Thursday, December 06, 2007
Resort Mentor

Well, now that the "cat's out of the bag", as it were, I can talk about one of my favorite shows on TV (or YouTube) Project Runway Canada! I was asked to participate in the first ever season of our Northern neighbors' version of our most beloved show and of course, I said "Yes!". I was either to be a judge or a "guest mentor", but did not know which one (I don't think the producers did either until very close to shooting). I finally got the call and they told me that I would not be flying to Toronto to shoot there but that they would be coming to LA instead. You know I already had my outfits packed and ready to go whenever the call from Canada would come in.

The Challenge was to be the Resort Challenge and instead of Paris where Season 3 of the American version of the show traveled to, these Canadian designers would be coming to Huntington Beach and then working at my alma mater, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Since I am an instructor there, it made perfect sense.

The night before we filmed the scene at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, I was driven secretly late at night to the hotel where I was to stay overnight. The designers were having a nice dinner and enjoying the "resort" surroundings that evening but in the event that they were wandering around the hotel, they wanted to keep me hidden and "locked in my room", for fear that they would see me.
The next morning, I shot the scene in which I introduced myself to the group. It was funny to see their reactions because it became very obvious who knew me and who had no idea. Stephen was the first to be all "No they didn't!". He recognized me right away while the rest, for the most part, either were too stressed to show emotion, or actually thought I was the Hotel's Venezuelan-Greek Concierge telling them they had to leave! As the day proceeded, the rest of the designers began "opening up" more and more to me, yet I still felt that a couple had this "You are NOT Brian Bailey, and don't even think of replacing him!" look on their faces.

We then traveled to Mood Fabrics where they had to shop for fabrics. Afterward, we went to FIDM, where their workrooms would be. This was to be their "home" for the next two days. They loved the FIDM workspace. They especially liked the Industrial machines we had. The workroom is the same one used in my Advanced Fashion Design class so I felt right at home there. The show follows the same "script" of its American counterpart and so does its mentor. I was asked to come and survey what they were doing and just give my "two cents". I tried to vibe my best "Instructor Nick", being helpful with my advice, giving my constructive criticism in a way that would not be hurtful. Since I already felt a bit of distancing from the designers because I was not the mentor they had been used to for all this time, I treaded carefully but added some fun to lighten the atmosphere which was palpably stressful.

I was excited to see their varying ideas come to life and after the second day, very surprised to see how much they had done and so quickly: They were obviously a very talented group. I thought Bidell's outfit for himself was a bit CRAZY. In fact, I dubbed it "Jedi Resort". The dress for his model surprised me in its prettiness, especially in that green "Tye Dye" fabric. But I somehow had this weird feeling that the judges back in Canada would think it was F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S and would give him props for being original and creative. I loved Stephen's and thought he hit the mark when it came to resort. I just feared they might think he looked a bit too "gay postman" with his own outfit. Marie Genevieve's was tres chic. And Shernett's seemed complicated in terms of its construction (especially for resort wear) but I appreciated her skills in tailoring. I especially loved the complicated fitted jacket she made. Lucien's was my least favorite. I was worried for him. His own outfit was a bit "Eurotrash" to my liking (and I love me some Eurotrash!) and his model's dress was Cavalli five years ago. But I loved his draping! Somehow I knew he would be in the bottom when judging came about. In the end, it was Shernett's time to go. Of course, I, along with all of you guys, had to wait to see who made it "In" and who "Just didn't cut it". I had no idea of the final conclusion to this Challenge.

In the end, I had an amazing three days working with these talented group of designers and being part of the show. I know you may not believe me when I say this, but I didn't do this to have "more camera time". I was just honored to have been asked and happy to do what I normally do twice a week at FIDM--teach and mentor my students. I am hooked on this show and can't wait for the Finale episode which has already been filmed at Toronto Fashion Week. I am dying to see who wins the first ever Project Runway Canada! Click HERE to watch the entire episode.
Children, Children , Children: How often do I have to say : NO MORE SHOULDER PADS!!!!!!! That's all I could think of when watching my sweet Bear of a love muffin, designer Chris March work his Joan Crawford meets Lipsynka magic on the Project Runway
catw
alk.

My fellow Nick's Blog readers, yours truly was at the LA premiere of the Spice Girls concert Wednesday night (it was incredible by the way, and I will most surely have photos, and maybe a video for you) when the episode aired so I had to wait until almost midnite to watch it. I also missed the lovely debut of my Saturn commercial, but received enough text messages from close friends telling me that I had 'done good'!

Let's "Make It Work"
1) Do We Like Team Challenges?
Maybe it is because I suddenly begin shaking incessantly with memories of my team challenge with Santino and Emmett and our much-talked-about German-Frau-Mistress-On-Crack collection. While, it was fun trying to bring Santino's visions to life, it was difficult for me and Emmett to put in our two cents in regards to keeping the "put-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink" Santino at bay. In essence, I feel the frustrations some of the designers feel during these dreaded "Team Challanges". My stomach just turns. They always begin these Challenges with the "Since in the real world, you will probably have to work with a team so therefore...". Well, darlings, I just don't think that these Team Challenges really reflect a real-life Industry environment. In a design company, especially large, corporate ones, such as Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY or Gucci,one is working with fellow "assistant designers" and have a leader, yes. But this leader is more of a "Creative Director" or "Chief Designer". These leaders do not necessarily "design". They give direction, they lead by giving the designers themes, story boards, ideas, actual garments to be inspired from. Then , the designers go to work designing. Everyone then consequently meets up to come together in terms of ideas and pieces that will become the group or collection. In a real Team Challenge, the leader would probably NOT have to make a garment but direct things and see if his/her designers got it right.

2) With that Being Said, then Why Would Anyone Ever Volunteer To Be the Team Leader?
I certainly wouldn't. Since the first thing I think of is the show Apprentice. In that show, the Team Leader almost always is not just on the hot seat, but ends up being fired. It was pretty evident that in this episode of Project Runway, the Team Leaders suffered, especially in the case of Chris March. And don't think "Miss Opinionated Victorya" wasn't playing the game when she said sh
e didn't want to be Team Leader. Poor Ricky just volunteered because Victorya and Elisa instantly voiced their unwillingness to step up to the plate. It's a difficult position to be in, but I guess I would have just said, well "I don't either" so let's do "rock, paper, scissors"!

In terms of what he created, I kind of liked it. He may not have chosen the best of fabrics. I realize that duchesse satin is difficult to work with. It puckers and it wrinkles easily. And yes, his construction was weak, but I understood his dress, it was "Day-Glo" Proenza-Schouler. OK, kind of. Any thoughts? I am sure that I might be slightly alone on this one...

3)Why Do These Designers Get To Have "Pre-Fittings" With Their Models?
Not fair. I am sure that many of u
s Project Runway alumni would have loved this opportunity at any of our challenges, especially the Team one. Could this be the first time in all four seasons of Project Runway that designers have been allowed to see their models at a "half-way" point? Please write me back and correct me if I am wrong.

4) Finally , Am I the Only One Who Will Miss Chris!
Poor thing, from
the moment that first Challenge occurred where he was made to run the "fashion marathon" to those fabric-filled tents, he was doomed. In this challenge, he just got it wrong. His outfit made no sense with the other two. The judges were correct in saying that each of them looked like they were from three different fashion shows. There was no real commonality. The jersey tube dress was cute, but not original or inspiring. I've seen it on the sale racks at Wet Seal, way in the back! And that bolero jacket. I knew something was wrong when I saw him place about 8 shoulder pads--one on top of another--on the model form. I just about wanted to lunge myself through the TV and remove 6 of them!!!

I love Dynasty, I love Joan Collins, in fact, I am so dying for a Thierry Mugler Retrospective at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, but this was none of the above. It was something a Drag Queen from Long Island would have worn--10 years ago.

But, I so love Chris. I think he went home too soon. I was really eager to see more of his designs, because I just had a feeling that he would bring that element of whimsy and fun that seems to be much needed in this season of Project Runway. Every time I saw Chris, he made me smile and want to pinch his cheeks!!! You will be missed.

While I am digesting last nights episode and preparing to write my recap, I thought I would post about my Saturn Commercial which aired last night. I had such a great time shooting the spot. Not only were the Saturn and Bravo people great to work with, but I had the best time hanging out at DecadesTwo and fawning over all the beautiful gowns! As their bio says, "decadestwo, carries a carefully-edited selection of contemporary clothing and accessories (mostly 1990s to present day) and caters to a clientele seeking a highly unique shopping experience. " Big 'Shout out' to Christos from decadestwo. Thanks for being so accommodating and I will be back to check out more Couture soon!! Click HERE to read my BLOG on Rethinking Design. I write about the design process for creating the TOP CHEF Apron I did last year. And if you watched the Top Chef Holiday Special last night they featured the apron in a fun little gift exchange!
Monday, December 03, 2007
Bundle Up and look Fabulous!

OK, so I know that it looks like I am about to streak someone and do not have anything underneath in this photo. But, don't fret, I actually did have a t-shirt and pants underneath. It was just a VERY LOW deep-V T-Shirt!

There are several new and fun fashion segments up on MSN.com's Style Studio which involve dressing for Holiday parties and generally how to stay fashionable even in these dreary colder Winter months.
Since I am one of Style Studio's resident Glam Squad, then it is my duty to keep the US woman informed on how to make the best of these cold and dreary last months of 2007 and still look FIERCE for the Holidays. Keep that tacky X-mas tree with dingle berry ornaments sweater in your closet. Trust me, watch these segments and you will see that you have other options. We, at Style Studio, are ready come to the (fashion) rescue!

Click HERE to watch the new segments
and Keep your eye out for these fun tips:
Holiday Hide: Look 10 Pounds lighter in these outfits
Party Perfect: From office to office party in 10 minutes
Chill Out: With Hats, Gloves and Scarves
Treasure or Trash: How to shop in a vintage store
Saturday, December 01, 2007
ESCANDALO!!!
Last week, my darling sister, Rita (of Survivor: Fiji fame) was in Los Angeles training the lovely contestants vying for the Miss California USA and Miss California Teen USA 2008 titles. She invited David and I to attend the finals, which were held at the historic Orpheum Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

I wanted to attend the finals to support my sister, who looked absolutely stunning wearing one my NIKOLAKI gowns as she handed the bouquets to the Final 5. It was a nice surprise to see the beautiful Meagan Tandy, last year's Miss California USA, wearing the gown we designed for her when she competed (and received the 3rd Runner Up Title). Also in attendance were two Rita's castmates and friends from Survivor:Fiji, Michelle Yi and Alex Angarita. It was fun to watch all those girls whom Rita trained and to see her "stamp" of excellence in their walk, posture and presentation.

The pageant itself was actually an exciting one. Everything seem fine and normal. There were over 100 girls competing for both titles. I had my favorites including Miss LA who was a spunky Latina with a walk and a personality that could be seen from the nose-bleed seats at the theater. Miss Barstow and Miss Greater San Diego were gorgeous, the former being a dead ringer for Carmen Electra and Lauren Conrad of MTV's The Hills and the latter, a beautiful California blond who had "Miss USA" written all over her. These last two were the obvious favorites of the capacity audience at the Orpheum, as well.

It came as a shock then when neither of their names got called as the winner. This is went things got "pageant ugly". All one could hear were shouts of "Boo" and hisses from the entire theater when Miss Barstow was not named the winner. The sassy Miss LA, Christina Silva had been crowned the new Miss California. We happened to be seated directly behind the judges, which included last year's controversial Miss Teen USA, Katie Blair (from MTV's Pageant Place) who looked at the other judges with wonderment. There was some shuffling that had occurred right before the naming of the winners, by the judges' reps who were tabulating their scores. So there was obvious confusion, but besides this, everything seemed to be going according to a normal pageant script. I met the newly crowned Miss California USA as well as her family backstage and she was such a doll. She confided that she was a fan of Project Runway and loved the gown I designed for last year's winner and couldn't wait for me to design hers.

Cut to today. My sister calls me and tells me to go to ExtraTV.com to see the new pageant scandal: It has just been discovered that the judges scores were somehow "misread" by the accounting firm overseeing it and the winner was not the Miss LA, but in fact Miss Barstow, Raquel Beezley (the Carmen Electra/Lauren Conrad doppelganger) . At least this pageant scandal did not involve pepper spray or drug addiction. The lovely Christina Silva, Miss LA, was asked to give up the crown she just had for only 5 days and the crowd favorite, Miss Barstow now has been crowned the new Miss California USA. I am sure this is not the way she envisioned to be crowned the most beautiful woman in California. But, as they say, any publicity is good publicity. More eyes will be on her when she competes in next year's Miss USA and she will already be on the pageant radar.
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