Project Runway Recap: Changing of the Garde

With only five Season 10 designers left fighting for a HP Intel Technology Suite, there was no one to insult the bodies of women who dare let themselves expand past a Size 4, no one to explode into fits of involuntary profanity, no one to disappear under cover of a dark Manhattan night. In other words, this week’s Project Runway drama was almost entirely confined to the runway, or at least in the creation and execution of the garments that ended up on it.

Naturally, there was product placement in the week’s assignment: The Final 5 had to make avant-garde outfits on a $400 budget, over two days, drawing inspiration from Long Island’s Oheka Castle and one of the palettes of the L’Oreal “Electric Fantasie” line. (Side note: That’d be a great name for a thoroughbred racehorse or a high-energy girl group on The X Factor.)

The designers drew their inspirations from the button bag as follows: Enchanted Queen (Fabio); Seductive Temptress (Sonjia); Wise Mystic (Dmitry); and Artsy Muse (Melissa). Christopher, going last, got to choose his muse, and opted for Enchanted Queen. “OMG, it’s a motherf—-n’ Queen-off!”

The workroom process was fairly uneventful, although Sonjia lost a big bolt of gold fabric she’d picked up at Mood. (Where’s a kindly producer to help retrace her steps in the event of such a catastrophe?) And then there was Tim Gunn, expressing lengthy, wordless dismay over Fabio’s bland, rust-colored jacket. “He goes through the stages of silence,” Fabio observed. “There’s the hand on face, there’s the crossed arms, and then he does the whole squint with a tilt.” But the quirky designer, recounting how when he was in college, used to wear button-downs upside-down as pants (!), got a flash of inspiration: Turning his jacket upside down into a sculptural bit of couture.

The runway show brought us a very specific, tough judge in Zoe Saldana. (Let’s have her back again next season, yes?) And here’s how it all played out:

The judges handed the win to Dmitry — and rightfully so — for an innovative suit with a neckline that almost resembled interlocking puzzle pieces, peekaboo panels on the sides of the skirt, and sleeves with exaggerated triangle shapes. As with all things Dmitry, the fit was astonishingly good and the taste level was impeccable, although I agreed with Michael Kors that the neckpiece was “a little Vampira.” Heidi,though, summed up Dmitry’s aesthetic best of all: “[His women] always have a whip in their hands!”

Also sent to safety were Melissa and Christopher — the former for taking risks with a garment that featured a sweeping green leather collar, a black-and-white print skirt, and a neon salmon lining. Heidi debated out loud which was uglier: Melissa’s design or Fabio’s, and while I can’t disagree — the look wasn’t exactly attractive — it also wasn’t boring. In other words, Melissa pushed her boundaries and got rewarded. Christopher’s black gown with exaggerated hip and exposed corset back had more eye dazzle, but a little less excitement — unless you count the feathered sleeves that had La Kors screeching “she looks like she has hairy forearms!” Still, given his four prior wins during the season, there was no way he was getting auf’d without a full-scale disaster, and this was far from it. (Side note: Anyone else suspect Christopher might be a Once Upon a Time fan?)

And so the final elimination came down to Fabio or Sonjia. I didn’t get the former look at all. As Ms. Saldana noted, “not a single item defines any kind of curvature to [the model].” The shapeless palazzo pants, the billowy sheer blouse, the bulky jacket that seemed to flare in all the wrong places? Michael and Nina clearly responded to Fabio’s outthere-ness — “he’s conceptual, androgynous, articulate,” Nina cooed — but as Heidi noted, aside from his real-woman makeover, has the guy come up with any showstoppers?

You knew, though, when MK adopted an old woman’s voice to ridicule the creepy “sheer” back of Sonjia’s gown — and Zoe piled on that one of the floating front pieces looked like a dropped napkin — that she was the one who’d fall short of NY Fashion Week. Personally, I thought her body of work through the season should’ve pulled her ahead of Fabio — Heidi, after all, said she could envision actual celebs rocking Sonjia’s piece on the red carpet! — but it wasn’t meant to be.

And so with that, we’re down to the final four: Dmitry, Christopher, Melissa, and Fabio. Who would you like to see win it all? (I’m going with Dmitry.) Who do you think actually will win? (I’m guessing Christopher.) And did Sonjia deserve to get booted, or should it have been someone else?

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