BY ERIC REZSNYAK
I feel like I may be jinxing this, but we’re three episodes in and I am still really enjoying this season of “Project Runway.” To me it feels more like the fabled seasons of yore, with some really talented designers surrounded by people who are, let’s face it, reality-TV hangers-on. At least half of the designers are churning out work that genuinely interests me. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t drama – and lots of it this episode. And it also doesn’t mean that the judges always get it right.
The challenge was cool, if you ignored the gratuitous Lexus product placement: design a red-carpet gown to be worn at the Emmys by a former “Project Runway” contestant. The winning designer would also go to the big show as the former designer’s date.
The designers were split into teams of two, selected via car keys (the color of the car that paired them had to be factored into the gowns they created). Here’s how it worked out:
Christopher and Andrea had to design for Season 9 winner Anya
Sonjia and Nathan got Season 8’s Valerie (I always liked her, and thought she got robbed in her season)
Buffi and Elena got Season 3’s Laura (YAY!)
Ven and Fabio got Season 5’s Kenley, who was…very Kenley
Kooan and Gunnar got imperious Season 6 winner Irina
Dmitry and Melissa were assigned Season 8’s April (now with purple hair!)
Raul and Alicia got another of my favorites, Season 7’s Mila
There was instant grumbling from this season’s Russian contingent, as both Dmitry and Elena bitched about team challenges (we’re on Season 10; they had to know this was coming sooner rather than later). Gunnar was utterly unenthused about being paired with Kooan, who became either invisible and/or defeated for the entire challenge. Gunnar explained that when it comes to fashion, he’s a controlling bitch. I’m reasonably certain that’s true of Gunnar in general – he seems completely insufferable. He also made some moderately offensive comments about Kooan not even knowing what the Emmys were, so that was nice.
Gunnar and Kooan’s visit with Tim and Irina did not go well. Gunnar was reading Irina’s disapprobation as arrogance (she has a right to be arrogant, dude – she is incredibly talented), while Tim called their sheer/solid white concept “borderline vulgar.” Irina was fully dubious. Gunnar said he wanted to get Kenley. Of course he did. Those two sour bitches would have gotten along famously, until they decided they hated each other.
Mila was concerned about the print that Alicia and Raul picked for her gown, because print can read daytime on the red carpet. (“We don’t want Mila to look like she’s just come from a pool party,” warned Tim. That depends: were there scantily dressed pool boys at said party? If so, I would say, go Mila.) Mila encouraged them to minimize the print and pump up the formal. Raul basically told her that if he had his way, he’d do what he wanted – in other words, Mila was wrong. The passive-aggressive is strong with that one.
Kenley gagged – in a good way – over Ven’s taste in fabrics, and called the concept “very modern Grace Kelly.” That’s actually a fairly good descriptor of what Ven has served up thus far.
Tim and Anya told Andrea and Christopher to de-hooch their dress. Christopher did not respond positively to the criticism, and he does not seem like the type who is capable of changing directions without having a meltdown. He’s going to crack, you guys. That was a NICE critique. Kors is going to destroy him by the end of the season.
Laura and Tim told Elena and Buffi that the labor-intensive pleating concept they were working on was just not practical given the major time constraints. This led Elena to shut down and get angry. I think that’s her natural state, actually. She’s like a fashion-designer version of the Hulk. After Elena stormed out (second time in two episodes, if you count the hot-glue incident), Buffi said she wanted to give up and walk out herself. The other designers encouraged Buffi to take over the dress and do her own thing. I think they just wanted to see Elena’s head pop off. For her part, Elena was surprised that the show was giving her such little time for an evening-wear look. Had she never seen this show before agreeing to be on it?
The guest judge this time was Krysten Ritter, currently on “Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23,” but whom I will always think of as Jane on “Breaking Bad.” She was actually a great judge with some excellent comments and some real zingers. She seems like she really thinks about fashion.
Despite all the agita, Buffi and Elena’s gown for Laura came out just fine. It was a bit dour, all black and flowy, and it made Laura look bigger than she is. But it worked.
Christopher and Andrea’s outfit for Anya lacked any design interest aside from the skirt slit up to her hoo-ha. The brown was unflattering on her.
Ven and Fabio (although this read entirely Ven to me) made Kenley look totally adorable in her purple structured knee-length gown. Very cute and girly. Perfectly Kenley, and the pleats on the bodice made it really striking.
Dmitry and Melissa’s dress for April really downplayed her bust and overplayed her belly. I got the concept of flowing, almost melted silver, but I can’t imagine they wanted it to hit the way it did on her body. Still, it was an interesting design – I could see the Olsen Twins wearing it. But they made a young woman look 20 years older. (Which, come to think of it, is very Olsen.)
Raul and Alicia’s outfit for Mila was a total dud. The top was deeply unflattering, poorly made, and there was no real design — and very little red, which was part of the challenge.
Gunnar and Kooan’s white gown for Irina was also very simple. The cape thing on the back seemed tacked on and unflattering. It was basically a sleeveless white tube.
Sonjia and Nathan made Valerie look like a million bucks in a shiny gold gown. The shoulder details that wrapped around the back gave it some interest. You would notice that girl on the red carpet.
Dmitry & Melissa and Buffi & Elena were safe, and weirdly so were Sonjia and Nathan. That dress deserved to be in the top. In talking heads, Elena continued to be a bitter kitten and talked mad shit about Buffi. While Buffi, bless her heart, was just proud of their accomplishments.
Fabio & Ven and Gunnar & Kooan were given the highest scores. That is bullshit – there was nothing about the Gunnar/Kooan dress that was deserving of that honor. Even Kooan looked astonished. That left Alicia & Raul and Andrea & Christopher in the bottom, and they were sent back to the stew room. Andrea – who is a mature woman, and who has been through Some Shit – put things into pespective, saying that it’s ridiculous to be so invested in a stupid TV show and making a particular dress. Christopher did not want to hear that, because he is a 20something gay boy whose dream for years has been to be famous (I am paraphrasing). As Andrea talked he basically melted into a puddle. Andrea seemed truly not to care.
The judges loved Ven & Fabio’s look. Nina liked the length, although Krysten thought it was too short for the Emmys, which I think is fair. Kors liked how it matched Ven’s aesthetic and Kenley’s style. The judges asked: if the pair won, who should get the individual win and go to the Emmys? Fabio said that he should, even though he didn’t really explain why (and as Kors pointed out, Fabio’s boho shtick was nowhere in that gown). Ven, who obviously is the person who made that dress, said it should be him.
As for Gunnar & Kooan’s gown, even Irina called out the crappy sewing. Heidi and Nina fawned all over the sexiness of the dress. And I’m sorry – I just don’t understand any of the love for that dress. The judges mentioned the necklace, which was taken right off the accessory wall. It had nothing to do with Gunnar or Kooan. Baffled. Utterly baffled. During final deliberations, at least Kors pointed out the fabric issues. The others kept calling it dramatic. What was dramatic about that? Haven’t we seen that dress a million times? Second week in a row that Gunnar has been overpraised. He’s going to make Final 3, you guys.
Raul and Alicia used their menswear backgrounds as an excuse for their failure. Mila pointed out the horrible fit issues in their gown – you could see how badly it was sewn, too — and she said that she wished they had done something more tailored. (Poor Mila has been screwed by this show three times now, by my count.) Raul and Alicia argued that they felt obligated to do a gown, since everybody else was. Bullshit excuse. Nina said the dress had no sex appeal at all. Heidi called it frumpy. The whole thing was a disaster. Raul copped to the terrible ponytail hair extension. The two of them refused to play into the “Who should go home game,” which Heidi did not like.
When it was his team’s turn in the shit box, Christopher wasted no time telling everyone how much he hated his dress, and also threw Andrea under the bus for wasting so much time cutting the fabric. Heidi pointed out the really awful construction issues. Nina said it was tacky. Krysten said it looked like a Halloween costume she could get at a drug store (BURN!). Kors called it a Hershey bar. Christopher was in total survival mode. He was a drowning man, and he grabbed Andrea and pushed her under the water so he could stay afloat. That was ugly. And then he tried to play the wounded puppy when Andrea told the judges that his construction skills were a shambles. And then he cried. That whole segment was pathetic and I lost what little respect I had for Christopher. Krysten Ritter looked ready to laugh at him, and I don’t blame her. Andrea said she found the whole thing “very demeaning.” And HOW, lady. I said first episode that Christopher was wildly overpraised. I don’t think he really knows what he’s doing, and he is going to be in serious shit as this show continues.
Ven was, thankfully, the winner – if it had gone to Gunnar…I don’t even know what. So that’s two wins in a row for Ven. Fabio, Kooan, and Gunnar were all shepherded to safety. Christopher was given the quick spare, thanks to him being a drama queen/”good” television. Andrea was also spared, leaving Alicia and Raul from Team Frump. And it was Raul who took the fall. It’s unfortunate, because I do think he had more potential. But I think he also betrayed a real lack of awareness and confidence. He pulled the whole “You’ll hear of me again!” cliché that marks most insecure reality-TV characters, and in his talking head said that he thought Alicia should have gone too, because it was a 50/50 endeavor (it sure looked to me like he was definitely driving that train). And then he talked again about how much he hated red-carpet looks. Again: have these people never seen this show?
AND THEN! The next morning, everybody woke up and Andrea was gone. Vanished in the night! The drama. (This was reported months ago, and just a warning, folks: she ain’t the only one disappearing unexpectedly soon.)