Last night on “Project Runway,” the team challenge format worked about as well as it ever has. Richard, the weakest link, turned in an outfit so subpar (that white skirt? Nonononono) the judges had no choice but to send him home. They anointed Stanley the winner for an adorable A-line dress, and all was well in the world. Well, kind of. Not really.
If I wanted to be nitpicky (and yes, I do want), I would point out that Daniel’s outfit, which was one of the judges’ favorites, might have been worthy of a win had he not been sunk by Layana’s outfit. If challenges had been for individual designers, I’d say Layana stunk up the room sufficiently to be sent home. She seemed to realize this, as backstage she accused Daniel of not giving her enough credit for his outfit. And therein lies my biggest problem with this format — no one has to live or die by their own damn outfit, not really. And last night, Layana should have been in a lot more trouble than she ever was.
I understand why “Project Runway” glommed onto the team concept. It forces the designers to work together, to compromise, to work within an intriguing limitation — even when working in teams of two, and pumping out two separate outfits, those outfits must work together as if they were part of a mini-collection.
In the real world, designers must learn to play nice. At the beginning of their careers, they might have to work for other designers, or later, they might work for an established design house (and thus might have to mesh with the historic signature elements of, say, Dior). I get it. But reality television is not the real world, and I don’t want it to be. So few shows are focused on actual skill, and so I look to “Project Runway” to reward the best designer, period. It still doesn’t happen as often as I like. Taste is subjective, after all. But with this team concept, it happens even less.
Looking at the final five designers, only a few stand out as real candidates to make a collection for Bryant Park. Stanley has been consistently strong, and Michelle has finally broken free of being stuck on a losing team for weeks on end. But is Layana stronger than, say Samantha was? Does Daniel, whom I’ve grown to love, really have what it takes to make a collection? And Patricia… well, that’s an entirely other article. But Patricia has made some awful, tablecloth-like outfits the judges have just adored, so she’d probably make it to the end, team challenge or not.
I’ll admit — part of me wants Daniel to succeed, simply because he’s so darn nice. When Layana unjustly tore into him last night, I wished somebody would have stood up, pointed out Layana’s dress was a “Gone with the Wind” disaster, and she should be on her knees thanking Daniel for saving her butt from an almost certain dismissal. Instead, she wanted credit for weeping, obsessing, wandering around in circles, and forcing Daniel to try to manage her meltdown when he could have been working. That he turned out anything decent was pretty amazing.
Still, Daniel taste level has been shaky. I think he’s found that the judges love those enhanced shoulders, so he’s sticking with them, even as the rest of his designs haven’t been quite up to snuff. But in this team challenge format, his nurturing attitude and ability to work well with others has definitely improved his results. I do believe Layana urged him to make his skirt shorter and his neckline lower (which any twentysomething monkey could do). But would she have said anything if he wasn’t on her team? Doubtful.
If Daniel won the whole magilla, I wouldn’t be too unhappy. Part of me would like someone nice to get a boost. But that isn’t “Project Runway.” This show, at its core, is about finding the best designer, pushing them to be all they can be with ridiculous challenges, and urging them to think outside the box. When that box includes playing nice with another designer, what we get is groupthink and constraint. If a full half hour is spent on judging and runway time, we want better fashion, not the watering down that comes with collaboration.
Do you like the team challenges? Who do you think should still be in the competition? Who do you think should have been sent home already?