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Project Runway: Neutrals, Nipples and New Wave Minnie Mouse

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Despite it being the first Project Runway Fashion Week show in the roomy new Lincoln Center tents, everything else stayed exactly the same. Which is a good thing.

Like last season, the producers showed ten designers' collections, seven of which were actually decoys. We just don't know which ones yet. As the lights went down to start the today's show, we couldn't help thinking back to last season's two best collections, Ben Chmura's and Jay Nicolas Sario's, both of which turned out to be decoys. Quality is not necessarily a giveaway. So we can only guess which of these designers are in the final three.

Heidi Klum hosted the proceedings, introducing us to our judges, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and finale Guest Judge, Jessica Simpson. Jessica wore a sparkling black mini dress which did her upper arms no favors. In a rare twist for the judges, Nina was very visibly pregnant, while Heidi was not.

The audience included front row denizens, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jordin Sparks, Harvey Weinstein, Fern Mallis and Marie Claire's Joanna Coles. There were also plenty of designers, including Betsey Johnson, former Runway winners Chloe Dao and Leanne Marshall, and past contestants Suede Baum and Carol Hannah Whitfield. Last season's Maya Luz was also there. Despite quitting the show mid-season, she shows up at every Project Runway event.

Designer Michael Drummond kicked things off, saying his collection was inspired by, "X-Rays, Mark Rothko and women's underwear." We thought his gauzy layered neutrals seemed more inspired by a lack of underwear, since the visible nipple count was fairly high, thanks to all the sheer fabrics. Michael's designs were similar to much of what we saw today—Lots of gauzy, sheer and occasionally revealing fabrics, mostly in neutrals. Many of Christopher Collins's surprisingly unmemorable designs fell into this category as did some of Andy South's, although Andy included some beautiful vivid chartreuse pieces which perked things up. Ivy Higa's collection tended towards long white gauzy dresses and slacks with large straw hats—the perfect attire for a Stepford Wife to pick flowers in or for an actress in a douche commercial to show she's as fresh as a summer's breeze. Recent design school graduate April Johnston, whose collection was inspired by, "Dusty dolls going to a tea party and getting washed away," also went the long gauzy neutrals route, but her designs were edgier than Ivy's. Although a few of April's pieces looked slightly amateurish, she had one of the more interesting and cohesive collections in the show.

Bringing neutral tones into the sparkly eveningwear world, were Casanova and Michael Costello. Both occasionally had trouble walking that fine line of taste which Anthony Williams struggled with last season. Casanova, who promised the audience, "No more plush puppies" favored glittery gold, not just in the clothing, but also for makeup covering his models' faces. Michael Costello's all milk chocolate toned collection included separates and dresses with sequins and fringe. No shrinking violet, Michael C waved at Joanna Coles from the runway and the music for his collection included someone singing the words, "Michael Costello Collection."

Only two designers truly embraced color. Valerie Mayen, influenced by her Guatemalan childhood, said her collection was like the love child of Rainbow Bright and David Bowie. Attired in short black and blonde bob wigs, her models playfully strutted shorts, dresses and a catsuit in Crayola-worthy colors. Mondo Guerra took fun to a whole other level, with a collection that would not have seemed out of place modeled by a New Wave Minnie Mouse in a Betsey Johnson store in the 1980s. While he had one cringe-worthy sequin top , the rest of his collection made us smile—mixing large patterns, bright colors and metallics to create spirited dresses and separates. While his designs might not have wow-ed us as much in a different season, in this one they really stood out.

And finally, what Season Eight review would be complete without mentioning the usually talented but always difficult Gretchen Jones? The show was running like clockwork, when midway through it just stopped. As the crowd impatiently waited for the next designer to come to the stage, we had a feeling it would be Ms Jones. When Gretchen finally introduced her collection of earth tones and print resort wear she said, "This has been a really long journey of growth and self discovery." Yes, we just bet it has—and we can't wait to see more of it!

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