Fashion weak

Project Runway ’s slump
By SHARON STEEL  |  December 11, 2007

WOW? Yes, there’s SJP, but what’s the point of a reality television show about fashion if nobody’s calling anyone else a bitch?

My roommate Mike enjoys watching reality television that depicts people with actual skills. He doesn’t understand my fixation with this season’s Real World, the cast of which boast no talents beyond the ability to fuck up their own lives, and neither does he share my terrifying, inexplicable devotion to A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, which needs no further explanation. He does, however, share my obsession with Project Runway (Bravo, Wednesdays at 10 pm) — we’ve been avid fans of the show since its inception. At first, I thought season four was hands down the best cycle yet. Four episodes in, I’ve toned down my initial hyperbole. I’m still waiting to be wowed, and more to the point, I’m starting to get concerned: there hasn’t been a single instance where I’ve gaped at a design coming down the runway and said something along the lines of “I covet that!” or “I wish that were hanging in my closet right now!”

Project Runway boils down to the search for a new, gifted designer, winnowing a group of 15 to a final four who will present their collections at New York Fashion Week in Bryant Park — a huge reward in itself. Although this season is supposed to be giving us designers with more nitty-gritty industry experience than the previous three, what’s the point of a reality television show about fashion if nobody’s calling anyone else a bitch?

Still, I wouldn’t care so much about the drama if the tension were in place, and right now, it’s erratic at best. The first episode was adrenaline-fueled simply because it was kicking things off; the second was mildly interesting, saved by sartorial icon Sarah Jessica Parker as a guest judge; and the challenge in the third, to create a men’s suit, was mind-numbing. Last week, however, the designers split into teams and were asked to revive and modernize three outdated trends, like shoulder pads and overalls. The resulting looks were unusual and intriguing, and I finally heard a little verbal feces escape. But one satisfactory hour doesn’t make up for previous disappointments — at least, not yet.

Rami, Kit, Christian, and Elisa are my current front-runner picks. Rami is quiet and good-looking, is into draping, and understands how to dress a woman. Kit is quietly sassy and has a quirky eye. But those two are boring compared with Christian and Elisa. Christian, a/k/a the one with the completely unmanageable angular haircut, favors Vivienne Westwood’s Brit-punk æsthetic and often requests that another designer carry him into the workroom stuffed inside his own canvas tote bag. Elisa is a yogi who spits on garments when she’s pinning them and once rubbed her fabric on grass, dreamily announcing that she wanted to “imbue it with a natural element.”

Vogue discovered Elisa a while ago — she has amazing credentials — but I’m not surprised the producers have reduced her to a caricature in their attempt to divert our attention from the real problem area. To wit: why aren’t designers ripping their own apartment fixtures to shreds, or making dresses out of corn, or running out into the middle of the street to find a new model because theirs overslept? Why doesn’t Michael Kors have better insults? And when will someone sew something that shocks us all into submission? There’s a definite lack of excitement this go-round on Project Runway — a dry spell, if you will — that reminds me of a three-month period when I didn’t like anything H&M had in stock. And the only thing that makes me feel drearier than a bad shopping day is a high-quality show about style that doesn’t deliver the goods.

Related: 21. JASON MESNICK, Reality ingenue, Faking it, More more >
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