In this episode, we get a feel for the pace of the competition, how challenges push all constraints and, more importantly, we get a sense of how the designers stand as individuals and how they interact – or don’t interact – with one another.
The designers trickle into their meeting place, a space positioned in a multi-storied building overlooking Auckland city comforted by only refreshments and familiar faces (for some).
We’re no less than six minutes in and host Georgia Fowler (the supermodel gracing the cover of Fashion Quarterly’s Happiness Issue) and mentor Andreas Mikellis sweep in to brief the designers on their first challenge. They’re not wasting time, and we’re not mad about it.
What seemed like an attempt at some not-so-subtle Höpt soda advertiser placement (the aforementioned refreshment) becomes an integral part of the first challenge: whichever flavour they were swigging away would ultimately become the inspiration of a cocktail dress they have less than 2 days and $300 to complete.
To design a cocktail dress that reflects the Scandinavian aesthetic of Höpt Soda. “This look is about modern, clean lines with a quirky twist,” says Andreas.
This week’s winner will have the ability to choose their model from the Red 11 lineup of “gorgeous, Amazonian looking women” for the following challenge. The winner of TVNZ 2’s Project Runway New Zealand, however, will come away with their very own Holden Astra, a cash prize of $50,000, and a six page editorial shoot in Fashion Quarterly magazine. (And we have it on good authority that the latter is kind of a big deal!)
Models from Red 11 line up on either side of Andreas and Georgia (centre) before greeting their assigned designer for the first challenge.
During the challenge
It becomes apparent who leads from a creative, happy-go-lucky place, and who relies on technical, considered elements to anchor their craft come sketch time. Peni, on the other hand, grapples with his flavour: “what is basil?”… oh dear.
The quiet ones, namely Kerry, Benjamin, Jess and Judy remain focused, while the louder characters in the group start to overthink and reconsider their designs at the demise of seeing more capable contestants progress. Say crack again, crack.
Misty, the oldest female in the competition at 40, emerges as a calming presence in the workroom, almost maternal, checking in on other contestants without being condescending. In an industry as niche as fashion in New Zealand, this can only be a good thing.
Lenon (left) in deep thought about their design with Beth (right).
Hawkes Bay stay-at-home mum Nicole reveals insecurity in her own ability early doors only to be outstaged by Lenon whose self-sabotage is a painful watch. “Running around like a blue-ass fly,” – Kerry’s words, not ours.
Over the course of their project, mentor Andreas and his charming British accent check in on the designers’ progress offering direction and affirmation. He is professional, composed and considerate helping the show maintain its high-quality production. The international renditions do set the bar high, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t apprehensive about our homegrown version! But alas, another worry wasted.
With 30 minutes until runway, the designers instruct Maybelline makeup artists and Schwarzkopf hair consultants on how they want their beauty look to elevate or complement their cocktail dresses. “I want a strong brow, but I mean, not like a caterpillar,” remarks Benjamin. Note to self: It’s high time to rock a heavy pigmented lid as seen on Beau’s model. We’re taking this trend mainstream.
The snappy pace of the show continues as the models sashay down the runway for anonymous judging to inaudible lyrics against a bizarre pop-electronic track. But that’s okay, we’re here for the fashion.
This week’s judging panel features guest judge co-founder and designer Jessica Grubiša of Harman Grubiša alongside World’s director and designer Benny Castles and Fashion Quarterly’s very own editor Sally-Ann Mullin and host Georgia Fowler.
The designers are lined up and eight designers are called forward. Their scores have seen them remain in the competition and disappear from the stage. The remaining six include the top three scores and the bottom three scores… You know, just in case you too were freaking out as to why Caitlin Crisp’s delicate apricot (and let’s be honest Karen Walker-esque) design wasn’t immediately through to next week.
Judging is always a tricky thing to assume – especially come episode one. We sit there with our opinions and of course knowing so much of what goes down in the workroom, more than the judges anyhow, and completely out of touch with just how these designs will be received.
Judges take note as Caitlin’s model sweeps past. From left to right: Jessica Grubiša, Benny Castles, Sally-Ann Mullin, Georgia Fowler.
Obvious mixed bags include Matt’s slasher-meets-sweatshirt dress, Nicole’s hardboiled sheath dress, Massey’s underwhelming ball dress reminiscent of the mid-2000s, and Camille’s watermelon meets winter wonderland. Of course we know Massey comes from a men’s streetwear background and is destined to be an underdog in the competition (like he can’t go just yet, that’s such a shame, right?), and Camille had such a literal vision that it had to be genius? Even Jessica (Grubiša) said she’d wear it as a top. As to which way it’s going to fall, look we just couldn’t tell you.
But let’s not forget the elephant in the room.
Sally-Ann’s feedback to Matt on his design, which by many standards is not a cocktail dress whatsoever, was diplomatic and summarised what we were all thinking in the nicest(?) way possible…
“I think in essence there is a bit of a mood shift in that dress codes are a slightly redundant and as long as you wear something with confidence you can wear a t-shirt to a black tie event but I do think, unfortunately, that the brief was cocktail and this is a little too 6am-in-a-nightclub-underground,” says Sally-Ann Mullin.
“I like the story better than I liked the garment,” Benny adds later during deliberation.
Designers watch the runway ahead of judging.
When winner Benjamin returns backstage to greet his fellow designers, someone asks “Did you win?” a cavalier hair tuck and eye roll ensures before uttering “yes” as if to say: ‘Duh, who else?’
As for who walked this week (that’s eliminated in Project Runway speak FYI)… Nicole’s design fell short in more ways than one.
Georgia wishes Nicole on her way.
“I’m sad to be the first one. I’m the only one who didn’t hit the brief clearly enough and that’s why I left,” says Nicole.
“It’s hard because the time is very little and you don’t have time to second guess yourself.”
But on watching the episode, it seems as though in Nicole’s case, that was all she had time for and her “really her, but really skanky” design suffered. (Again, Kerry’s words, not ours).
Scroll for the final runway looks below from week one:
Watch Project Runway New Zealand on TVNZ 2 every Monday at 7:30 pm from October 1, 2018.