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Recap of Episode 11 of Project Runway: Under The Gunn

“I feel like I’ve been to hell and back.” That was the sentiment of designer Shan Keith Oliver after he won the challenge, that made him the last man standing on Team Anya on episode 11 of Under The Gunn. During the formation of teams, Shan was chosen by mentors Nick Verreos and Anya Ayoung-Chee, he rejected Nick. That decision spared him from a load of drama and frantic energy. His mellow temperament paired well with Anya. But so did Blake Smith and Nicholas Komor, who presented portfolios that convinced viewers that their modern point of view could slam dunk almost any challenge.

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Above: Shan Keith Oliver edits in the workroom. Below: Mr. Keith’s winning design. Oscar Garcia’s emerald green gown. Bottom: Mentor Anya Ayoung-Chee deliberates. Photos: Under The Gunn / Lifetime TV

In last week’s recap we declared that Shan has earned his invite to the grand finale, which will be judged by Heidi Klum and actor Neil Patrick Harris. After acing the quick fix challenge this week, Shan sealed that deal. Winning the finale means he and Anya would be cruising in their own Lexus CT 200h this summer, adding Marie Claire to their resume, and the quiet-spoken family man will jet to Paris to chercher l’inspiration (get inspired).

Shan11_UTGOscar Garcia-Lopez, who is the Don of impeccable construction, is Shan’s main roadblock. During an interview on an entertainment show in Miami that aired before Thursday’s episode, Oscar hinted that he was safe.

So this week, the remaining five designers had to conceptualize instant fashion solutions that “get women gorgeous in no time.” Each had a client with a unique reality. Oscar’s client is petite and wanted an age appropriate look that exudes beauty queen glam. Shan’s client is a mom who wanted clever coverage for a stubborn baby pouch. And Blake’s client has a boyish figure and needed a transformation from dull to darling.

Asha Daniels’ dilemma while trying to please her client and preserve her vision, prompted Tim Gunn to advise: “You have to tell her, I respect you as a client, you have to trust me as a designer.” That is a handy takeaway for young designers with complicated clients.

Oscar11_UTGThe judges saved Oscar though he aged his client. Asha delivered the Beyonce moment her client desired, but Shan snatched the win for pulling-off “a miracle,” according to Anya. Shan started over twice on his garment because of his client’s allergic reaction to his fabric of choice. Meanwhile, Blake suddenly despised his fabric, and took the loss for a dress he admitted is “looking tortured.” Mentor Anya rooted for her struggling mentee to do his best and prove himself, instead he was crowned the only designer not to win a challenge.

As Blake doled out hugs in the lounge, he missed Anya’s parting remark: “I don’t know if it’s a case of where he is in his life, he just has to be more confident with who he is and let it all out there.”

AnyaLasLap_UnderTheGunnIf the judges don’t use a politically correct filter, the three designers in the finale would be Asha, Oscar and Shan. Asha’s critics have credited her for having “a plethora of ideas that are creative.” I don’t expect executive producer Tim Gunn will allow mentor Mondo Guerra to have two contenders in the finale—reality TV is not that real.

As you know, judges on reality TV shows are encouraged to be obscure and serve the audience equal portions of the unpredictable and predictable. So an upset could be coming. From what has paraded on that runway over the last nine weeks, Sam Donovan is as ambitious and deserving as Asha of that finale slot.

The final cut boils down to who the judges shred for having loose threads in the next runway display. We’re tuning in to see who fails to make it work and into the finale.

© SEAN DRAKES

Recently published.

[ 404.654.0859  |  SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]

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Anya Goes ‘Under The Gunn’

If you’re one of the fashionistas who have been surfing cable TV channels to find what stylista Anya Ayoung-Chee has been up to since branding her name to a bikini mas section last Carnival, surf no more.  Last Thursday, Anya, who is officially a reality show starlet with nine lives, showed up on the new fashion challenge reality show ‘Under the Gunn’ on the Lifetime channel.Anya_UTGTim Gunn, the heartwarming mentor to emerging designers on Project Runway, stepped off the catwalk and onto his own stage with a show branded with his name and accessorized with his flare and flavor for coaching.

The show is fashioned after the singing competition series The Voice, where mentors build teams to coach into battle to crown just one winner.  Anya, the winner of season 9 of Project Runway, wears a mentor cap on ‘Under the Gunn’ along with popular PR alumni Mondo Guerra and Nick Verreos.

Gunn introduced Anya as “one of the most recognized fashion designers to emerge from the Caribbean, who has continued to grow her lines.”   By comparison his reveal of the other mentors was punctuated with celebrity name-dropping: Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Beyonce as clients of mentor Nick, and a generous plug for Mondo’s eyewear collection and shoe line.

Being on reality TV has become a progressively tough spotlight to navigate for some, due to the barrage of homeschooled bloggers who scrutinize every smirk and twerk to spark scandal-worthy buzz.  Anya seems undiscouraged and game to negotiate the ebb and flow of the real world of reality TV.

It wasn’t obvious that she was wearing her own designs, but she has ditched the shaven head style and filled out some in the face.  For a moment I wondered if there might be a mini-Anya in the oven.  But then I recall hearing she quietly swapped Imageher fiancé Wyatt Gallery for another lover that we’re yet to be formally introduced to.

Back to the show.  The sense that these mentors are speaking unfiltered truth on a relateable level to their peers, gives this show an edge that’s not part of the Project Runway format.  If you distill the notes Anya, Mondo and Nick share, you’ll find useful takeaways that can be embraced as golden rules to attaining success in the cut-throat business of ready-to-wear fashion.

To build her team of four, Anya’s process entails assessing “how they work, what they present and their perspective [point of view].”  She believes mentoring ought to be tailored to who you’re mentoring.  Anya shunned Camila for being a safe, one-note act, but desired Michelle for her “tenacity and ability to find solutions.”

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Photos courtesy: Under The Gunn / Lifetime TV

Students and intuitive designers who never had a mentor coach their career should take notes.  We anticipate a few hard pills and tough love, the diva debates and weeping Wilmas in each episode.  Since Mondo promised “the boxing gloves are gonna come out,” we’ll also tune in for a trampy beat-down.

While ‘Under the Gunn’ encourages audience interaction, Trinis can’t vote for their Anya to win a 2014 Lexus CT 200h car and a guest editor gig with Marie Claire magazine.  If her team fails she leaves the show without top prize, but she still has seven reality TV lives in the bank.

© SEAN DRAKES

Recently published.

[ 404.654.0859  |  SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]

Minshall Exhibits Early Works

Peter Minshall.

Patience and persistence are paying off for art gallery owner Yasmin Hadeed.  “Year after year, for about five years, I asked Ashraph, let’s do a show with Minshall,” recaps Hadeed.  “This year, I spoke to Ashraph everyday for like a month—I’m  obsessed.”  Hadeed, 41, owner of Y Art Gallery, and Richard Ashraph Ramsaran, 46, artist and owner of The Frame Shop, finally got the timing right.  When Ashraph approached Peter MInshall around the Independence holiday with a proposal for a show, Minshall was receptive.

But when they finally got the greenlight, they would have only three weeks to explore the treasure trove at the Callaloo Company warehouse, survey works in Minshall’s studio, research, edit, sequence the show and produce a catalog.  “It was never about doing a Carnival show,” affirms Hadeed, “it was just about doing a show by him.”  The show they’ve choreographed offers viewers an abridged chronological journey of the artist’s career, but bypasses his impressive imprint on the Olympic Games.

“There are about 45 pieces for this show,” estimates Hadeed.  “I have always been interested in seeing the works of Minshall, and have more or less always kept abreast of what he has done.  It was not necessary for me to preview the work to determine which to choose, since, in my opinion, they are all breathtaking.  However, due to the time frame and scale of what we wanted to achieve we decided on this amount.”  Hadeed anticipates “an overwhelming response to this show.”  “This is a pivotal moment for an art collector, gallery owner or someone who appreciates the arts generally.  We are showing another side of Minshall.  It is important for us to give our appreciation to him for his contribution to the art community as a whole, not just as a mas man.”

“Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” by Peter Minshall.

Minshall Miscellany loosely traces the career of a versatile artist who earned an Emmy Award for his designs.  The exhibit is intimate and has an ebb and flow that befits a designer of drama and queens. The show includes paintings for commissioned works and the mas band Tantana. FIve decadent renditions of elegant and intricate designs for Jaycees Carnival Queen contestants open the show.  They date from the 1970s, and are set beside illustrations of stage designs Minshall executed during his years in London, which preceded his involvement in the Jaycees pageant.

Like many artists, Minshall believes comprehension of design principles is transferable to other creative disciplines.  “Because you didn’t really have any understanding of what art was,“ reflects Minshall, in the second person, on his youth, “everything was everything. Hollywood, Esther Williams, Ziegfeld Follies, The King and I, and art exhibitions were all one and the same.  You had absolutely no sense of discrimination.  So there was this Jaycees Carnival Queen, there were costumes for it and dresses, and you were hardly 16 or 17 and you had a bash.  And you did it in the style of the time.  And it was like designing the colours for jockeys who rode horses at races.  The Jaycees Carnival Queen was like a horse race.  It didn’t matter that most of the horses were fillies and white.  The whole of the country bet on them as if it were a horse race.  The evening gowns had to have a theatrical, dramatic edge.  These weren’t gowns that young ladies would wear to a cocktail party.  These were gowns on a very large stage, so they had to have evening gown fashion-theater about them.”

“I do feel anxious,” admits Hadeed, who has been a gallery owner for 20 years, and has exhibited most of Trinidad’s prominent visual artists.  “It has been an amazing opportunity to showcase Minshall at my gallery.”  “Angel Astronaut stands out to me, it represents a complete embodiment of what he is about.”  The most challenging aspect of the edit process for Ashraph and Hadeed was reducing how many of Minshall’s ‘heads’ are included. That outlined profile of a bald man’s head set in a circle is synonymous with Peter Minshall.  It seems he has produced hundreds of works, each unique, around that head which he found in a photograph on the cover of a 1966 Carnival supplement.

“Mask of the Peacock” by Peter Minshall.

“Everybody thinks it is me.  No it’s not me,” declares Minshall, 71.  “I was so fascinated by this head.  I don’t know who he is, but it connected with me in a visceral way.  He became my ‘everyman’ and I call him The Coloured Man.   My first exhibition of paintings, many years ago, ran by that title, The Coloured Man.  He reappears in this exhibition.  That is why the exhibition is called Minshall Miscellany.  I have returned to him many times during my life and he has not in any way lost his potency.  And it’s amazing that people absolutely think it’s me.  It’s some person who I don’t know who is my ‘everyman’, and ‘everywoman’.  The face so lends itself, chameleon-like, to become whoever or whatever.  He becomes a macaw, he becomes Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, just give him the right accoutrements and he plays his mas perfectly.”

The work that ends the show’s sequence is a self-portrait.  Minshall reserves the backstory to the piece.  “People are going to go into the gallery and see the work, I don’t want to destroy the magic of the work,” explains Minshall.   “The name of it is Face-off: The Artist Sober and The Artist Drunk.  That says it, doesn’t it?  I am there contemplating myself.”

“Please look at the exhibition and when you look at it understand how complex each and every one of us as human beings are, from the beauty queen to the two gentlemen sitting on bar stools contemplating one another—one sober, one drunk.”  “I have to thank Ashraph and Yasmin for bending my arm,” adds Minshall.  “My one contribution to the exhibition that makes me sit pretty and happy is the unpretentious title that I gave it, Minshall Miscellany.”

Exhibit runs Oct. 21 – Nov. 5, 2012 @ Y Art Gallery, 26 Taylor Street, Woodbrook.

  © SEAN DRAKES

Recently published.

[ 404.654.0859  |  seandrakesphoto@gmail.com ]

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Peter Minshall: A Living Work of Art

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