‘Project Runway’ Review: “It’s My Way On the Runway”
With designers dropping left and right in recent weeks, our contestants on 'Project Runway' are seeming a bit fragile. What better way to make them feel comfortable again than by giving them a special challenge designated by notorious nitpicker Nina Garcia?
Nina Garcia enters with Heidi and the ominous button bag, which means there will be a team challenge. The team challenges are always great for the dramatic element, but it leaves little room for the designers to present a fully-formed, individual vision. Nina explains "Marie Claire at Work," which is the magazine's effort to showcase strong, powerful, independent and fashionable women in the workplace. This week's challenge tasks the designers to create a "fashion capsule collection" for the woman at work. The womenswear will need to be fashionable, cohesive and able to translate to the real world. In addition, each team will need to direct their own photo shoot. The winning team's spread will appear in the pages of Marie Claire's Women at Work.
Sonjia won the last challenge, so she gets to pick her team first. She goes with Elena for her ability with "tech... nical patterns?" It sounds more like a question than an assertion. Their team also gets Melissa, Dmitry, Alicia and Raul.
Nathan is up next and chooses Ven -- a smart choice. Also on their team: Chris, Fabio (a move that upsets Raul, who seems to have a bit of a crush on Chris) and Gunnar DEATH RAGE.
Gunnar and Raul are the last two to get chosen, obviously. The numbers are uneven on each team, so the team with five contestants will design five outfits and the team with six will, of course, design six, "to keep things fair," as Heidi chirps.
The designers head into the workroom to start sketching, where they meet walking HP advertisement Tim Gunn, who explains how blessed they are to have HP tablets as they all nod thoughtfully in a moment that has never been rehearsed. Tim presents a shocking twist: the designers only have until 11 pm that night to design and construct their garments because they will head straight to the photo shoot from the hotel in the morning. You hear that, Raul? Sort your life out.
Sonjia has a great idea to have the designers on her team focus on what they're best at. Melissa is good at tops, so she should make two tops, and Alicia makes killer pants, so she should work on those. Rather than have each designer make a whole outfit, which might take longer, they can play to their strengths and work quicker. Raul is not on board because he wants to make bottoms but Sonjia thinks he's better at tops. There is a metaphor here for Raul's sex life. Feel free to make your own jokes at home.
More problems arise on Team 6 when Elena realizes that one of their Mood bags containing her wool has been left behind somewhere. Dmitry offers to let Elena use some of his heavyweight jersey material, which just means she'll have to revise her design a little. Everyone else tries to reshuffle the fabrics accordingly, but Raul throws a hissy fit and refuses to change his fabric choice.
Let's stop to admire Dmitry's sensible sweater this week. Thank you for your respect in this moment of reflection.
Gunnar continues to have issues on his team, feeling more like a tailor than a designer, unable to execute his own aesthetic within the team dynamic. Just in case you don't get how he's feeling, he says, "I feel like a f---ing tailor. And I don't do that s---." Snap. Snap. Snap.
Competing with Raul for most hysterical breakdown is Elena, giving a repeat of her performance from last week. When Papa Tim shows up to give constructive criticism, and it's too cute listening to Dmitry talk about a woman being able to wear a look in and out of the office, when you know this ballerina man has never entered an office in his life. Otherwise, Tim likes what he sees and Elena finally gives in and agrees to keep working on the top that's giving her a stroke.
Tim is less pleased with Team 5, who has chosen pink, purple, tropical prints and white -- and all mostly silks. Gunnar wants to gleefully speak up and tell Tim how he hates the colors and fought the choices but was, ahem, gunned down, but he keeps his mouth (mostly) shut for the sake of his teammates.
Dmitry notes that Ven is a "one-way monkey," when he means to say "one-trick pony," but I sort of prefer his original assessment, so all one-trick ponies from here on out will be referred to as "one-way monkeys."
The Photo Shoot
The designers have three hours to direct their photo shoots, which will result in each team choosing three photos to present to the judges. Elena immediately goes into dictator mode, ordering everyone around and shouting out time.
Team 6's collection looks cohesive and sharp, using blues and blacks with Sonjia's plan to have everyone play to their strengths mostly working well for them. Team 5's collection, while cohesive, looks like resort wear. The ways the clothes are cut reads too casual and relaxed for the work place. Does their woman work as a greeter at a Hawaiian beach resort?
Elena continues her freak-out by trying to micro-manage the photo shoot and hating everything her team does, going so far as to accuse a model of looking like she's pooping. Keep it classy, Elena.
Team 5: Their first look is Nathan's off the shoulder top and white pant look. This purple and black floral print is tacky and looks like something you'd make a muumuu with, not something I'd want a top made out of. It reads as old(er). The pants are very well-constructed, though. Christopher's top and skirt with jacket come next, and his signature pleating in the skirt definitely elevates the tackiness of the floral a little. Gunnar's dress is next and it's actually quite tastefully designed, but his look, like Chris', has several errant threads hanging, highlighting just how rushed and almost complete these designs are. Fabio presents a black and white color-blocked dress, but the shape is not very flattering. It's more like a fashionable potato sack. Ven's skirt and blouse looks like all of Ven's other skirts and blouses because he is, as Dmitry says, a one-way monkey.
Team 6: Melissa's blue dress starts the show, and I love the way the front goes up to the neck, while the back sits lower, in a reversal of traditional construction. There's something very forward-minded about this design, and the way the zipper winds up across the back is fantastic. Up next is a top/jacket and pants look from Elena and Alicia. For all of Elena's fussiness, she really got it together in the end because her top work against Alicia's impeccable pants looks killer. Sonjia's skirt and Raul's top come down next, and the blue skirt is very sleek and fits well, but Raul's top with the fluttering ruffle work down the front just doesn't look very classy. It looks like a cheap knock-off of a more sophisticated brand. Elena's more dramatic top with the poofy sleeves and Alicia's next pair of pants come down the runway, and it's sort of brilliant to pair the two of them together because the drama and severity of Elena's tops works so well with Alicia's tailored male-inspired pants; however, I am not a fan of this particular top. It's a little too voluminous and perhaps that's a matter of personal taste, but it's just all a bit too dramatic. Next is Dmitry's navy and black color-blocked dress which is very simple and elegant. That sweater-wearing ballet man can design the hell out of a dress, for sure. Last is a draped skirt from Sonjia and a leather vest from Raul -- and for all the drama between the two of them on how this would turn out, it actually looks quite fetching.
The teams are tied, meaning anyone can win or lose this challenge. First up is Team 5, which earn praise for their use of a matronly print in an interesting way. Guest judge Joanna Coles (who is like the Tilda Swinton version of Nina Garcia, and meaner) likes the way the collection looks easy, but everyone agrees that Nathan's look with the white pant looks too soft for the workplace, though Heidi likes that it might represent an older age group. Heidi doesn't like Gunnar's dress and thinks the model's boobs look like a souffle, whatever that means. Michael Kors agrees that it isn't very appropriate for the workplace.
Team 6 steps up for judging next, and Nina praises the cohesion and the way their looks photographed so well. In particular, she's taken by Melissa's blue dress and Alicia's pants. Heidi is on my side about Raul's top with the ruffles, which just isn't right for the woman they were designing for. Or any woman, really, but that's my opinion. Joanna seems more concerned with what people in finance and law can wear, and thinks that Elena's dramatic top with the big sleeves would be perfect for an accountant or lawyer. Clearly she doesn't interact with these people very often, which might explain her obsession with what they would wear.
Melissa wins this week's challenge with her fashion-forward but still office-friendly blue dress, while Raul is eliminated yet again for his sloppy construction and poor design.