CHICAGO. 3/23/06 5:45 am
It was a beautiful morning.
The sun was shining.
Not a cloud in the sky.
Mid 40’s, but with the sun, beautiful.
Sock Monkey and I awoke and got ready. Although she was unable to model the dress for me that day, she was kind enough to wake with me and escort me to the “W” Hotel. We left her apartment at 7:00am, grabbed a cup of joe and headed via bus to Lake Shore Drive. While on the bus I spy a lady and a gent, garment bag in tow, heading toward the lake. “I know where they’re going,” I point out to Sock Monkey.
We ring the bell and hop off the bus, only to stand on Lake Shore Drive, in the blazing morning sun, wondering which direction the “W” Hotel was. I didn’t bring the address. It is a hotel for crying out loud, it should stand out, right? Sock Monkey gets out her cell and dials 411 to get a hold of someone at the “W” for an address. Frustrated, she is disconnected twice. I look up the road only to see the lady and gent that I spotted on the bus. They will know which way to go.
They don’t. We hang a left on Lake Shore Drive and walk a few blocks. Nadda. We then backtrack and hang a right for 6-8 blocks. The addresses of the buildings are growing. Between Sock Monkey, the lady and the gent, they finally get a hold of an address for the “W”. We back track again, taking a left, and arrive in front of the “W” hotel at 7:45am. There is a line, but the sun is shining and we have a great view of the lake, and the line doesn’t look so bad. SO FAR SO GOOD.
The “Lady” and the “Gent” (which they will be referred to from here on out) file in line ahead of me, and agree to be my buddies while Sock Monkey leaves me and heads off to work. I have already gained two friends and it is only 8:00 in the morning! I am pretty sweaty at this point from all of the huffing around carrying my garment bag, a satchel, my clutch and a cup of joe, so standing in the sun becomes a nice rest bit.
The line begins to grow. Designers begin to file in line behind me, wrapping around the building. A beautiful lady from Kentucky is standing behind me and we chit chat. She has on a lovely orange suit jacket, and we thank our lucky stars that the sun is out to keep us warm.
Volunteers come thru and hand out wavers for those designers that have models. They take our pictures with a Polaroid which we staple to the outside of our 24 page application with our number. I was #71. The Gent #70. Miss Kentucky #72. Things are moving along, but the line isn’t. It is building its way around the building. #70 and I get to talking. He graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now is working in fashion. #69 (who becomes one of the dopple-ganger three), also attended SAIC the same time that I did, and we gossip about people that we both knew, and people that we both despised. Things are still going well, and the line isn’t moving.
(#69, the Lady & #70)
It is past 10:00am. The sun disappears. It gets down right COLD. But we keep chit-chatting and being catty to keep ourselves in high spirits. (Believe you me, there was so much eye candy to be catty about, from garments to really bad trannies, I really should have taken more photos). We are freezing. Miss Kentucky’s lips are turning blue. We get word that the line of designers is mounting to around 140.
11:00am. We are still standing outside. Gent #70, tells us that he tried out last year in Huston. There are three initial screening stages:
First: A producer walks around and asks you questions.
Second: A couple producers take a look at your portfolio/garments.
Third: The judges. (the rumor mill has pegged Nick, from season two, as this year’s judge.
Noon. It is down right FREEZING. And we are hungry. True fashion martyrs. We are all just waiting to make it to the heated, but still outside Valet tent, in which we will be questioned. Every time the sun comes out we run to find it, trying to warm our bones. #69, a younger looking version, but just as cute, of Nick, and I head to the front lawn, where some sun is scattering across the grass. He points out those in line he knows. Those who are doushbags. When one approaches.
“HEY! OH MY GOD, I haven’t seen you in, like years. I have been wrapped up in a crazy life. After school I got an internship in New York with Donna Karen. Then I moved to Paris where I was sewing for (fill in fancy designer here). I then moved back, hoping to use all of my FABULOUS skills and everyone I interviewed with told me I had TOO much talent, and was terribly over QULIFIED! So guess what I am doing now? Besides standing here in my FABULOUS PRADA shoes and (fancy designer) jacket? I am sewing band uniforms in Minnesota! CAN YOU BELIVE IT!?!” – we will call him “Frenchie” finally leaves, after much gagging from #70 and I.
Finally we make it to the semi heated carport! HELL YEAH! It is like 10-20 degrees warmer, and there are places to sit! It is like heaven. The Lady is kind enough to grab us some snacks to appease our gurgling tummies. The producer makes his round, asking us all questions and writing our names on a clipboard. His real name is Michael, and looks like Jered Letto, only BETTER.
“How are you today?”
“Why did you come out?”
“What makes your designs different?”
“Did you go to school for design?”
We then are left to wait some more. Turns out they go to lunch. Hey, at least we are in the tent. My team (#69, #70 & the Lady) decide, no matter how far each of us get, that after we will wait for each other at the “W” bar and grab a cocktail.
3:00pm. Somehow, #69 & #70 get ushered in without me and I am left to stand outside and wait. My number gets called. A producer tells me to wait to the side, and they grab #71 and #72 to go in ahead of me. They then take me in to wait with a group that is heading up an elevator to get judged by the panel. I skip the portfolio review and hop onto the elevator with the group, which contains my gang #69 & #70. While riding the elevator a producer tells us:
“Turn all cell-phones off. They are filming. They can hear all of the noises we make, so you need to be as quite as possible. There are racks of hangers when we get off the elevator. You need to hang your garments up and sit in the order of your numbers. Wear only what you want to be seen in, so if you want to take of your jackets, now would be the time. Sit and wait in number order to be miked up. The judging panel can take 2 minutes or it can take 20, so be prepared.”
BAM. We were off the elevator. Hanging garments. Taking off jackets. Sitting in Order. Getting miked up. Grabbing our garments. Waiting two by two to enter the room of judges. You can here them inside. You can here Tim Gunn making comments and people laughing. #69 goes in first. Then #70. It is my TURN! OH MY GOD IT IS MY TURN!
I walk in, past the garment rack. Hang my three garments and look up. Sitting at a 8”, white clothed table are the panel. A female producer, TIM GUNN, NICK and another female producer. I set my portfolio in front of Tim and head to the X on the floor where I was told to stand.
Tim: “How are you, Michelle?”
M: “Sweaty! I hope you can’t smell me from there!”
All: Laughter “We are too!”
Tim: “So you flew all the way here from Portland?”
M: “I used to live here and have some retailers here in Chicago, so I thought it was a good place to try out, mixing business with pleasure.”
Tim: “What type of retailers?”
M: “I make handbags.”
Producer: “Do you do that full time?”
M: “No, I supplement my income in the wine industry.”
Tim: “What makes you think you have what it takes to be on Project Runway?”
M: “Besides my sparkling personality?”
All: Laughter, making cute faces……
I begin to describe my design aesthetic and what I have to offer. During this speech, Tim is flipping thru my portfolio and sliding it across the table to one of the producers. The other two just are staring at me. I finish my speech. Tim looks up at my garments on the rack (which are 10 feet away from the judging panel I might add) and says:
Tim: “I just don’t think that you are what we are looking for.”
Each producer and Nick file in tune: “Yeah, not quite what we are looking for.”
M: “Alright. Alright.” I pull down the dress from the rack and say “even though I have a matching handbag for my dress, I mean, it is just TACKILY WONDERFUL don’t you think?”
Nick: “You do have a wonderful personality. Keep up the good work.”
Side note: Isn't that what they say about ugly girls?