This week on Project Runway we got a bit of insight into the video game world, and the designers got to merge that industry with fashion. The designers met Karlie on the runway, first hearing video game noises, then seeing a game character, which turned out to be Karlie’s alter ego. Joining Karlie on the runway was Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena (worked with the SIMS game, tenure professor at UC Santa Cruz, & THIS WEEK’S GUEST JUDGE), Mitu Khandaker (professor at the NYU Game Center), & Nina Freeman (video game designer). These amazing ladies would also be there to help the designers for this week’s challenge.
The designers’ challenge for the week was to create a female video game protagonist with a functional and stylish look. This video game character would need a story and to have an ability. The designers were cautioned to not go too costumey. The designers lucked out in having another 2-day challenge. This is certainly one program format change I have noticed, the designers receiving quite a few 2-day challenges. I am not sure it has created an overwhelming number of successful looks, but it’s hard to imagine some of these designers coping well with too many 1-day challenges! Also this week, instead of a race to model comp cards, all of the designers would be keeping their same models.
First up for the week, mentor time with some of the leading women in the video game industry. Some of the designers looked at games, seeing how a character could encompass being anyone; the designers didn’t have to create themselves for this challenge. Others got to see how algorithms and coding worked into the games. After these mentor sessions, it was off to Mood. Christian reminded the designers this look was to be fashion, not a costume. Another change I have noticed this season is slightly larger budgets, or at least from what I recall in the past. This week the designers were allotted $300. While at Mood, many of the designers were going for red fabrics. Christian was urging the designers to be more creative and not just all go for red. Venny was one who changed up his color choice, then later finding himself overbudget by $90. He had to cut some major corners!
As the designers got back to the workroom, animators were there to work with the designers to create a digital version of their characters. It was soon time for Siriano Sessions. He reminded a couple to not be boring. He was intrigued by others, such as Hester & Bishme. And he was all about Garo’s whip! Getting into the 2nd day, Garo began with some hammer-time. Tessa went a more quiet route, really needing that laser focus to work on her look. Later in the day were model fittings. Tessa had some doubts with Hester’s look, thinking it was treading the line of a costume. Venny was worried over his lack of fabric and then couldn’t even do his fun shoe idea as it was too small for his model. Jamall was running real low on time. Sonia was having a major fit issue and thinking she might have a lot of work to redo.
With so much to do for some, it was back to work. The designers were excited to see their digital illustrations. And poor Jamall! He made some alteration marks during fittings and then ironed away those marks, yikes! The designers had been working so hard and decided to have a little fun on the way home. They took a ferry, and enjoyed goofing off a bit, doing some runway walks & posing. Fun time aside, it was back to work for the morning of the runway. Many designers still had so much to do. Rakan was very unsure on his makeup choices, like literally having no ideas for the makeup artist. Jamall decided to scrap a mesh top for his look. He had spent so much time on the tailoring of his suit. Christian did express disappointment in that choice. A few designers were working right up until the runway began. Rakan was one such who was cutting away very quickly, right until the last seconds.
Before breaking down the judges’ top & bottom choices, here are my thoughts on the rest! I can’t help but see Lela in a battle with Tessa because they both work in a minimalist aesthetic. Tessa clearly has won each week, so I generally feel less than impressed with Lela’s work. She said this look was representative of femininity & power, I get the feminine aspect, but nothing with power. Sonia has impressed me each week, but came up short in this challenge. The styling choices she made really took her look to a costume level. I loved her story (empathy powers), she chose a gorgeous color, and the look had such great flow. But this felt like a rather basic dress with a lot going on for hair & makeup.
Sebastian has been on top lots as of late, but also came up short this week. I felt his look was more dated, more historical, than that of a video game character or a Moon Goddess as he dubbed this look. I didn’t feel it embodying a strong woman. Not his best work, but just okay. I guess that is why Lela, Sonia & Sebastian found themselves safe. I was on the fence about Bishme. I really thought he brought something so different to the table and so for that, I felt this was a top look! His woman was a goddess, or a Queen of Hearts as he called this look, and one with such a gorgeous, long back train. It was a little over the top, but could work in a game setting!
I also really felt Renee should have been in the top. She stayed trued to her aesthetic and created still a hardcore, bad ass look. Renee says “sensitive warrior”, which I feel is perfect depiction. Her mixed media choices were amazing. The top with the embellished neckline and the draped silver sash piece were just so stunning. I could have lived with Bishme being out of the top, but Renee was very much deserving. So even though Hester got the win, that would have been the person I would have had to take away from the judges’ list. Hester’s look was very Hester. So for remaining true to her aesthetic, I certainly applaud. But this look was a fun girl, not someone I felt fit the challenge parameters in creating a strong female protagonist. I mean even the name of the look, Star Raver, I take that as a depiction of fun, maybe a little adventurous, but that adventure side, I wasn’t seeing in this piece. Nonetheless the pants were super dope and she made some great styling choices.
Tessa created a great look, so seeing her in the top was deserving. She really created such a character, something very different and unique. And even though this was for a video game character, the Miller’s daughter, it was still super wearable. I didn’t even notice until later, she created an apron, which was the part that folded down, super creative!
But Garo was in my original top list, as well as the judges. I felt this was the winning look. I definitely got the point the judges were making in that a strong women didn’t have to be defined by being a dominatrix, but that doesn’t take away from this type of empowerment. And Garo really created such strength here and didn’t do so in a cheesy or tasteless way. Super hilarious that everyone thought this was Nina in a sense and I guess it might have been since Gara said this was a Fashion Editrix character!
The bottom 3 couldn’t have been more spot on. I also agreed that Rakan was clearly the right choice in being sent home. As for the other bottom 2 spot, it was hard to choose between Jamall and Venny. Neither should have felt safe. Jamall I thought was deserving for having not got another challenge. But I think the judges put Venny there to shake him a bit — seeing just as you were on the top last week, doesn’t mean you can’t go home the next week! So Jamall being saved from the bottom 2 was inconsequential since it was super clear it was Rakan’s time. I liked his idea, but this look was cheap. It looked like pleather, it was not constructed well, and it read like a superhero costume. It was not functional fashion. I don’t even think his story for the character, a Syrian Queen, made sense. It also made no sense what he said after the critiques that the best 3 designers were in the bottom. So 2 designers who have constantly been in the bottom and one who really didn’t even deserve his top placements are the three best in this competition?? I don’t think so!
So again, Jamall should feel super lucky he was saved, again. Last week his look didn’t make sense when looking at the challenge parameters and neither did his look this week. The suit fit okay, but it was not a video game character. It was too basic for this challenge task. Why when given this type of challenge do you think of a suit?? Scrapping that mesh top I don’t think would have kept him out of the bottom, but it would have helped this look tremendously in terms of at least not being basic.
And finally, looking at Venny’s outfit, I also didn’t get what he was thinking in this creation. Also similar to my critique with Jamall, why would you go to this type of look when thinking of a video game character?? This look was one you might see as part of a church choir, definitely not a Savior of the World! I think back to his changing of a color choice at Mood, per Christian’s suggestion, and also having to cut corners when being overbudget. You might think this led to his bottom placement, but if this was his idea all along, those 2 points would have no bearing here. More fabric was not going to help this look and instead of a blue look, this creation wouldn’t have been any bit of success in red.