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Pop CultureOctober 22, 2018

Project Runway Power Rankings, week four: Can there be sustainable fashion under capitalism?


In the fourth episode of Project Runway New Zealand, the designers had to make a sustainable red carpet look. Henry Oliver ranks the results.

It’s the sustainability episode! So, let’s begin on a downer:

Fashion is, by some estimates, the second biggest polluter by industry after oil.

About 80 billion pieces of clothing are consumed globally every year, 400% more than 20 years ago.

85% of the synthetic material found in the ocean comes from clothing.

The clothing and footwear industries produce 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the EU.

The carbon footprint of a t-shirt is about 6kg (20 times its own weight).

Cotton uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides, all for a crop which occupies 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land.

One of the worst mass-produced items of clothing is … jeans!

70% of Asia’s rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by its textile industry.

Landfills are filling up with not only now-unwanted impulse purchases but brand new unsold garments, which are often manufactured for the primary purpose of justifying rising stock prices by inflating growth.

Now, back to the show! And back to the tip!

After the opening shots of Dior, Prada and WORLD (one of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn’t belong…) it’s a) interesting that the sustainability challenge is aligned with these brands; and b) interesting that it’s framed around plastic bag waste and not, you know, anything to do with cotton production, polyester pollution, dye contamination, etc. Wouldn’t a better sustainability challenge be a trip to the op shop and a $12 budget instead of heavily dyed fabrics of uncertain origin? Just sayin…

Anyway, because plastic bags are an easier target than fashion itself (on par with the war against straws), the challenge was to design a New World reusable shopping bag and then… TWIST! The designers had to make a red carpet look inspired by their bag design.

So, how’d they do?

11. Massey

Card shark Massey obviously flew too close to the sun with that winning streetwear look because boy has he crashed hard. Two weeks ago he was top for the judges and #3 on these (better) power rankings.

There are some challenges (and some designs) where you can hide your lack of technical skill. This was the opposite of Massey’s neoprene moment – he chose a fabric and a design which would show everything he couldn’t do. (“Can someone teach me how to be sexy” is one of the lines of the show so far – and Massey knew it.)

I mean, it was always going to be bad. His bag design wasn’t awful, it was just mediocre, in-store-sample-inkjet-on-fake-canvas pop art. It was bad in a believable way, bad in the way most of those New World bags actually are. But when he started thinking about it more – grunge, punk, New York Yankees, pinstripe – it was clear than anything other than terrible would be near impossible, even if it was well-constructed. He basically made an office skirt-suit, cut a panel out of the front to add ‘sex appeal’, roughed up the edges because it was too hard to sew them, and then grabbed a pen and drew hard-to-see slogans and drawing on the back (did he actually write “SUSTAINABILITY”?)

Sorry Massey, you know this was bad. Maybe the worst thing shown on the show so far (or was it that EP01 dress?)


10. Beau

When you say, “red carpet is my forte” you better bring the heat. But, Beau’s Snickers with diamonds dress (“It’s delicious but it’s quite chunky”) was a confused mess. It was ill-fitting and unflattering. Like a bad bridesmaid dress. Interesting shape though. “I’m not going to win this,” he said. He knew.

9. Beth

Oh dear. So many mermaids on this show.


8. Misty

Won’t someone think of the children? Misty is!

Bright yellow, “Bumblebee-ish”, banana-ish. This didn’t work and Misty knew it. She made the best New World bag by a mile, better than any actual New World bag I’ve seen (including those by famous designers) so gets a bump for that. New World should buy it off her (not the show cos she didn’t win the challenge) and pay her well for it. I’m serious.

7. Camille

Camille’s zero waste pattern-making was on-point and on-challenge. And while I like the shapes she creates and the lines that run through her garments, the finished products always look a little flat and underwhelming.


6. Kerry

Kerry – who of course wears a Banksy t-shirt – complains all the time about people not fulfilling the brief and then he goes and makes a nautical flag-inspired resort look. I feel like he’s doing a similar thing every week – bold colours, geometric patterns – which is fine I guess. It’s kind of like he has an existing collection he’s already designed and he’s just remaking it on the show as marketing.

5. Jess

Jess was full of confidence all episode, but her look just lacked… something. Weird to say that about a sheer top with a big neck thing and sparkly as fuck pants, but there you have it. Good, solid, a little safe maybe. And she was.


4. Caitlin

“If they lay down a red carpet at the French markets, that’s where my dress would be.” LOL!

3. Peni

Peni is a star. Someone give this “gay Tongan from a traditional family” a segment on morning TV where he gives fashion advice to middle New Zealanders. He might have to work on his sponsored content though, his “Designing for a New World bag is huge!’ was thoroughly unconvincing.

Anyway, the top half of his dress was mostly really cool, even though he obviously needed another full day to really make it into something. That skirt though…

“Cardi B if you hear me, come get me!” Yeah Peni!


2. Judy

Yay Judy! When she said “If I’m not good at this challenge when why am I doing with my life?” I felt a pang. What if she sucks this week? Of all weeks! But she didn’t. She nailed it. I mean, it’s a tad boring and predictable, but whatever. She said she wanted to make a “classic Oscars dress” and this isn’t a million miles off.

“The silent assassin,” said Misty. “She’s got game”

Side note: Did she have drawings of hamburgers on her pad?


1. Benjamin

While I think this was the Best In Show tonight, that’s mostly because of what it could have been. Whatever it was and however good it was, it was so close to being really good, even though it wasn’t. I love it on Top Chef (sorry to keep going on about Top Chef) when the judges tell a chef to take a dish back home and keep working on it because there’s “something there”. That’s how I feel about Benjamin’s dress tonight. There’s something there. Kerry said he “Just wanted to walk up to his model and turn the whole thing around” and the judges seemed to agree. I don’t know about a suit with a weird cape thing at the back, but hey, maybe it’d be genius.

Keep going!