There are three key lessons that we learned from this week’s episode of “Project Runway” (2004-present). Number one: At a time when the average woman is a size 14, designers still refuse to learn how to make clothing for any one under 5’10” and larger than a size two. Number two: “Project Runway” pretty accurately parallels the rough-and-tumble lives of SMFA students. Number three: Maybe most importantly, one should always invite their guest judges to the viewing party an hour early so that they will arrive on time.
Our wonderful, and tardy, guest judges this week were SMFA students senior Mary Herrera and senior Kevin Valderrama. Mary is an active member of the Tufts student theater community and is best known for her beautiful set designs. Kevin still gets lost around campus despite being a senior. Mary describes her aesthetic as “Barbie goes to art school.” Kevin did not know that agreeing to watch the show with us entailed getting interviewed, but he begrudgingly told us that his signature colors are black, olive green and maroon. He is often seen around his apartment in scrubs (we have no idea why).
Mary and Kevin were rife with information that gave us great snapshots into life at the SMFA. For example, they labeled designer Erin Robertson, last week’s winner, as the stereotypical art school student with her funky glasses, short bleached hair and giant fruit-themed earrings. Designer Alex Snyder acts like the average graduate student: snarky and always bemoaning their “OCD tendencies” and unsuccessful search for perfection. “That’s me every day!” was Kevin’s repeated reaction to designers talking about not being ready for a critique or procrastinating by gossiping with the other people in the workroom.
Every season, one episode has a token “real women” challenge, in which designers are dared to do the impossible: design something for the general population. This episode’s challenge starts in a park, where the designers are surrounded by 100 “regular” women who proceed to say and do nothing and then leave. The regular models are then brought in for the runway, and it is as if nothing has happened. Our most pressing question to all the designers is, “Since when do women wear jumpsuits every day?” At least half of the designers make some kind of jumpsuit, and the other half create what our guest judge Mary unaffectionately describes as a “tent.” Our favorite quip belongs to Mary, who blurted out, “What is this? A runway or a national park?” when yet another model walked onto the runway in a shapeless ensemble.
The winner of the episode is Laurence, with a drop-crotch army green jumpsuit that is essentially a box with pants attached. Questionably, it also has large darts in the derriere area. Designer Laura is eliminated because she made a knit dress that failed to flatter even the model. Fifteen looks walked down the runway, but we could only identify two that we would have worn ourselves. We love “Project Runway,” but episodes like these make us yell at the TV and hope that one day it will respond.