Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eleven Minutes

Eleven Minutes (directed by Michael Selditch, Robert Tate) is a 2008 documentary about Project Runway Season 1 winner, Jay McCarroll, preparing his first collection to be shown in NY Fashion Week. What an interesting film! It played on Style channel this afternoon, and I can't believe I haven't seen it until today. What a fascinating look into the heart of fashion industry, and at how TV fame translates into success in a real world.

Jay McCarroll is a very talented designer, and I loved the collection -- it was themed largely around hot air balloons (and other things, but mostly balloons), as can be seen in this top:

Balloons also pervaded the show's color palette, from blues to yellows to reds:

But pretty clothes were only a small bit of the story -- I got some real appreciation of how much goes into putting a fashion show together, how much work; Jay was propped largely by volunteer labor of his friends, and their dedication (despite the occasionally flaring tempers). There was some backing from Humane Society and a strong anti-fur message; thumbs up on that! Then there was the casual racism and misogyny of the fashion insiders. Then there was the difficulty that went into not only launching the show (for those who'd forgotten, Jay turned down Project Runway money because of a really horrible contract clause) and the uncertainty of any results even if the show is successful -- behold the meeting with Urban Outfitters and the consequent falling through of the deal.

I was really amazed at the role of buyers -- and I really shouldn't be, because it is the same with publishing. The interest from the B&N and Borders buyers often determines the print run of a book, and if chains do not order, it is a real disaster. Buyers appear to wield a lot of power in fashion as well, and that was quite eye-opening. Just to think that someone can spend so much money and effort and heartache and it still may come to nothing if buyers are not impressed. Stuff nightmares are made of, this.

As moody and often cranky (understandably) as Jay was throughout the documentary, one thing really drew my attention: how important it was for him to stop being a TV reality person and to become a bona fide fashion designer. And with all the setbacks and annoyances, that seemed to be the yardstick by which he measured his achievement. I was sad that the collection didn't make it to UO; then again, a few pieces sold on QVC apparently, and McCarroll has an online boutique now. But I hope he has another fashion show soon -- with color and neat shapes and fantastic silhouettes, retro and modern. And, I hope, with more balloons.

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