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‘Project Runway’ Review: “In a Place Far, Far Away”

Lifetime

Finally! It’s the Avante Garde challenge! But this week is also the final challenge to determine who will be heading to fashion week to compete for the winning title. With only five designers left, the competition is heating up.

The Challenge

This week’s challenge is sponsored by L’Oreal and inspired by their latest limited edition cosmetics line, which has a fairy tale aesthetic. Tim brings out the ol’ button bag to determine the color palette assigned to each designer, leaving Sonjia in her comfort zone with greens, Dmitry with purples, Fabio with black and red, and Melissa with pastels (uh-oh). Christopher is the odd man out, so he gets to choose which palette he likes most — obviously he hits up that black and red business. The group gets some time to soak in their surroundings at a Long Island “castle” before heading to Mood to spend $400 on fabric. We are also blessed with a few Swatch sightings, which may be our last of the season. That dog, seriously — magical.

Almost all of the designers seem troubled by their color limitations when shopping, leaving them all incredibly exhausted by the time they head back to the workroom, but the challenge has blessed them with a full two days to put everything together. Tim pops in to give them a little fatherly lecture — the judges are expecting two months’ worth of work to come together in two days, and it’s an avant garde challenge, so they really need to step it up and go big, or they’ll be going home. You know, like that saying. (No one said this, I just made it up.)

In the break room, the designers eat lunch under black and white photos of past designers and Tim looking pensive, implying that this is a thoughtful place. Christopher accordingly puts on his best thinking face and asks, “Avant garde… what do you think that means?” Well, Chris, clearly you were not paying attention when Tim explained that it means new and experimental. He follows this up with his own Bluth-inspired chicken dance. Christopher is Gunnar Lite. Diet Gunnar, if you will.

Tim pays the workroom a visit and finds Chris working on a dress with exaggerated hips (because we’ve never seen anything like it before, ever!), Melissa confused by the concept of the passage of time, and Dmitry hedging all of his bets on a weird triangle sleeve-thing. Fabio manages to completely silence Tim in a way that reads like a spontaneous outbreak of early onset senility — quick, where is Ryan Gosling to make him remember their kisses in the rain? Tim says Fabio’s jacket looks like a costume, and he doesn’t even go into the sheer black/boyshort combo, but I feel confident in saying that’s some Valley of the Dolls goes to the brothel stuff right there.

Sonjia hasn’t really made anything yet, so Tim just scolds her and tells her to do something with her life because she is his most disappointing child. “Why can’t you be like your sister Melissa?! She’s so responsible!”

Fabio recalibrates by turning his jacket upside down because he used to wear his button-down shirts as pants in college or something, so he was that guy. Sonjia takes a fabric that looks like grandma curtains and starts folding it as if to honor the memory of Ven.

The Runway

Melissa — The layering of her look works well with the colors. I’ll admit I was worried with her choice of turquoise and coral, which almost read too literal to the color palette she was given, but the way she layers with the leather vest and the turquoise, high-collared vest is quite novel. I’m not the biggest fan of the print on the skirt, which looks like something I’ve seen in the home decor section of Target, but the coral lining on that looks pretty cool in contrast.

Fabio — He really nails the look he was going for with the skeletal black on top of the red. I’m into the take on the weird 70s chiffon pants, but disappointed that the model removed the jacket so quickly, as that seemed to be the centerpiece. I still think the jacket looks costume-y, and perhaps more so now than it did before, but it’s definitely more impressive than his original design, which, as Tim said, was flat.

Dmitry — His futuristic business suit is just a bit too casual, which is disappointing. It’s constructed very well and the detail and effort that went into making it shows. Let no one ever say that Dmitry isn’t an expert craftsman, but I don’t think he went as big as he could have, even after Tim’s pep talk. The sleeve is interesting, but see-through stripes down the skirt don’t really scream “avant garde!”

Sonjia — Her model looks like she has two folded restaurant napkins taped to her breasts. Did Ven teach Sonjia how to properly fold napkins? And that fabric is just… not pleasing. It’s too tapestry-like. It’s well-made, sure, but Sonjia’s confusion in the workroom and her “just move stuff around until it looks right” approach really shows here.

Christopher — It’s very Charlize Theron in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman,’ for sure. And while it sort of reads like a student’s understanding of the avant garde concept (which, come on — accurate), I’m quite taken with the mix of beading and feathers and black on black with the exaggerated hip. I think the hip may be a little too low, but otherwise, this outfit kind of hits my sweet spots.

The Judging

Michael feels me on Sonjia’s dress, exclaiming that it’s like a banquet hall blew on her. Bonus: his old lady impression is a little too on-point for my comfort zone. Christopher’s dress is mostly liked, though Heidi excellently points out that he should have done some construction on the bust to match the hip. Guest judge Zoe Saldana keeps it real by saying that the first thing people look at besides a woman’s face is her chest. Surprisingly, Dmitry’s outfit earns high marks, though the judges think the collar cheapens his look by taking it into costume territory. Sometimes Tim Gunn is wrong you guys, and that’s just disturbing enough to make it hard for me to sleep tonight. The judges are torn on Fabio’s look — Michael dislikes the pant, Heidi doesn’t care for any of it, but Nina and Michael agree that the jacket is impeccable and would look insane with a tight black pant.

Zoe, Michael and Nina love Melissa’s dress, but Heidi thinks it might be uglier than Fabio’s. Later, Michael and Nina will take Heidi out back in that Kelly Kapowski nightmare outfit and try to find her reset button because her taste setting is malfunctioning.

In for fashion week are Christopher, Dmitry, Melissa, and Fabio. Sonjia and her napkins are sent packing.

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