Recap of episode 12 of Project Runway: Under the Gunn
As this recap series concludes with this installment and designer Anya Ayoung-Chee fades from the limelight, because there isn’t a year-round appetite for homegrown celebrity in the islands, I wanted to journal about a few events that unfolded while producing this recap of Project Runway: Under The Gunn.
During my visit to Trinidad Carnival, a business executive asked me: “How does Anya feel about your column?” I crossed paths with the Project Runway winner twice before receiving his question. So I replied: She hasn’t said anything. I bit my tongue to be diplomatic with an influential exec. Actually, I think Anya, who knows it’s better to have tongues wagging than silent if you yearn to be on TV, recognize brilliance in the recap series I conceptualized and got published by two daily newspapers in her hometown.
But some in Anya’s circle weren’t tickled by how I weaved insider facts, observations, and a variety of real perceptions. In their mind, the media exists to produce pretty press releases, criticize politicians, and unfavorable sentiments about Anya’s performance as a designer or mentor should remain under a rug. I flipped that script, but by the sixth column I had hit a nerve that wanted the series sugar-coated.
During that same Carnival visit I was startled, at dinner at Buzu Restaurant, at a performance at Queen’s Hall, and in the VIP lounge at Carnival fetes, I was approached by socialites, local celebs and upmarket citizens who told me they look out for the column: “because it’s so cheeky” and “the writing is so entertaining.” Many didn’t know Anya was on a TV show till they encountered this recap series. An editor wrote: “It’s a breath of fresh air for the Guardian.”
Twenty-four hours after the Guardian published my sixth submission, which was edited by the paper’s editor-in-chief, I received an email from same editor that read, in part: “You also need to be more generous with your remarks about Anya in the series. While criticism may be warranted, it must not be relentless.” This same editor handled my copy on Friday and approved the article to publish on Sunday, without a single deletion. Her revelation on Monday suggests her office received a call from someone west of St Vincent Street, that persuaded the top editor to suggest I board her censor ship. I swiftly repositioned this TV show recap series with another daily paper without skipping the seventh installment.
This was a creative writing exercise that came to me as I watched the show’s first episode. I have been invited to write a column for a daily newspaper.
The premise of this reality TV show asked twelve unknown designers: Who do you want to be and how can we help you get to where you want to be? Three Project Runway alumni with varying degrees of industry recognition took on the task to grow their mentoring skills, while they each groom four ambitious fashion designers.
The final design challenge required the remaining four designers to create a garment inspired by a Marvel comic book superhero. “You are not creating costumes, you are to be inspired,” stressed Tim Gunn. Oscar took top honors for his sleek cloak that covered a complex and incomplete looking pant suit.
Previously we affirmed that Oscar and Shan Keith Oliver are sure shots for the finale. And I stated that designers Asha Daniels, who tended to “put a lot on her plate,” to ace a challenge and Sam Donovan, who survived but failed to push the envelope, deserve to be grand finalists, too. Mr. Gunn and his squad of sharp-tongued judges cast Asha and Sam, both from Team Mondo, in the grand finale.
If emerging designers took tight notes from the mentors on Under The Gunn, they should be familiar with these parting soundbites on what it takes to make it work: Trust yourself, trust your voice, articulate your point of view, take risks, deliver wow factor, and please don’t get in your own way.
© SEAN DRAKES
[ 404.654.0859 | SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]
As episode 9 of Under The Gunn unfolded viewers were drenched by venomous comments from castmates on the show. It was easy to assume this week’s challenge was to explain why everybody hates Natalia. “I don’t think Natalia deserves to be here. I’m not sure who she is as a designer,” explained designer Asha Daniels. “I don’t think she’s trying to bring anything new or different, or take any risks.” Another Team Mondo designer, Michelle Uberreste added, “Natalia should have gone home, there are other people here with a lot more talent and a lot more drive.
””I’m perceptive,” defended Natalia Fedner choking back tears, “I can tell they don’t like me, at the same time I so badly want to show everyone what I have. I know the other designers don’t see me as a threat.” Her perception is on target though her designs falter. Mentor Anya Ayoung-Chee chimed in with two-cents saying Natalia delivers “inconsistent work, incomplete ideas.” The slinging of hot grease at nervous Natalia was nonstop.
Designers were required to create a garment that transforms from a daytime look to an evening statement. Judges Jen Rade and Rachel Roy were joined by recording artist Macklemore for the task of applauding and slamming the final designs.
The bacchanal around Natalia was a distraction from the focus on the complexities of negotiating the design challenge. Meanwhile, mentor Nick Verreos was ambushed for nurturing co-dependency with his mentees. Finally, Tim Gunn ushered Nick to an Ah-Ha moment by suggesting he use a socratic approach and pummel mentees with questions such as, What do you think? How do you feel?
After runway judging of the transitional garment challenge the playing field was leveled, each mentor supports two designers. Oscar Garcia Lopez from Team Nick stole the show with his sleek, black shimmery design for an heiress of a philanthropic family. “At the end of the day I’m happy to go home on something I love,” admitted Michelle from Team Mondo, who was eliminated.
While Anya is usually critical and complimentary in the same breath, her observation of Shan’s design was conservative and borderline clueless. “I still think there are issues with the construction, at least there is thought and innovation,” noted Anya as the dress that revealed mid-section cutouts and a zippered skirt sauntered down the runway. In the end, the judges felt: “It has a sexy, cheerleader feel to it; this met the challenge. It’s youthful, super successful in a really modern way; great construction.”
Judge Rade felt Blake Smith’s evening look befit an ObGyn’s office, not a runway. Macklemore reinforced that sentiment with his vote: “Would I want my girlfriend to go out in this, absolutely not!”
Credit Natalia for this week’s takeaway: “Although I am at a disadvantage at being able to edit and construct quickly, the judges see a lot of imagination in me and for that reason I’m still here.” In other words, having ideas matters.
After the runway cleared mentors Mondo Guerra and Anya stood defiantly to show their disagreement with the verdict of the judges. Mondo argued, “Why should someone stay who depends so much on their mentor!?” Anya vowed the judges will regret their elimination decision. Then hundreds of viewers raced to Facebook to ignite a firestorm of critiques that denounce Anya and Mondo as ‘bullies,’ ‘disappointing,’ ‘appalling,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘immature,’ ‘arrogant,’ and ‘shameful.’ Read for yourself, visit Tim Gunn: Official Page, Mondo Guerra Fan Page and the Project Runway Page.
We’re tuning in to see if an underdog can shutdown the antagonists and if Anya will be forced to eat her words.
© SEAN DRAKES
[ 404.654.0859 | SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]
Recap of episode 6 of Project Runway: Under The Gunn
Armchair critics in the land of Carnival anticipated mentor Anya Ayoung-Chee’s team would slam-dunk a challenge to construct wearable designs inspired by costumes in a Roman gladiator flick and the Greek ambience of a palatial villa. Anya’s foray into Carnival costume design, following her reality TV show win in 2011, is useful on a challenge where a minimalist approach trumps design that is too literal.
That might be the issue for Carnival enthusiasts who expect substance from bikini mas, they’re thinking too literally. “Where the design?” jabbed a New York-based, Trini-born designer at an after party last week. “She is a designer but what is that she calling mas. Look at K2K mas, I see more fashion from those untrained twins than in her bikini and feathers.” Such interrogation of design integrity and value has long shadowed Trinidad’s bikini mas movement. Surely, it wasn’t an oversight by Anya. In the age of the hustle for Twitter popularity, substance seldom precedes the quest for profit.
To steer her mentees toward the elusive prize, Anya acknowledged, “I recognize how morale can suffer from stagnation. It’s time to step it up.” During her workroom visit to guide garment construction, Anya attempted to nudge her team into kick-butt mode: “I feel you’re all holding back in effort to harmoniously get through this, I don’t think compromise is the right place to start, I think complimenting is what you’re trying to do.”
“In my experiences, there are a lot of moving parts when you’re dealing with a team challenge,” noted Mr. Gunn, “and you have to oversee all of those parts.” In the workroom mentors scope the competition to compose their views. Anya had a mouthful: “Mondo’s group looks a bit costumey. [They] went a bit more literal, perhaps the judges will see something that I’m not seeing.” She added, “Nick’s team seem to be very incongruent.” The harshest stinger was slung by Mr. Gunn, “I’ll be honest, it was a pile of hot sticky diapers,” he said of Team Nick’s garments during construction.
Mentor Mondo Guerra assumed Anya’s team would be safe since their designs weren’t “conceptual or literal,” but safe translated to being picked for elimination. Team Nick stole the show. “Oscar became the king of my Pompeii,” cheered mentor Nick Verreos. Oscar Garcia-Lopez pinned his imprint on each design in the three-look mini collection and took the overall win for his modern Grecian goddess look.
Judges lathered praise on Nick’s motley crew: “The romper is on trend,” “love how you layered a solid over the watery fabric,” and “the minute elements of the studs, are the things that bring it together.” The takeaway from Team Mondo: Avoid looking arts and craftsy. The spirit of comradery is good, even among competing designers, and always aim to be sophisticated and dynamic.
Sounding like a broken LP, Anya lamented: “Unfortunately, someone is going home from my team, that’s hard to wrap my mind around.” Mentees Shan Keith and Nicholas Komor got slammed for delivering “a resounding failure.” But Mr. Gunn threw Anya a lifeline, no one was eliminated. Perhaps Anya needed to bait her struggling mentees with the incentive of a trip to taste the VVVVIP life in Trinidad, and share that shuttle service she gets on Carnival Tuesday so she can air kiss cameras at judging points. We’ll be tuning in to see who gets drop-kicked from the A-List.
© SEAN DRAKES
[ 404.654.0859 | SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]
- Team Anya Eats Dust
- Anya Hits Rock Bottom
- Anya Escapes Unscathed
- Making The Cut
- Anya Goes ‘Under The Gunn’
Recap of Episode 4 of Project Runway: Under The Gunn
As opening credits rolled, the mentors zipped into self-editing mode to step up their game, by addressing critiques from the first round of judging. Mentor Nick Verreos admitted: “My mentoring approach is still growing.” Anya Ayoung-Chee commented, “Having two designers in the top is very validating. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.” And Mondo Guerra committed to, “continue with mother love, but I am going to practice tough love.”
In episode four of Project Runway: Under The Gunn, the aspiring designers were allotted 10 minutes to tumble and fumble across the dark, foggy lawn at the Fashion Institute of Design & Marketing in Los Angeles, which was staged to mimic an eerie graveyard. The creepy ambience was inspiration for this unconventional vampire challenge, which requires designers to cleverly employ unusual items into a tasteful garment.
“When you are a mentor, you have to let them discover what they want to do,” Mr. Gunn told the camera. Then he celebrated Anya on her ability to, “acknowledge the affection she feels for her designers, yet detach when she’s giving feedback, it’s a very good quality.” Perhaps anxiety took control and stifled that message, and caused mentors to overshoot boundaries and misguide mentees.