We couldn't help thinking that Anthony was acting a little strangely all throughout this challenge. It's not unusual for him to struggle through a challenge, wondering what he's supposed to be doing and spewing sound bites about how much he has left to do, but this was a somewhat downcast Anthony and it wasn't until we saw the dress that we figured out why.
Let's get this out of the way first: Not good. Not good at all. If there's one quality all of Anthony's entries have had before now, it's a sort of upbeat exuberance. The dress worn by the most popular girl at the party. Not this one. This just looks sad and haphazard and a little weird.
Additionally, there's really nothing about this dress that says it was inspired by the circus. He chose an aerialist as his starting point and that was a good choice, but he simply couldn't figure out how to apply it to his aesthetic.
Anthony has stated several times his design philosophy and it's no more complicated than "pretty dresses for ladies to feel pretty and ladylike." In fact, he has openly expressed befuddlement when some of the other designers go outside that severely limited aesthetic. There's nothing wrong with what Anthony likes to do and there's no denying that when he hits it, he does it really well. The thing is, this is a design competition, not a "make pretty dresses" competition.
Well, actually that last part isn't quite true. We've criticized the show as much as anyone else for, in recent seasons, having too many "make a pretty dress" challenges and not enough of the conceptual and bizarre challenges that make the show riveting. In fact, it's a testament to the show's over-reliance on "make a pretty dress" challenges that Anthony made it this far.
But it can't be denied that Project Runway has always rewarded designers who don't have the broadest or deepest design philosophy. Just as Wendy Pepper won the two most important challenges of her season (Banana Republic and a red carpet dress), so too did Anthony win the two biggest of his (Marie Claire cover and a red carpet dress). What this means is there's always a place in fashion for the designer who wants to make pretty dresses.
But the problem comes when the show (wisely) opts for a challenge that's a bit more than "make a pretty dress." The final challenge of every season has always been one derived from inspiration and that's for a good reason. It's to demonstrate which designers have a vision and subsequently whether they are worthy of moving to the finals. Anthony was struggling so much this episode because he doesn't have a vision outside of "pretty" and "ladylike." He doesn't have the tools to look at something like the circus and translate it into his own aesthetic.
That doesn't make him a bad designer. It just means his is the kind of work that doesn't win design competitions when they ask for more than pretty. We have no doubt that with some smart choices and the right connections, he could have a wonderful career making pretty dresses for magazine covers and red carpet appearances.
But he'd be a fool not to take some time and look at the inevitable television offers that are bound to start floating past his nose any minute. Someone in T Lounge said last night he should have a reality show where he opens a dress shop in Georgia and we have to say, that sounds about exactly right. Come on, Lifetime. You want to expand your programming, right? A funny, gay, black dress designer in a conservative southern state dressing church ladies, debutantes, and country club wives? Where do we sign up?
We'll miss ya, Miss Sophia, but we doubt very much we've seen the last of you.
Tim Gunn's Workroom:
[Photo/Video Credit: myLifetime.com - Screencaps: projectrungay.blogspot.com]
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