Project Rundown?
October 23, 2009


There’s been a lot of smack-talking all over the internets about the dismal turn taken by this season’s Project Runway, its first at a new home over at Lifetime. Every week, on blog show wrap-ups and countless comments in response (my current fave – a wry poster who called the show “deeply adequate”), folks say the contestants aren’t as talented as past seasons, that Nina and Michael have been absent way too much and they blame it on changing the locale to LA, the move to Lifetime, the weather, the phases of the moon . . .who knows?

It’s not rocket science, people. The show is tired. T-I-R-E-D. The challenges are tired. The monotony is tired. Tim’s tired. Heidi’s tired. And a bit grouchy. The contestants are always tired. And a lot whiney. And guest judge Milla Jovovich hit the bull’s-eye last night, saying the runway results looked like they were from, “Project I-don’t-mind-it.” Zing!


You look at the designers and think, “Is this the best they could do?” The drama, or lack of it, seems right out of high school (and not in a good Glee way), revolving around two cliched tropes of adolescence, mean girls and a dreamy guy. They’ve tried to make Irina (center, above) wear the bitch crown because she has frequently expressed a dim view of her rivals while single-mindedly racking up three wins so far. But last night when the group was all sitting around the “dorm” having drinks, she seemed to fit right in and nobody had their claws out


Then there’s Logan, the hipster Seattle stud, who except for the impermeable Irina seems to have everybody crushin’ on him – on both sides of the camera. Lifetime’s producers dutifully indulge their Television for Women imperative by showing him shirtless or in a tank top at least once an episode. And of course he’s straight, to boot, making him a fantasy object for lots of the women viewers (and many of the men). But the dirty little secret is he’s not a very good designer and you can’t be blamed for perversely anticipating if this is the week he’ll be auf-ed.

As for the rest, the ladies were so alike that the only reason they are starting to register is because there are so few of them left. Except for Gordana, a generation older, who trembles, dithers, apologizes and complains, always weary. Even Heidi’s fed up, because she gives her a little scolding every week.  The two other men, as of last night, were tied in a race for the bottom  – weepy Christopher and creepy Nicolas. Both way missed the mark. Nicolas lost. Did anyone notice?


LA: Week No More
October 8, 2009


Well they’ve rolled up the runways at Fashion Week in New York, London and Paris. So it must be time for the latest dysfunctional slot on the global fashion calendar – Fashion Week(s) Los Angeles, which this year is ridiculously almost a whole month long. That’s our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, above at right, with LA garment titan Max Azria at the Spring 2010 kick-off press conference earlier this week.


The appearance of Mr. Azria by the mayor’s well-dressed side (dig the pink tie!) only underscores the Emperor’s-New-Clothes conundrum of attempting a Fashion Week in LA. You see, for each of his three LA-based lines – BCBG, Hérve Léger by Max Azria and Max Azria (seen above), Maven Max produces a separate fashion show – in New York.  And any other Los Angeles designer, from the young social to the avant garde, from Monique Lhiullier to Jenni Kayne, from Juan Carlos Obando to Elise Øverland, who wants their clothes to be seen by the outside world likewise follows suit (and dress) forthwith to Manhattan to show their collection.

But nature, and fashion – however dubious – abhor a vacuum and that’s where Los Angeles comes in. Up until a year ago, New York Fashion Week powerhouse IMG produced LA Fashion Week as well, in tandem with the local Smashbox-Studio-owning brothers Factor, Dean and Davis. It was a tortured alliance – originally IMG rolled into town and centered its effort downtown, with a tent and showings at the Standard Hotel.  The Factor boys, however, bristled against the slick NYC “carpetbaggers” and set up a competing venue … way out yonder at their inconveniently located Culver City HQ. After an especially rancorous season, (it was impossible to get back and forth between the two show sites) both sides called a truce and entered into a marriage of supposed fashion convenience by walking down the aisle back to Smashbox.


It wasn’t pretty. The shows went off OK for several seasons, such as they were, but often attracted more partiers for the free booze than professionals parsing the hemlines. The show spaces were roomy but the common area in between was a crowded free-for-all, especially when they crammed in the bars, the D-list celebs and the de rigueur Mercedes from the show’s sponsor. And Smashbox, in a desolate industrial area, had no surrounding amenities like downtown had; instead there was a parking nightmare of pricey valet fees and interminable waits.  IMG, which produces Fashion Week in NYC, Miami, Moscow and even Mumbai, finally admitted defeat after five years in LA and pulled the hell out. Somewhat surprisingly, so did the once-scrappy Factors, who said they’d be back when the economy brightens up.


Into the abyss this season comes first, from October 13-15, Downtown LA Fashion Week, headquartered at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, which debuted last year with a single show – of vintage fashions from Decades (above). Running three nights this season, it will include an emerging designers show (the winners of something called the Angel awards from the city, who were already announced at the press conference…we love our awards in LA!). Also on tap, a group show of designers from Israel, a return to the runway from hometown hero Louis Verdad and yet another vintage benefit show, this time from Paper Bag Princess, honoring Valentino, The Last Emperor, which since it came out six months ago seems a bit of a vintage idea as well.

Following that, and new this season are two other venues -from October 17-18, LA Fashion Weekend in Hollywood at Sunset Gower studios from local producer Mikey Kaufmann; and from October 29-31, Rock Fashion Week from NYC-based Rock Media, which recently absorbed Gen-Art, and taking place at Paramount Studios. In between there are single shows, pop-up openings, store launches and, yes, Halloween! It’s a dizzying mash-up and really what’s the purpose?  Aside from the loyal local press, there’s no real coverage or attendance by anyone outside the LA fashion bubble. The city touts a $50 million benefit to LA, but that comes from buyers in town for market week and trade shows, not the endless succession of these runway shows, many of which are for “designers” we may never hear of again. But then again, why confine LA Fashion Week to a mere month?  We could be patting ourselves on our bronzed backs all year long.