August 17, 2006

Project Runway miscarriage of justice

Now, don't get me wrong: I love Michael Kors' and Nina Garcia's observations when they judge the work of contestants on fashion design reality show Project Runway, and god knows I get weak in the knees every time I hear Nina's deep, feminine greetings while looking at her adorable Iberian bunny facial features. But last night, they made an inexcusable decision to boot off Alison rather than Vincent. Suspicious, I went back through the first five episodes to see how well each of them did. Here's a rough breakdown, where I assign -1 point if they were in the "bottom" in the episode, 0 points if they were among neither the best nor the worst, and +1 point if they were among the "top." To be extra-fair to Vincent, I assigned both him and Alison a 0 for the work they did in the INC team episode (#4) -- neither was team leader, so I won't count it against Vincent that he was on a trouble team, while Alison's team was a contender for the win. If I were harsher, then episode 4 would have Vincent receiving -1 and Alison +1.

5: V -1, A 0
4: V 0, A 0
3: V 0, A +1
2: V -1, A 0
1: V -1, A 0

So, in the fairest way possible, going into last night's episode (#6) Vincent's cumulative score was -3, while Alison's was +1 (and from a harsher viewpoint, -4 and +2, respectively). Now, the judges don't officially tally cumulative scores, but it's clear that they do so unofficially, as Kayne's design last night was utterly atrocious, but he was spared since he'd shown promise, having won one competition and come in a close 2nd in another. That makes sense: even the good don't always win, and you want to consider as many data points as possible to get a better understanding of what you're dealing with.

In 4 of the 5 episodes leading up to last night, Vincent was in the bottom three, defending his awful creations, while Alison never was in the bottom. Previously, the judges have praised Alison's visionary work, while they have never done so for Vincent. Last night, both Vincent and Alison were in the bottom three, so it appeared Vincent would be out, right? Wrong. Since he was in the bottom yet again, let's assign him another -1, bringing his cumulative score down to -4. If Alison's score were +1 before this episode, then for her to lose out to Vincent last night, in the judges' minds, her single mis-step was so unpardonably dreadful that it was comparable to six failed competitions, bringing her down to -5, below Vincent.

Read Tim Gunn's blog and podcast for episode 6 to see why Alison's wasn't that bad, and why Vincent's was a non-starter garment. So Alison made the model look somewhat plumper than she is -- who cares? At least she could walk, and at least the construction was complex and asymmetrical in a good way, akin to what Issey Miyake might have done under similar constraints, according to Tim Gunn. It's tempting to lash out and make Vincent the scapegoat because he's an easy target, but in the end the blame clearly falls on the judges. This goes to show that, just as the good designers don't always win, astute judges occasionally make what should be an easy call into a complete blunder. Yet who will judge the judges?

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