For those not watching this season of Project Runway (Ahem, everyone in the world but Bobby and I), a few updates for you.
This season, like all recent seasons, is a series of twists and turns that have been deployed much better in previous seasons but the current cast is produced to be “shocked” and that never gets old. A handful of talented people are on the show, including many agender producing queer designers hoping to do something progressive with their work. There are (Well, were.) a terrific set of twins who played the part of fabulous villains who got sent home for not only being mediocre but for also cheating. Ouch! The top four are decent, two of which – Kentaro and Margarita – have collections that are quite a lot of fun.
But the clear frontrunner is menswear designer Brandon Kee, a scruffy hip dude from the Bay area whose aesthetic is part military duffle bag and part baggy, droopy drawered bedsheet. It’s pretty cool stuff. Check out a look at his style from his pre-season closet tour below.
Neat, right? One thing that stands out is his reveal at 1:30 that he loves British designer Craig Green. He name checks Rick Owens (via shoes) earlier in the video but he spends quite a lot of time zooming in on his love of Green by way of an expensive, seemingly Spring/Summer 2017 jacket (perhaps even this one) that he spent a lot of money on. “My favorite thing is the lacing,” he says of the jacket. “But also the detailing of the straps and the utility of it as well. It’s not strappy for no reason…Then the oversize fit of it.”
It’s a cute little designer-to-designer love letter that shows that these designers exist in the real world, with real influences. It’s quite nice. Kee’s work has stood out on the season for being delightfully weird but also for being strappy and oversized, laced and detailed. It’s very…Craig Green. This is something that has pricked me for weeks and it’s bizarre that no one – No designers, no judges, no guests. – have called this out. It’s one thing to be inspired, it’s another thing to be facsimiling (or playacting) the work of another designer who has made a name from an aesthetic. Kee’s work is fun but in many ways it’s the Forever 21 version of Craig Green. It’s an intellectually murky territory in creativity that verges on copyright infringement.
I’m not being dramatic either. I have receipts.
For episode three, Kee created a cool straight jacket. It’s cute right? It also reminds me of a Green strappy and looped look from his Spring 2016 collection – or even the garment Kee owns by Green. Coincidence, perhaps, but we have a designer who listed Green as a reference. This is fairly direct.
In episode five, Kee introduced one of his best looks that wasn’t a direct Green ripoff – so it seemed. The look is a nice pink and white and beige mix, a sort of sartorial Neapolitan ice cream via deconstructed shirt-dress. Funny enough, the pallatte walked Green’s show in Spring 2017. Another coincidence, maybe, but mostly now an itch of “Huh. Interesting.“
Onto episode 9, Kee produced a split pea soup sleeve dress (Or something. I hate it.) that was a focusing on woven straps and extra parts, fluke appendages that don’t really have a use or utility. The look, like Green’s green-and-white Spring 2016 show, had a pale resemblance. It even seemed to tie into Green’s Fall 2016 collection too.
The most incriminating, episode 11 saw Kee introduce a design featuring an extremely hooded and flapped-in way about dressing. If you squint, it is a pinky editing down of the first look of Green’s Fall 2016 collection.
By episode 12, the murkiness continues with a creamy and fatigue combination. It’s remarkable in that it mashes an early Green look from his Central Saint Martins days in Winter 2013 with the more direct military inspiration of Green’s Winter 2017 collection. If you’re wondering if this show debuted when Kee was at Project Runway, sorry people: Green’s Winter 2017 collection debuted in January 2017. Moreover, even Green’s latest collection for Spring 2018 debuted in June 2017, around when the show got started filming. Kee would have seen all of this.s
Finally, his New York Fashion Week collection is a fun romp through flamingos and loops and the like. Again: it takes you back to the multi-tiered way Green did his Spring 2017 collection. What’s striking here is the more tangential references – specifically in tonality – that Kee plays with. Add that with Kee’s constant reference to Green’s details and you have a major thing that makes you go HMMM.
What does this all mean? That Project Runway is less about fashion and more about television, that producers either don’t know or don’t care to call this shit out. What else is new? That reality television isn’t real? Who knew?!
Kee will likely win and viewers will applaud but the fashion world will likely see him as derivative – and they wouldn’t be wrong. There’s a real reason why most of these winners of fashion reality shows don’t get anywhere: their point of view is cobbled together from others, existing in the vacuum of the show. It appears cool, in the vacuum, but the wider picture reveals them to be a bit of an unfortunate joke.
Who knows: Kee might not be as derivative as I see him to be but there are a lot of receipts that suggest he’s wearing his influence in a different direction, most notably on women versus men. Perhaps he will have success designing for H&M. Even if Craig Green isn’t present on this season of Project Runway, he’s very much there – and he very clearly will be the winner if Kee takes the title (which he has a 99% chance of doing).