Project Runway's Take On Children: Cute, Very Small
I skipped last week’s Project Runway, but after watching this week’s episode I really can’t resist a little commentary. It’s just too good to pass up when the challenge is to design an outfit for a little girl and one of the designers’ first responses is, “I am scared of children. I don’t…surround myself with children, I don’t have any children…they are very small.” How, pray tell, does one “surround” oneself with children, short of creepy daily visits to a Gymboree? There’s something additionally delicious in Jonathan’s ending statement that children “are very small” – the suggestion being that his experience is so limited that the only characteristic he can name is perhaps the most absurdly basic description of a child imaginable.
Remember how two weeks ago I was complaining that the Campbell’s Soup Can designs weren’t unexpected enough? This week’s offering of flapping petal-covered clown pants certainly helped make up for that. No one saw them coming, and while Nina groped for adjectives like “confusing,” “circus-like,” and “weird,” Heidi went straight to the point: “I think it’s hideous. It’s just bizarre.” Low points also included Janeane’s under-designed romper and poorly fitting jacket, (which looked like “a cheap mall outfit”), and Jonathan’s well-deserved complaints from his “very small” child model. He dressed her in an A-line dress with a tiny organza-layered bolero jacket, which she happily admitted was “kind of like pushing into my skin.”
It pleased me that while Jonathan got thrown under the bus for uncomfortable clothing, Seth Aaron won for his thoughtful, comfortable design. He mentioned specifically that he made sure to use “soft fabrics” and I had an instant flashback to childhood, where the sole measure of any clothing was whether or not it was itchy. It’s also hard not to love his adorable child model, who ducked behind the adult model before holding up the purse as her favorite part.
The nice thing about challenges like this is that it forces the designers to think outside their comfort zones, but falls in a useful middle space between “do whatever you like” and “design something out of material so totally absurd that it’s not at all reflective of what clothing should be.” The latter group is certainly fun television, but ultimately more about entertainment than fashion. Children’s clothing does exist, and as the booming children’s and pre-teen television market has made clear, products aimed toward children are a vibrant industry. Episodes like this make designers like Jonathan seem snotty and aloof, but also not that intelligent about the wide world of real people’s clothing.
Next week looks like a return to the “material so totally absurd” category, and from the looks of Tim’s responses, it’ll be a mess. As I, too, am ultimately more about entertainment than fashion, I say – huzzah!