Project Runway Recap: Harried, With Children

This week’s Project Runway — in which our intrepid designers paired up with students from the Harlem School of the Arts to create paintings that would inspire their avant-garde designs — was filled with wisdom from the mouths of babes: “Failure is opportunity in disguise,” pint-sized Kai told Laura. “I like the movement of water…the color is very clean, and it’s not busy. It’s not a forced look, it’s more of a natural flowing look,” mused 12-year-old Skyy, while summing up Viktor’s garment for Tim Gunn. “Silence is the most powerful voice,” mumbled Ohio native Olivier, in his forced accent of indeterminate origin.

And then, of course there was Heidi Klum, merrily declaring: “I’m gonna be a hooker for Halloween!” But how did the week’s losing design inspire our hostess’ streetwalking reverie? Let’s recap the action from the start.

My notes from the episode seem to indicate things kicked off with a horrific visual of Joshua sporting shorts with sock garters, but then my brain went all CTRL+ALT+DEL, and when I regained consciousness, the designers were already at work with their student partners. Viktor wished aloud that he had a cocktail to get through the experience, and interestingly enough, got paired up with Skyy, a bright young lady whose name also happens to be a brand of Vodka. Joshua flinched at his teenage muse painting an organic forestscape, explaining with a sly smile that he preferred fake things to organic ones. (Really? With that hairstyle and spraytan? You don’t say!) And in the midst of it all, I started daydreaming that I might be able to get my hands on that pop-eyed ghoulie painted by Bryce’s student. (Call me crazy, but I like my art a little on the dark side.)

Certainly, there was no shortage of awesomeness in the kids’ artwork, but our designers seemed a little troubled over the true meaning of avant-garde. “Go weird or go home,” said Becky, while Laura mused that perhaps they should be striving to make things that couldn’t be worn in real life. Nobody wanted to make a costume, which proved to be a problem for Josh C, who decided to turn his student’s totally amazing sketch of a wolf into a fur-trimmed, “Grandma, what big teeth you have?” wardrobe piece. Let’s break down the judges’ picks for best and worst designs, as well as a couple of looks that inexplicably landed in the middle of the pack:

Anthony: At first glance, I’d have rated Anthony’s paintbrush-stroke concoction as best in show — the fact that the guy is color blind made his criss-cross of blues and blacks and grays and yellows all the more breathtaking — but Kenneth Cole was absolutely right that, upon closer examination, the garment had an unfortunate “homemade” quality complete with frayed edges and questionable technique. How come nobody listened to our guest judge’s lament?

Joshua: Dude may have some contro-ver-see-aaahhhl personal styling habits, but over the past several weeks he’s proven adept at turning out a variety of flattering silhouettes in a bold array of colors. That woodgrain-painted circle skirt (pictured, right) was both stunning and original, and I really wish we’d gotten an extended closeup of that ribbon-flame orange blouse. La Kors was right that Joshua overdid it with his model’s styling — the windswept black veil kind of looked like a witch’s hat — but I kind of felt like this look should’ve won him the week’s gold medal.

Laura: I’m not sure Laura’s “dusted fairy” with corset boning and an overlay of organza ripples (pictured, center) was exactly avant-garde, but it was certainly red-carpet ready, as far as I’m concerned. (Dakota Fanning, hit this woman up the next time you’re headed to an awards show!) As Heidi noted, the complicated gown really proved Laura is a whiz in the time-management department, and when you consider she created the entire ensemble with a mere $300 worth of material, you could easily make the case that Laura deserved top prize, too.

Bert: I understood Michael Kors’ point that Bert’s derriere-quadrupling pantsuit looked like something a Teletubby would wear to a party, but as Viktor and Heidi noted during the course of the episode, at least it was fun to look at. As for Nina Garcia sub Zanna Roberts Rassi arguing that it’s not a garment a woman would wear, was that really the point of an avant-garde challenge?

Olivier: I knew the fake-accented automaton would be safe the moment Michael Kors began praising the construction of half of his bodice, but which half did our quip-spewing judge adore? The stiff cream panels that puckered and protruded in a way that added 40 lbs. to the model’s torso? Or the limp and lifeless blue portion that the designer was attempting to glue to his model’s bosom only seconds before the runway show? (Loved how Tim shut that nonsense down by noting that “a construction issue cannot be mitigated by glue!”) I was psyched to hear Heidi begin the narrative about Olivier that “everything he does is gray and sad,” but Michael’s instruction that the guy shouldn’t be afraid to be powerful (insert side-eye with double eye-roll here) tells me we’re looking at another contestant who’ll ride the inexplicable fancy of two-thirds of the judges panel all the way to the finale.

Josh C: Josh’s original look — complete with red-tinged parka fur — was awfully cotumey, but it was a hecukva lot more promising than his finished product, which looked like it was designed for a vampire extra from Blade IV. Josh C seems like a sweet guy, but as Anthony noted, his design sense wasn’t quite refined enough for the competition, and that meant his sole purpose was (once again) to inspire bitchy sound bites from the panel. “I’m gonna be a hooker for Halloween!” giggled Heidi. “She looks like a Victorian cocktail waitress in Vegas,” said Michael (who, honestly, should be the source of a Runway-branded fashion-grading app). Ah well, at least Josh said his second ouster this season was easier than the first.

Becky: ¡Ay caramba! The woman hears “avant garde” and decides to make a one-shouldered, asymmetrical denim mess (pictured, left) that looks like a child’s solar-system mobile fell onto it? Absolutely atroshe!

Gun to head, I’d have elevated Viktor’s rippling blue and white gown over Anthony’s brushstrokes just for the opportunity to hear some banter between Kors and Skyy.

“You want to avoid giving Michael Kors the opportunity to talk about a Hiawatha moment.” –Tim Gunn, warning Kimberly about excessive use of feathers

What did you think of this week’s Runway? Did the right designer go home? Did Anthony deserve top prize? 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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  1. Reena says:

    Wasn’t too impressed this week past Avant Garde challenges have produced designs that were original and over the top but not too much Christian and Chris come to mind from their season…I really like Kimberly’s design and also liked Viktor’s. At first I didnt want to like Joshua he is way too over the top and I have a feeling his over styling will come back to haunt him but he is growing on me his designs are really good and original. I am OVER Bert and Oliver I think Bert should have gone home I’m sick of what ever Heidi wants Heidi gets there have been several designers who have gone home for simply making their models look way bigger then they are and he is safe?? next week should be interesting from the previews it looks like Joshua and Bert will have at it…Oliver’s dress was BORING and so is he I am literally falling asleep when he talks…I really dont get why he stays every week.

    • Reena says:

      Oh yea and why did every designer think oh Avant Garde that means Big Hair! Sometimes less is more!

      • just saying says:

        Did anyone else hate the whole children aspect of this challenge? I would have been fine using their artwork, but did they really need to visit the workroom? Did we really need to hear comments from 12 year olds who were just using a whole bunch of phrases without really knowing what they mean? if you watched that chick during the show, you saw her nodding as if she were the be all and end all judge of all fashion. She’s an example of why overpraising kids is a bad thing. She probably has few friends and wonders why- not realizing it’s because of her pushy know it all attitude. Yikes. didn’t mean to go off like that, but i hate when any tv show is like “let’s put kids on the show bc they’re cute and everyone will love it”. It’s just manipulative and lazy.

    • terry says:

      Heidi does not always get what she wants. She wanted Anthony gone last week but was voted down by rest of judging table

    • D says:

      Heidi never gets what she wants. The only reason she did this week was because Nina wasn’t there. Luckily, they were already over Josh C, so it wasn’t a tough decision.

    • D says:

      Sounds like you missed the fact that it was an ADVANT GARDE challenge. Who cares about the proportions? It is not necessarily intended to be flattering or ready-to-wear. So few of the designers got the point of the challenge.

      • kate says:

        actually, one of the most significant components that defines avant garde is challenging typical proportions and playing around with them. so… yeah. you’re right that few of the designers got the point of the challenge, but that’s why the judges were hesitant to slaughter bert — because he’s the only one whose design really came close to embodying the real meaning of avant garde.

  2. Gretchen says:

    I don’t understand how a:

    Simple gown with lines sewn to it,
    A bad 80s prom dress, or
    a full painted brown skirt

    are avant garde at all. Weak, weak challenge, the judges chose designs that were more ready to wear than avant garde as the top three. At least Bert’s was whimsical and touched on avant garde, unlike those chosen for the top three. That peachy prom dress was horrible!

    And Joshua saying he hoped he was inspiring Becky? I don’t care what he makes, I don’t want to see his fake self in the top three. Can’t wait for his auf’ing, hopefully on a runway Becky wins!

    • Josh says:

      How can anyone defend Bert’s outfit? It was atrocious!

      • Gretchen says:

        It was at least avant garde. The top three were just slightly out of the box ready to wear. Perhaps the judges don’t know what avant garde is, it sure seems like it.

        Joshua’s: boring, painted brown full skirt.

        Laura’s: 80s horrific prom dress

        Anthony Ryan’s: dull gown with swatches sewn to it.

        Kimberley should have won, but she’s not a darling of the judges. I’m shocked they didn’t have a top four, to include Anya.

        • stevenjaba says:

          silly and ugly does NOT equal avant-garde

        • jj says:

          I thought Anya’s was better than all the other top 3. I was actually shocked by the judges picks. I would have picked different for both the top and bottom (well, Bert’s would have still been in the bottom….) Things must have looked REALLY different in person v. on the tv screen.

      • Brandi says:

        Yes but so is Bert!

      • CA says:

        I can easily defend Bert’s design or at least why it was right that he wasn’t voted off. He took a risk and was outside the box. His look, while not totally avant garde, certainly wasn’t boring. Was it bordering on bizarre…you bet but at least he did something different.

        • April Palmer says:

          About Bert’s outfit being avant-garde. The phrase translates “advance guard” which implies a group leading another group in a future path. I realize avant-garde fashion often looks weird and is certainly somewhat subjective, but there is still the idea that some aspect of the art is leading the trends. So, in that case, I truly feel that Bert’s design was NOT avant-garde. I feel it was just weird. I realize that’s my opinion, but I think the translation of the word and Tim’s comment to one of the designers that the word meant “to lead” back up my opinion.

          • CA says:

            I am reasonably positive that I did state in my post that I didn’t consider Bert’s design to be totally avant garde. But thank you for the translation education. I feel totally put in my place by your posting.

          • April Palmer says:

            I’m sorry, CA. I actually meant to reply to the post one level above the one you were replying on. I wasn’t trying to be pedantic…

          • April Palmer says:

            Sorry! I meant to say in my apology that I mean to reply not to the comment level above yours but to the comment by Gretchen in response to Josh. And, I didn’t mean anything condescending to you, either, Gretchen! I feel like I have to be extra clear since I got such a mean response from CA.

          • Gretchen says:

            No worries, April!

            Bert’s wasn’t avant garde, but at least, like Becky’s and Kimberley’s, it was in that neighborhood.

            The other one I didn’t like was Anya’s–it looked like a badly upholstered chair, but it was at least driving in the avant garde neighborhood.

            Avant garde is Grace Jones, the looks that won were more Nancy Grace.

          • Dey says:

            I COMPLETELY agree! The phrase “Avant Garde” has become similar to the word “vintage”; It’s more a buzz word now, and people end up giving it their own definition, or definition by association, and eventually end up being a catch all phrase that really has no specific meaning. Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean old and avant garde doesn’t necessarily mean crazy.

  3. CA says:

    So very disappointed with this week’s episode. Or should I say this weak episode. Isn’t the point of avant garde to be “out there”, “different”, etc? It was like all, but Bert, played their designs safe. And yeah, Bert’s outfit was teletubbesque, but at least it wasn’t mainstream or boring.

    For once, I disagree with our intrepid recapper. I actually liked Becky’s design. At least it was also on the different side and I could see the artist’s inspiration in it. I don’t think a designer should have to explain their design in order for the judges to understand how it related to the art.

    Gretchen — so agree about Joshua. I literally hurled a nerf ball at the TV when he sat there and preened that he thinks it was his influence that made Becky step out of her comfort zone. Dude — you take arrogance to a whole new level.

    Olivier — does this designer have a pulse? Or does the effort to maintain the faux accent just suck the generally life out of him?

    • Gretchen says:

      At least this season will have an interesting reunion show, with Joshua prancing about.

      This week, it seemed that they put their favorite designers at the top, regardless of the look. I really am trying to understand how a peachy prom dress is at all avant garde.

    • Dey says:

      Haha! I totally agree with your comments about Oliver! I think the fake accent is the only thing that gives him even the illusion of being interesting. I was so pissed when he won the pet store supplies challenge! Clearly Joshua’s took more talent effort, and creativity than his did! So what if it was short?! Joshua is clearly an arrogant prick, but I do like most of his designs and can’t deny that he has creativity and imagination.I didn’t really like his look this time around though, even if the idea itself was kind of cool. To me it looked like a frumpy mess, but hey,I’m no professional. :)

      • dey says:

        OOOOps! I just realized Joshua was NOT the one who made the birdseed dress, which is the look i was ACTUALLY referring to and that I thought should’ve won.I still stand by my opinion of his work, and his personality, but for that particular challenge, I thought Ryan should’ve won. Regardless, it still SHOULD NOT have been Oliver.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Project Glue Gun.

    I really enjoy watching Zanna as Joan on Covert Affairs, but I missed Nina on the judging panel.

    • djm says:

      I can’t stand Nina and would dance a gig of happiness if they were to announce that she was gone from the show. Oh, and she can take Michael Kors with her.

    • kate says:

      i TOTALLY agree with this. i’m a card-carrying anthony ryan supporter, but after he won this challenge, i was trying to figure out if he’s done anything this season that hasn’t been glued. the stuff he’s been most praised for (shoulder pads on the stilt dress, birdseed dress, avant garde dress) have all been glued rather than sewn, which makes me wonder … the thing that saves him is he seems to have a relatively high fashion IQ and he knows how to style a female, as opposed to people like olivier who can sew their asses off but have no effing idea how to make a female look good in clothes.

  5. April Palmer says:

    I agree with your assessments except the one about Becky’s avante-garde look. I am not a huge Becky fan, but I do think she stepped it up this week, and I thought that, with the exception of adding SOMETHING red, her design did look inspired by the painting her art student did. Bert’s design was AWFUL, and I disagree with the “it was fun to look at” comments from Heidi and some of the other contestants. It almost hurt me to look at it. Those plush shapes. GAH! I think Bert may also ride the Olivier judge fancy to the end.

  6. Amanda says:

    I often feel like Olivier have no idea what these challenges are about. When Tim was talking to Olivier about his clothing and the challenge it was clear that he was not getting through to Olivier.
    Bert also seems to have up a wall when it comes to understanding challenges.

  7. April Palmer says:

    Oh, also: I totally think Olivier’s accent is real. Not that I am a fan. Just that it is awfully consistent to be fake. Plus, it *does* sound decidedly Asian plus British, which are where he has spent most of his years. Haven’t you ever heard the Indian plus British accent? Very distinct, just a lot more common than Asian plus British. It’s completely possible that his accent is real – he never seems to vary from it.

    • djm says:

      Sorry April, but they said that he grew up in Ohio and lived there until he was 16. So far as I know you don’t develop that thick of an accent in 4 years of living outside Ohio.

      • April Palmer says:

        Hmmm… cite your source for the the idea of not being able to pick up that amount of accent in only four years outside the US. I’m from the deep south, and I’ve known people to pick up a southern accent in that few number of years. Also, is he a first generation American? If his parents are natives to an Asian country, then he may have had an accent while he lived in Ohio. It is possible… I think likely with the consistency of that accent.

  8. P-Run Fan says:

    I feel like the 10 remaining designers are all playing it waaaay too safe. The avant garde challenge is my second favorite of each season (my favorite being the “real woman” challenge), but NOTHING I saw last night was exciting or even water-cooler worthy. What a boring group!

  9. Sencho says:

    “I’m gonna be a hooker for Halloween!”

    I swear, I don’t know how Seal can stand living with this woman.

  10. Gretchen says:

    It’s time for PR to have a challenge where the designers are not known to the judges until after the judging.

  11. KC says:

    How did Bert not go home? How was that possible? I’m tired of that man being given chance after chance for mediocre to bad designs. Same with Oliver, except his are sad rather than bad. Ugh… why, Klum/Kors/Garcia, why!

  12. nodak says:

    I disagree about Becky’s dress also, I felt she followed the inspiration of her artist, and came up with an interesting design. I did not think that Anthony Ryan should’ve won. His fabric “brush strokes” didn’t lay very well on the dress. After listening to Olivier a little more last night, I thought that perhaps he has a speech impediment, he makes many articulation errors. Maybe it isn’t a fake accent. (Uffda, is he the ultimate in boring, though!!!!!)

  13. zaza says:

    I thought Viktor’s dress was a mess. It was a cross between Renaissance Faire and Bride of Frankenstein. I was surprised he wasn’t in the bottom.

    I applaud Bert for at least trying to do something out of his comfort zone, but the proportions just didn’t work.

    Olivier’s dress was slit up to the hip and if he hadn’t had a tiny strip of fabric holding the top of the slit together, we would have seen the model’s crotch in full glory. Yikes!

    I liked Kimberly’s outfit. It at least had a fashion feel to it (not a craft project). I applaud Becky’s attempt to be more creative, although it didn’t really hit the mark. Anthony should have actually painted on brush strokes.

    All in all, I haven’t seen one outfit this season that’s even come close to wow-ing me.

  14. bob says:

    i didn’t really care for the top 3 designer’s looks this week. laura’s was kind of dowdy (uh oh–becky, someone’s stealing your turf!), joshua m’s was poorly constructed, and, as kenneth cole said, anthony’s wasn’t finished properly. for this week, i thought kimberly had the best look. i think that kimberly’s stuff in general these past couple of weeks has been finely tailored, current, and very malleable for the challenges at hand. i’m gonna fearlessly predict that she’ll be in a top 3 with either laura kathleen, anthony ryan, bert (my god he keeps getting a pass bc of heidi), or josh.

  15. D says:

    The way Laura’s dress was constructed seemed very referential to what Leann did for her final runway show with the waves. In particular, the way it moved as the model walked down the runway. Couldn’t stand the color either and it was in no way advant garde. I thought she was going to be in the bottom 3 for sure. Ugh.

  16. Gidget says:

    I don’t know why Heidi was complaining about “looking like a hooker”, the last few red carpet looks she has worn were too short, too tight and made her look like a tall blonde Snooki.

  17. dorisscott says:

    I was so looking forward to seeing something spectacular.

  18. Betsy says:

    Thinking back to Christian, Chris March, Kara Saun, Austin ( to name just a few)… This current set of designers are soooo boring and, IMO, not nearly as talented or creative. PR seems to be limping along to it’s grave, please, someone take it out back and shoot it.

    • kate says:

      agreed. there are certainly some characters that i really love this season, but it seems quite obvious that the producers have focused more on characters this season than actual talent. i do think that josh m has a great aesthetic and his pieces are always very clean, and he victimizes himself by acting like such a sack … and i think anthony ryan has a lot of potential but has thus far kinda failed to live up to it … and i think anya is hot and cold … and i actually think kimberly is the most talented designer, but she doesn’t get a lot of screen time because she has failed to gain membership into the anthony ryan/anya/josh/laura clique … but yeah, they’re really missing a mondo/christian type designer this season. christian would have whaled on all these bitches if he’d been on this season instead of 4.

  19. Joseph says:

    1st – I hate these team projects , I want to see what an individual can do not how they work together at this stage.

    But as for the episode my focus is going to be on the looks that were horrific most of which were safe this week.

    1st – Becky, the dress was to literal and needed to add some other colors to make that not look like a Halloween outfit.

    2nd – Oliver, I had mostly an issue with his color scheme that was drab.

    3rd – Bert, okay that outfit looked like it belonged on the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a punishment for one of the bad kids. Not a bad idea but the cut should have sleek not inflated, as for the touches of color, it might have worked if they were not floating on the outfit.

    4th – Bryce , my issue here is with the sleeves, he could have given us the illusion of a straight jacket and without creating an actual one.

    5th – Josh, this was all about not using sufficient yardage in that outfit, it was sort of given away at Mood, he used less then 1/2 his budget and in the end it showed. He could have used elements of that design but he needed either a jacket for that outfit , of if he did not want a jacket he should have not gone for the mini dress.

  20. Jane says:

    The challenge itself wasn’t weak. I think a full-on avant garde challenge would be awesome! Even based on the students paintings! But geez, all the designers seemed weak this time for some reason. It was their one and only opportunity to go really big, dynamic, stunning but nooooooooo. It didn’t even have to be wearable by the average person. but it did need to be attention-grabbing. I thought the designers were supposed to have some imagination, but nooooooooooo.

    Oh well, better episode, next time.

  21. Brittany says:

    What about Bryce? I really thought he would be in the bottom 3 and the one going home. I thought his was awful, awful colors, awful design, not at all avant garde.

  22. Rachel says:

    LOVED seeing Kenneth Cole as a guest judge!! He’s one of the only guests that I haven’t rolled my eyes at, and I wish they had more like him (designers/business people/etc) – less celebrity fashion wannabes.