Good day and welcome to season 14 of Project Runway, by far my favorite reality competition show. This week we met all sixteen of our starry-eyed hopefuls, ready and raring to make their mark!
The episode began with the designers at center court of Madison Square Garden, and instructed to run around the arena gathering the fabric scattered around on the seats to use for their first task: a blue-sky, “show us who you are as a designer,” anything goes challenge. Some of our designers stood out for great work in a very short timeframe, and others stood out for exactly the opposite reason. So let’s go to the Power Rankings!
Note: Power Rankings are totally unscientific, coming as they are from a straight man, but I have 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 and their entertainment value, in that order of importance, presented in reverse order.
16.Duncan from New Zealand
The red-haired, bearded Duncan began the episode by saying, “I just want to make it through the first episode,” which just goes to show that no matter how low you set your sights, you can always fail. Duncan seemed popular around the workroom and a genial enough guy, and the other designers as well as Tim Gunn seemed taken with his work-in-progress, a salmon-colored dress heavy on the draping. The early praise seemed puzzling to me, because I thought it looked like a pink toga, and the judges agreed, making Duncan the first casualty of season 14.
15.Hanmaio from China
It took me a moment to remember where I’ve seen Hanmaio’s designs before: she had a supporting part in The Incredibles as the costume designer. She’s gone in a very different direction since then: she almost put her model in a pair of gold Vans after dressing her up like the kitchen in my childhood home come to life.
14.Blake from Los Angeles
This guy had a tough first week but I have a feeling he’s going to go deep in the competition. He’s got too many ideas, and I’d bet anything that after the fatigue of a few challenges starts getting to him, he is going to turn super bitchy/amusing. But bottom three is bottom three, and making a busy, sloppy dress out of a very ugly multicolored print put him there.
13.Kelly from Los Angeles
If there turns out to be any kind of physical altercation during this season, the smart money is on Kelly to both start and finish it. She seems like she has at least four older brothers and two or three dads. In any case, I hated the dress she sent down the runway, with its bizarre, superfluous third neck strap that skewed over to the left side of the bust. There’s out of the box, and there’s just wrong.
12.David from Hollywood
With his long hair and slightly snaggled grin, David looks like Freddie Mercury’s straight brother, which I mean as a compliment. David seems to be well-adjusted and friendly, but I hate his dress – it’s a weird smock made out of a combination of blacks and loud blue prints, making his model look like a grandmother from the future.
11.Gabrielle from New York
Gabrielle got no screen time at all this week, so her entertainment score is just about nil. She sent a strange sleeveless sharkskin dress down the runway, and she remarked that she was “not proud” of it and that she “got lost” while creating it.
10.Candice from San Francisco
Candice is a very high-contrast individual with very pale skin, very black hair with severe bangs, and very red lipstick, so it makes sense that her first dress is black and white; it’s a white pinstripe number with an odd black Z shape across the bust, which would be a nice idea if it didn’t make the model look like she has three breasts.
9.Jake from San Francisco
Jake also got mostly lost in the editing shuffle in the premiere, so there’s not much to say about him personally, but for his sake I hope that the weird shiny gold and maroon print he chose from the stands at the Garden was the last yard of fabric in the arena. Otherwise, he chose it of his own free will, which is a big bright red flag.
8.Lindsay from Texas
Lindsay has a very teachers’ pet kind of vibe about her: she got very petulant when it was revealed that three designers misunderstood their instructions and came to the show without any tools. She is probably the most sure of herself of all the designers, which promises great personal drama later on – drama that her casual jumper did not provide.
7.Swapnil from India
This guy likes to think of himself as a “rulebreaker” – you can tell because he wears a motorcycle jacket – but the first challenge has hardly begun before he complains to Tim Gunn that he “doesn’t like making clothes in a rush.” This may prove to be a problem on Project Runway. Anyway, I liked his first dress, an expensive-looking braided bodice with a blue skirt.
6.Joseph from Las Vegas
Not much to say about Joseph personally yet, he’s another person the premiere couldn’t find the time for, but he turned in a cute lavender pencil skirt with a Monet print top. Notably, Joseph himself does not look ridiculous in terms of his choice of attire, which going by past seasons of this show is a rarity for a male designer.
5.Amanda from Florida
It’s not Amanda’s first rodeo: she was cast on season 9 and eliminated before even getting to the dorm and workroom, as the show cruelly cast too many designers and made them bring samples to a final, televised audition. So Amanda is super motivated, poised, and kind enough to share her tools with the dummies (sorry, dress forms) that didn’t bring them. I like her first effort, a two-piece ensemble that’s gold on top, flowing blue on bottom.
4.Laurie from Chicago
Laurie didn’t get much camera time other than to express irritation at Merline the Chatterbox (see below), but I liked the dress she made: a wine-colored cocktail dress cut very high at the hip with a symmetrical off-the-shoulder cut on the opposite side. Symmetry is pleasing.
3.Edmund from Atlanta
This guy has been auditioning for Project Runway for each of its 14 seasons, which suggests an admirable level of commitment. He seems like a nice guy, and was smart enough to listen when Tim told him his work in progress was “dreary” and “the antithesis of joy” (ouch). He pivoted to a simple black cocktail dress with a neon green train, which looked much better than it sounds. Nina Garcia remarked that it looked like he made the dress specifically for his model, which is high praise, and all the judges made a point to notice how well he constructed his garment, which is usually a hint that a designer is going to make it deep into the season.
2.Merline from Haiti
Pretty much everyone else in the workroom was driven mad by Merline’s incessantly chanting “Gotta make it work gotta make it work gotta make it work” like a parrot, which begs the question, does she do it because she’s mentally unbalanced, or is she engaging in some next-level PsyOps? She began the episode not knowing the difference between ‘muslin’ and ‘muslim’ – even I know that – and making odd statements like “They call him Tim Gunn because he’s Tim Gunn,” but she ended it with a second-place finish on the strength of a very interesting dress/jacket combo that the judges loved and said showed her stated “background in architecture.” If she can keep it together and refrain from speaking in tongues or visiting with dead relatives in the workroom, she could go far.
1.Ashley from San Diego
The only designer whose baby pictures and family photos are shown during the premiere is being telegraphed as a serious threat to go all the way, and between that and the fact that she won the first challenge with an inventive ensemble with a textured hole-y fabric top and a yellow print skirt, I think Project Runway is telling us to keep an eye on Ashley. She cried three separate times over the course of the episode, which suggests that in addition to good designs, she’ll be providing her share of drama.
THIS WEEK: The designers are tasked with creating dresses out of greeting cards. That is not a typo. Watch it live at 9pm ET Thursday on Lifetime with Sling TV, or catch it later on demand!