Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Runway, Season 5- Just Started

Season 5 of Project Runway started last week. I am a big fan of PR so I am coming out of my summer blogging hiatus to blog about Project Runway. Even though PR is produced, I think it is a good case study of the design process. There are a lot of things students/designers can pick up and use in their own creative processes and experiences. Tune In.

One of the most interesting aspects for me is the designers. The individual place that each designer starts from, the psychological territory that they either create for themselves or find themselves in and how this plays out in each challenge. The attitudes: toward the challenges, the other designers, feedback, etc. The creativity. The distractions. How the designers focus, or not. The individual creative challenges- what is hard for one designer isn’t for another designer, etc. And, of course, watching the creative process unfold….whichever parts we are actually seeing. How the designers present their designs.

The First Challenge
The first challenge came with a 4am wake up call. Successful designers do what it takes to succeed. I can imagine people saying, “sorry, but I am not getting up at 4am.” People put limits on themselves and I wonder how aware we are of the limits we set. A colleague of mine in Oregon would say, "Luck comes to everyone, some people don't answer the door." The designers go to Gristedes, a grocery store, the source of their materials for the first challenge. They have $75 to spend and a half an hour to shop. Austin Scarlet, the winner of season one, is the guest judge for this challenge because he was also the winner of this exact challenge in season one with his corn husk dress. [get image] To this group of designers he says, “Innovation was the key to my success and so it will be with you.”


I can’t say it too many times. Study your field. Know what has been done. And why. Hone your creativity and creative process. And be innovative. Know your field.

Curious about how critics and judges come to be critics and judges? They succeed in the trench.

Midnight on day one is the deadline. Notice the time frames within which the designers have to make what they make.

The Players + Initial Observations

Suede Well, he actually uttered the word “wackadoodle”. No, I think he said it. Out loud. Then there is the immediate habit of talking in the third person. But he is first on my list of players. He stands out. Will this be a good thing or not? Standing in front of Gristedes he said, “I never thought about what I would do if I had that challenge in season 1” My immediate thought was, “Why not?” Don’t be lazy creatively. When you are watching things like PR- solve the problem for yourself. Assign the problem to yourself. However that assignment might fit in to your discipline. When you are in the world and you encounter something that doesn’t work or make sense, rework the problem…… As my thirteen year old niece is taught in school, when you succeed it is because of perspiration [serious effort], when you fail it is because of lack of preparation. [Hooray, some public schools are doing a good job.]

Love Daniel Feld from Brooklyn. Unique. An original. Great job on the first challenge- the sweetheart dress made of plastic cups. Tim’s first feedback when the dress was barely underway,
You have a ‘wow’ factor going on.” He thanked Tim for the feedback- a good practice even if you don’t like what you are hearing; someone is taking the time to look and think about what you are doing….thank them for that. He cut and ironed the cups to get them to be more flexible and mold t the body. He hot glued them on top of muslin cloth. Anther designer made a comment about going into Gristedes and him running to the plastic cups……it was said with a spirit of respect… was a unique perspective to think of working with plastic cups for a dress.

Wesley Naut. Don’t know what I think of him. Liked what he did with the yellow flyswatters- didn’t see enough of it. Unique perspective though.

Keith Byrce. [26, boutique owner, self-taught designer, self described “natural talent”]
In response to Tim’s observation that so many designers chose tablecloths to work from said, “I didn’t realize so many people would go after the same thing.” I thought this showed a lack of experience on his part….there are many more followers in this world than leaders. Unique, original, sound designers think and do differently.

Terri Stevens. Freelance designer describes her work as a Aeromsith and Lauren Hill meet Michael Jackson. Maybe interesting. Crocheted mop heads for this challenge- interesting. Although there is a history of crocheted clothing at least she didn’t use tablecloths.

Jerry Tam. He had an idea right away and acted accordingly: April showers bring May flowers- used shower curtain. Smart. Good thinking and quick. He worried too much about what he “thought” other designers were doing. Ultimately his design didn’t hold up to the competition but it was a unique idea. He was the first to be eliminated.

Jerell Scott. Verdict is out right now. What strikes me most: he seems to be a little petty. [remember, the show is produced!]

Joe Faris from Detroit. Nice eye and style. Talented. Mature. Calm. Focused.

Jennifer Deitrich. Nice style. She made the top of her dress- bustier portion- out of plastic kids balls. Interesting. Has staying power.

Kenely Collins. Talented. Used super balls. Nice collar.

Leann Marshall, from Portland, Oregon. When she realized her design was too similar to others she glued candy on the dress making it decorative and adding a pink tone. Smart. Assessed part way through, came up with new ideas and acted. No vacuum here.

Emily Brandle made a dress from paper towels. I thought her late decision to blot her lipstick on small pieces of the paper towel for decorative effect was interesting and successful.

Korto Momolu reminds me of Jennifer Hudson in a few ways. Sleeping Tiger. I liked that when shopping she went to the produce section- risky. She knew the kale would be her wow factor she just didn’t know how. When time walked around checking on the designers he said, “That’s where you need the giant ‘oh my god I can’t believe she did that with those things’.” [A little foreshadowing is okay.]

Stella Zotis. I have to like Stella because she is not arrogant or self righteous. She is just who she is. She chose garbage bags to work with. Okay, maybe. But always choose the name brand garbage bags……everyone knows they have more to them. I think Stella made a classic design mistake she just started something hoping to figure it out. The risk….what if you don’t?

Blayne Walsh, our tanorexic. My prediction: Blayne's charm will carry him a fair way through this season. The place that he starts from is very interesting. His demeanor. He is likable and unique; honest; his originality and likability will get him a fair way into the competition. If he has some serious talent…..Heidi described his dress as “Playboy bunny turned grunge.” That is interesting.
Blayne said to the judges, “I didn’t want to bore you.” Michael Kors laughed and said, “You didn’t do that!”

Kelli Martin, describes herself as ‘if Vivienne Westwood and Betsy Johnson had a baby’. About choosing materials for this challenge she says, “I didn’t want to get a table cloth or anything that resembled fabric. That was too easy.” Smart. She did however think about the materials that the objects she chose were made out of and how she might manipulate these. The first thing she did was tested her mark-making on the bags.
Kelli Martin did a great job on this challenge. She used found objects as raw material rather than what they were. She identified that vacuum cleaner bags were essentially paper and thought about the ways in which she could treat ‘paper’. The first thing she did was tested her mark-making on the bags. The metal spiral binding of a notebook turned into the hook and eye mechanism running down the back of the dress. And the gold thumbtacks Nina Garcia paid her an incredible compliment when she said, "I like the way you think". Nina also said, “She found a possibility in everything,” another high compliment. It was easy to se that Kelli would win this challenge. Her work stood out and above all of the other designers. Study her approach. Don’t mimic her work. Get inside her head.

Tim’s Words of Wisdom
When Tim realized that so many designers had chosen tablecloths he said, “I think the judges are going to say, ‘you guys are slackers’. The reason we took you to Gristedes was to use untraditional and unexpected materials.” Always read the design problem accurately and deeply enough. There is not risk with the tablecloth….no limbs.
Tim goes on to say, “The materials need to go beyond what they are.” This is the golden rule for working with found objects. What I say is: treat the found object as raw material as you would any other material. A plank of wood gets shaped, colored, constructed, etc. When you plop a found object on a made object it stands out.

On The Runway

About Daniel Feld Michael Kors said, “Bravado and confidence- you either have it or you don’t.”
About Daniel Feld’s dress, “The use of a material in an unexpected way,” said Michael Kors. Austin and Heidi respectively about Stella’s dress, “It doesn’t make me curious” and “You did something because you had to do something” i.e., there was not inspiration, passion, engagement.

So I will leave you with this. I enjoyed the Diane von Furstenberg American Express commercial. She starts with her eye, with looking, with photographing. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the woman I wanted to be.” Who are your heros? What kind of designer do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be? Think about it. Tune In.


megan said...

Wow, Jan. That's some seriously in-depth commentary.

I often wish we could re-create the scenario that is PR in the classroom. Students should particularly pay attention to the amount of criticism that the designers get. Those designers are so lucky, they have a Tim and a Nina and a Michael giving them constant criticism - which will only make them better!

But you guys are lucky because you have a Jan. Be suspect if you're going through art school without serious criticism. If you aren't getting it from a teacher, don't ask for it - demand it. And if you're still not getting it, give yourself a critical eye. Think - what would Tim Gunn say if he were here?

megan said...

Oh, Jan - FYI - you mixed up the descriptions for Jennifer's and Emily's dresses.

Jan Baum said...

Thanks for the correction on Jennifer and Emily's dresses, Megan. It was a bit of a mental workout to get it all straight on night one.

I know that was a long post. I LOVE PR and that is the thought process that I go through. I have learned that students can't see inside my head [as much as I wish they could sometimes] and I, too, think PR has so much valuable information for design/art students. I just hope the students are watching,reading and absorbing.

Thanks for the good suggestion for the students. Feedback/criticism can be hard to take but trust us- the world is going to give it to you with much less care that Megan and I have! Learn with will still be challenging when you get out there. Live. Learn.