Thursday, February 16, 2006

When is a Recap Not a Recap?

Answer; when it is not strictly linear (a>b>c), when it pauses to analyze more than merely report, when it attempts to sketch in flavours and atmospheres and psychological subtexts, commonly overlooked or ignored by others. Granted, it's not to everyone's taste, but it does help to fill in the gaps, connect the dots, negotiate the dizzying leaps and glaring omissions, left unexplained, in the offical "map".

Whereas reporters are mapmakers, fixated on local history and interstate highways, I would prefer to get down in the grass for a different perspective, creep up close, hoping to discover the face that's hiding under the public face, peel away the surface illusion (the by now infamous, almost too familiar who/why/what/when/where equation) and disclose in its place, under the surface glibness and superficiality, a hint of the real essense and the dense, microscopic, human ecosysem that lies just underneath.

For openers, I loooove this show. In different ways, to different degrees I love and have grown attached to all four surviving designers. Each of them can be proud. Fashion week was an extravagant feast--for the eyes, for the imagination and for the heart, somewhat like seeing your children accomplish wonderful things. And it was no coincidence that it almost coincided with St Valentine's Day.

This recap will not be as expansive or comprehensive as the one I did last week, (thanks, Laura, for hosting me), nor does it need to be. They'll be almost no pseudo-meta-freudian analysis (a new school of psychoanalytic theory that I've singlehandedly discovered), you'll all be relieved to hear.

After some initial sniping at each other and a few glancing blows, but no mortal wounds certainly, primarily between Daniel and Santino, the focus graduated to where it neeeded to be, around the work and the judging. I think that by the end of this session a kind of group healing, gradually and by little increments, had occured, as a new and vastly challenging horizon--fashion week--opened up for all of them. (in this regard the party was a most welcome tonic. ) consequently I will not obsess over the minor friction and verbal squirmishes that did occur. I will merely note that afterwards the rhythm and group energy seemed to smooth out and, if anything, accelerate. Under the smokescreen, which of course the devious editors deliberately highlight with their technical wizardry, hoping for high drama, it's obvious they all do have genuine respect for each other's work.

(Continued in comments section)


LauraK said...


Santino's behavior, minus a few early nasty, and essentially defensive, remarks, was far less egregious than on previous occasions. And he actually had some words of praise for Daniel. The designers helped and critiqued each other, with Santino standing, by choice, slightly off on the periphery. No doubt he was probably chastened by his experience the week before where he almost aufed himself by unwisely devoting too much time to micromanaging kara's project. Now it's time to move on. Those who hate santino here in the blog and elsewhere on the internet, some quite viscerally I've discovered, will continue to do so. That's their choice.

To start at the end, with the "death scene" or postmortem:
(I'll be combining impresssions here of both this episode and the fashion week collections.)

"Evening wear is not my forte, not my niche"
Kara is out. Her design was too conservative ("playing it safe" was the trump card for all the designers except santino this episode), it didn't have a point of view or indicate what her FW collection would look like, and there were construction problems. But, even as an eliminated designer, due to the bizarre timing of pr episodes, she still gets to go to fashion week!!!!--to present on an equal playing field at the most prestigious and photo-op event in american fashion. "the superbowl of fashion" (Santino) a pretty fabulous auf!!!

And man, did she ever catch the ball and run it clear into the end zone. If anything, where there was none or only a faint shadow before (the judges), there is suddenly almost too much, even a shameless wealth of pov. New images, new confidence (or more likely, she is finally showing us who she really is,, freed from all the barnacles of intimidation and cumulative physical exhaustion that is, unfortuately, an inevitable element of pr), a splash of dazzling colours that seem stolen from monet's paintbox, exxperiments with fabric, risks galore (without the attendant nosethumbing), and fun, even wit squared. None of which, except perhaps in the garden party dress, we had seen even an inkling of before. Over the intervening months she has reimagined herself, put timidity behind her and designed a collection-- somewhat reminiscent in flavour of jay's last season but definitely not literally derivative or lacking her own signature scrawled in bold letters--that has great bravura, confidence and dances down the runway with a dollop of delight. She has obviously taken daniel f's mantra "follow your bliss" to heart and made it the north star of her private firmament. And in the process she did not go off the deep end either. Her collection is eminently wearable, streetwear with a personality. Bravo, Kara. Significantly her gown was not at all predictive of the collection she brought to FW.

Keeping count (the impossible task of quantifying imagination, genius, creativity);
(Please note: the first two scores in each list are for fashion week.)
Vision; a (4)
Execution: a- (3.5)
Season to date; c+ (2.5)
Total:: 10
(Scale is a=4, b=3, c=2, d=1, with halfsteps between them)

Confident with modest self-doubts..
Too Marlene Dietrich, too period, too sophisticated (Tim)
"A little underwhelming" (MKors)
Daniel's gown, by contrast, almost created a wormhole through which he crawled out seven and a half months later at bryant park. It represents his signature work: impeccable, classic and elegant design and execution. The fit was delicious. The fabric slithered back and forth over the model's body in all the right places, and it should be noted that daniel seemed to foresee in his mind's eye exactly how the garment would move, how it would become in a sense animated and take on a life of its own on the runway. This is a gift, and I don't see any of the othes sharing it. If Santino did, for instance, he would "Curb his enthusiasm". But that, of course, would render him un-Santino. He's all about drama, in-your-face dropdead design, fashion art that reminds you--and keeps reminding you--that it's art. The one fly in the ointment: Daniel plays it a bit safe (i.e., boring), and this criticism stands for his FW collection as well, with an occasional amazing exception.

Vision:b+ (3.5)
Execution: a (4)
Season to date: a- (3.5)
Total: 11

The really weird thing about Santino (only slightly "over the top" this epiisode, which for Santino is restrained) is that he somehow always manages to combine funky with elegant. The whiff of haute couture and classic Hollywood glamour is never far away, but too frequently plastered over with a streetkid sassiness and an edge of trendy, party girl, borderline kitch that self-consciously undermines and saboutages the sublime, pure, elemental concept that originally inspired it, (how often has Tim commented that the work doesn't look like the design, or cautioned him that it's moving away from it.) This creates an integral ambivalance (somewhat analagous to double vision) to his fashion portfolio that translates into a kind of raw, nervous energy rippling through his designs that some will find anxious and unsettling, others vital and contemporary. After all we live in the age of anxiety. None of the other designers have this quality, this continual bubbling up from the unconscious of this mischievous playful sprite that the brilliant, if mad, german philosopher Nietzsche has called 'dionysian'.

Unfortunately, with one or two notable exceptions (the leather/faux leather bustier) he failed to bring his outrageousness and offbeat, highly distinctive voice and sense of fashion as an adventure, or more apt, a wild roller-coaster ride, to FW. On February 10th Dionysius, alas, slept in. Otherwise he did his signature work like daniel but ever so slightly tuned down. He played it safe, he turned down the volume a notch. Maybe this one time he took Daniel, who had won the final challenge by doing conservative/boring exquisitely, as his mentor. I think that Michael Kors remark "Santino has real talent. It has to be corraled, not crushed" is right on the money.

Vision;a- (3.5)
Execution: a (4)
Season to date: a- (3.5)
Total; 11

By the way, it felt like we were offered more of the judge's deliberations this episode, and we needed it. And their comments seemed, without exception, focused, perceptive and wise,
Including guest judge, Iman, "supermodel among supermodels". (Heidi) it's a critical part of the PR experience and one that, except months later in replay and highly edited, the designers themselves never share. In many cases, I believe, these as it were backstage discussions could be invaluable and illuminating, especially when they skirt issues like psychological hangups, interpersonal brushfires, and personality quirks (in both themselves and the competing designers, mind you) to concentrate on probing the work not individual wounded psyches, on professional analysis not "dishing" or conjuring up quotable one-liners for the producers.

Iman, for instance, could teach them a lot. She seemed to contribute a lot more than other (pro forma, perhaps) guest judges have in the past. She was more vocal, more opinionated and admirably perceptive in her comments, without ever saying anything cutting or nasty--perhaps since she wasn't doing an nh. She genuinely did intend to wear the winning garment to a red carpet event, as promised. Daniel's gown she found classic and wearable, if boring but, as she quickly added, she "was not boring" and she would work the dress/make it work. (in a quick edit we saw her at some event and the dress was, as predicted, godawful ***boring***, bland even--worn without any dramatic, eyecatching embellishment whatsoever, such as jewelry, a clutch bag a flower in her hair (!) I kid not.
Of course, like Nick's Golden Globe's gown, it had the tricky/tricked up back. But when at these red carpet events have you ever seen the back photographed. (maybe an exposed tatoo has done it once or twice.) No, the paparazzi are always clamouring for/obsessing over "full frontal" couture. I digress. Lol

Chloe, ambivalance in an asian frame;
'Now that i'm so close to it it's kind of freaking me out." (Chloe) she had already "done" the new york experience in her early twenties, and it seems became disillusioned or burned out.
She was beginning to have second thoughts about jumping back into the fashion wars. But in the end chloe decided that she wanted it. She did decide, didn't she?!!
'Chloe is kind of tiptoeing around this challenge." (Kara)

The two most disturbing and somewhat redefining aspects of chloe this week were her questioning at this late date and after so many traumatic eliminations behind us (think Daniel F, Andrae, Nick) whether she really wanted to win, and all threee designers, presumably without any "plot" or discussion between them, "voting her out". Maybe, who knows, they thought she would have been tougher competition at fw. In her own words, she felt as if she had been"stabbed in the back". Chloe certainly didn't rise conspicuously to the occasion. There was muted glamour/elegance in her gown that gave a fairly accurate clue to what her fw collection would be like. Actually, if anything, I think she exceeded the forecast: several of her garments have real panache and dazzle. I'm thinking of the vaguely Ballenciaga (?), Galliano (?).....who is that designer, and how do I describe it,-- high fashion "cocktail dress", a slightly surrealistic/futuristic, slightly hyperbolic, if very suave item, designed for an Antonioni film or last year at Marienbad: a striking silhouette repeated in two distinctive and unique colours, familiar yet novel that, once seen , etches itself into your memory. All of the designers had, for that matter, at least one or two memorable designs in their collections.

Vision;a (4)
Execution: a- (3.5)
Season to date: a- (3.5)
Total: 11

Well, guys, if you've been paying attention, you'll notice that i've just shot myself in the foot, not to mention that my impersonation of mde clairvoyant has gone down in flames, since my attempt to bring some sort of mathematical rationality to the process has accomplished nothing of the sort; the pathetic result is a three-way tie. Boo!!!!!

In the final analysis i think that the balance will be swayed by whether the judges place a high value on the fw collection itself or the designer's overall work and progress over the course of the pr season. At least in regard to judging the individual episodes, Heidi has already answered the question. She says in her recent interview that it specifically (and one infers, exclusively) comes down to the designer's response to that week's episode, no matter how accomplished or fabulous their previous work. Perhaps this is a valuable clue. What do others here think? For myself I think it's a crapshoot as per my foregoing , significantly inconclusive tabulation. Santino could never work with Banana Republic, nor should he have to, it would cripple his wings, stifle his voice and blindfold his muse. His ego, of course, would also have to move to the back seat. Chloe already has her fashion philosophy and it works well for her. She also has her business. Only Daniel could and probably would benefit from the mentorship. Call the movie, the romance of the blands. Will any of this factor into it??

The tension gathers. The mystery thickens. Stay tuned.

Your friendly recapper, don/fashionasart

LauraK said...

Don, thanks for a great insight into this episode. Who do YOU think will win it all?

Tbone said...

Don - this work is in your blood. I always look at things differently after reading your take. And that's a good thing.