Last night, a full house assembled at 308 in East Nashville to watch the premiere of Season 11 of Project Runway, and to cheer on hometown girl and PR contestant Amanda Valentine. It was pretty noisy in there, so forgive me if some of the details are lost. But bubbly was flowing and partygoers were cheering every time Valentine came onscreen.
After an hour of Road to the Runway, in which we get to know the 16 designers chosen for the competition, early favorites have been picked. In addition to Ms. Valentine — who, obvi, we all love and know will take home the crown — we are immediately fans of and totally dig this guy, and this girl, and this guy.
Once the "twist" has been introduced, and the 16 contestants learn they will be competing in teams for the entire season, then the teams are divided and challenged with designing clothing inspired by NYC, showcasing their individual view as a designer. One team is instructed to design inspired by a vantage point from afar — a boat — and the other team with a vantage point from above — the roof.
That's right, eight vs. eight, two teams, Keeping It Real vs. Dream Team, and each designer has to execute one outfit. Everyone goes to Mood, the wonderland of fabric and all things related to garment construction, purchases $150 of fabric each, and it's go time.
Amanda is part of team Keeping it Real, the boat team. I think they put them on a boat simply to show a gratuitous, gorgeous view of NYC from a boat, but who's complaining?
They also show the designers moving into their digs and selecting roommates. Valentine shacks up with totally rad girl Michelle, and drops my favorite A. Valentine quote since she coyly confessed to not being a team player in the preview: "Of course I'm going to be friends with the girl with bones in her ear from Portland."
There's a lot of hustling and bustling going on in the workroom, and people are looking around at their teammates and getting worried. Weak links are becoming apparent. Everyone has explained their outfit concept to Tim, and some people need to be reined in. Twenty-four-year-old Emily Pollard is one of these people. She's one of the youngest designers on the show, and she's got that boisterous infantile confidence, but it quickly becomes obvious that years of experience trump youthful enthusiasm on PR.
On the other end of the spectrum is 48-year-old Daniel Esquivel. I cannot stop staring at the moustache on this guy. It deserves its own Facebook page.
If you think the person who says, "I only have to do better than one person," is probably going home, you're correct. Poor Emily. Emily is totally in over her head. Everyone on her team is coming to her rescue. For the last 20 minutes of the show, everyone is trying to bail Emily out.
I have to take a bit of an issue with the producers for making the doomed contestant so obvious early on. Yeah, we see Emily unraveling, and it's uncomfortable to watch. I initially found her annoying but started feeling bad for her.
Runway time. Heidi greets everyone, and says all of the stuff you expect her to say: "In fashion, one day you're in, and the next day you're out." She rattles off a long list of prizes. Money! Cars! Technology suite! Oohs and aahs from the crowd.
The designers are excited to see Zac Posen, but they are only a fraction as excited as the audience at 308. Man, woman, napkin, doesn't matter — everyone in the room is seriously attracted to Zac Posen. Dreamy.
Team Keeping it Real starts. The show is strong from the start, and the other team looks nervous. We are not impressed with 23-year-old Kate Pankoke's dress, and we don't really like Kate anyway. Can't put a finger on it, just don't really like her. (Wait, she did make a snide comment about not caring what criticisms her teammates gave her, and that all she cared about was what Tim Gunn thought. Way to be a team player, Kate.) Zac's eyebrows seem to agree with us re: Kate.
On the other hand, Richard Hallmarq's sort-of sporty, sort-of fancy quitter dress needs to beam itself into my closet now. WELL DONE!!!
Another interesting look was by the adorable Joseph. I'd throw tights and boots on and wear this to a party where I want to eat a lot and not have to worry about sucking my gut in. The fabric is so pretty (it moved beautifully when the model walked down the runway) that no one will notice that you didn't even have to put Spanx on.
I was drawn to this dress by Samantha, who was on the opposing Dream Team. Again, when the model walked, the sheer fabric floated around her, creating a cool contrast to the structured dress. Very cool, but maybe not for everybody.
Amanda's roommate, Dream Teamer Michelle, won me over with this Hunger Games-eque dress. It reminded me of Amanda's "French Medieval Fly Girl" collection from Nashville Fashion Week 2012.
When Amanda's model walks out, in her diaphanous tank top and fitted pant, Amanda says, "She's almost my girl, almost." Amanda admits that she feels like she might not go home, and when a teammate asks if she's happy with it, she says she's "OK" with it. I get what Amanda is saying: This is true to her style aesthetic — it's totally a Valentine Valentine look — and it definitely conveyed the challenge assignment, showing the vantage point of the city meets the sea.
The neutral pant represents the grey buildings of the city, with geometric accents calling to mind the sharp angles of doors and windows, and the flowy blue tank top represents the water. Was it the most exciting thing she's made? No, but that's not necessarily a bad thing early in the game. And I'd still rock this look any day; I'm drawn to the designers on PR who are as skilled at creating everyday basics as they are evening gowns. I don't know about you, but I don't wear an evening gown to work every day. Show me a wearable top and pant that makes my ass look awesome, and I'm sold.
Besides, if you watch PR regularly, you've seen many overambitious designers who end up faceplanting when attempting to knock it out of the park.
Exhibit A: Emily's mess of an outfit. Even her model is confused.
And I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that funeral home owner (don't laugh, this lady has a sick house decked out with an indoor pool and an elevator) Cindy is going home next week because her dress gave me a serious headache.
After the runway concluded, the judges deemed Team Keeping It Real as the winners (yay!) and crowned Moustache — er, Daniel — as the winner.
Side note: Lifetime's PR website shows a close-up of a swatch of fabric from each look, and I could not help but notice that they are all a bit, uh, yonic. I don't even want to admit how much time I just spent assembling this quilt of vag:
So you already know that Amanda is safe, Daniel won, and that Emily was OUT. But here's a scorecard just in case.
Also, be sure to "like" Amanda on FB — she's currently leading the pack with 2.4K likes!!