Striking A Pose: A Yoga Sandwich, me and the two Yoga-loving Cameramen!(look at my big old smile!)
Just got back from "The Windy City"(it was actually snowing!), where I was for the Chicago Casting of Season 3 of "Project Runway". I was honored to be asked to judge the next batch of designer hopefuls who want to embark on the crazy ride that I just went through.
Along with Tim Gunn, Kelly from Gen Art Chicago, an Elle Accessories editor , we saw approximately 200 "designers" hoping to be "in" to the next round. Chicago, I must admit was an interesting experience, to say the least. I can sum it up in three main categories:
1) The Students, who were either just out of design school, or in their Senior Year. Most were eliminated from the start when we soon realized the garments they brought were "Senior Thesis" student work. As an Instructor myself I have to admit that their unique design style has not been fostered yet and they require more time before they embark on this journey we call "Project Runway". Their work just looked so "student-esque"(again take my word for this).
2)The Moms, who brought their "Happy Hands at Home" (Tim's words not mine) creations .These women were so full of candor and emotion when they would describe how they have been "knitting" or "sewing" for years(showing us examples of their work) and how this was a lifetime dream. Marla must have inspired them. However, while their work was exceptionally made, it might have lacked a design aspect or unique style that would make them viable candidates to be in the NY stage of Fashion.
3)GhettoFabulousPromDresses.com: In came the designers and behind them came their "models" with the Ghetto Fabulous Prom dresses with cut-outs where they should not be, straps grasping skin that should not be grasped and skin being exposed that would make a "Muffin Top" blush! How they thought that they belonged in New York and/or be in the show was beyond me, maybe the Soul Train Music Awards, but not "Project Runway".
There were some good designers, whom we let "In" . We were moved by their unique spirit, design talent and vision. We sort of knew it right away that "Project Runway" would be good for them and visa versa. On another note, Tim Gunn , and the producers also commented that I(sort of) created a new phenomenon. I asked why? Well, nearly HALF of the aspiring designers were Instructors of some design school or another! I got a kick out of that.
Halfway through the casting, I asked Kelly (GenArt), where were the local Chicago Designers? I knew that there must be a small circle of the talented "underground" Chicago designers, the ones that GenArt sponsors, for example(we have those here in LA and in NY as well) .She said that they just did not want to show up, for whatever reason. I was troubled that they might have felt it was "below them" , because I once, thought that as well, before I decided to go to the casting myself last year. How unfortunate that we did not get to see them , they were missed .I hope they did not feel that being a part of "Project Runway" would be "below them" because for me, it has "projected" me to a place that would have probably have taken me longer to get to without my participation on the show.
Finally a few suggestions to Season 4 castings: No "Pitchety Patchwork "(yes, it's the new 'whickety whack') tops and jackets! We saw one too many of these jigsaw puzzle-looking contrast-fabric tops and jackets that even Grandma won't wear for Christmas or Thanksgiving! Next: Bring a model who actually is with an agency. And I advise students to have a couple of years under your "design belt" after graduating from Design/Art School, so you can foster your own individual ideas and creativity -- and have something other than "Senior Thesis Garments" to show prospective judges. I had an amazing time seeing Chicago designers and would-be designer hopefuls. We did find some talent and hopefully one or two of our choices will make the cut. We shall see over this summer.
Posing with the GRAN CENTENARIO Angel
Draping outfit #13
--The next day , I did a segment for 'The Olympic Zone', which would prefix the prime time Olympic coverage on local NBC affiliates. My assignment was to style/makeover the Bronze-winning Ladies US Hockey Team(see above photo). Cameras in tow, I took the atheletes to a very chic boutique in Torino that carried Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana and I "made over" one of the ladies into a very sexy , feminine bombshell, a la Sofia Loren. One of the girls even commented that this day was better than winning the Olympic Medal! I highly doubt that, but it was flattering nonetheless. It was a really fun segment to do. While waiting for the ladies near the boutique , I spotted Sarah Hughes and her sister, so as you can imagine , I became a crazed fan and proceeded to get my camera out to take a photo of her while she was not looking. The next thing I realize , Sarah is coming right at me yelling "Aren't you Nick from Project Runway? Oh my God!" It was a bit surreal, because we ended up being mutual admirers of each other's work and talents. And believe me Sarah and her sisters KNOW each and EVERY episode! I love Figure Skating.... --The Final of the Ladies Figure Skating competition was occurring and it was a Sold-Out event.We tried to get tickets via my NBC contacts to no avail--even Sarah tried to get tickets for us! David and I decided we would go to the Stadium(the Palavela) to see if we could "find someone" who was selling tickets. There were a lot of people wanting to BUY tickets but no one selling them, except for some sketchy men with long black overcoats and cell phones to their ears who were asking 600 Euro , that's about $750 for ONE TICKET: Not! While trying to "scalp" tickets , it became a bit embarrassing for me, because there were lots of Americans who recognized me from the show and kept stopping me, wanting to take photos. I could see the blogs now: "Nick from Project Runway: Arrested for scalping tickets to Ladies Figure Skating!" David and I went back to the hotel and watched it for free on TV. --The next day was the segment on the 'Olympic Ice' show, which aired on USA Networks. I did fashion commentary on the costumes the ladies wore to the Figure Skating Final. Right after I arrived , they sat me in the chair , between Mary Carillo and Jamie Sale, and said "You're ON!" No real prep time or rehearsal. But I was ready since I had watched the Finals the night before and was armoured with David's expert knowledge of the sport and history of costumes! It was a dream come true to meet Jamie Sale and David Pelletier as well as Mary Carillo and the incomparable Dick Button, in fact Dick Button turned to David and said "Who's this guy with the Funny Haircut?" What a treat!
--The rest of my stay was consumed with shopping, sightseeing, and eating lots of focaccia bread pizza! I visited some great museums, the Museo Egizio(Egyptian Museum) and the Museo del Cinema, where I took an elevator that shoots you up to the top , where you can see all of Torino, similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It was breathtaking! I also went to Milan for a couple of days , where I visited all the flagship stores of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Armani, as well as met up with some friends who own a Production/Studio called Mars Studio(www.marstudio.it) where they do fashion consulting and styling for photo shoots and music videos. I also had a great meeting discussing the possibility of producing my line in Italy as well as sourcing fabrics there as well. So I got to mix in some business with pleasure.
--My trip to Milan seemed brief, but we rushed back to attend the Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Again I tried to procure tickets somehow, but ended up paying 350 Euros each for a ticket(not from a scalper, from an official ticket agent, Thank You very much!) . It was a once-in-a-lifetime event, filled with great costumes, fireworks and Ricky Martin! We had great seats on the same level as the stage and felt like we were part of the show! An amazing experience. PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS
--Italian Policemen, the Carabinieri, must have their own Model Agency! I swear they are all good looking and impeccably dressed(see photos above). Those uniforms are to die for! --Fur, Fur and more Fur! There seems to be law in Northern Italy where EVERY woman over the age of 50 MUST own a full-length mink coat! Or , it must be the traditional "25th Wedding Anniversary" gift a husband gives to his wife. It is one or the other. I did not spot their younger counterparts in so much fur ,though, but definitely the older generation is covered in it! PETA does not exist in Northern Italy, that's for sure. --The Seniors of Italy(over 65) were impeccably dressed, even for a daily stroll down the cobblestone streets! Elegant and well styled, from the bag, to the gloves, the scarves, the shoes. Impeccable. I was very impressed. All the men were like older versions of Cary Grant. They make the American Seniors look like homeless bag ladies and men. The young kids , however, take their cue from Southern California/LA lifestyle(or at least what they THINK it is) Brittany and Kevin(unfortunately) are their inspiration. They achieve it by wearing Italian versions of "LA looks"--D & G and Replay are popular with them. --Fred Perry is still very big in Italy, sweaters, polos , of every color. Men also had a penchant for wearing orange and olive colors, particularly in scarves, jackets, sweaters. These colors were popular for men. And I saw lots of women wearing "boy shorts"(cropped tailored skinny pants above the knee) with high stiletto boots. Very big look for women there. All in all, I was honored to have gone to Torino and asked to do my fashion commentary on the Olympic Ladies Figure Skating costumes. It was a dream come true not just for me, but especially for David as well. Every minute I was there I took mental photographs that I could remember when I returned back to Los Angeles. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be going to Torino to cover the Olympics as a result of my participation on 'Project Runway', I would have laughed at them. So I treasured this trip.