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Hi I’m Tim Gunn and this is my podcast for Project Runway, Episode 8: Inspiration.
Last week Emmett was out and Zulema won, which was thrilling for her and for everybody else. And accordingly, Zulema is in a position where she can change her model and that has not happened so far in the season. Our designers have been very loyal to their models and there has been no switching when Heidi presents the opportunity. In this episode, to the shock and horror of one person in particular, Zulema asks for a model walk-off and she chooses three people…and Zulema chooses Tara. And Nick almost falls off of his stool, in fact, maybe he did. He was in a state of shock. And because his model was taken, he received Zulema’s model Rachael. So Nick’s precious and very important muse has been hijacked and he’s not a happy camper.
So it’s very ironic that Heidi then announces the challenge because the challenge is about inspiration and what inspires you, and the, the seeds of inspiration for your designs. And poor Nick has just been eviscerated.
The designers go off to Michael Kors’ studio, which is a hotbed of inspiration, and they learn from him how he gets inspired. And they saw his inspiration boards, they saw photographs, the seeds of thought that get him excited and that, uh, propel an entire collection forward. It’s really very exciting; it’s very powerful.
On a related note, when I see students at Parsons just staring off into space I’ll ask the question and usually know the answer, “What are you doing?” “Well, I’m trying to get inspired.” And I just say, “You know, go to a movie, go walk up the streets, go look at things, go read a book, listen to some music. Don’t sit here and wait to be struck by the muse, it’s not going to happen. Or if it does it may take so long that you’ll miss your deadline.”
So the Michael Kors experience was really phenomenal for everybody and got them very, very inspired…AND they each got a little party favor. They got an Olympus digital camera and Michael told them that they had an hour to go out and just shoot film and then come back to the studio at Parsons and print it out and see what turns them on. They were going to choose one image that was to be the point of departure for their design.
So back at the work room at Parsons, the designers print out their photographs, choose one (which is more difficult for some than others) and then we go off shopping at Mood. And they have their photograph with them and, of course, color, if there is any in the photograph (well there has to be), is the major point of departure for most of them in some cases it’s texture, but they do a very good job. The one little ironic note for me was that when I saw Santino and his fabric there I told him, I said, “This is the fabric Austin used for the challenge in which he lost, the Nancy O’Dell Grammy challenge, and are you aware of that,” and he said “No,” and I said “Well, alright, well let’s just hope it doesn’t have a curse on it.”
We return to Parsons and I feel compelled, because I do care about them and I do want them to succeed, I feel compelled to have a little talk with each and every one of them. Publicly, in the workroom. Because our challenge is inspiration, it is a time for them to each shine, show the judges what they can really achieve, engage in some form of risk-taking, they’ve all been playing it so safe. I mean, even Santino’s been playing it safe in his own way because he’s been a bit of a one-note.
So I have a particular message for each of them because they are each different people, and I tell Santino very bluntly, “You know, you’re in jeopardy here. The judges are getting tired of what you ‘re doing. You’re thumbing your nose at them, and you just need to be cognizant of it. What you choose to do, you choose to do. But I just want to go on record as saying, watch it buster.”
While we’re at Mood, I’m aware that Nick is not the Nick I usually see. The Nick I know is up and ebullient, and great fun and enthusiastic about everything that we’re always embracing. And at Mood he is clearly depressed and lackluster and I thought, My God, something horrible’s happened. Did he receive a phone call from a family member, what’s going on? And he tells me what happened, and I have to tell you I was in a state of shock, I felt, needless to say I felt bad for him, and I knew how important Tara was to Nick, and in his, or her own way, how important Nick was to her. I mean, she really, she loved him, she loved his work, she really was his muse, I mean, there was nothing contrived about any of this, it really was a very intense relationship and it was lovely. And it was snatched from him by Zulema. And, I mean, Zulema won with Rachel, what was wrong with her continuing with Rachael? And it was interesting because I haven’t been a Zulema fan to be blunt and she had distanced herself from me and didn’t seem interested in my input and you know, that’s her prerogative, she’s entitled to that, no one is obligated to engage with me. But for me she repaired all of that in the last challenge, the ice skating challenge, which just coincidentally she won, she repaired it anyway I just felt her manner and her interaction with her designers and with me was really very nice. And I thought, you know something? I like you. And then when I learned that she did this, it just seemed so arbitrary to me, it’s like why couldn’t you leave well enough alone, and what are you achieving by doing this? I didn’t understand it. I mean, furthermore, for all of our designers, their model has a certain body type, they’re used to the measurements, and they are not all the same. One size does not fit all. And for Zulema this was introducing to her a whole ‘nother dimension of challenge, which is Tara’s measurements, they’re not like Rachael’s. So at any rate, what had happened had already happened and we had to just all make it work. But it was very disappointing to learn and I felt very bad for Nick. And it was a big, big, big impact.
So we’re back on the runway, and I feel very pleased and proud about what most of the designers have been able to achieve. And in most cases one wouldn’t know what the point of departure was without having the photograph in hand, which I thought was laudable. This is a good thing, as opposed to work that’s so literal-minded that you know instantly, or can speculate at least what that point of departure was.
Kara I felt was very much at risk because of that yellow band on her dress and, would I know it was hazard tape? Well, not necessarily, but it certainly speaks to yellow lines going down asphalt on roads. It wasn’t far-fetched to be able to speculate where that was coming from. And I had cautioned her about that in the workroom, I just said, “You know, be careful you’re not too literal with this.
Zulema—she had a perfectly decent photograph of a woman in African dress, and ok, that’s the point of departure. Why are you making an African dress? What is this? Why aren’t you taking this and going miles and miles from where it was, and showing us what you can do in terms of inspiration. For me, it was just the most classic case of merely being derivative. And, it’s also a fairly substantial risk to use a garment as a point of departure. I would never have done that unless I was absolutely confident that I was going off in some completely different direction. One could have used the color as the sole point of departure or the volume of the African garment, that sense of volume as a point of departure--but interpret it, I mean, be inspired by it, don’t copy it.
I just want to add that there were some very, very profound strengths on the runway. Andre’s dress was stunning. I thought he was a very strong contender for the win. He took his inspiration, which kind of baffled me, I thought, what is this, this disgusting stuff in the pothole, and he just made it into magic. And it was true inspiration. I, I loved it.
And Daniel…it was gorgeous. I mean, I just, taking that orchid and what he did with it and that top? Umm, I really don’t believe that top would have come from anywhere had it not been for the orchid inspiration. I found it to be incredibly inventive and innovative and it was wonderful. So we had tough competition there.
Chloe’s was beautiful and very well-made. A little safe, I have to say.
And Santino. Jay McCaroll was one of our judges, and Jay recognized the fabric right away as being Austin’s fabric and Santino looked quite surprised. And I have to say that fabric, that fabric is a challenge. I didn’t respond well to Santino’s dress and it was really all about the fabric. And I would say the same thing about Austin. It was all about that fabric and it just…it doesn’t work well. It’s a challenge.
Zulema ends up being a fixation of the judges. Her garment, that is. And her garment is poorly sewn--and I’m being kind--which was ironic because she’s been very critical of her peers’ technical abilities, accusing people of not being able to sew, of not being able to draft patterns and I have to add this is not the first time I’ve been disappointed by her construction. But this was really bad. One can construct a garment really badly and be aware of and do their best to try to hide it, but this was so egregious, hiding it wasn’t possible. And I was also disarmed by the fact that she did a “J’accuse!” at me. Because she said on the runway, “Well, Timm Gunn blah blah blah blah blah blah blah,” and Nina Garcia, god bless her, retorted “Are you telling me Tim Gunn designed and made this dress?” So, she was called on it. And I just thought, my God, she really is one desperate character. She’s gonna go wherever she can to get out from under any kind of criticism.
So it was a little bit of relish... She needed to go. I mean, of all the designs up there, that was egregious, it just…it was clear.
But it was not clear to me who was going to win. And there was positive talk about several of them. I was, needless to say, I mean, well, I was very pleased that Daniel won, and especially because he did have very clear competition. And, I was disappointed for Andre, but he did such a great showing. I mean, it was a beautiful, beautiful design, and from where I sat, the best work he’s done on the show.
For our next episode, all that I can really tell you about it is that we’re taking a field trip.