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‘Project Runway’ Review: “It’s All About Me”

Lifetime

This week’s episode of ‘Project Runway‘ brings the highly-anticipated HP textile challenge, where the designers must create their own patterned fabrics for use in their designs. It’s one of the most difficult challenges, and one that threatens to break a few of them early on.

If you’ve been watching previews for this week’s episode, then you’ve been dying to see which designer’s outfit made Tim Gunn compare it to an “homage to a menstrual cycle.” We’ll get to that, but first, Gunnar explains what he’d do with his prize money — namely, buy some new boots and get his mom a boob job. Gunnar, your age is showing. You might want to cover that up a little bit.

The Challenge

As mentioned, this week’s challenge is the HP and Intel textile challenge, where the designers will use special computers to create patterns that will then be manufactured into textiles they can use for their designs. And in case you needed a reminder, this is the HP and Intel challenge. HP. Intel. Don’t worry, they’ll remind you five times over the course of 10 minutes.

Tim explains the challenge with the help of ‘Project Runway All-Stars’ winner and season eight favorite Mondo Guera, and the designers all do their best to look super interested — especially Elena, who tilts her head and does this weird Ukrainian Barbie doll face with her mouth agape, mesmerized by Tim’s words about HP and Intel and synergy. The parents and loved ones of the designers show up to surprise them because this challenge has a twist: their designs must be inspired by their heritage, or something from their personal life or past that makes them unique. We’re reminded that Mondo’s own textile in season eight was inspired by his HIV-positive status. A light bulb goes off in Gunnar’s head and he thinks he should go for the sympathy vote by making a design that’s inspired by years of being bullied in high school.

Sonjia is taking a more literal approach, explaining, “The background color is black because I’m black.” She’ll also use red, white, and blue because she’s American. The Republican party will be thrilled. Ven has decided to use his pattern — a pink hibiscus flower on white to symbolize his Indian heritage — as “embellishment,” which will no doubt be a problem during judging.

Most of the designs look sort of cheap, which seems to be an issue with this challenge each season. The contestants aren’t textile designers, and maybe some of this is due to the design software, but a lot of these patterns just look too busy. That said, Fabio’s abstract penis and vagina approach is not only hilarious, but when printed out on the fabric, it actually looks kind of cool. He throws a thin layer of organza on top of it and it looks even better. He doesn’t tell Tim it’s penises and vaginas — good call.

Ven is, of course, fanning the crap out of his fabric, making me wonder if he grew up folding napkins in restaurants. Tim shows up to evaluate and immediately compares his dress to a stained maxi pad, or “an homage to a menstrual cycle.” There’s the quote we’ve been waiting for. Tim asks the designers to back him up — “Designers, am I crazy?!” No, Tim. Ven clearly has some deep issues with his mother.

Elena admits that her design looks like hospital scrubs and Tim grabs Elena and yells at her like she’s an old lady with hearing problems, shouting “I AM SO GLAD YOU SAID THAT.” It’s almost like she’s Helen Keller and he’s her teacher and he’s happy that she finally figured out the sign for “water.”

Gunnar’s mom is just as delightful as he is, and I am totally convinced she’s Ellen Barkin.

The Runway

Sonjia — The pants have this weird video game aesthetic, and while the tailoring is impeccable as always for Sonjia, there’s a distinct Sgt. Pepper vibe going on here.

Elena — Elena has apparently designed a raver’s kimono-inspired jacket from 1996. Which makes sense because she must have been high to think any of that worked at all.

Chris — I actually like the gauzy look of the black over the print to mute it, and the zipper on his party dress would be great if it wasn’t crooked. Unfortunately, it’s too gathered in the middle and it looks sort of crumpled.

Ven — Ven’s dress is the first in a new line of uniforms for Benihana waitresses. We get it, you like origami, dude. Enough with the folding and fanning and flowers.

Fabio — As mentioned before, Fabio also muted his design with organza like Christopher did, but it’s more subtle and still allows his design to sing. It’s very androgynous, but maybe he didn’t use the print enough.

Melissa — The tailoring and design of her dress is just beautiful and a little more conservative than what she’s done previously. The red in her vein-inspired design is a bit loud, but she marries her aesthetic to the print quite well.

Gunnar — Poor Gunnar. His print looks cheap and too young. Almost like a jacket or pajama top for a 13 year old girl. The equestrian vibe he was pushing doesn’t read at all.

Dmitry — He may catch flack for not using enough print, but the geometrical cut-outs with the peeks of the print on his jacket are so damn clever.

Judging

Mondo comes back to guest judge with season nine winner Anya, and both provide some of the better guest judging criticisms of the season. Elena and Fabio are immediately announced as safe, but wait — surely they saw the same outfit from Elena that I did. There is no way that Gunnar’s jacket is worse than hers. I thought Michael Kors would have my back on this!

Melissa, Dmitry, and Sonjia all come out on top and are praised for their strong tailoring skills and solid print-making. The judges seem most taken by Melissa’s dress, which Michael gleefully compares to “Melissa goes to Park Avenue.” Dmitry’s clever cutout pattern on the jacket wins them over in the end, and he finally wins a challenge.

Ven, Gunnar, and Christopher are all in the bottom. Heidi thinks Ven’s dress looks like something a Hawaiian air hostess would wear, while Michael Kors says he’s a “fabric florist.” In a rare move, the judges bring Tim Gunn out during deliberation to ask him if he’s told Ven to stop doing that origami folding move, and Tim says he has, but he also has to express his frustrations — he told Ven to scrap his first maxi pad-inspired look, and didn’t bother to tell him not to do the folding technique, either. It seemed, to Tim, that the folding would be preferable to the period piece.

Chris is given mediocre marks and head-shakes of disapproval, while Gunnar’s look is deemed “non-fashion” by Anya and compared to something one might purchase at TJ Maxx. The judges tell Ven not to use his folding technique again or he’ll be sent home, which leaves Gunnar at the bottom of the barrel.

Farewell, Gunnar. I hope you can get your mom those new boobs someday.

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