Project Runway NZ Recap: Mixing the right flavours

Luis Portillo takes a close look at episode one of the first season of Project Runway NZ. He'll be back each week with a recap throughout the series.

The fourteen designers of Project Runaway Season 1. Source: TVNZ

The episode starts by introducing the designers through a series of snippets as they gather at a hotel roof garden in Auckland to meet each other for the first time.

I'm intrigued by a few designers.

Misty, a 40-year-old warning the young ones to look out. Caitlin who just seems like a pleasant human being.

Beth, a badass who describes her style as a unicorn pooping an 'Elvira' sort of thing.

Lenon, whose personal style I hope reflects in her designs. Then, there's Nicole who right off the bat links herself to chaos.

Host Georgia Fowler and mentor Andreas Mikellis walk in to welcome the designers.

Their first challenge is to design a cocktail dress with modern, clean lines reflecting the Scandinavian aesthetic but with a quirky twist inspired by the flavour of the soda they've chosen to drink upon arrival.

Models are randomly assigned – where are the plus-size models, people?

While sketching, Peni struggles with his design. His drink is pear and basil, and he doesn't know what basil is. Maybe he's never had pesto.

With $300, the designers set out to get materials for this day-and-a-half challenge.

Once in the workroom, Andreas reminds them that the judges will be looking for innovation and risks, and exhorts them to not play it safe.

A few are intimidated by Kerry, a pattern maker for Karen Walker who moves around the workroom with the confidence of a pro.

After four hours of work, they go see their digs for the first time. Are they all staying in the same apartment?

The next morning Andreas comes back to the workroom to check on the designers' progress. It's hard to tell whether he's impressed or disappointed, but still, he imparts solid advice to a few.

He tells Judy to add an element of surprise to her already sophisticated look.

On the day of the runway show, there's a rush around the workroom as designers finish their garments and models go to have their hair and make-up done.

Nicole thought her design was sexy and out of her comfort zone. Source: TVNZ

Once we hear about the brand-new car, the $50,000 and the six-page spread in Fashion magazine that will be awarded to the winner, Georgia introduces the judges.

Sally-Ann Mullin, editor of Fashion Quarterly, and Benny Castles, designer and director of World. The guest judge is Jessica Grubiša, co-founder and designer of Harman Grubiša.

After the anonymous runway show, Camille, Caitlin and Benjamin have the highest scores while Nicole, Massey and Matt have the lower ones.

Without taking any merit away from the top designers, I wish I had seen Beau's architectural garment and Jess' luminescent design at the top. I wanted to hear their story.

Now to the judges' critiques. First up is Nicole, whose watermelon and mint inspired bright pink leather panelling on top of an equally bright pink column shows the judges that she’s unafraid of using bold colours.

Camille loved the structure of her garment. Source: TVNZ

However, Jessica says that there's nothing Scandinavian about it. I didn't get it.

Also inspired by watermelon and mint, Camille's design draws mixed reactions from the judges. I can’t tell if they like it or not.

The garment represents watermelon slices with a few accents meant to be seeds, which I find literal and distracting. Benny thinks it's Flintstones chic, but Sally-Ann believes it has an editing issue.

Massey's elderberry-inspired design misses the mark. Although Georgia thinks it's cute, she doesn't like the fit.

Sally-Ann deems it pedestrian, Benny believes it's simplistic, and Jessica believes the plum coloured top looks like a bed skirt. I think it looks like a bloomer wrapped around a mortified model's bosom.

Young, cute and fun is how Caitlin describes her watermelon and mint inspired creation. The judges love it, although Georgia would only wear it in another colour.

Benny thought Massey’s top dragged the elegance away from the design. Source: TVNZ

I like the vibe of her design, and I can see many young women wearing it. This is my favourite look on the runway.

Assuming that an elderberry was a blackcurrant-looking berry, Matt ended up with an underground cocktail party. I don't see how a blackcurrant can be underground, and neither do the judges.

Caitlin wanted to keep her design fun. Source: TVNZ

Yet, we all seem to love Matt's creative process.

Finally, Benjamin and his salted lychee inspired dress. Can I say that Benjamin looks like a sophisticated European character from a teenage movie who shows up to prom with an aloof ultra-chic model?

Benny thought Matt’s design was more nightclub than cocktail. Source: TVNZ

He's given us the 'wow' moment of today’s runway show. Benny is taken by the shape, simplicity and overall elegance of the garment. Sally-Ann and Jessica love the look but without the bag.

Benjamin wasn’t sure if he was satisfied with his look. Source: TVNZ

Benjamin's coolness is unaltered when he's declared the winner.

Nicole becomes the first one to go. There are hugs and tears from the other designers, except Kerry and Jess who keep their distance and flash a non-verbal 'bye, Felicia'.

I enjoyed meeting the designers, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from them.

* Project Runway is on TVNZ 2 at 7.30pm on Mondays and on TVNZ OnDemand

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