We are down to five designers, and with last week’s show we have reached a point where there is only top and bottom; no one is just dismissed as “safe” right after the runway show. Last week we saw something we’ve never seen on this show, and never thought we’d see, except in the fevered writings of Project Runway fan fiction: we saw Tim Gunn completely lose it on a designer, calling unabbreviated BS on his excuses at consultation. Admittedly, most of my Project Runway fantasies revolve around locking eyes with Heidi Klum across a discotheque at closing time – a scenario I may or may not have written about and posted online under a clever pseudonym – but as Project Runway wish-fulfillment goes, Tim’s tantrum will do in a pinch.
The designers were each assigned a member of the show’s behind-the-scenes crew, who they were to give a fashion makeover (with the help of Sally Beauty, stepping center stage for extended product placement time). This turned out to be one of the most interesting challenges of the season, not because the work was particularly strong (it wasn’t), but because a) the judges were clearly affectionate and protective of the crew members in a way that they’d never be toward the models; b) having worked behind the scenes of the whole season so far, the subjects were very familiar with each designer’s aesthetic and work up to this point, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen before; and c) the Sally Beauty hair-and-makeup session, which is easily the most skippable part of every episode, are a lot more interesting when normal non-model humans are the ones being made over.
All of the designers struggled with this challenge, changing course in the face of their subjects' lack of enthusiasm for the designs and Tim’s withering critique, and someone I thought was a mortal lock for Fashion Week ended up being sent home in a cloud of shame, 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.
6.Swapnil (Last week: #4)
I don’t think there has ever been a Project Runway collapse as total as Swapnil’s. After placing second in the first five challenges in a row(!), he seemed to just check out, spending more time on smoke breaks and flitting around the workroom than, you know, making clothes. In an apparent effort to get his mojo back, his discarded motorcycle jacket returned, and even shaved his beard off right before the runway show, but it was too late. He decided his mousy model had a bombshell hiding inside her, despite her repeated insistence to the contrary and created a look that she hated (and wasn’t even finished enough to try on), which prompted Tim’s last-straw harangue.
When a man as warm and encouraging as Tim Gunn turns on his heel and leaves you without saying goodbye or even looking your way, your time at Parsons is clearly drawing to a close. Swapnil tried to recover, making a more modest baby-blue sweater with a cape (?) and skirt, but the model hated it even more, and it’s hard to blame her: she came out looking like SuperGrandma. Zac Posen in particular was over Swapnil’s act, and after starting the season looking like a shoo-in for the Final Three, he got the coldest, most dead-eyed “time to go clean up your space” that Tim Gunn has ever delivered. So long, Swapnil. You’ve got plenty of time for cigarettes now.
5.Merline (Last week: #6)
As much as I enjoyed Tim Gunn going all shark eyes on Swapnil, my favorite part of this episode was the terror in the eyes of Merline’s model when she contemplated the possibilities of what kind of “architectural” look Merline might saddle her with. She mentioned not being a fan of Merline’s signature Big Shoulders, which Merline promptly ignored, creating a coat that would have looked huge on her even if it had fit. She eventually took the model’s comments to heart and created a look that the judges liked – though I think that had as much to do with the hair and makeup as anything – and finished in the top. I still think she’s going home next week, and I know this is the fourth week in a row I’ve made this prediction. If she survives this week, I’ll say the same thing again next week. I just can’t imagine her as a finalist.
4.Ashley (Last week: #2)
It’s just a crazy coincidence that Ashley was assigned a plus-size model to go with her plus-size aesthetic, right? No? The producers hung a big dripping meatball right over the plate for her? The pressure and the fatigue really seems to be getting to her, because she did not hit that pitch out of the infield. Despite the model’s insistence that she didn’t want bare arms, Ashley made an open neckline dress that the model hated, forcing Ashley to regroup and turn it into a pencil skirt with a sleeved top. The fit was not great, the silhouette was not flattering, and the print looked like one of those Magic Eye pictures from the ‘90s. Ashley seems to be yo-yoing between good weeks and off weeks, so expect her to come out strong in the next challenge.
3.Candice (Last week: #3)
Candice’s black leather-goth-dominatrix aesthetic is so well established at this point that when her model asked for something in blue, I literally (not figuratively) LOLed. She might as well have asked for a pink debutante dress. The leather dress Candice produced was, true to form, black leather (with a little blue detailing), 180 degrees from the flannel-shirt look her model was wearing at work; right down to the high-banged black wig the she wore, the model looked like Black Candice. Heidi said “it looks a little cheap,” prompting a lot of hooker humor from the other judges, and during the up-close inspection when Tim said the model was “wearing Candice,” Nina Garcia archly said, “Yes, she is literally wearing Candice.” Candice’s work is immaculate and always well constructed, and she’s so loose and confident I don’t expect her to falter in this final stretch, but she’s too attached to her comfort zone to win the season.
2.Kelly (Last week: #5)
When Kelly’s model, who was wearing overalls and a tank top, asked for overalls and a tank top except, you know, nicer, Kelly obliged, making a black leather set of overalls and a tank top. Not exactly a triumph of originality. Still, she won the challenge because her model was the only one who got exactly what she asked for. At this stage of the season, winning challenges does not grant immunity, and also I just can’t put Kelly in the top spot in good conscience because she’s had a lot more bad or so-so looks than good ones. If Merline continues to defy gravity, good taste, and common sense and not get eliminated yet again this week, Kelly will be the one to go. She has to be.
1.Edmond (Last week: #1)
Edmond was in a tough spot last week: he got stuck with a much older model than anyone else, and the model asked him for a raincoat she could ride her bike in. Not exactly a recipe for success. Even though the raincoat he made was really cool and well-constructed, and the dress he made was even better, the judges objected because the coat and the dress didn’t really go together. But then, raincoats don’t really go with anything, and that was the model’s one request. Once the model took the coat off, during the up-close inspection, the judges all kind of realized that both pieces were great, but I felt the producers’ thumb on the scale here, because having Edmond win for a second week in a row, which would bring him up to four wins in nine challenges, would have sapped nearly all the remaining drama out of the season. Edmond’s gonna win.
This Week: New York City landmarks provide inspiration for the Avant-Garde challenge!