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Project Accessory S1-4:It's In the Bag Review

Updated on December 6, 2011

It's in the Bag

It’s down to 8 designers and if you think that the drama is gone since Nicolina exited last episode, you are very, very wrong. This is a reality competition show and if there is no obvious villain, be sure the edit will focus on one or two. But, as always, you can’t show what’s not there.

As usual, there are spoilers and shenanigans below. If you don’t want to know what happens this episode look no further.

We start off with some talking heads from Rich. Uh oh, that's not a good sign on this show. He’s happy he came in 2nd place last episode. Good for him. This is usually where a contestant gripes about how he/she should have won, so it’s refreshing to see someone honestly happy about just doing well.

What Good Is She?

Molly struts out to tell the designers what their next challenge is and tells them…nothing. That’s right. Nothing. They have to go back to the workroom to find out. What good is she, exactly? She tells them to leave without a hint except that it’s a surprise (that narrows it down) and barks out, “See you on the runway” as the designers leave.

That’s original.

Is Heidi just too busy to host this show herself,? Because, sadly, Molly is just regurgitating Heidi's lines. Instead of sounding fresh and bringing new engery to this show Molly comes across as the poor man’s Heidi. I think that’s odd since if you’ve ever seen Molly speak outside of the show, she’s witty and has personality to spare. Someone get that Molly onto the show, stat!

Should they replace Molly Sims?

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Who, Exactly, is Sponsoring this Challenge?

The designers get back to the workroom where Eva meets them with the Ebay creative director. There are 8 totes, each holding the belonging of a woman featured in Ebay Fashion’s “Ebay Style Story”. Get that? Let me repeat it one more time just in case you didn’t.

Ebay, Ebay, Ebay. Phew, thought you might have missed it.

The designers must make a bag, which fits the lifestyle and style of the woman whose crap is in the tote they pick. The designers get to pick in the order of their scores during the last challenge. I will note that this is brilliant and I wish Project Runway would do this as well since it gives the viewer a chance to see where the designers stand within the last episode as well as in the competition.

Obviously Christina won last so she goes first, then Rich and then Diego. The middle is the middle and in the lines of ‘blah, blah, blah’. This is when we find the designer who scored last is James and he is only around because he had immunity. Remember this, because the editors play a trick on Molly later. I laughed out loud, in fact, I snorted, so wait for it.

Twist #1: Brilliant!

It is only after the designers pick their totes that they are told that they must design a bag that will fit all that crap in the tote. This is brilliant. It was told before they began to design or before they got to meet with their clients. This is how a ‘twist’ should work; it should make the designers think and use their skills to overcome something that might be challenging.

Of course there's always the "I've never made a purse before" from certain desginers (James and Nina in this case), but a good accessory desginer should be prepared and ready to adapt.

The Importance of Clients

Each of the designers meet with their clients and we get an inkling of issues. Diego, Christina, Rich, James and Adrian make bags specifically with their client’s tastes in mind. In fact, James and Adrian alter their designs so that their client is happy. Remember that, it’s very important to note.

On the other hand, Shea is thinking more about her client’s laptop than she is her client. Taking it up a notch, Brian doesn’t give a rat’s ass what his client wants needs or likes. He just wants to “please myself and doesn’t care if I please the client.” My first reaction when he said that? Get some lotion and find a room. What an ass.

There is this back and forth from Shea and Rich, but no one has acted more like a pompous jackass more than Brian. Not that Shea isn’t falling into the villain role quite nicely, she is. Who threads a sewing machine wrong, moves to another, threads that one wrong and moves to another? She’s definitely an ass too, but Brian has her beat. The editors aren’t playing it up, which makes me wonder…

Twist #2: They HAD to Muck it Up, Didn’t They?

Eva brings in the clients to have them check out the designer’s progress and give them feedback. After the chit chat, we find that Brian doesn’t give his client the black bag she wanted and James has nothing. Eva then instructs the clients to give the designers their old purse. The 2nd twist? The designers must make another accessory from the old purse.

I’m not going to waste too much time on the second accessory during the rundown because most of those pieces were ugly and ridiculous. How ridiculous? The majority of the designers just took off handles and made them into necklaces or bracelets.

The editors must hate the judges. I felt sad as the judges fawned over those pieces, which were minimally altered from their original state. Christina, Rich, Shea and Adrian just used the old purses straps, clipped it shut and sent it down the runway. It made the judges look like morons and didn’t do the show any favors.

Mentor Eva, Hiya, How Are You?

Mentor Eva comes out and brings out the clients for their non-makeover makeover. This is when I first noticed that they didn’t show any of Mentor Eva’s critiques. That’s odd. Do you think Project Runway would ever cut Tim Gunn’s critique from the show? Curious, I went to to get the skinny on what she had to say to the designers.

Mentor Eva was worried about Rich’s design, because it was so unfinished. She didn’t like the cut of Shea’s flap and didn’t mention the size of the purse at all. She thought Nina’s purse was too heavy, the strap was too fragile and the clasp in the front wouldn’t work. She loved James’ purse and thought it was luxurious and soft. She also talked James out of his purse handle/necklace idea.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, you’ll know why they cut every bit of it.

Should they replace Mentor Eva?

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Molly and Ariel will be joined by guest judge Rebecca Minkoff who is the #1 independent accessory designer in the United State. You can conveniently find her accessories at Ebay’s Fashion Vault.

Got that?

Ebay’s Fashion Vault.

Kenneth Cole isn’t around this episode and I wonder if he’ll actually be back or did he escape the show using his Swarovsky embellished rocket belt he purchased from Ebay?

In his place is Kara Ross who is a jewelry and handbag designer. She didn’t get much face time, which suggests she does not sell her products at Ebay.

I could be wrong...

Molly calls Digeo, Christina, Brian and Nina to step forward. These designers have the highest scores, so could the people in the back, who are the lowest scores, please just leave.


Molly is gorgeous, but smooth she is not.

Nina and Brian

Molly calls Nina and Brian safe at the same time. Both made nice purses, even though Brian didn’t make a purse the client asked for. His client looked disappointed in the workroom, but when asked by the judges would she wear it, she said she would.

The judges should have mentioned how disappointed she was, it was obvious, but they liked the purse, so I don’t think they wanted to press on further about her lack of excitement or exuberance. This is why I think Brian is in the finals and could possibly win. He has potential for a villain edit, but the editors are not going there. Makes me wonder.

I will give him credit; Brian was one of three people who actually made the second piece instead of taking a handle, strapping it on the client and calling it a day. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t like it and thought it looked odd.

This was the first time Nina ever made a handbag, but it wasn’t as obvious as some others. She even admitted that her bag looked good from afar, but had issues up close.

Remember Mentor Eva found several issues with Nina’s bag, but the judges loved it and the strap, which Mentor Eva thought wouldn’t hold the purse for prolonged periods. There is a serious disconnect there that the show has to figure out. Nina was another designer who actually designed another accessory, making a beautiful ring out of metal and leather.

This, for me, is the first WOW piece of the season. So, kudos to you Nina; it is well deserved.


After Molly quickly dismisses Nina and Brian at the same time, she gives Diego the win. I say this still lines up with the second person called out wins and at least they’re consistent with that. His handbag is luxurious and looks expensive ™Heidi Klum.

He did spend most of his time helping Rich and freaking out about time, but he gets the quote of the episode by saying, “I make handbags, I don’t make miracles.” Preach on, Diego, preach on.

Diego was the last designer to make an original 2nd piece by making a credit card case and hiding the blue fabric he used from the original bag inside. I give him a lot of props for that, since the original bag was white wicker. No, Diego, you can make miracles and as the most consistently good designer, I’m rooting for you.


Her purse was simple and elegant. I thought that the straps for it were a little small for such a substantial bag, but it was still a nice piece and she deserved her spot in the top group.

Bottom Group Side Note

This is where I take a moment to mention that it didn’t make a difference about what the client did or didn’t want. It seemed that the judges didn’t really take what the client wanted into account at all and that is only made abundantly clear as the show continues.

Note to show: if you use a client, their opinion should matter and should weigh in during judging. If not, use a damn model.


His client loves stripes, so he used stripes. The judges hated it because it was too limiting and not versatile at all. If you looked at the stripes and his client; they fit together. She had a boho look going on and his striped purse highlighted that nicely, but the judges didn’t like the stripes, because she would have to dress around the purse.

I’m not seeing a problem with that and honestly, Project Runway, make that challenge happen next season.

The real issue is the proportion of the purse. It just doesn’t work. It’s too big to be a clutch and either needed a long strap or a more pouch-like look. It was off and he deserved to be in the bottom for it.

But Molly’s harping that he lacks taste? Hmmm, I’ve got some issues with her spouting that off at Adrian, especially after giving James the win with his tacky shoes during the ‘shoe’ challenge.


She has the issue of fitting a Mac in the bag she creates for a woman who is 5’2. Instead of keeping it slim and compact (as Mac laptops are), she goes for large and bulky. Ariel was right in saying that it looked like carry on luggage. They also mention that the purse made her client look fat, but I think the purse made her client look like a child holding mommy’s purse. That’s worse.

Maybe she should have spent less time complaining about fitting a computer into a purse and more time considering the proportion of the purse.


Poor Rich. He goes from 2nd to the top to 2nd to the bottom. His goal was to make a utilitarian messenger bag for his client. He and his client share the same tastes and he’s got a great design.

The problem?

His stitching is horrific. There are gaps in the stitching and it’s crooked. Shea talked a lot of smack during her talking heads about Rich’s work, but she wasn’t off. He even admitted the quality was horrendous.

He complained a lot about Shea threading the sewing machines wrong and leaving them, but she stitched her purse nicely and his was atrocious and childlike. That’s not a Shea problem, that’s a Rich problem.

My favorite part was him complaining about Shea complaining too much. Right now I’ll complain about him complaining about her complaining too much. My life is complete.


This was James’ first attempt at a purse and he made a messenger bag out of suede. Mentor Eva loved it and his client helped him make the braid strap she wanted on it.

The judges hated it. They thought it was too big and bulky, so they asked his client if she liked it. She loved it and defends the purse (unlike David’s client) and says she loves big, bulky purses. She is the client and Ebay (Ebay folks!) considers her style as fashionable and worthy of a feature story. But, according the judges, her love of large bags is ignorable.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before, I think James has serious taste issues and he should have been gone the first episode, in my humble opinion, but it just highlights some issues with the judging and disconnect between the judges and Mentor Eva, who loved his purse. You could say that it was his lack of a second accessory that got him booted, but remember that Adrian didn’t finish earlier in the season and he’s still around.

Molly even said this during judging: “I know you’re better than that. You know you’re better than that.” What the hell is Molly talking about? He’s been in the bottom more than once. In fact, he had the bottom score last episode and would have been gone if it hadn’t been for the immunity he won for making ugly shoes. The irony is that, I thought his purse wasn't that bad and I don't often agree with Mentor Eva.

As he leaves, Molly tells him, “We think you’re really talented. Don’t forget that.” Really? Snort.

I think Molly may have had a wee crush, because most other designers have had a variation of ‘get off my runway’ as they leave. I think James was for the most part tacky, so later.

Next Week is One Week Closer to the End

Isn’t it sad I’m more interested in how they will retool next season than this season? I know I’m sad about that. This show is still interesting, but for me it’s less about the designs (which the show should be about) and more about the dysfunction and disconnect between the judging, mentoring and editing.

Next week will have the designers getting ‘help’. They go to the beach where people are picking up shells and bird poop. Rich looks like he’s giving up and Shea is bleeding. Hopefully, the designers will put their big girl panties on and give us some inspiring pieces.

Who should have gone home?

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