Project Runway Five: Pre-Season Rankings

>> Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Project Runway is back, kids, and that means it's time for the second annual Gratz Industries Pre-Season Rankings! Last year we made a splash with our bold predictions, and while we got some right (Rami and Jillian in the top three) others weren't so close. (Elisa in the top three!? Ouch.) Still, it's fun to get to know the designers ahead of time, and applaud the ones who prove us right and wrong.

Two caveats: First, it came to our attention after last season that some of the PR designers actually read our humble blog. During the season. That both thrills us and terrifies us. As an author, Alan is used to Googling himself (stop--it's not that dirty) and knows just how wounding criticism can be. That's why, though we may critique, and complain, and--occasionally--be snarky, please know that we respect and envy all the Project Runway designers. Both of us would love to be in their places--and Wendi actually might try out one day!

Second, our pre-season rankings are pretty heavily weighted toward fashion experience and education. We're just working with what we have, and what we don't have (yet) is visual evidence that some of these other "self-taught" folks can be "America's Next Top Designer." (Oh, but we do have comments from Tim Gunn in People Magazine, and if there's one thing five seasons of PR has taught us, it's trust Tim.)

We would dearly love to see a self-taught designer make the finals, but of late the show has been drawing pretty heavily from the more experienced ranks, which makes things more difficult for the home-grown folks. Why? Because all those fashion school kids know what the fashion-biz judges are looking for. Not that they can always deliver, of course, but at least they know where to start.

So. With all our qualifications and excuses over with, let's get on the the predicting!

The Favorites

01) Wes - Already being hailed as the new wunderkind to beat, Wes comes with a pedigree including F.I.T, and internships at Marc Jacobs and Levi's. He calls himself "poised, polished, and professional," with a style that's "clean, classic, and sophisticated." Which all sounds good--if he can do all that with recycled paper and produce. Tim warns: "Beautiful work but there’s not a lot of risk-taking." Uh-oh. Still, we're betting on his mad skills to carry him through.

02) Jennifer - Another F.I.T. graduate, Jennifer moved to Italy after graduation and worked as an embroidery designer for Blumarine. We figure moving to Italy to work in fashion isn't too shabby. Says Tim, "She’s very thoughtful, smart and she is driven by literature and classic films rather than the pop culture scene." Hmm. Perhaps a nice dinner companion for the inimitable Tim, but will she be progressive enough to make it all the way? "Literature and classic films" go a long way here at Gratz Industries, and we hope they'll take Jennifer far too.

03) Emily - Tim calls her a sweetheart. Is that the fashion equivalent of saying a blind date "has a good personality"? She's got a great pedigree for a 27-year-old: She's worked with XoXo, La Blanca, DKNY, Rozae Nichols, and Jeremy Scott--but in mostly sales and management positions. She launched her own brand in L.A. called "Smoke and Mirrors." Will that be what her Project Runway time amounts to, or is this sales manager ready to sell her own designs? We think the latter.

04) Jerry - One of the thirty-somethings, Jerry attended both Parson's and F.I.T.--but only for a year each. Perhaps he was impatient to get to work with the likes of Imitation of Christ, Perry Ellis, and Zac Posen. Jerry now has his own label--FORM--and likes using natural fabrics. Tim says "Jerry possesses an enormous amount of self-confidence. You can take that any way you want!" We take it to mean he's going to be bullish on the runway and a bitch in the workroom, and that he's going to be sticking around for a while...

05) Leanne - One of a few this season who attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise, but the only one to win the Designer of Tomorrow scholarship there. Tim says, "when the audience gets to know her she’s a person I think they’re really going to be rooting for," which we take to mean she'll be around long enough to root for. At the same time, she loses some points for calling her own line "Leanimal." Sounds a little too much like "Garanimals" to us.

The Contenders

06) Daniel - We're picking Daniel as our week one winner--based solely on positive clips from the Bravo previews. We're picking him as the top of the contenders because Tim calls the Pratt Institute student "intense," and because three other episode one winners--Austin, Santino & Rami--made it deep into their seasons. (Season Three's kicked-off Keith was the other first episode winner.) What concerns us? When Daniel says he "draws inspiration from animals." Oink.

07) Korto - We're pegging Korto as an episode one top three finisher, and giving the Liberian-born designer the feel-good bounce. She went to the Fashion School of Ottowa, but now makes her living as a freelance fashion photographer and a dancer in an African troupe. Tim says, "Korto is going to tantalize people with her work." We like that Korto says she "designs for real, full-figured women." Go girl!

08) Joe - We won't be the first to say it, and we won't be the last--Meet this season's Kevin. Yes, he's the only straight fella within two blocks of the show. Does that mean Kors will tell him too that straight guys are always trying to turn women into their mothers or whores? Good luck, Joe. You're going to need it.

09) Blayne - Watching this 23-year-old's sixty-second bio video--which runs well over sixty seconds--is a mind-numbing experience. He's big on the local Seattle scene, with sportswear experience designing a line for Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. Tim says, "The designers love him." We're guessing fans will too. But he looks like he's in the bottom three the first week of the season, which is never a good omen.

10) Terri - "I found her to be another excellent problem-solver," says Tim. "She knew how to make it work!" That's an enthusiastic thumbs up for a designer with no formal fashion training. Terri's been an assistant designer, and is currently with Victoria's Secret as a "visual manager." She has a career in fashion--but can she parlay that into a career making fashion? We're skeptical.

The Long Shots

11) Suede - A man named "Suede?" Seriously? That's like a writer called "Vellum." The guy's got a blue-haired grunge look that's been getting him a lot of press, and Tim says his work is "current and contemporary." He says his multiple interests make him versatile, but we're worried he's one note. We're waiting to be wowed.

12) Kenley - Got into design through marketing. Tim calls her the Season Five "Bettie Page." Cute, but Bettie Page was a pin-up model, not a fashion designer. Kenley owns her own boutique and sells her designs over the web, so maybe we're not giving her enough credit. We'll see...

13) Kelli - Another FIDM grad, Kelli studied fashion in Los Angeles and now owns a boutique in Columbis, Ohio. We've been to Columbus, Ohio, and we wouldn't call it the fashion center of the world. We've seen Kelli's eBay page too, where she says one of the things she dislikes is "the fashion industry." We're not betting on the outsider with issues. Worse, she may be in line for a week one exit. She appears to be among the bottom three in the Bravo mash-up preview, and she gets face time in another clip saying week one's challenge is right up her alley. Uh-oh. When a designer gets the "Confident Cut" they're often on the way out.

14) Keith - A self-taught designer from Salt Lake City, Utah. Tim says Keith is "all about innovation and experimentation." But how long will he be around to innovate and experiment? If we're right, about three episodes.

15) Jerell - Points for having a name that sounds like he's from Krypton, but otherwise Jerell scares us. He's a former model with no formal fashion training and, if his bio photo is any indication, poor taste in clothes. Tim says, "He was frequently one of the first to finish and he would help other designers." Jerell says his work conveys "raw beauty." We think both of those translate into outfits that are hurriedly thrown together--and look like it. We bet he'll be a real hoot. For two episodes.

16) Stella - In the immortal words of Stanley Kowalski, "Stel-la!" (Sorry. We had to.) And sorry, Stella, but we had to pick someone to go first, and we picked you. It doesn't help that she appears to be among the bottom three in the week one clips. Add to that she's a 42-year-old former punk rock makeup artist turned self-taught leather and denim designer, and we're afraid. Very afraid. Her mantra: "No bull." Our mantra: "auf Wiedersehen, baby."

There you have it. Our fearless predictions. If they're anything like last year, we'll look like geniuses on a couple of them, and like idiots on the rest. Ah well. Quoth the Scarecrow in Wicked, "Those who don't try never look foolish." Good luck to all the designers!

In the "all of us are smarter than one of us" department, the top four designers in the Blogging Project Runway "Who will be in the Project Runway Season 5 finale?" poll are, at the time I write this, Wes, Daniel, Emily, and a tie between Leanne and Korto for fourth place.

Oh, and the glitchy TRESemme Fantasy Runway game from last season is "out." What's "in" is a new Project Runway Season Five Fantasy Game from Fafarazzi, which we're excited about. You pick three contestants each week to be on your Project Runway fantasy team, and they're awarded points based on fun categories like:

Winning: 6 points
Verbal fight with another designer: 4 points
Crying: 3 points
Model trouble: 3 points
Tim says "Carry On": 2 points

Et cetera. You can lose points too:

Judges call "poor craftsmanship": -1 point
Bottom two: -2
Leaving the show without being "auf'ed": -4 points
Eliminated: -6 points

What we like best about this is that we can pick our top three candidates each week based on the previews and feel pretty good about picking up six points somewhere. As for the other things--crying, breaking a sewing machine, saying "I'm not here to make friends"--well, those things happen, but unless you've got Ricky around to cry or Angela around to ruin the machines or Wendy Pepper around to not make friends, that stuff is kind of random. We're shooting for the touchdown points. (Sorry--fantasy football flashbacks.)

Each week we'll do a proper preview of the upcoming episode, and give you our top three and bottom three picks--even going so far as to try and guess the winner. This week, we'll just say it looks like a repeat of Season One's fabulous grocery store challenge--complete with Season One Episode One winner Austin Scarlett back as a guest judge. (Yay Austin!) If this is the first in a season of "greatest hits" design challenges, we say "huzzah!" Bring on the best of the best.

This week, we think Jerry, Daniel, and Korto make the top three, with Daniel taking home first win bragging rights. To hedge our bets, we have all three on our week one Fafarazzi fantasy team, as you can see in the Fafarazzi widget somewhere in the right hand column here on the blog. (Scroll up and down; you'll see it.) You can tune in each week here at Gratz Industries for help with your picks.

On the bottom, we've got Kelli, Stella, and Blayne, with Stella making the early exit. Sorry, Stella--we just call 'em like we see 'em.

And we can't wait to see 'em. All of 'em. And don't forget--it's 9:00 pm ET this year, not 10:00 pm--and they're not repeating the episode right away.

We'll see you on the runway!


Tbone July 16, 2008 at 2:02 AM  

I'm with you on Stella, but I'll take a leap and call the S1 win for Korto!

This prediction is subject to edit as the day rolls along, however...

Jackie Parker July 17, 2008 at 12:13 AM  

I'm. So. Excited. !!!! Yay!!!

Candie Moonshower,  July 22, 2008 at 12:02 PM  

I LOVE PROJECT RUNWAY! I only started watching it midway through Season 4, but I was able to quickly catch up with all the seasons through the PR Marathons that Bravo runs every few weeks! I'll be watching with you and following your commentary. I did call Stella to be auf'd on week one, and I was shocked when it was Jerry! I thought he'd last longer. Hugs to all of you from Candie in Nashville

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