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‘Project Runway’ Review: “Starving Artist”

Lifetime

After the judges granted the contestants a reprieve during last week’s elimination, inflating the show with positive energy, we knew they had to burst that bubble as soon as possible, right? This week’s episode of ‘Project Runway‘ features another team challenge, which means Drama with a capital D.

The Challenge

In keeping with the spirit of New York, the contestants are tasked with standing on street corners and selling products to earn enough money to buy the fabrics they’ll need to create their garment. But they aren’t just selling any products — Tim Gunn introduces them to a workroom filled with arts and crafts supplies like dyes, glitter, good ol’ Elmer’s glue, and yarn. The contestants will work in teams of three to create t-shirts, crafts, or they could even sell their alteration services on the street to passerby. Whatever funds they raise will be used to purchase the fabrics for their garments.

Christopher, Sonjia, and Gunnar comprise team one, much to Chris’ dismay. Dmitry, Elena, and Alicia will make team two, and Dmitry is devastated to work with the melodramatic Elena — who, decked out in pink and blue with neon green nails, exclaims how much she hates glitter. Ven, Melissa, and Fabio are the final team and everyone is happy about it.

The teams set out making t-shirts with homemade stencils and spray paint, and everyone is having a blast except for Debbie Downer, Elena. Admittedly, their team’s shirts look pretty awful, seemingly attacked with paint with no rhyme or reason other than, “Tim Gunn said to make arts and crafts and hey, t-shirts.” Dmitry tries to slap a fleur-de-lis patch on a shirt to make it “special,” but Elena isn’t having any of it. She’s even more notably apathetic on the street, enthusiastically admitting to prospective buyers that they’re “crappy t-shirts.”

Weirdly, none of the contestants seem to mention that this is for ‘Project Runway,’ which seems like it would be the biggest selling point. Dmitry’s selling strategy is adorable, saying in his thick Russian accent, “We are trying to get the money to go to Mood to put on the fashion show.”

After collecting the funds, Tim tells them that each team must create two cohesive looks for fall, and one must include a piece of outerwear. One contestant from the winning team will be the winner of the challenge, and one member of the losing team will go home. I hope they have plenty of buses ready for these people to throw each other in front of!

Things at Mood are a little chaotic, with teams fussing over the cohesion of their color and fabric choices — particularly Sonjia, Gunnar, and Christopher, who all seem to have good intentions and are working well together, but can’t make a unanimous decision. But we get a nice, long look at Swatch as Tim makes everyone say goodbye to the best dog ever. Seriously, more Swatch, ‘Project Runway.’ Make it work.

When Tim drops in to check on the progress, the groups are all strangely quiet. The tension is rising on Dmitry and Elena’s team, as Dmitry baffles everyone with his idea to put “tucked in” darts on the front of his jersey dress. Ven, Melissa, and Fabio’s team is a mix of grey and pink and looks like upscale couch wear with a structured jacket that Elena is probably real upset about. Sonjia, Gunnar, and Christopher are struggling more with the details, but they seem to be making more progress and working better than the other teams.

Dmitry vs. Elena rages on as Dmitry declares Elena a witch and explains how they kill them in Mother Russia: with a silver bullet and a wooden stake, because apparently witches are the byproduct of werewolves and vampires. Gunnar gossips to Elena that he’s pissed about Christopher’s immunity and the lackluster outerwear that isn’t quite enhancing his dresses, which he thinks are stealing the show. More importantly, he tries to high-five Elena, who doesn’t even notice and it’s so gloriously awkward.

The Runway

Alicia, Dmitry, and Elena:

Dmitry’s black jersey dress is sleek as usual, and although it doesn’t necessarily repeat his previous details, it does seem to be a retread of his usual aesthetic. The gray shawl is a bit cheap-looking, with the fringe cut out like one of those blankets that overbearing moms make out of snowflake-printed fleece they get at the craft store. The second look consists of a structured collar jacket from Elena, obviously, which doesn’t seem cohesive with Dmitry’s dress other than maybe matching with the shawl, which looked like an afterthought anyway. There’s a nice pop of pink in the detail of the jacket that matches the top, though, and Alicia’s pants look better than Elena thought, but there’s nothing special about them.

Christopher, Gunnar, and Sonjia:

Look one is a beautiful dark green jacket and cream scarf combo over a tan and gray dress with black panels on the sides. This is the look of the evening. The tailoring is simple, clean, and just damn sharp — this looks expensive.  Look two mixes leather and jersey in paneling for a very surprising look from Gunnar, who distances himself from the Forever 21 aesthetic and embraces some serious sophistication. I am not in love with the sleeveless camel coat that looks like someone removed the most important part of a Snuggie.

Fabio, Ven, and Melissa:

The skirt on the first look is so matronly I’m expecting it to become sentient and scold the designers about staying chaste until marriage. The pink shirt is baffling with its off-kilter hem and turtleneck thing. The jacket has a giant popped collar and it doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the ensemble. The jacket would be fine on its own. The second look is straight-up maternity wear. Stretchy everything, and while the dark purple of the pants works well with the grays and pinks, it’s probably the only reasonable portion of the outfit.

Judging

Heidi announces that Sonjia, Christopher, and Gunnar are the clear winners this week which means she saw the same outfits I did. Out of the remaining six, one will be eliminated. After praising the winning team, it’s time to bring the buses out, and the first ones to get hit are Dmitry and Alicia, who Elena has no issue throwing out there before judging even begins. Drama aside, the biggest complaints are over the lack of cohesion. Nina criticizes Elena for saying Dmitry only makes dresses, when Elena only ever makes jackets with volume at the top and then basically calls her cheap. Michael continues the Elena-bashing parade, much to the delight of the designers and yours truly. Alicia isn’t off the hook, and elicits a mouth-fart from Michael when its revealed that Alicia only made the too-basic top and pants.

Next on the chopping block are Ven, Melissa, and Fabio. Everyone agrees that the only good thing is Melissa’s white leather jacket. Michael thinks the mohair jacket Fabio made is so grandma it should have Kleenex in its pocket. Ven comes under fire when the judges note that none of the pieces look like anything he would make — yes, because none of them have satin folded into fan shapes on the front.  Anna Sui reminds us that she’s there as guest judge when she pipes up to say that maybe this team was too nice to each other.

Following deliberation, Sonjia is announced as the winner and Christopher and Gunnar are free to hate each other again. Melissa, Ven, and Dmitry are in — and surprisingly, Elena too. It seems that it’s Alicia’s time to pack up her manly lady clothes and head home in her denim prison jumpsuit.

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