Project Runway Recap: Work to Do

elena melissa project runwayFive episodes in to Season 10 of Project Runway, and I’m feeling a little dubious about the show’s title. I mean, the “Project” half seems to be more about the moneymaking endeavors of the show’s various judges and sponsors, while absurd (or is it cost-saving?) time limitations have left the “Runway” half of the equation as something of an afterthought.

This week’s beneficiary? Nina Garcia (aka “Nitpicking Nina”), who trumpeted her day job’s brand extension, Marie Claire @ Work, by splitting the designers into two teams, tasking each with creating a cohesive collection of chic professional outfits, and then asking them to stage a photo shoot centered around said looks — with the winning spread appearing in the pages of the magazine. The designers were only given till 11pm that evening to finish their garments, because apparently, in this economy, a condensed shooting schedule for Lifetime trumps a scintillating and inventive runway show for the viewing audience.

The idea of a group challenge was met with expected amounts of disdain from the contestants. “Honestly, I want to kill myself,” said Ven, dramatically. Raul was chosen last in a schoolyard-style pick, which sent him into a spiral of insecurities.

Team 5 (Christopher, Ven, Nathan, Fabio, and Gunnar) quickly settled on a color palette and a season, while totally dismissing Gunnar’s ridiculous interjections (“how about a touch of nautical?” “maybe a really warm plum”). Alas, Tim Gunn wasn’t completely convinced by their choices (“It’s looking kind of clownish,” he frowned), and nor were their rivals, who dubbed them the “chiffonies.” “What the chiffonies don’t know is that women don’t wear silk chiffon every day to work,” said Melissa, a wicked twinkle in her eye.

Over at Team 6 (Elena Full of Rage, Sonjia, Melissa, Dmitry, Alicia, and Raul), Raul refused to embrace the collaborative spirit and told his teammates they’d have to accept whatever he made and incorporate it into the collection. “He’s off doing ruffles and all this crap,” huffed Elena, exhibiting her usual grace and charm.

The workroom also gave us a couple of memorable quotes. “Ven is a one-way monkey,” said Dmitry, who quickly corrected himself with the more popular “one-trick pony,” but the hilarious damage was done. Meanwhile, after Elena helped out Raul by modeling his leather vest, she had a few pieces of constructive criticism: “Eddie Munster, that vest he made looks like s**t,” she snarled.

We then got a brief interlude of the designers directing and styling their Marie Claire @ Work photo shoot, where Elena again exploded, this time over Raul’s determination to use straight-from-a-catalog “props” and “furniture.” “She looks like she’s taking a s**t!” Elena screamed at one unfortunate setup, and while her delivery may have been abrasive and domineering, she wasn’t entirely off the mark.

Finally, it was time for the runway show. Let’s review the best and worst:

Judges’ Top 3
MELISSA: With its gorgeous, sctructural collar, diagonal zip back, and brilliant color, this really was, as Nina noted, “a showstopper.” Did this remind anyone else of those Chinese paper floor lamps? No? Nevertheless, it was nice to see the best design rewarded with a win.

CHRISTOPHER: The skirt appeared to use a similar technique to Christopher’s Episode 1 gown — manipulating a “granny” fabric into distressed strips — and while the end result was nifty, the designer himself admitted his jacket was “bulky and puckered.” And yet he was essentially the runner-up? If this isn’t a clue to Lifetime that the contestants simply need more time to sketch, shop, sew, and complete their garments, then I don’t know what is.

FABIO: I really didn’t care for the way this sack-like garment moved down the runway, or at least that’s what my notes say. In all honesty, I’m not sure I could identify Fabio’s dress off a sales-rack lineup at Macy’s, which really doesn’t say much for its uniqueness or inventiveness. I did, however, appreciate Heidi’s “that is silly now” when Fabio refused to choose the weakest member of his team, and instead lauded Ven as the strongest.

Judges’ Bottom 3
RAUL: Not only was his ruffle-riffic blouse a weird choice for an office challenge, but one side of it appeared to be paralyzed, while the other flounced rhythmically as it came down the runway. Elena showed no tact when she told the judges that “his construction is horrible,” but I couldn’t really argue with her main point. In this instance, Raul’s second aufing of the season seemed as merciful as it was inevitable.

GUNNAR: Maybe if Gunnar had spent more time on his design, and less time criticizing his teammates in the confessional, his top wouldn’t have made the model’s breasts look like “two puppies wrestling in a sack” (as guest judge Joanna Coles noted). I loved her retort to Michael Kors’ comment that no one would wear the frock to the office: “No one’s wearing it anywhere.”

ELENA: That weird smock with the bulky, flapping shoulders wouldn’t have worked for a trip to a paintball arena, let alone the office. Perhaps Nina Garcia can sum it up:  “Let’s be honest: She’s obsessed with the shoulder!” I honestly wouldn’t have cared, though, if they’d left Elena out of the bottom three and replaced her with Nathan and his “pajama pant.”

Whay did you think of last night’s Project Runway? Use the comments section thoughtfully to express yourself!