After each episode of Project Runway 's seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters gather to dish about the show. This week, the challenge was to design a high-end runway look inspired by the circus. Emilio Sosa and Seth Aaron Henderson will show in Bryant Park; Mila Hermanovski and Jay Nicolas Sario will design full collections, but only one of them will be selected to show their looks. Anthony Williams was sent home.
June Thomas: Oy! The circus brought out the big flop in all of them as far as I'm concerned. I saw three weird costumes, a nice but dull dress, and something made by someone I can't stand. The problem is that at this stage, I have built up such strong feelings about the designers—hate him, like him, pity her, don't get him—that it's really stopped being about the clothes. Emilio's certainty about his oversized talent is so repulsive to me that I can't judge his work fairly anymore. (And the judges' unconditional love for Emilio is making me question their taste level.) Am I the only one among us with this problem?
Hanna Rosin: June, I am so relieved to hear you say that. Not so much about Emilio—I feel like it's sort of beside the point to hate the loathsome on reality TV—isn't it all in the editing?—but about the clothing. I watched and rewatched the runway, and I just couldn't see what they were seeing. I thought Mila's outfit was just dreadful. The actual ringmaster—or, as she called him, "ringleader"—looked much better. Seth Aaron's was an improvement over hers because at least there was some concept and drama behind it. But, still, not something I'd praise. And yes, Jay's get-up was Michael Jackson. Which is not tasteless—Marc Jacobs made a few Michael Jackson-like jackets this fall. But it's not original.
Jessica Grose: June, you are not the only one, but I feel this way about Mila. I cannot even look at her face anymore without going into a fugue state. But today I thought her outfit was legitimately icky—the bright pink wasn't especially circusy, and the entire outfit looked like a costume. Pardon me if this is already common knowledge among the Proj Run intelligentsia, but I found this New York magazine profile of Emilio from 2002 that made me like him much better.
Hanna: Oh, Jess, you're just falling for that could-have-ended-up-face-down-on-a-street-corner-in-the-Bronx shtick. Would you forgive Mila, too, if she didn't have such a posh way about her?
Jessica: Never! But what I did notice about Mila and Emilio this episode is that neither of them will take any guff from Tim Gunn. For this I perversely appreciate them.
June: Jess-i-ca! I am a full-on Tim Gunn worshipper. Keep that up, and you and I could end like Montagues and Capulets in a couple more e-mail messages.
You've put your finger on something there, Hanna. I feel bad about hating Emilio because I know I'm falling for reality TV producer manipulation. It's the first rule of television-watching: Don't fall for their tricks. But I have, and I hate myself for it. It just makes me so mad to see the enmity between Emilio and Tim.
David Plotz: Can we pause, Emilio-like, for a moment of loathsome self-congratulation? In Week 2, we each predicted who would be going to Bryant Park, and all of us got two right: Emilio and Seth Aaron, and I—if you will pardon me while I'm even more Emilio-esque—also picked Mila. (All of us bet on Amy instead of Jay.) That proves one of two things: 1) We should all be editing for Vogue ; or 2) PR has become awfully predictable.
I share your dismay with clown night, June. Seth Aaron and Mila should be forced to wear their looks as punishment. Seth Aaron's Mad Hatter outfit was mildly preferable to Mila's Harlequin horror, but both should have been burned. Emilio's dress was gorgeous, but if Michael wants to call that his favorite look of the season, he should also have the decency to remember that Emilio made by far the most egregious outfit of the season, too, his
, for which he ought to have been immediately
Hanna: There were a few choice gay-boy moments this episode. Tim Gunn bonding with Jay over variations on bitch . And then the moment Michael Kors went up to touch Anthony's fabric, and then recoiled, declaring it "poly crepe de chine," which I guess to fashion people means dog shit .
Jessica: I loved it when Heidi waddled over, about 18 months pregnant, to also disapprove of Anthony's terrible fabric.
I thought Jay deserved more credit for his outfit. It was wonderfully made—I want those pants! And the shoulder detailing on the jacket reminded me of this Lolita Lempicka number my mother bought in 1988, so I had warm feelings toward that as well.
Hanna: I agree, Jess, about those pants. They were fabulous, although they lacked a little runway drama. The lines on that whole look were very sexy—the neckline and the volume around the hips.
OK, I guess we should talk about the clothes. Totally agree that Mila's was like a bad-taste explosion. The worst part, even worse than the migraine-inducing stripe-fest, was that hideous flash of yellow in the bodice. It was the color of urine, and about as tasty.
Hanna: To me, the worst part was when the model turned around, and then you got a serious stripe headache. I appreciated Cynthia Rowley's interpretation of Seth Aaron's look: the magical volume rigged up by hidden wires. Very clever and circuslike. Made me forget that the model's teeny head was being swallowed up by a white vampire collar.
David: I hope they fire whoever cut that sponsorship deal with Ringling Brothers. This should have been a midseason challenge—like the pro wrestler challenge a few seasons ago.
June: What do we think about the weird "Mila you're in, and Jay Nicolas, you're also in" decision? It feels cruel to me. I know it has happened before, in Season 4 with Chris March and Rami, but still. Jay has consistently made better garments than Mila. I wish they had just sent her home and been done with it.
To answer your question, June, it is absolutely cruel. But there you go, being a human again. It makes for some wicked drama, knowing that one of those two—both of whom have three-quarters of a right to be there—will be absolutely devastated in the coming episode. You want to tune in for that, right?
Jessica: Don't you think it was pretty cruel to bring Anthony and his sunshine back only to quash him again?
Nah! He got to dress Jessica Alba!
June: At the beginning of this season, I thought Jesse LeNoir was the contestant who knew he had zero chance of winning the series but wanted to get a bit of attention so he could land gigs on third-tier cable shows as a "former Project Runway contestant." Now I realize that's Anthony's role. He's likable. He's larger than life. (It's too bad Season 1's Jay McCarroll is on Celebrity Fit Club right now, because that would be a perfect fit for Shaka Pudding, as I swear he called himself last week. Or was it Chocolate Pudding?) Anthony is Mr. "Have Quips, Will Show Up for Scale and Full Access to the Catering Van."
I can't work up any enthusiasm to talk about the clothes this week. It was a crummy challenge, and I have glumly concluded that none of these guys is going anywhere as a designer. Seth Aaron may fill a niche somewhere—servicing the small but thriving community of urban vampires and punk nostalgists—and Emilio will make some OK clothes, but none of these guys has charisma or genius. They should have ended
won Season 4. It's been all competence without genius since.
Hanna: David, I see a Malcolm Gladwell debate about the nature of genius in here somewhere. American Idol is having this crisis, too. Where is the one-off, the genuine star? Why can't we "discover" someone like we used to? But why not modify that thinking for the age of recession? Think of these shows as elaborate job interviews, where the best man or woman who displays talent most consistently wins.
But I think
is coping much better. Last season, it gave us Adam Lambert, who didn't win, but who is a genuinely new kind of talent. And this season it has at least one singer, Crystal Bowersox, who mesmerizes.
June: Since David brought up our awesome record as spotters of designing talent, should we offer some more bold bets? I'm guessing that Jay wins the third-place runoff, and Seth Aaron takes the big prize. (OK, I admit, that last one's not a prediction; it's a wish.)
I think Emilio takes it all. And, June, I thought Mila's inclusion in the final four was affirmative action all the way.
David: Jay definitely wins the runoff. (His two advantages—self-made and creative—easily trump her single one: sole woman.) Emilio takes the prize barring some major screw-up. Seth Aaron is too niche.
I also think Jay wins the runoff, just for being "current." Mila can have a nice life designing for Upper West Side rich ladies. But I say Seth Aaron puts on the most dramatic, consistent runway show and takes the prize. (And then Emilio has the better career.)
David: Do you think Seth Aaron makes his kids dress like his models? Do they have to wear freaky leather jackets to school, when all they want is a little Gap?
We'll find out next week when Tim Gunn makes his home visits. Talk to you all then.