Project Runway Recap: The Walking Bed

A vomiting circus clown, a deeply disconcerted Nina Garcia, the complete absence of Mood Fabrics, and the curious incident of Tim Gunn using the phrase “pubic patch” rang in the wickedly entertaining Season 9 premiere of Project Runway on Thursday night. Yes, you read that correctly: Season 9. In other words, that Gretchen-over-Mondo catastrophe known as Season 8 actually did happen, no matter how much you’ve tried to convince your therapist it was just a lovely technicolor dream (featuring bedazzled skulls!) with a Nightmare on Drab Street ending.

But back to the season at hand: It’s always tough to form an opinion during the kickoff episode of a Project Runway season, and with 20 contestants stuffed into a 90-minute episode, that conundrum was more pronounced than ever. We kicked things off with Heidi Klum, grinning mischievously, telling us she and her fellow gang members — Nina, Tim, and Michael Kors — were about to do something “a little bit mean” by examining a selection of garments made by the Season 9 Top 20, and immediately culling the field to 16. Yes, folks, a quadruple couture killing before the first mention of the Piperlime Accessory Wall. That’s cold.

The minute Serena told us she’d postponed her destination wedding in Iceland for the chance to live la vida Mondo, you knew she was as doomed as the horror-movie victim who runs up the stairs instead of running outside. Also auf’d: the guy who made a face at Nina, the woman who showed a romper despite hating rompers, and Gunnar Deatherage, who really should’ve made the cut based entirely on his fantastic name and references to “hand-burned flowers” and the Kentucky Derby.

A few other impressions from the show’s opening segments:

* Kimberly works out in a sequined tank: She’s automatically required to make the Top 10 just on fabulous sound-bite potential alone, no?

* Did anyone else die laughing at Nina’s borderline nauseous expression while she reviewed the collections? If there’d been a thought bubble over her head, I’m betting it would’ve read: “The plebes are too close!” My favorite moments of Nina vehemence came when she gritted her teeth to discuss Laura’s “explosion of color,” channeled Miranda Priestly (or at least her brows) when Julie insisted there was no distinction between outerwear and other garments, and experienced a moment of unadulterated horror when confronted by Rafael and his garments. The clueless contestant, however, wildly misinterpreted the Lady Garcia’s disdain: “Nina and I are clearly talking sex with our eyes.” Alrighty then!

* Did the judges come to the wrong conclusion about Anya, a former Miss Trinidad who claimed she’d only been sewing for four months, but presented some expertly tailored garments? The panel seemed to wonder if she’d actually done her own sewing – Tim said he hated challenging her credibility as he took a look at her work, and Anya quickly mumbled a remark about having had a lot of help – but I wonder if she might be underplaying her experience, the better to make herself  look like a prodigy. Or maybe I’m just a cynical beast. Time will tell.

* Three snaps for Heidi for coining the term “boob window” to describe the cleavage cutouts in Oliver’s garment. Ditto for 57-year-old Bert dryly introducing himself as being 102.

* Is it a requirement for wannabe fashion designers to style themselves in an aggressively unfortunate manner? See: Joshua and his 30 lbs of bronzer and Starship Troopers styling; Rafael and his mangy beard.

After the initial cuts, the remaining 16 designers went to bed, then got an unexpected 5 a.m. wakeup call from Tim Gunn (who — ¡escandalo! — appeared to be wearing the same purple checked shirt and circle-patterned tie he’d been wearing the previous evening). Tim’s message: Get out of bed, grab one of your sheets, and head directly to Parsons to create a garment made from said bedding and your PJs.

I thought it was a little unsavory that Tim vetoed Becky’s request to put on a bra — he could’ve allowed her to wear it without using it in the challenge, no? — but I loved Laura getting miffed about people calling her “Barbie,” then finding out she sleeps in satin and lace and refuses to leave the apartment without makeup.

Anyhow, on to the fashion!

I can’t say I was particularly wowed or appalled with the looks that came down the runway this week, but it seemed like with the limited time and material, most contestants went for wearable over daring — and this early in the competition, I can’t say that I blame ‘em. (The biggest risk, perhaps, was Fallene’s decision to use the vomiting clown logo on her t-shirt as a detail in an otherwise cute cocktail dress.) In the end, my three favorites didn’t necessarily jibe with the judges:

* I adored the flowing, wing-like sleeves of Bryce’s blouse (pictured, right), and the draped, one-shouldered back looked luxe and expensive; plus, the dangerous hemline of his black, high-waisted skirt accentuated his model’s perfect legs.

* I agreed with Danielle’s outrage that her sea green shorts and paneled gold and brown top (pictured, center) belonged among the week’s best.

* And, of course, I dug Bert’s flirty, innovative minidress (pictured, left), even if I couldn’t shake Kimberly’s comment that the boxer-short top was infused with “nut juice.” (Note to Project Runway producers: Just because a remark is shocking doesn’t mean we necessarily need to hear it on air.)

The judges named Bert the best of the week, but their other two favorites were more middle-of-the-pack, in my opinion. Anthony definitely deserved props for using lacy black trim to transform his sad gray and yellow tank into something fashionable, but I don’t think he ever resolved the “pubic patch” on the front of his skirt that Tim had warned him about. And while Anya’s pants indeed made her model’s behind look sensational — I giggled at the way the judges demanded to get a closer look, as if they were examining livestock at the county fair — I thought her patterned halter-top had a homemade “crafty” look about it, particularly the wonky ribbon edges. (Let’s take a quick “true or false” poll on this statement from Anya: “I’m making a pair of pants because I’ve never really made a pair of pants.”)

Moving to the dark side, I take no issue with the judges’ choices for this week’s bottom three. I don’t know when Julie abandoned her idea to cut her ridiculous pajama pants into strips and topstitch it into something “sporty and sophisticated,” but maybe that idea got lost in the unflattering air pockets that jutted out from the puckered waistline of her snow pants. What became of those sensational outerwear sketches she showed off at the top of the show? And what the hell was her excuse about having a “learning curve” when it comes to sewing? Does she think her name is Anya?

Still, the line of the night came from Nina when she summed up the race for elimination with this zinger directed at poor, sweet Josh and his bedraggled gym clothes: “I don’t know which is worse — Rafael’s or yours!” In his defense, Josh’s “randomly chosen” model had proportions very different from the outfit he’d created, but Michael made a good point that there were a variety of ways Josh could’ve hidden his fixes without running a raggedy seam up the front of the shirt. And ultimately, the guy’s concept was flawed from the start: As Nina huffed, you can’t enter a design competition and think that a tank top and white shorts is going to fly. And that little gray shrug? It looked like a scrap of fabric that Josh threw over his model’s neck right before she took the runway! Josh described his experience on the runway as the beating of a lifetime. “It was like having someone look into your soul and tell you everything bad you’ve ever done.” Nina’s stare can do that to a boy!

In my mind, though, Rafael’s look was perhaps slightly more heinous, thanks to the insane crotch and damning front seams of those skintight gray leggings and the bedraggled cutouts — complete with rogue hanging threads — at the waist of his ill-fitting white blouse. It wasn’t as if Tim hadn’t tried to set the guy straight back in the workroom — “I see you gulping. I want you to gulp,” said our trusty mentor — but Rafael was more worried about the world seeing his morning hair and “looking homeless” than in completing a chic, finished runway look. Let’s end this appraisal of Rafael’s leopard bib thingy with three words from Michael: “Flintstones disco patch.”

Sublime.

What did you think of the Project Runway Season 9 premiere? Do you have a favorite already? Who do you think you’ll be actively rooting against? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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37 Comments
  1. Broadway Baby says:

    Are you speaking foreign? I wish Tim Gunn would go to DC already solve the debt crisis. VERY happy you’re recapping Project Runway!

  2. Rebecca says:

    You are me, Mr. Slezak. I can’t disagree with anything you’ve written. Thanks for another witty recap to start my morning off right!!

  3. Laurel says:

    Something just doesn’t jive with Anya’s story and the pieces she is putting out.
    Only sewing for 3 months…

    I thought she was going to crash & burn and then she pulls off that outfit. And she’s never sewn pants before ?
    I’m with Tim Gunn on this one, I’d have to question the back story.

    • Laurel says:

      In Trinidad and Tobago, you could learn to sew in three months. I will not doubt it. Me personally i would have kept that information to my self. She is from country and she is representing us

      Go Anya

      We are proud of her

    • djm says:

      She was apparently involved with a sex tape scandal when she was Miss T&T, so who knows…

      • Laurel says:

        she was involved in sex tape scandal with her boyfriend and she has to pay it for every day. So don’t judge her for her past mistakes. FYI she was not Miss Trinidad and Tobago when the tape was made. it was after her rein as Miss Trinidad and Tobago.

      • sia says:

        I’m from Trinidad and so obviously rooting for Anya regardless but I do think she did an amazing job.
        and yes she has a sex tape, lol. All trinis have seen it, lol. but it did come out after the competition :/

      • steups says:

        Now what the hell does that have to do with anything?!

  4. Shay says:

    I’m so glad you are reviewing Project: Runway!

    • Stephanie says:

      AGREED! Please continue…I also miss your reviews of Platinum Hit and America’s Got Talent (which stopped after the first few shows, mysteriously).

  5. CA says:

    I agree with Tim’s questioning of Anya’s story. Is there really such thing as a sewing prodigy?

    I really felt bad for Josh but I REALLY felt bad for Rafael’s model!

    Kimberly looks to be the unintentional humor this year…first the nut juice and then the “are you speaking foreign?” to Oliver when he and his model discovered they spoke the same foreign language.

    • Vivi says:

      I thought “Are you speaking foreign?” came out of the mouth of the ‘privileged pretty’ girl?

    • girlfrombmore says:

      I would have agreed with you some time ago untill I saw it for myself. My 11 year old made a replica of my shirt and jacket. I cant sew and no one taught him but he did it. He his also a math wiz who can draw. Maybe she is a math wiz too. She may just have a talent to figure things out. I am just saying I have seen it with my own eyes from an 11yo

  6. Corky says:

    Kimberly also asked if they were going to stop for cheese biscuits when they were walking to Parsons. She had some great one-liners but I am pretty sure she didn’t say “are you speaking foreign” Great recap!

  7. susela says:

    The back of Anya’s pants may have been divine, but the front was a pouchy mess. I couldn’t believe the judges let her get away with that hideous crotch! It did NOT belong in the top three. As for Bert, I am so hoping that the stress of the next several months doesn’t adversely affect his sobriety. He looks a little fragile to me. I’m rooting for him!

    • Laurel says:

      You make a good point about Bert I’m rooting for him too.
      I hope he can hang in there.

    • Tagrid says:

      I’m rooting for Bert too! Wow! Talk about experience – even if it WAS a generation ago! He’s just got to update his styling a bit, but he knows that. But honestly, I’m more concerned about his health than his sobriety. That stroke comment worried me. I’m glad he won and has immunity for next week – that should take the pressure off and let him get more acclimated.

  8. Deb says:

    Frankly Michael, if we have a Gretchen-over-Mondo ending this season, I am done with this show. Last year was proof that America’s viewing-voting public isn’t the only one who gets it wrong. Sometimes the “experts” are worse.

  9. Juan says:

    All I can say is that I am soooo happy Runway is back.
    Anya is amazing and I’m rooting for her and Bert this season.
    I was super anxious to see what Julie would cook up, and was severely let down.

    I love Michael Kors’ comment about the “I like myself pocket.” lol
    And Heidi wanting the scarf!
    I missed them so much. :D

  10. Juan says:

    And if Heidi wants your scarf, dagnabbit you give it to her! lol

  11. RyanD says:

    I’m probably remembering it wrong, but I thought Heidi had the “I don’t who was worse” line and not Nina?

  12. PFitz says:

    When they announced the six who would be judged, I was baffled about who was in the top! A closer look at Bert’s justified (mostly) his win, but there were so many better outfits than Anya’s and Anthony Ryan’s! (Start with Becky’s sweet dress; Bryan’s sexy outfit, Danielle’s cute sportswear, Laura’s sleek separates {now THOSE were great pants!}, and Viktor’s adorable dress.)

    As has been mentioned, the back of Anya’s pants were cute, but the front?! AWFUL! The crotch was practically to her knees! The halter top was so-so. And there was nothing I liked about Anthony Ryan’s–the pubic patch alone should have put him in the bottom.

    I fear the judges are going to ruin another season….

    • Stephanie says:

      Vicktor and Fallene’s were my favorites. Ok, maybe minus the vomiting clown. If she hadn’t put that on it, I’m betting she may have cracked the top three. It was adorable.

  13. Ward says:

    Anya may have made “the top three” just so the judges could review the sewing.

  14. Evan says:

    Great recap, Slezak. As a Kentuckian, I’m glad you shared my interest in Gunnar. Alas- no dice.

    The only thing I disagreed with you on was Bryce’s garment. It looked like he basically sewed the two ends of his sheet into sleeves and made a pair of pants. It seemed a little lazy to me.

    My faves were Viktor, Laura, Becky, Dani, and Bert’s garments.

  15. Drei says:

    Just wanted to nerdily point out that Heidi Klum didn’t coin the phrase “boob window.”

    It’s been a term used for years among people who read comics, mostly in reference to Power Girl’s costume.

    • Amit says:

      Thank you! I was about to say the exact same thing! The phrase has been in use for ages. I’m sure Heidi herself has heard it in her modelling days.

  16. pjp says:

    Oh, Yea!!!! Project Runway is back on my tv, AND MICHAEL SLEZAK IS REVIEWING IT EACH WEEK! Life is good!!!!!

  17. Estee says:

    Michael–don’t you think Kors called Rafael’s accessory a “Flintstone’s Disco Pouch”–not “Patch”!!—based on every recap I’ve read, no one really heard what he said. No big deal but driving me nuts! : )

  18. Lana says:

    I love the fact that Michael is recapping so many of my favorite shows. Last year I thought he only did AI then I find out he recaps my favorite SYTYCD, sometimes for AGT, Design Stars and now Project Runway which is my next favorite. Now if you recap Top Chef I’ll be happy as a Pig in a Poke(whatever a poke is) I loved Bert and Anya is not my favorite but she is interesting. I don’t have any other favorites right now but as the weeks go on I will. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thought Mondo should have won, however the winner really needed the money as her boyfriend cleaned her out while she was doing Project Runway so I did not begrudge her a bit for winning the money, she needed it the most and she was a very good designer, just not as much fun as Mondo.

  19. Karen says:

    YAY!! Michael, I’m so happy you’re recapping Project Runway! You’re my most favorite recapper. Why? Anyone who starts out their recap with the vomiting circus clown and ends with Flinstones disco patch understands what truly matters on a show.

    The folks at EW must still be so sad to have lost you ;)

  20. Ana says:

    So glad you are recapping Project Runway. Really love your inputs.