Last time on Bravo TV’s Project Runway, our designers catered to some larger than life ladies. Joe’s client ate up his glittery pink pantsuit, and he won the challenge. Daniel’s lady looked sad in a lemony sorbet chiffon, and he went home. This week’s episode begins with a heapin’ helpin’ of Kenley Collins BS. Kenley “Giggle at Daniel in Front of the Judges” Collins claims to miss him.
As the remaining designers ready themselves for a new day at Parsons, Keith vlogs that he “wants to change the way the world dresses.” Lined up in rows of stackable chairs, the designers watch as Heidi Klum-Seal strides onto the runway in a ruffled umpire dress. Well, it’s got huge black and white vertical stripes and a ruffled collar. This is what a person wears who’s deciding someone’s fashion future?
At any rate, out come the winning and losing designers’ models. Since the last two challenges did not use the professional models, the models paired with the last two losing designers are put up on eBay. No, they are actually put up on the runway to be chosen or sent home by the most recent challenge winner. In this case that challenge winner is Joe, with his wide-eyed, frozen smile. What is that a symptom of, in the DSM IV? Anyone? On freeze frame he looks like he’s auditioning for the next Wes Craven film.
Heidi offers up the three winning/losing designers’ models for a human sacrifice, er, no, I mean for Joe to choose from. Joe chooses his past model, Carpaccio? (Well that’s what it sounds like.) This means the other two models are out, and Heidi sends them home. It might be my imagination (that wouldn’t be unusual), but they seem relieved. If I were putting a comic book thought bubble over their heads, it would read, “Yay! Joe won’t eat us!”
That bit of business over for this week, Heidi informs the designers they are all to go to the rooftop of 142 W. 31st street. She won’t tell them any more than that. The designers, to a person, look decidedly chagrined. Heidi is smiling like the Cheshire Cat. The group walks down the New York sidewalks toward the destination. They could just as easily be marching to the guillotine by the looks on their faces. Maybe they will be designing for Louis XVI. Well, Blayne did interview that he thought this was about meeting some mysterious superstar. Designing for a deposed headless monarch. Oh, wacky Bravo execs. Whatever will you think of next?
The designers enter a nondescript parking garage, and now Kenley Collins is whining, “I’m scaaared.” Someone else says this looks like a haunted house. The group makes its way onto the roof of this crumbling building, and… surprise! On the roof level of a parking garage, they find – cars! Oprah! You did it again. No, but the designers don’t get to keep the cars. Tim introduces Saturn designer Chris Webb, who explains that the designers must each design an outfit from recycled car parts. Okay, someone at the network has been jogging along the roadside too long. They must have passed the road sign: Caution. Fug Ahead.
Terri wonders aloud how they are going to source "car parts" without a blowtorch. Turns out the cars have been stuffed with various materials “used to make cars,” as Tim helpfully points out. Each designer claws through a car, pulling out seat belts, rubber mats, anything they can lay hands on, and fills their individual shopping cart with their treasure. It reminds me of what I used to see on weekends before our building got a security door. Couldn’t the challenge have asked them to do something a bit more dignified? Design for the car, maybe? Design a suit for a race car driver? Oh, right. This is the show that sent "Uncle Nick" home for not sewing enough fronds on a flower dress. This show seems equal parts "next top designer" and shopping cart game show Supermarket Sweep.
Cars stripped and shopping carts filled with random junk, the group heads back towards Parsons. Nobody has even called the cops, but hey. This is New York City and probably not an unusual sight there either. Back in the Parsons workroom, Tim tells the group they will have until midnight that night to work, and the winner will have immunity. Not from being humiliated, clearly; but from being eliminated during the subsequent challenge. Joe, having said he is from “Motor City” and this is “right up his alley”, immediately begins hammering away at his car parts. Keith is going for something “more tailored and toned down.” Ertswhile cavegirl Stella pokes at her car part quizzically and somehow her furrowed brow reminds me of the beginning of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well, her object of fascination is plastic, not leathah, so I will throw her a bone.
Suede plans to do a dress with some type of black and silver fringe. He has a stack of little black rubber pieces. Keith is making a pencil skirt of tan leather – it looks a bit too normal for the parameters of this challenge, I fear. Tim had emphasized creativity and "wow the judges" in his earlier instructions. Kenley is drawing a zebra print onto the air vents she’s using to construct her garment. Blayne is having trouble sewing these non-traditional materials with Parsons’ infamously cruddy sewing machines. Jerell says he is “whistling Dixie” he’s so happy with his garment so far. Leanne is making a cocktail dress from car seats.
Stella, never far from talk of cave people, fur or leather, says her garment reminds her of Planet of the Apes. Stella tries on her General Ursus leather hat by way of illustration. Actually, it does look just like the one worn by the military ape in the movie. Even though she had just finished saying she was going to do something completely different than she had ever done before, Stella is back to leathah. She seems a bit of a one-trick pony but it’s gotten her this far, I suppose.
Tim sends in the models. Tim informs Kenley that her model has dropped out of the competition. No explanation is given. As Kenley expresses shock, Tim explains that the show has given her a previously eliminated model, Jermaine, for this challenge. I don’t quite see the sense in the way the models are dealt with on this show. Without even having modeled, two were let go because their designers were eliminated. And this time, yet another model has suddenly quit. This is far from the only time a model has quit, or been late, or otherwise hamstrung a designer during taping. Are there no contracts? Are the models not paid? What is it? Why do models keep disappearing like flies? Maybe Joe did eat them, after all. Kenley vlogs her disappointment and, much as I dislike Kenley, I can’t blame her.
But then the whining begins. In her nasally voice, Kenley points out that her new model is “flat and boxy” (like a paper doll?) but her old model was narrow and curvy. It does reek, Kenley, but whining doesn’t help. As a viewer, though, I do wish producers would work this out. Whatever is inspiring so many models to jump ship without warning, production needs to fix it. Meanwhile, Jerell tries to comfort Kenley and explains that Shannon probably took a paying job, because she needs to eat. “It’s all about me right now,” Kenley snaps, to Joe’s amazement.
And now it’s all about Tim! It’s Tim Time. Tim walks up to Blayne first, who whips out a “Timlicious,” causing Tim to chortle. Blayne, unfortunately, has not thus far constructed a delicious design. He’s simply strewn seat belts onto his dress dummy. Tim wonders aloud whether this will keep its shape. “Keep working,” he advises. Jerell has made a plush-looking corset out of suede car seats. He has also incorporated abstract shapes suggestive of car handles into the design. For a garment made of car parts, it’s subtle and effective. Tim pronounces the corset “beautiful.”
Korto has fashioned a swing coat from woven seat belts. Tim advises her not to lose the sophistication; its success will depend upon the final shape. He says 1960s silhouettes are “fabulous.” Stella doesn’t have much to show Tim so far. She describes a high waisted, knee length skirt which will be “different coming from me.” Tim says it does not sound innovative enough. Leanne shows Tim the cocktail dress she’s made. We don’t get a clear glimpse of it, but it seems to have unique shapes composing the skirt. Tim likes what he sees.
Keith begins to explain his proposed garment (like some of the others, he does not have a finished or nearly finished construction as yet). His verbiage is worrying. Bla, bla, bla, ‘refined palate’, ‘not afraid to push the envelope’, etc. If only he had a stitch to show Tim for every one of those words he’s spouting. Keith continues with his word vomit as Tim looks equal parts confused and aghast. There isn’t even anything for Tim to comment upon, so Tim leaves with a vague, “It has to work.” Tim pep talks the group before he leaves, and cautions them not to “lose trajectory.” Soon as Tim is gone, Terri mocks “Korto’s scarecrow” by jumping up and down and laughing. Korto’s dress dummy wears a thick, quilted-looking coat dress. “Did you ever see Jeepers Creepers?” Terri chortles, none too subtly. Jerell interviews privately that Terri has “two faces and four patterns — don’t trust the b*tch.”
Keith is having confidence problems by his own admission. The other designers simply notice his increasing penchant to slam things down, snap, and generally do an Oscar the Grouch impression. But as far as villainy goes, grouchy does not equal the sociopathy of past seasons, so what passes for drama this time around seems fairly tame. Back at The Atlas apartment building, Stella reaches her boyfriend Ratbones (no, I’m not making that up) on her cell phone. Cave girls, ape hats, rat bones. I’m trying to imagine what Stellaleathah and Ratbones’ abode must look like. I can’t. I’m hoping she will make it into the show’s final three, just so we can all see. Somehow I wonder if they both hang upside down from stalactites to sleep. Hmm. On her phone call to Ratbones, Stella just mentioned spreading her wings and flying to the top. Of the cave? Maybe it’s feeding time.
Next morning as the women dress to go to Parsons for "elimination day" as they put it, Korto says if she is put in the bottom three, she will “not go without a fight.” In the workroom, Tim sends in the models for a final fitting, but not before warning the designers to “work like there is no tomorrow – because for one of you there won’t be, I hate to say.” Even when Tim is trying to sound scary and mean he’s faultlessly polite. He hates to say. I think he truly does, too.
The designers fit their garments onto their models. Korto’s coat, dress, coat dress (whichever it is) looks more like the Michelin Man than swinging 1960s fashion. The arms still do not want to go down at the sides. The model looks unfortunately like Ralphie’s little brother swaddled up in his snowsuit in the film A Christmas Story. The kid walked around with his arms stuck out at the sides, and finally fell over. Korto sees the garment’s shortcomings and grumbles that she “definitely will not be making any seat belt collections.” The models go to hair and makeup. Ten minutes to showtime, Keith’s model, who he had cautioned not to sit down at all in her too-tight skirt, approaches him. She has sat down in her skirt after all and now it is torn. “They made me,” she tells Keith. Who made her? And no wonder models seem to bolt from this show left and right. They make them sit down!
Keith walks into the workroom with his model, and asks to see the tear. It’s worse than he thought: a seam is gaping. Keith quickly sews it and cautions her once more not to sit and to “watch the breathing.” Instructing a model not to breathe deeply is a bit ridiculous, but then, honestly? So was this challenge. Other designers pull their creations onto their own models. Kenley is grimly "happy" with how her garment looks on her newly-assigned model. “It would’ve looked better on Shannon,” she whines. Blayne’s outfit looks like a real dress, complete with sparkly accents, but we only get a quick glimpse of it in the workroom. Leanne has stuffed the sides of her model’s underpants with gobs of muslin to fill out her garment’s skirt. A bit unorthodox, and such things have a way of transforming into seemingly telepathic judges’ questions later post-runway.
Time for the runway show. Heidi emerges to make her weekly announcements. Ms. Klum-Seal is wearing a black, shiny strapless cocktail dress which is draped almost like a towel around her. I suppose it suggests pleather or rainy pavement. It could be construed as car-like, in other words. I’m still trying to decipher what the ruffled umpire dress meant earlier, since the challenge had nothing to do with auto racing. I wonder if the challenge changed midway? The designers all look completely blank as Heidi makes the same speech she makes before each runway show. She then introduces the panel of judges: designer Michael Kors, season three finalist Laura Bennett replacing Nina Garcia this week only, and this week’s guest judge, stylist Rachel Zoe.
The runway show begins with Jerell’s design. From the time his model poses behind the scrim, even her silhouette looks high fashion. Her hair is styled in a very tall ponytail reminiscent of the stylized horse costumes in Equus. The garment itself looks finished and fabulous. She is wearing a plush suede corset and mini skirt. The plush suede fabric is taupe, with accents in black vinyl at its top, middle and sides. The mini skirt is very brief and black. She’s styled with knee length, chunky black pirate boots. She looks chic and this could actually sell as fashion. It does not look like mangled random car parts; it looks purposeful and new. Keith’s outfit is next, and the word that comes to mind for it is: boring. The only other word: beige. The only difference between this and an outfit a secretary might wear to work are the source materials. There is nothing new or interesting there.
Terri’s model is selling her design as hard as she can. Terri has made tight beige pants, a black belt with rings hanging off it, and a black halter top with a fishnet feature across the top. It isn’t shocking or surprising or especially innovative but it is possibly wearable. As the model leaves, we see that the beige pants are backed with black fabric. Terri’s voice over describes this look as “biker beautiful.” Kenley’s model is out next. Laura Bennett smiles as this creation walks the runway. Kenley’s design is a pencil skirt with a pleated peplum topping it. The blouse is sleeveless and black. The model’s hair is vaguely suggestive of the 1940s. The overall look is again, passable.
Leanne’s sleek cocktail dress appears next. The dress is very short in front, with a longer, pointed taper in back. The dress is strapless. A beige, flame motif is incorporated under a ruffle across the top of the bodice. The garment’s selling point seems to be its flawless construction. Leanne’s voiceover pronounces herself “100 percent happy with what I’ve done.” Suede shows a kicky little cocktail dress, with a rubber mat sleeveless bodice and shiny silvery strips shaking in the skirt. It’s fun and flirty. It’s hard to tell whether Korto’s model is laughing with her or at her, as she models that quilted coat dress. It looks like a longer version of a bed jacket. Or, maybe more like a bedlam jacket. The coat is all one color, and skirts this edge of boring and strange simultaneously.
Blayne’s gown strides down the runway. Its ‘car wash’ hem is made up of straggly floppy seat belts. The entire gown is, too. The bodice has them sewn side by side. The hip area is woven. From the thighs down, the seat belts flap in the breeze. This garment looked much better on the dress dummy. Blayne seems to have taken bits of broken shiny plastic and made a bejeweled accent toward the top of the halter bodice. It’s not altogether unsuccessful but has unfortunate elements. For instance the bodice gaps on the sides and I can’t think that was intentional. Detroit “Motor City” Joe’s mini dress strides out next. It’s black, red, and silver. It has a high neck, no sleeves, and a vaguely mod design element suggestive of the early 1970s. A red panel sits in the middle of her chest; silver stripes surround it and flare out to the sides of the dress. The base layer of the dress is black. It’s a nice design but I don’t know that it was the most innovative among the group’s designs.
Stella’s made a skirt of seat belts by layering one strap horizontally over the next. She’s done this carefully; the effect is smooth. It is a shiny, layered, knee length pencil skirt. Its color is a uniform, rosy beige. The separate, boxy top is sleeveless (a wise decision most designers have made this week – no sleeves) with silver clips stacked up the front. Along the sides of this black and grey top Stella has sewn a patterned strap in colors echoing the skirt. The garment shows thought.
Stella’s is the final design in this week’s runway show. Now it is time for Heidi to call out the designers. Heidi calls for Terri (wearing a Yoko Ono t-shirt), Suede (in his familiar, bedazzled jacket), Joe, and Kenley to step forward. She then tells them they are safe and can “leave the runway”. (Does Heidi ever, ever, improvise?) Suede realises that he has made it another week, and sighs in relief. The designers who remain on the runway “have the highest and the lowest scores,” Heidi tells them. “One of you will be named Miss America…” No, I’m kidding. She tells them one will be the winner and one will be out. The models come from backstage to join their designers, for good or ill.
Jerell is asked to explain his design. He talks about being drawn to the resin moldings, and how that inspired a futuristic design that he "ran with." Rachel Zoe calls it “amazing” and says she “loves the tailoring – I can’t believe how intricate it is.” Michael Kors praises Jerell for giving his model a look. Kors calls the styling “over the top but appropriate.” Heidi has much praise for Jerell’s design, also: “Exciting, interesting, wearable.” Blayne is next asked to explain his design. He talks about finding so many seat belts inside the car; he was inspired by the way they draped. He also smashed the car’s side mirrors in order to make the shiny bodice accent. Laura Bennett says she likes the idea but the fit at the top was “distracting.” Michael Kors admits that he was “never a car wash skirt or dress fan.” Rachel Zoe wishes it had been shorter with the fringe. Heidi Klum says that a broken mirror means “seven years no sex.” Aw, Heidi. I’ve never heard that one before, and I don’t believe in superstitions. On the other hand… that might explain a lot. Back to the show, though – Blayne just laughs this superstition away. Heidi wags a finger at him in warning. I’m guessing not a lot of mirrors get broken at the Klum-Seal household.
Korto explains her coat — and wonder of wonders. The panel all loves it. Rachel Zoe would “walk out the door” in it. Laura Bennett smiles beneficently. Kors calls it elegant and well edited. “Restrained drama… well done” he adds. I’m puzzled, as I think the coat is ugly; but there’s an upside. I bet Terri isn’t laughing quite so hard as she listens to all this backstage. Then again Korto hadn’t seemed too bothered by Terri’s prior derision. Again, Korto has escaped a civil war with her life. She’s probably not too bothered by sophomoric mind games.
Leanne describes her cocktail dress. She constructed it from car seats. “I cut up little bits of seat belt, and then I fringed them out,” she says in regard to the ruffly line across the top. Michael Kors judges the silhouette “fabulous” and loves the proportion and style. “Crafted beautifully,” he adds. Rachel Zoe thinks Leanne could take this dress “straight to Paris.” No one comments on the underpants-stuffing we saw earlier. I've seen judges dock designers in the past for construction issues they surely couldn't have known unless someone told them, so that's lucky for Leanne they didn't know about her last-minute sleight of hand, or didn't mind. Perhaps the strength of her overall design and construction made a small issue like stuffing the unmentionables not worth a mention.
The panel dislikes Stella’s creation: they don’t think the skirt and vest go together. It lacks a shape. Kors says the vest looks more like Stella’s usual “gig” but the skirt seems an attempt to be “more ladylike”. I think the panel is struggling to find things wrong this week: None of the finished garments actually seem terrible. As the competition wears on (pun half intended), it’s more a question of who is fabulous and who isn’t. “This does look a little random,” Kors finishes, and Stella actually thanks him. Well, for a cave girl, she is polite.
Keith is asked to explain his design next. Again he lets loose a word vomit monologue that is both lengthy and vague. The judges look a bit bored; his model looks unhappy. Rachel Zoe has the model turn around and in closeup, the design falls apart. Rachel points out what looks like a hole in the design. Not only does it look like the thick belt sloppily covers a gaping hole at the middle, but there is a confusing addition of black netting across her back. So from the front this is a dull workaday outfit; from the back it looks slapped together, with a bit of leather and fishnet thrown in randomly. No wonder if Keith sounded grouchy this challenge. Perhaps he felt as uninspired as his design clearly looks. “There’s no concept – there’s no idea,” Laura Bennett surmises. Keith snaps at her that she should see his “other stuff” and how he has felt unappreciated as a designer. Michael Kors steps in and says, “I don’t think that you should think we’re trying to reign you in – you reigned yourself in.” Keith whines about the “dowdy chicken” comment his last design received. Kors seems annoyed and basically says if Keith plans to be a designer he’d better learn to let comments roll off his back.
The designers are sent backstage so the judges’ panel can confer amongst themselves. Michael Kors and Rachel Zoe immediately assess the group as having met the challenge well. Heidi wants to start the comments with “who we liked – Jerell.” Kors says Jerell has a “very dramatic point of view.” Zoe says the design was “very sexy.” The judges all rave over Korto’s woven coat. Rachel Zoe wants it for herself. Laura Bennett, quiet overall during judging, pronounces Korto’s garment “beautifully thought out.” They all love Leanne’s cocktail dress also. “Flawless,” Zoe says. “She took a risk doing that shape in the hip,” Bennett points out. “But this was cut so perfectly that it actually did great things for the body,” Kors finishes. The panel concludes the risk paid off.
Now for the three least-liked design. The judges reiterate that Stella’s separates didn’t seem to go together and “didn’t work.” The design had too many components and no cohesive thought. Blayne’s garment had the same basic problem: no clear thought behind it. Zoe wishes it had stopped just shy of the bodice. Bennett was distracted by its poor fit. As for Keith’s design, the judges pronounce it poorly sewn, lacking in concept, and unflattering. Kors is annoyed that the designer blamed his model and “the critic.” I do wonder at times, myself, whether designers have actually watched prior seasons of this series. Again I have never seen ‘argue with the judges’ work other than with Santino, and he was a very unique case. I don’t know why, exactly. But I do know for sure that arguing with the judges, and grousing to their faces about past comments is a very risky move at best. And Kors had a point: if Keith thinks this is tough, wait until he’s invested a million dollars in a collection only to have it ridiculed. “The simple truth is, you are in charge of your own destiny,” Kors-as-Jack-Handey offers.
The six ‘best and worst’ of this week’s challenge are brought onto the runway for final judging. Jerell is in. He departs the runway. The winner is Leanne. She will be immune from elimination in the upcoming challenge. “An unbelievable feeling… I feel like I can do anything,” Leanne enthuses in her private vlog. Korto is excused with a “very good work” from Heidi. Blayne is also in and leaves the runway. Stella and Keith remain. Heidi scolds Keith for his “boring, poorly crafted design.” Heidi tells Stella “there was no surprise – your look was expected, disconnected, and ultimately, too simple.” (What, the writers couldn’t find a third phonetic rhyme?) Well, I guess they couldn’t say “ultimately rejected” because Stella wasn’t – at least, not this week. Stella is in, and Keith is out. Keith seems depressed. He’s spoken in his vlogs of having low self-confidence; this can’t help him any. Keith leaves the runway gracefully, air-kissing Heidi in the traditional Project Runway sendoff, then thanking everyone as he leaves. Gee, Keith, where were your manners a few minutes ago when it might have helped you? As Keith thanks them all, we’re treated to a hilariously grim smile from Kors. He was just this shy of rolling his eyes. I would bet a bobbin on it.
Keith hugs the others backstage. But Keith’s private interview segment is full of tears. “This is what fashion means to me,” he says. His level of emotionality is a bit worrying – fashion can make mincemeat out of the toughest people. Whatever it might take, I hope Keith strengthens from within and pulls it together. He does have talent – but no one will believe in him if he does not. Tim gives Keith a big hug and says “We will miss you a lot.” Keith’s solo interview continues with his tearful admission that “in Salt Lake I don’t get out a lot.” He feels this was his big chance. The implication is that he blew it. Keith, the glass is half full. You were among a handful of people; you made it that far. Just keep on going. Can we all chip in to send Keith to a motivational seminar? Please?
Meanwhile, next week on Project Runway, the challenge is to please “legendary designer” Diane von Furstenberg, whose ‘wrap dress’ helped working women stay chic from the 1970s onward. We’re not told exactly what the challenge is, only that the designers will design something for her. She’s judged on this show in the past and seems a nice lady. I hope next week the remaining designers will have fun and will enjoy their work. If you don’t enjoy the journey, the destination means little, whether that is Salt Lake City or Bryant Park. See you next time, sob sisters.