Hi, I'm Tim Gunn, and this is the Project Runway podcast for the "On
Thin Ice" episode.
So coming out of last week's episode, Daniel and Andrae are the
winners, and they did an outstanding job, including the window which I
thought was very to-the-point, very easy to understand, and their
dress was wonderful. And Marla and Diana are out. I will say I
thought they did a good job with the design, but they had a lot of
tough competition. And uh… but it was a good showing from them.
Heidi introduces our new challenge, which is in very small strokes,
because she merely says, "You're going to be getting a package in the
morning, and that will explain the next challenge." And our designers
are very disarmed to see Robert from Season 1 knock at their door
early in the morning and deliver these boxes, which when they open are
various and sundry… so… quasi-leotards, tight fitting, stretch
fabric-y… garments. And there is wild speculation about what they're
going to be doing. The one that I love the most I think was Santino's
speculation, which was that they were going to be waiters. I thought
that was quite good.
Robert delivers the packages, they're opened by all the designers, and
I'm meeting them outside of the Atlas apartments, and I have to say I
almost fell on the ground because I was laughing so hard. They
really... they each looked very hilarious. Santino looked like he
just stepped out of a production of Dr. Zhivago. I will say the girls
carried it off quite well. I mean, they at least didn't look like
clowns at a circus. But the guys? That was an entirely different
matter, and poor Emmett... I mean it just was… for a tall, slender
guy, oh, he looked like a bowling pin, the poor thing. But it was
So we pile into our Project Runway van, and we are off to New Jersey.
Through the Lincoln Tunnel we go. And the designers are all
speculating: "Where are we going, where are we going, what is this?"
No one has guessed the real thing. So, we need to wait for Production
to set up at our destination. And, because we don't want the
designers to know where we are going until we actually arrive there,
we have to park elsewhere. And where do we park? In a prison parking
lot. Complete with barbed wire, and bars, and police everywhere, and
prison guards, and towers, and I decide to be really mean and tease
them. So I told them that in fact, they are the entertainment for the
prisoners on this day. And it's a Saturday too, so it's sort of like,
yeah, I can imagine a little matinee. And the look of terror went
through all of them, and on the one hand I felt bad, on the other hand
I was really enjoying it. [Laughing.] And the guys were more
terrified than the girls. You could just see it and feel it. So when
the motor started again, and we started to drive, they really became
frightened because they thought we were merely going up to the front
gate. But when we exited the parking lot, there was great relief.
Until we hit Icehouse! Then the terror just resonated through all of
them all over again. Because, we indeed were going ice-skating.
So we arrive at Icehouse, and we are taken to one of the rinks (there
are three large rinks there) and to the thrill of everyone… who is
skating in the rink? It's Sasha Cohen, the Olympian. And even I'm
nervous. I haven't met Sasha Cohen, I don't know what ice-skating
divas can be like, but she is the biggest sweetheart in the world.
She is so user-friendly, and accessible and talkative, and open, she's
just… she's incredible, and everybody falls in love with her right
away. And she declares the remainder of the challenge, which is to
design an ice-skating outfit specifically for her, and we engage her
in a dialogue about what her needs are as a skater. And of course
there are aesthetic needs, but there are also engineering aspects.
She's doing all sorts of gymnastic-like things on the ice, so she
needs to be able to move freely, she needs to be light and buoyant,
she can't be weighed down by fabric; and it was very, very
interesting. So for our designers it was a kind of challenge that
they haven't embraced, at least on Project Runway. To be concerned
with aesthetic needs is one thing, but to also have to mitigate and
facilitate these engineering aspects was something else again. So I
loved what was presented to them, and what they were about to face.
So we also have a very hilarious ice-skating, uh, experience, with…
and I'm not quite certain how it's portrayed on the show but Sasha was
this fabulous teacher! And I'm very pleased to say that she spent
some time with me because I was terrified. I'm not especially
athletic [laughing] and I've ice-skated but for some reason I couldn't
even set myself in motion. I was just like this statue on the ice,
and I don't know what's on the show and I hope that that isn't but
we'll see. But she took me by hand and led me out on the ice and
loosened me up, and she was just wonderful. She was wonderful to
everybody, and she got us all involved in this amazing "choo-choo,"
which set us all in motion, and it was hard to get out of motion. But
we had a lot of fun; it was really great. And it loosened everybody
up and I think it really helped repair some relationships and bond
people in new ways, and a lot of camaraderie was built on that ice.
And I was really thrilled for the trip.
So we return to New York, and we go shopping for our fabrics, and it
was palpable at Mood that this was a very different experience for
them, that they were looking at Mood through a different lens, because
of the engineering aspect, and of course they were all looking at
stretch fabrics. And I have to add, I think one of the more
frightening aspects for them was the fact that ice-skating clothes,
ice-skating costumes, as a category of fashion, can be something of a
joke. They can look like what I refer to, maybe too frequently, as a
float in a parade. And these are fashion designers, they're very
concerned with the seriousness of their work; at the same time, it's
skating, let's be a little playful, guys… but they didn't want to make
clown clothes. That was for certain. Well, with the exception of a
certain someone, who we will talk about. And I was pleased about
that, that they were talking it very seriously. They have a deep
respect for Sasha, and to be blunt, they all wanted to win, because
Sasha will be wearing the winner's garment, and that's quite an
Working with stretch fabrics requires a different sewing method. You
need to be stitching the fabric with a stitch that expands and
contracts, so a regular sewing machine won't do. The designers needed
to rely on what is usually called an overlock machine, and we had one
in the sewing room for them, but it has multiple threads and it is.. I
would say it's a difficult machine to use, but it requires a certain
hand, it requires a certain finesse. And it was frequently broken.
And Andrae was an incredible trooper, he kept fixing it, but it was
taking time away from his own garment. And finally he just gave up,
and I believe it was Zulema who declared, "This is really going to
determine the winner, because without the overlock machine
functioning, we're all going to be doing these things by hand." And,
in fact, it was a classic "make it work" time.
Furthermore, it was a weekend, so our own technician wasn't available,
and I'm not permitted, thankfully, to swoop in and fix things like
that, and I do say thankfully because I would have spent two days
doing it. So it just added to the anxiety levels, and to the tension
and stress, and I will say no one was really disabled by it, I mean
they all put their garments together, and no one used the overlock
machine as an excuse on the judging runway, at least to my memory, so
they did indeed make it work.
On the judging runway, I felt very proud of our designers. I really
thought that each of them did a very respectable job, I mean clearly
because I have my own sensibility, my own point of view, I liked some
more than others. I loved Chloe's, I thought it was really quite
stunning, and I thought it could have certainly walked off the ice
into a cocktail party. I thought that Kara and Andrae and Emmett,
even, did a very respectable job. (I say "Emmet, even" because he
ended up being out.) I was not crazy about Nick's but it had more to
do with his color choice than anything else, I don't think it's
particularly flattering, and frankly, I wasn't crazy about Zulema's.
I thought that she pulled off an ambitious design, but I never really
thought, at least in those few initial moments, that it was ever going
to be something that was even going to be among the best, let alone
the winner. But interestingly, I was sitting next to Sasha's mother
in the back of the auditorium at Parson's, where we have our runway
show, and Mrs. Cohen turned to me and she said about Zulema's outfit,
she said, "That's going to win." And I thought, "Oh, you poor dear,
you're delusional." But, she was right! She was a prophet, and
clearly she understands her daughter well, because as we all know,
that is the outfit that Sasha chose. And, Sasha could clearly project
herself into Zulema's garment and imagine that she would look great in
it, and… Bravo. I hope that's the case.
And about Emmett's… I... the most unkind thing I could say about
Emmett's garment was that it was a little dull. But I could similarly
say that about Kara's, about Andrae's in a way… I mean, you know,
it's a skating outfit. I haven't gotten to Santino yet, but I will.
And I have to say I did not agree that it was vulgar, referring to
Emmett's outfit. I did not agree that it was vulgar. I don't think
Emmett even understands vulgar! I don't think he could do vulgar if
you challenged him to do it! So, I didn't quite get it, but I respect
our judges' decisions, and that was the decision.
Regarding Mr. Santino: that I really didn't understand. I mean, that
was a travesty. In fact, I really felt that Santino was thumbing his
nose at the entire challenge. How he could think that Sasha Cohen
would wear such a thing, I mean, a) aesthetically, but b) from our
engineering aspect! It was heavy, it had all those multiple layers of
stuff on the back… I mean Michael Kors was quite right, she looked
like she was getting dressed for Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey,
that is. So, once again he survives, his bigger-than-life
personality, et al., but he's gotta shake loose this very particular
sensibility that he has and this design arrogance, because it's not
flattering, it's not solving the demands of the challenges, and it's
not going to get him very far.
So Zulema wins, and I was thrilled for her, I have to say, and what I
was very touched by, was the obvious look of shock on her face when
she wins, because she looks at the judges and asks "Really?"
[Laughing.] I thought that was very sweet. She was very pleased and
she worked hard, and I had more contact with her during this challenge
than I've had in the past. It was partially a consequence of there
being fewer designers, but it was also because of her. She was much
more assertive during this challenge, she was taking a leadership role
in terms of technical work, she was very vocal in the sewing room with
all the designers, and I liked and had a lot of respect for her
approach. And I was… so I was additionally pleased that she won.
Emmett… Emmett has been a penultimate statesman through the entire
show. He has been support for his fellow designers, he has been
helpful to them, and morally supportive, and I felt really proud of
him, through this entire process, and pleased for him that he's had
this experience. As everyone knows, he comes from a menswear
background, but he was educated at Parson's and at the time that he
was educated here, menswear wasn't even in anyone's vocabulary. So he
did womenswear, and he did it well. So, he was returning to his
educational roots in a way. And am I saying that the menswear
experience didn't influence him, and didn't have an impact on what he
did? Oh, I couldn't possibly say that it didn't! Of course it did,
as every experience that any of has, um, has some sort of impact on
us. But I don't think it really disabled him in any way. I thought
his work was very, very respectable. He's… not one who takes great
risks with his designs; in that regard, one could say that he plays it
rather safe, but there is a taste level that its always high, which is
why the "vulgar" comment really got to me, and he's very
quality-minded. So those are wonderful qualities to have, and he will
always have them. I was disappointed to see him leave, but it was
going to happen. Did I think that Emmett was going to get to the
final three? No. And… it is what it is.
In next week's challenge, our designers are presented with something
that all designers need to address, and that is: What is the seed that
you plant, from which your design will grow? What is the origin of
it, what's the point of departure for it, and how do we address that?
And it's a lot of fun.