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Project Runway Review: The Nina Challenge

It’s one thing to design for the imaginary woman on the street who’ll sashay her way into some arbitrary office and pretend to be the woman she wants to be until she actually gets there.  It’s another thing entirely to design for the powerful, chic Nina Garcia, the fashion director of Marie Claire magazine.  This week’s Project Runway challenge: dress Nina Garcia in an outfit she can wear to work during the day and to an industry event at night.

Nina’s style is “classic with an edge, stream-lined, clean, tailored, non-voluminous silhouettes in un-pleated, quiet-patterned garments.” The winner, besides having bragging rights that Nina Garcia wore their outfit, will also have his or her garment featured in a Marie Claire ad that will be on the top of New York City cabs and have a featured editorial in Marie Claire magazine.  Before they went shopping for material, each designer had a one-on-one consultation with Nina.  After the consultations, Nina told Tim Gunn she didn’t want a runway full of grays and she didn’t want “boring.”

First, Anthony Ryan and Becky got the same, distinct piece of fabric. When Nina came into the work room and consulted with the designers on their progress, when looking at Danielle’s design and ideas, Nina sounded like a virgin on her first date with the star football player.  Every answer was “no, no, no.”  When talking to Anya, Nina sounded like the virgin trying to compromise with the letterman: do you have a plan B? Nina didn’t like Anya’s print as Nina doesn’t wear prints.  Cecelia was colorblind when she shopped for her fabric. She thought she was getting a purple fabric and ended up getting gray.  And she, too, didn’t have the infamous, quintessential “Plan B!” Kimberly was designing a whole outfit in blue.  Nina challenged that idea, but she left the final decision of the design up to Kimberly, “the designer.”  Joshua suggested to Anya that she dye her gold fabric in black to appeal more to Nina.  Anya’s dying experience is limited.  When Tim Gunn came to announce that the designers had two hours to finish, none of them were near completing their garments and he had to make the announcement in the sewing room, which was a first for PR. With a few minutes to spare before the runway show, Cecelia was totally finished with her garment.  Julie was still sewing.  Cecelia helped Julie.  Laura and Anya have become close friends. Anya doesn’t have as much sewing experience, and Laura noticed that she needed help. Laura helped Anya.  However, this wasn’t a team challenge.  Every designer was expected to work independently; however, technically no one mentioned that they couldn’t help one another.

Joanna Coles, Marie Claire editor-in-chief, and Kerry Washington, actress and arts advocate, joined Michael Kors on the judging panel.  Bert created a “little black dress” deeply V-ed in the front and the back. Anthony Ryan created a favorite look for me although I don’t think it was appropriate for Nina Garcia. It was an olive-colored mini skirt and a sleeveless gray vest.  Anthony admitted he didn’t think it was something Nina would wear.  He obviously forgot the point of the challenge.  This particular one was not a free-for-all design challenge. Using the same fabric as Anthony Ryan, Becky created an asymmetrical gray and olive-colored dress with capped sleeves and yellow piping along the edges of the asymmetry.  Kimberly in the end ditched the blue suit and matched a gold, asymmetrical sleeveless top with a fitted, wide-legged pant. Anya’s dyeing effort paid off.  She dyed the mustard-color material into a green jump suit with an orange belt.  Laura too used a green – albeit Kelly green – fabric for her chic, short dress. Although the bands around the arm looked constricting, the garment worked well. Viktor also designed a simple black ensemble – separates to be exact.  Although it was one color, it had lines that gave it distinction.  Joanna addressed the question that I constantly ask: who would want to wear this and where? Joanna said Viktor’s suit addressed the need that women have when trying to transition from day to evening. When Heidi asked Anya how she learned to sew so quickly after only learning four months ago, Anya giggled coyly and answered, “I don’t know” although her eyes looked like I’ve got secret. I know something you don’t know.  Viktor looked down the line with an “I know!” glare. However, he figured eventually her work would tell on her and he held his tongue. Ironically, Cecilia and her charity case Julie were in the bottom two.  Apparently, Cecilia should have devoted that extra time she had in the work room on her own design and her attitude instead of donating it to Julie.  Unfortunately for Julie, being the worst of the worst gets you sent home.  Nevertheless, for the first time this season, Kimberly won a challenge.

So far this season, Kimberly has been coasting on a safe seam, but this challenge, she had every woman in view of her presentation getting in line behind Nina for that gold top.   Hopefully next week Kimberly won’t rest on her laurels like some of the previous challenge winners have been doing, and she’ll use this win as a stepping stone to raise the creativity level in the design room.

Season 9, Episode 4: “All About Nina” (originally aired August 18, 2011)

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Images courtesy of Lifetime

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