Project Runway Recap: No Wrinkles, No Time

project runway judges haydenThis week’s installment of Project Runway began with a trip to Michael Kors’ “flagship lifestyle store” — where black blazers (paired with black t-shirts) are always in fashion, and insane crotches are strictly verboten.

I’m not exactly sure what this bit of product placement had to do with the challenge — creating a day-to-night look for an on-the-go woman on a budget of $150 (with no wrinkles, please) — but I was happy that it wasn’t a team effort, and delighted that Tim Gunn stressed the finished product needed to reflect each designer’s point of view.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, Andrea never returned from her nighttime excursion at the end of last week’s episode. “We have every reason to believe she’s safe,” noted Tim, although I still wonder if Nina Garcia had the competition’s elder stateswoman sent to the fashion gulag for that dot-candy smock she made a few weeks back. (Cue Nina shouting to her flying monkeys: “No hideous garment goes unpunished!”) And then Kooan, too, fled the competition with tears and a few giggles. Maybe the dropout duo just realized they were outclassed and wanted to save themselves any further embarrassment? That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

Anyhow, as Tim might say, the show just had to “carry on,” and so Raul was brought back from elimination, the better to ensure a full season of episodes, aufs, and taste levels for Nina to question.

Workroom drama was kept to a minimum. Ven huffed (probably correctly) that Raul had no POV and was basically a mess as a designer. Christopher served up a plate of unsolicited advice to Buffi, and she sent it back to the kitchen with a side of “honey, please.” And Fabio arrived at the runway show in Norma Desmond drag of colorful turban and ostentacious rope necklaces.

Anyhow, let’s review the best and worst of the week (with special kudos going out to opinionated, thoughtful guest judges Hayden Panettiere and Rachel Roy):

Judges’ Top 3
SONJIA: For once, a Top 3 and a challenge winner with which I have no quibbles! Hurrah! Heidi pointed out that Sonjia”manipulated the fabric in an interesting way,” and I fully agreed: The criss-crossed back, the scarfy belty thingie, and the peekaboo shoulder detail were all really subtle and sexy. As Rachel noted, Sonjia “really curated and thought out the design.” I just wish she had been a little more excited about Hayden’s request to wear the frock to a red-carpet event. Isn’t that a vital part of any budding designer’s promotional protocol?

DMITRY: At long last, the judges showed a little love for the season’s most underappreciated talent. The bodice reminded me a little of a pie top, but that might imply the little black dress was something less than sleek and meticulous. The open back was a hot touch, and Dmitry’s model worked the hell out of it, especially with her patented David Caruso shades-off at the end of the runway. I’m not sure how Dmitry’s look was deemed “too safe” in comparison to Christopher and Sonjia, but at least the Lady Roy had the decency to note that “in this case, safe is also beautiful and exquisite.”

CHRISTOPHER: Christopher’s much-agonized-over design was, to me, the least daring of the Top 3, but dang did it look pricey. Let’s turn things over to Nina, shall we? “Polished, easy, comfortable, glamorous, and sexy.” Correct!

Judges’ Bottom 3
BUFFI: Michael was right that the sheer salmon top looked like a hairdresser’s smock, but I think Buffi’s biggest crime was insisting to Nina that she hadn’t designed it simply to cover up the shoddily made zerba-print dress underneath. “That’s even more tragic!” howled Nina, incredulous. (That would be a good title for her eventual autobiography, no? Nina, Incredulous.) And as Rachel Roy so expertly added, one’s entire design cannot hinge on the help of a belt from the Lord & Taylor Accessory Wall.

FABIO: This should’ve been the winner — if the challenge was to design a $20 frock for Forever 21. As Heidi noted, with the way short hemline and the teensy jacket, it appeared that the entire look had shrunk in the dryer.

RAUL: Where to even begin? The uneven back pockets? The catastrophic leather patch to cover the four-inch gap at the hip?  The hideous tapestry top that made the model look like a child trying on her dad’s smoking jacket (if her dad was Liberace)? And as Hayden noted, the crotch looked “a little scrunchy.” When you’ve got multiple judges dissing the crotch, maybe you shouldn’t be spared from the Bottom 2? Just a thought.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK
I actually felt like the five-person panel correctly I.D.’d the Top 3, the Bottom 3, the winner, and the auf’d contestant — the first time I can remember such an event in recent Runway history. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend, yes?

Anyhow, now it’s your turn. What did you think of last night’s Project Runway? Use the comments section thoughtfully to express yourself!

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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26 Comments
  1. I agree with everything you and the judges said this week. Will wonders never cease? I thought that Sonjia’s design was the most versatile and I also wished that Dimitry had tried to add just a smidge more drama to his impeccable construction. I was initially irritated when I heard that Hayden was going to be a judge because a lot of these non fashion guest judges contribute a big fat nothing to the process but she was great. I thought Sonjia should have been jumping up and down, bragging and squealing when she was asked if Hayden could have her dress. Perhaps she was in shock?

    My biggest question is this, does the fact that not one but two contestants burned out and bailed in the beginning of the competition finally let us raise the question of time with Lifetime? While I give Christopher full credit for tossing grandma under the express and sending her crying into the night I think the unrealistic deadlines are causing the designers to be overly frustrated and embarrassed of sending work down the runway that isn’t good and doesn’t represent them. I mean, project runway isn’t a competition to find the fastest sewer is it? No wonder that Dimitry played it safe and Van uses the same kind of detailing over and over. They both know they have to stay within time if they don’t want to be frantically crying over their sewing machine seconds before sending their models down the runway. These ridiculous time deadlines are affecting the quality of the garments and I think they are affecting the designers morale as well. I know it’s supposed to add drama to the show but there is drama and then there is destroying your own show because you aren’t giving people who are great designers but not lighting fast seamstresses sufficient time to produce a finished garment. Anything that is supposed to be red carpet, haut coutre or unconventional should be given at least a day and a half but two days would be better if we truly want to see great design and great product. At least that is my perspective.

    • susela says:

      I agree! These one-day challenges are awful. Also awful is the proliferation of partner- and team-challenges, which do nothing to showcase the designer’s skills, but everything to showcase their crazies. Enough with meltdowns and hysteria; I want to see beautiful clothes being created from scratch, and be able to marvel at them.

    • Noelani says:

      The ridiculous time limits put on contestants is something I find really frustrating, not just with PW but with other things, too, like the Food Network’s “Chopped”. They give them so little time, and then criticize them for not doing a better job. I recently read Laura Bennett’s blog, where she said that they have no time at all between challenges. I had always imagined that they had at least ONE day in between challenges, but they don’t! I think that was probably a big factor in Andrea’s choice to leave. I am her age, and I can’t imagine trying to keep that kind of schedule, at this age. It is obviously a very stressful situation, all the way around!

  2. Janice says:

    I think the time constraints have become ridiculous. Even at Mood they aren’t given enough time to choose decent materials. 30 minutes? Seriously?

    • GeoDiva says:

      I don’t know why they keep the 30 minutes to shop at Mood “challenge”. In all the years of watching, I don’t recall anyone not getting everything they needed (zippers, buttons, etc…) and be SOL. I would give them as much time as they needed, but it would count against their total work time. That way they can get what they really want, but possible use up the work time to execute it. If I knew I was going to be a contestant on PR, I would scope out Mood in the weeks before to know where they keep everything.

  3. GinaRClark says:

    The (sad) meltdowns prove that Project Runway focuses on the personal drama rather than promoting creativity. This is why I will no longer be watching Lifetime destroy peoples’ lives in the name of reality television. “Fashion Star” created fashions I would and did actually purchase, and created long-term mentor relationships with top buyers for designers to watch. There was as much helpful teaching criticism as there was snark. Project Runway has devolved in to “The Real World” to promote cars and various celeb’s pet projects. Now just a mean and
    immature parade of impossible tasks and deadlines as platforms to criticize already emotionally fragile people.

    • Sookie says:

      I have to agree that Fashion Star was more realistic. In the real world the designers design and the seamstress sews. These one day challenges are impossible!

  4. meem says:

    Gina, have you gotten your check from NBC for that love letter to Fashion Star yet? Or maybe you already work there. Too effusive to be believed, really. And incorrect. Project Runway didn’t focus on the personal drama of the two who left AT ALL. They just left, and it was on with the designing. And really, it’s season 1500 for this show. No one has ANY excuse any more–they fully know what they are getting in to when they sign on.

  5. Mary Pond says:

    I think it is ridiculous that they placed the blame all on Andrea, not that they encourage the contestants to be bitchy, nasty, condescending and rude to each other. I hope we don’t have to see Gunner or Christopher much more, no matter how much talent they think they have. Does being a top fashion designer mean you have to be mean?

    • erin says:

      I agree that Gunnar is mean, but I don’t agree about Christopher. I don’t think he said anything out of line last week. The only person I think he’s been “mean” about is Gunnar, who absolutely seems to incite such a response.

      • TVHead says:

        I still think Christopher was equally to blame for last week’s team challenge with Andrea. I feel like he thought he should respect his elder when it came to working with Andrea, but I don’t think he really expressed his concerns to her while they worked. Things might have gone a bit differently, if he had been more honest with her with how he was feeling. Like the other contestant told him he should “have cracked the whip, but in a nice way.”

    • Gretchen says:

      Exactly! When you reward nasty contestants like that horrid rock and roll guy who won an early season and Irina and allow bullies like last season, the blame lies with the producers. I don’t blame Andrea for leaving one bit–she has the maturity to see that competing on a reality show (one that really has lost most self-respect) with a bunch of immature wanna-bes isn’t worth it.

  6. connectthedots says:

    Yeah, the non-stop product placements are getting annoying, and I agree, asking these designers to crank out beautiful designs in a day is pushing it. Would it really hurt to give them 2 days for some of these more demanding challenges?

  7. erin says:

    While I do agree that Dimitry’s talent has been under-appreciated thus far, I don’t think he’s the most under-appreciated designer this season. Melissa is STELLAR and could have been in the top three every week, in my opinion.

  8. CA says:

    Why all the questions about time? People, this is a competition with a fairly lucrative win for whoever takes it home. That is the point behind Project Runway. This isn’t some walk through the park, or as Kors stated, a place for sissies. Any fashion designer who applies to PR should be doing their homework and have watched previous episodes. NO ONE should be surprised that the challenges…are well…challenging.

    • The reason that we are questioning the time limits is because they have cut them almost in half since the show moved to lifetime and there has been a drastic drop in quality of design and execution. When the show was on Bravo it was common for them to have two full days to make a haute coutre look. Now they only have a day. They’ve increased the amount of team challenges in an attempt to bring the quality of the designs up but because the time constraints are still too short and you have to deal with two designers bickering it just ends up looking worse than before. It’s not about being “sissies” it’s about the fact that most designers can’t turn out looks that are finished perfectly in that amount of time without them being fairly simple or boring…. unless you’re Christian Siriano in which case I think he sold his soul for the ability to sew that fast and that well. Other than him, it’s just not realistic with the quality of the designers. Something has got to give. Either make a speed sewing challenge part of the screening process or give them more time so the garments aren’t sloppy, hideous or boring.

  9. Jared says:

    This season has the most least talented “designers”..and I use that term very loosely.

  10. Sookie says:

    Although I haven’t liked anything Buffi or Kooan made I will miss the color! Honestly, I know I see lots of color at Mood but the designers can only find black, grey and brown!

  11. topsyturvy says:

    Rachel Roy should either be a permanent judge or another Tim (someone who offers comments/feedback while the garments are being constructed). Every time she’s been on the show (or maybe it was another one of these fashion design shows) her comments are always constructive and kind, even when talking about something she doesn’t like about the garment. She doesn’t seem to be going for a cheap laugh at the expense of the designer’s feelings and she’s not condescending.

    I liked Buffi has a personality but her designs were always weak.

  12. Anna says:

    I love Runway. I always have. I think that the beauty of it is that sometimes someone is going to call you up and say I need something by tomorrow or in two days. Would you really want to lose a client because you have no expirience with that kind of deadline? These designers can and should be able to do they just need to be more thoughtful on design, fabric and overall look. I’m sorry but if you’re going to buy silk for a one day challenge look and you’ve never worked with it before you deserve to go home if it looks like a train wreck. Plus you need to have a grasp on what you can execute in a day. Don’t walk in there wanting to create a full ballgown or four seperate pieces when you are worried about time. Be glamorous and practical. That’s all I have to say.

  13. Mikael says:

    Now all I can picture is Nina cackling in front of a crystal ball and shouting “Fly, my pretties! FLY!!”

  14. Chris says:

    ……..GURL.