April 21, 2013

Project Runway: Patricia in Paris

Since learning that Native American fashion designer Patricia Michaels was to be featured on Project Runway's eleventh season, I have been following her successes and challenges on the show, and recapping the episodes here.

For the 12th episode, the contestants get a treat: a one-day whirlwind trip to Europe. They each get sent off to various fashion capitols of Europe for inspiration, and while there they must purchase the textiles they will use in this episode's competition.

Patricia gets Paris. While there, her and her assistant Kate gravitate toward the nitty gritty side of Paris: the textures of the hard side, the layers of history, the street, and graffiti all inspire her.

She explains, "I'm not doing the romantic whimsical Paris. I'm doing the true gritty street 'make a statement' Paris. It's like, I'm not going to give you a Native woman on a buffalo blanket with the wind blowing in her hair - Why would I just give a romantic Parisian?" Such a clutch statement.

After running around Paris, Patricia and Kate sit down at the Eiffel Tower to sketch. I love the image above, where you can see Patricia in her moccasins, sketching her designs. In the image below, Patricia begins mapping out the design she'll create. There is much at stake - the four winners of this competition will move on to produce a collection for New York Fashion Week.

Later, Kate and Patricia stop by the Louvre, where Patricia remarks, "In this moment, I am feeling such success, and such strength, because this is a moment that I am proving to myself that I am worthy of having my work as something important. And the sacrifices I had to make to get here will be all worth it. And then I'll just be strong and I'll never doubt myself again just because I love my work."

After their whirlwind trip abroad, the designers return and immediately get back to work. Because, after all, this is still a competition, and people will still be sent home if their designs are not up to snuff.

Patricia does what she does, and she takes to creating a layered textile of silk organza and silk chiffon. She explains, "It's like installation graffiti," and that she is basically painting with textiles - a process to which Samantha Black responds, "You are one fly bitch." Indeed.

Patricia gets feedback from Tim Gunn, and through this interaction we see how Patricia can take constructive criticism and turn it to her advantage. This proves to be another great asset for her in this competition. She has a clear and distinctive artistic voice (something that truly sets her apart from the other contestants) yet she can incorporate suggestions to produce stronger pieces.

On the runway, Patricia's interpretation of Paris was lost on some of the judges (ahem, Nina Garcia). Heidi continues to advocate for Patricia and the fact that Patricia consistently produces garments that none of the judges have ever seen before. There is something intriguing in knowing that you will be surprised by what she brings forth.

Nina, the queen of ready-to-wear, brings up one of the biggest debates of all time when she asserts, "Fashion is not art. Stores are not museums." Zac Posen retorts, "There is a place in fashion for over the top, for extreme, for maybe unwearable, and I think it's so important, because otherwise we will just have the chic banal." Exactly.

In the end, the judges give Patricia the green light to head to New York Fashion Week because they are interested in seeing what she will produce next. She states, "For me to show at Fashion Week now is like such a dream come true that I can really give something new in the eyes of a Native that will show the strength of who we are as people and to have that opportunity - thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you."