentence. It's like being the coed in the horror movie. The phone call signals weakness, an unwillingness to sacrifice everything—loved ones, children, the outside world—to fashion. Did Laura Bennett , the redhead with five kids, ever call home? I don't think so.
JT: We know Ben is big on comic-book heroes, and panties over pants work for Superman, but on his model, that jock-strap look was, as Heidi said, bizarre .
I was hyperventilating, worrying that Amy might be sent home. Sad to say, it would've been deserved. That horror of an outfit said absolutely nothing about fire. (In a challenge where all the designers seemed to resist an obvious interpretation of "their" element, Amy's was the least connected.)
HR: David was feeling that same panic. But jeez, you two. The clown pants . This totally bizarre wig bag. How many lives does a cat get?
JT: I know, I know. The judges were right: Amy gets too attached to a concept and she loses sight of beauty and elegance. I can't even try to excuse this week's weird effort. Well, let me try one thing: Why are we still having one-day challenges so far into the competition? With a little more time, she could've started over. Tight time constraints reward safe choices.
DP: If they had booted Amy, I would have withdrawn from this conversation in protest.
But even setting aside my crush on her, which grows stronger every week, I didn't think it was such an awful dress. It had a crazy, weird ambition. It certainly outpointed Anthony's tedious interpretation of charcoal , or Mila's Benetton outfit , or Emilio's literal-minded jungle .
HR: Well, to be fair, I feel that this challenge was Brüno -bait. Ask them to design based on the elements, and you will get back lots of strained fashion nonsense, such as "uncontrollable laughter" and "inside an explosion." Of course, this can wind up being sublime, but in this case, it didn't. This was definitely the worst crop on the runway so far. The ones that were interesting were really, really interesting, but the rest were a total mess. What did you guys think of Seth Aaron's leather manga wear ?
DP: Leather manga—great phrase! I am not a big leather guy myself (nor do I like tickling), but Seth Aaron's leather thrilled me. He took a hard material and made it swoop and swing with energy. The swooshy shoulder details won the night.
JT: I wasn't knocked out by Seth Aaron's piece. A black leather suit with a monster bum flap to represent air—excuse me, midnight air? If you say so, man. It felt too hard to me, but I can't in good conscience put any of the other entries above it.
HR: I'm with David. I loved the way the light bounced off the leather in Seth's jacket, and the fabric moved in little waves. I was not so enamored of that shelf in the back; it seemed a little like carrying a toilet seat with you. But I forgive the high concept because the challenge was so high-concept.
JT: I would have sent Mila home this week. The stretched-out turtleneck and yoga pants were beyond boring, and the vest was just self-consciously off-kilter. I found her look unforgivably bland. Surely that's a worse sin than excessive conceptual ambition?
DP: Wasn't it odd the way they accused Maya of plagiarism? That ensures she won't win the whole competition and probably won't make it to Bryant Park. I don't know enough about fashion to know if it was a fair cop, but fair or not, it's devastating. That will stick to her. I bet that within three weeks they accuse her of making another too-derivative garment and bounce her. Which would be too bad, because she makes lovely clothes.
HR: I don't think they were implying a knockoff, the way Kenley stole that feather wedding dress concept from Alexander McQueen a few seasons back, although I'm not sure about that. I think they just meant an aesthetic similar to Nina Ricci's—structured dresses with airy ruffles.
JT: They should at least have shown us some of the Nina Ricci garments they thought had influenced Maya. It's bad television not to.
What did you think of Jonathan's win? He definitely had the best narrative. The romance of laughter is a lovely idea, and he did some great phrase-making—"laughter is transparent, and laughter envelops you"—but I wasn't that sold on the dress. Cerri looked washed-out to me.
DP: Both Hanna and I have nattered on about our mystification with one-sleeved dresses, so I won't revisit that. But even besides the one-sleevedness of Jonathan's dress , I just didn't see much to like (or dislike). On television—even in hi-def—it was very indistinct. Whatever magical details it had were not legible at 1,280 pixels.
HR: I quite liked Jonathan's dress. It did not translate well on television, but I think it was interesting to take pale and run with it, adding shades of rose and pink, rather than work against it. Having just seen The September Issue , I'm sold on Grace Coddington's romantic view of the world, and his dress would have fit perfectly into one of her shoots.
JT: I don't mean to whine about another timeless Project Runway trope, but when we're down to nine designers, surely there should be a little more time to linger on the garments on the runway. Do we need all those waking up at Atlas moments or worried looks in the workroom? I had to hit replay several times just to see the outfits.
HR: I agree, the setup for this show was particularly lame and unnecessary. Here are buildings! But you will be making the opposite of buildings! Plus, they gave hair guy way too much airtime, enough to get out the whole phrase "infused with the latest in beauty technology."
A question for you both: How do you think this Mila-Maya friendship will work out? Do you believe evil Mila when she says she'd be happy if Maya won?
DP: I believe nothing that Mila says, not even the and a .
JT: It is beyond pointless to complain about manipulation on reality TV, but that rivalry—or is it a friendship?—seems particularly manufactured. They look alike—and although the producers are kind enough to leave it unsaid, surely we're all thinking, "Wow, Mila could be Maya's mom!"—but their design aesthetics are totally different. Would Mila be happy if Maya won? I doubt she'd be happy if anyone else took the prize. But all this is just a distraction from the big event: Amy's elevation to design superstardom.
HR: You Amy snobs! Just because she's ethnic and nice. I'm switching to Jay's team.
JT: He's ethnic and nice, too!
HR: Maybe it's All About Eve , and Maya will have the last laugh.