Image via: BravoTV
The first episode of Bravo’s Project Runway aired last night at ten, introducing 15 new designers who compete for 100,000 dollars and various other goodies. I like Project Runway because it brings studio practice and critique to the general public, but I am sometimes annoyed with contestants who are given a platform to expound on Fine Art. Last year’s delightfully delusional Vincent Libretti created a “fine art” gown, his BFA informing his decision to attach a bunch of garbage to his garb and call it art. This season Elisa Jimenez represents the art contingent with an installation and performance background, and is already giving the field a bad name. It took all of 3 minutes before we saw other contestants label her insane, and her hokey relationship to spirituality has the unfortunate affect of making her performance and design work seem wildly contrived. As for her competitiveness, much like Vincent, who refused to listen to feedback from the judges or from mentor Tim Gunn, Jimenez hears nothing. Gunn warned her earlier in the show that her gown needed some finishing, which she interpreted as a threat to her own creative vision. Her decision to sleep as opposed to work to fix her project predictably resulted in Heidi Klum’s apt description of her gown as one that “pooed fabric”. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to get her kicked off the show. Much like Vincent, who undoubtedly was good for ratings I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this woman than anyone needs.
Update: Saul Chernick observes in the comments:
…I think the PR producers used some dirty tricks to make us dislike her even more and for that they should be called out. For instance, they played weird music every time she spoke or worked which was a subtle way of mocking her and getting us to take her even less seriously. Also they edited the show in such a way as to make us root against her spending a disproportionate amount of time dwelling on her weaknesses instead of focusing on a wider range of designers. I believe they wanted to audience to predict that she was most likely to get the boot so that when she didn't we're all the more outraged. This validates a popular perception of artists as tricksters who's befuddling weirdness gets undeserved reward.
I absolutely agree, and would add that the blog of fashion editor and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia illuminates this editing process by revealing aspects of the judging process that don’t make it into the show. Providing a round about example Garcia begins, “The first person voted off is always the most difficult because we really have not had the chance to see that designer's full potential,” the editor was speaking specifically about Simone, but followed the sentiment up in the next paragraph saying, “Even though Elisa's look was poorly executed she, unlike Simone, had a point of view. Elisa has been a fixture in the industry and has a lot of underground success…” While Garcia goes on to say she was more critical of Elisa for her achievements, her spiritual interests and connected industry success were clearly not the liabilities they were made to be in the editing if designer potential is factored into decision making, and all they have to go on is one challenge and the portfolios that got them into the show.