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‘Project Runway’ Review: “Oh My Lord and Taylor”

Lifetime

This week Lord and Taylor ceases its quiet existence as purveyors of shoes and baubles on the notorious accessory wall of ‘Project Runway‘ and steps into the action, giving the designers a very special — and very specific — challenge. And most of them aren’t too happy about it.

The Challenge

Create a cocktail dress that fits in with the cocktail dresses designed by previous ‘Project Runway’ contestants, to be manufactured and sold in a line from Lord and Taylor. In a twist, the manufacturers of the dresses have provided fabrics, so there’s no trip to Mood and no budget. As Dmitry notes with enthusiasm, he’s not just designing for one client, he’s designing for the whole United States! I admire the patriotism.

Christopher seems a little too enthused by the challenge, but vows to replicated his layered and shredded fabric technique anyway. Some of the other designers worry about messing up the very specific challenge and going home for something so restrictive, like Alicia, who designs menswear for women, as we’re reminded every week. Elena starts having a breakdown, as expected, crying about how this isn’t her kind of challenge (not enough shoulders!), but Tim Gunn comes in and does his best to reassure everyone.

Ven swears that this week it’s not just about him, and it’s about the customers and what they want, but really he’s just figuring out how to take a piece of silk and fold it like a fan on the front of something. Tim comes in to check in on the progress, and it’s all a lot of black cocktail dresses and worried looks from Sonjia and Alicia. The real drama comes from Elena, as expected, who frets when Tim comments that her garment is “too one of a kind,” and would never work as a mass-manufactured design. Poor Elena! She’s too special!

More problems arise when Melissa realizes that her fabric isn’t exactly working the way she’d hoped, and her only other options are satin fabrics, which won’t work for what she wants to do, or more black — her signature color — but it’s also what everyone else is using. She holds off until she can fit her model and see if the fabric might read differently on the runway, but the fitting is a disaster, and she’ll have to start from scratch.

Christopher provides the comment of the week when he expresses confusion over Elena’s dress — a babydoll-esque black number with a harness-like piece over the top: “I don’t get it. I don’t wanna get it. I don’t like her.”

Elena’s mental fragility has caught on like a virus in the workroom, with Sonjia crying because her dress just doesn’t fit at all and she barely has time to sew in the zipper, and Melissa worried that she won’t finish her own zipper in time for the runway. There are tears everywhere, as if the Oprah fairy came in and started pointing at eyeballs.

The Runway

Fabio: Fabio’s dress is a dark black with an asymmetrical hem that cuts down the knee. His lines are surprisingly sleek and sophisticated, and the way the back criss-crosses with the strong silver zipper down the middle really highlights his strong tailoring.

Melissa: She goes for an asymmetrical hem as well, and while the fabric reads like upholstery, the youth in the cut with the gorgeous low back really undercuts the older feel of the print. The sides may present an issue with the peek-a-boob, but otherwise it’s quite beautiful.

Gunnar: Oh man, Gunnar went all out this week with a black sequin and lace mess that feels like a castoff from the ‘Gossip Girl’ underage night clubbing collection. It looks like a stripper’s doily.

Elena: Elena layers a harness piece over the top of an otherwise lovely dress, but the sheen of the fabric and the way this top part lays over the rest just looks like she glued scraps on top of scraps. She does win some points for avoiding the severe, futuristic shoulders look for two weeks in a row. She’s diversifying, unlike our next contestant…

Christopher: The color of the top is lovely — a light pink tone that is beautiful against the model’s skin, but the harsh and high-waisted black skirt makes the whole thing look matronly. Setting aside the fact that Christopher has done the same technique several times now (boring), he really should have made a shorter dress. His gown approach doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Alicia: Pretty sure she designed this two-piece look for a tennis player in ‘The Matrix.’ The waistband is too low, particularly in the back.

Sonjia: Everyone uses this black shiny fabric! While the silvery 80s-style wing she added around the waist borders on bad retro, the silhouette is sharp and all of her problems in the workroom don’t seem apparent at all.

Ven: Oh surprise, there’s a fanned piece of fabric folded into a flower on the front. I hate to admit — it’s a good little black dress, if a bit too safe and familiar.

Dmitry: He has the best dress on the runway, hands down. This dress is intense — a sparkly, dark grey fabric with seams that run down and give the illusion of something more complex. Heidi’s face when she sees this dress is how my brain feels.

The Judging

Ven, Dmitry, and Sonjia are all safe — which is just nuts. Dmitry’s dress was clearly the best thing on that runway, and I start to suspect them of disliking Mother Russia. Don’t they know that Dmitry created that dress for all of the United States?!

Fabio’s dress is well-liked for its diversity, while Christopher’s is praised for its elegance. Chris isn’t entirely off the hook, though, as Heidi and Nina sharply point out that he needs to quit using the same technique. They love the surprise that Melissa’s dress is strapless, but mostly dislike the severity in her asymmetrical hem. In a total shocker, there are four contestants with high scores this week, and Elena is one of them. She cries, of course, but her harness look has melted Nina’s cold heart.

Gunnar’s dress is “very expected,” according to Nina, but where was this feeling for Christopher, who has used the same technique three or four times now? Bonnie Brooks of Lord and Taylor thinks Gunnar’s dress is too stiff, like the drink Michael Kors is probably hiding under his chair. Alicia’s lack of confidence reads in the dress, but the judges mostly complain that it feels too confused and mature.

Christopher wins this week’s challenge, and it looks like Gunnar might be sent packing, but Heidi and the judges agree that no one’s look was bad enough to send them home (and also since both Andrea and Kooan left, they needed to extend things for a week).

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