I was in a great mood for last week’s episode of Project Runway, and so was Heidi Klum, who very unusually liked almost everything that came down the runway, even the stuff the other judges hated. The one piece she didn’t like was the same one I didn’t like. This means that in addition to all our other obvious compatibilities, our tastes and our moods are aligned. Call me, Heidi, our story is written in the stars!
For last week’s challenge, JustFab – they of the omnipresent accessory wall, always to be used very thoughtfully – stepped up to center stage and asked the designers to create a marketable look that JustFab could sell, based on one of five “fashion personas”: Bombshell, Trendsetter, Girl Next Door, Modern Classic, and Femme Nouveau.
The winning look will be mass-produced and sold on JustFab.com. Since that’s not quite enough product placement, the designers are also instructed to create a label for their looks (to be printed on a Brother® label printer, natch) and worn on a t-shirt.
Candice won the previous week’s challenge, so not only did she get first pick at a fashion persona, she got to assign them to all the other designers, and she generously gave each of them the one she genuinely believed would help them succeed.
Unlike some of the wackier Unconventional Materials challenges, this was a real-life task that will show whether a designer knows how to work to a specific brand, and design with an eye toward mass production. It was also the rare instance of a guest judge being really tough on the designs. The judges disagreed so much about these designs (partly because Heidi, as I said, kind of liked almost everything), there wasn’t even a top and a bottom. It was a fun episode, so let’s get to the Power Rankings!
Note: Power Rankings are totally unscientific, coming as they are from a straight man. But this straight man has successfully predicted three of the last four Project Runway winners no less than five weeks before the end of the season. In any case, they are an amalgamation of the designers’ work, their entertainment value, and whatever hints the editors may drop about what’s to come, in that order of importance; they’re presented in reverse order, last week’s loser first.
7.Laurie (Last week: #7)
Assigned “Modern Classic,” Laurie started out making a blue sheath dress, but then cut the top off and made it a skirt, begging some sheer black fabric off of Candice to make another top in the last 20 minutes of work time. Once again, Laurie left her model hanging (so to speak), as the backless top couldn’t be worn with a bra, so the poor girl was stuck with her pasties showing for the second week in a row. Not only was it barely even clothing on top – she just tucked a flap into the front of the skirt and then tied it around the model’s neck. As Nina Garcia pointed out, it was totally inappropriate for the challenge, which was to make something JustFab can sell to its customers online. Auf wiedersehen, Laurie.
6.Merline (Last week: #6)
Week after week Merline has survived despite turning in look after look you wouldn’t wear to a poop fight, but she’s running out of weak designers to hide behind, and I’d bet almost anything this is her week to go home. (Although I have said that at least twice before.) Her sloppy sleeveless dress had a fishnet back and shoulders, a sloppy hem, an asymmetrical hemline, an awful mesh petticoat, and a weird hip flap that looked like it was trying to eat the model’s hand. “It may not be made well,” Merline said, “but I feel like I stepped outside the box.” No argument there. Zac Posen liked the ideas enough to forgive the bad construction but Heidi calls her on it, and the JustFab judge (whose name I missed and will just call JustFab) adds, “this is something that would never be produced.”
5.Kelly (Last week: #4)
This challenge’s $100 budget drew sighs and panic from the other designers, but Kelly, who pulled Trendsetter as her persona, shrugged, “My whole life’s a budget, I have no problem with that.” The look she produced, pants and a crop top in a pair of loud, unmatched prints, was called “a little bit junior” by both JustFab and by fellow designer Ashley, and that pretty much hits it on the head: I said the model looked like a Yo Gabba Gabba groupie in my notes. Tim Gunn called it “a Muppet bathmat,” Zac Posen cried, “You killed Cookie Monster!” and Nina Garcia simply said, “I am ready to get rid of her.” Me too, Nina. Me too.
4.Swapnil (Last week: #3)
I don’t know what is happening with this guy. Three weeks ago he was a cinch to make the finals, he had come in second like five challenges in a row, and everything he made was meticulous and interesting, but for the last three challenges he’s seemed bored and lazy. Drawing Bombshell as his fashion persona, he decides to do for a Jessica Rabbit silhouette, but in leopard print instead of red, because it’s classier. To his credit, his design has an eye toward production-friendliness, but he’s so overconfident that he ends up having to sew his model into the dress because he carelessly grabbed the wrong kind of zipper at Mood. The white jacket thing with a big billowing back not only covers the redeeming qualities of the dress, but looks really odd. Heidi called it “a killer bombshell dress,” but the judges unanimously hate the coat. Zac hates calls the whole look hookery, and has had just about enough: “Swapnil is playing us, and it’s old and it’s tired and it’s tacky,” which made Nina go like this:
I think there’s still a chance he’ll rebound, but I am “Swap”-ing him out with Candice (see what I did there?) in my final three.
3.Candice (Last week: #1)
As I mentioned above, Candice got to assign all the other designers with a fashion profile for the last challenge, and rather than using that power to mess everyone up, she tried to help them, which shows a very high confidence level, as well as an ability to work with others that will serve her well after this show. She may not win the show (my money’s still on Edmond) but she will definitely find work. Her “Trendsetter” look was a really cool black and white skirt-suit: a short black volume skirt with leather toplayer, a bell-cuff black blouse and a long-striped scarf. Candice reasons, “Fashion’s not always about fitting in, it’s about standing out,” and that’s what’s great about this look, because it’s hard to stand out in black and white. Her model looks like she’s on her way to go kick some ass at work, and the judges unanimously like it, except for JustFab, who doesn’t like the scarf, and Ciara, who for some reason is on this show.
2.Ashley (Last week: #5)
Despite the fact that she’s clearly been one of the three or four strongest designers in the competition from day one, Ashley has a little confidence problem. Drawing Girl Next Door as her profile, she started to make a dress out of a textile that Tim remarked looked like a hospital gown, so she turned it into a cute crop top and skirt, with a really cool gold motorcycle jacket to boot. The judges disagree: Heidi loves the look, Zac thinks it’s unoriginal, Nina likes the jacket but not the outfit, Ciara likes the outfit but not the jacket, and JustFab wants to sell the jacket. Then someone asks the model to take the jacket off and suddenly everyone loves the whole look, which turned out to have a lot of cool features that were covered by the jacket. Why didn’t you tell us to look at the outfit without the jacket, everyone yelled at Ashley, and she just shrugged. She’s going to need to be a little more assertive if she’s going to beat Candice and Edmond.
1.Edmond (Last week: #2)
I am running out of ways to predict that Edmond is going to win this thing. Suffice to say he has now won three of the nine challenges, and has shown such drive and focus throughout this thing I don’t see how he can lose. After starting to make a “Bombshell” dress out of a black and red print that only he didn’t think was old and ugly, Edmond corrected course completely, abandoning the fabric and changing his silhouette to a tight red dress with a cool lattice neckline. Zac calls it unoriginal, but Heidi liked it and Nina pointed out that it will sell online, which was the point of the challenge. Since it’s the only look the judges like unanimously, and JustFab says it would sell like crazy, Edmond wins this one.
This week: Tim Gunn loses his patience when the designers are tasked with creating looks for the Project Runway crew!