Of Project Runway’s 14 seasons, I have probably watched five or six, and this one has been one of my favorites. Partly because the talent level is so high – there are at least four designers with a real shot to win – partly because the challenges have been interesting, and most of all because they have ratcheted the distracting product placement and shoehorned sponsorships way back.
The shoehorned sponsorships are usually most evident on the Unconventional Materials challenges, when the designers are tasked to make a dress out of the contents of the M&M’s store (actually happened), and the episode ends up amounting to a 90-minute M&M’s commercial. Our first Unconventional Materials challenge this season forced the designers to make dresses out of Hallmark cards – still product placementy, but tasteful – and the second, in last week’s episode, was to make a look out of outdated technology found at the dump, with no sponsorship anywhere other than a quick word from Marie-Claire magazine.
The difficulty level on this challenge was through the roof, but for the most part the designers delivered, with the exception of Jake, who was so distraught about the news from back home that his dog had to be euthanized that he decided to go home, and Swapnil, who kind of just decided to treat this challenge like a 36-hour smoke break. In any case, we’re down to eight designers now, 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.
9.Joseph (Last week: #4)
Coming into last week, Joseph was determined to sex things up a bit, as his work kept getting dinged as “mumsy” and “matronly” in every challenge. Tough break for him that he had to work with mouse pads and coaxial cable. His look was fine, I guess, a low-cut cocktail dress in Mouse Pad Blue, though it looked a little loose up top. In my notes I wrote “kinda looks like a wetsuit” and moments later Heidi Klum called it “a boring SCUBA dress.” We’re totally in sync, Heidi and me. I know we could make this work, Heidi, call me!
8.Lindsey (Last week: #7)
The emotional arc that Lindsey has followed over the course of this season has been very interesting. After coming in as by far the cockiest, haughtiest designer in the competition, she has yet to win a challenge and has been in the bottom several times, and now has the look of a wounded animal begging to be put out of her misery. Joseph’s look was not very good, it’s true, but Lindsey’s was worse, a boring white muslin dress with keys from an iMac glued to the top, and a skirt make of CD sleeves on bottom. The judges said it reminded them of a shower. Lindsey is seriously rattled, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see her go home this week. 7.Swapnil (Last week: #1)
I don’t know if the exhaustion is getting to him or maybe he found Blake’s stash, but Swapnil seemed fresh out of F’s to give last week, getting sassier and sassier around the workroom, admitting that he’s only given 60 percent effort in the competition to this point, and even taking his motorcycle jacket off. In any case, he was totally uninterested in the challenge last week, turning in a bizarre tangle of white CAT5 cable and calling it a dress. Maybe he figured the difficulty level on the challenge was high enough that no matter what he turned in, someone else would turn in something worse? Maybe he realized that being in the top six weeks in a row is as good as immunity? Whatever the reason, this was easily the worst look of the week, and I can only assume that the phenomenally talented Swapnil will bounce back with a vengeance this week.
6.Merline (Last week:#2)
Those of us playing the game where we drink every time Merline calls her work “architectural” were disappointingly sober last week, but I continue to hate everything she makes. After inexplicably winning the lingerie challenge, Merline had immunity last week, which may be what saved her off-the-wall bird costume – which is what she called it – from scoring in the bottom. It looked weird, the model moved very stiffly in it as though she were afraid to break it, and it was hard to tell what Unconventional Materials she used, if any. I can’t believe Merline has hung around this long!
5.Laurie (Last week: #10)
I keep thinking that this is going to be the week that Laurie finally busts out with something great, and every week she lands smack in the middle of the pack. Last week was no different, as she made a perfectly adequate cocktail dress out of mouse pads, with a folded-over bust, a ruffle effect on the skirt, and a coaxial-cable belt.
4.Candice (Last week: #6)
I haven’t always liked her looks – it’s always very thoughtful and well-made, but a bit samey – but I love Candice’s confidence in this thing. The pressure seems to be helping her, rather than hurting her, as she seems to get a little more chipper every week. Her dress, an elaborate pattern of different-colored cables that played on the natural curves in her model’s body, was typically well-made, but the white highlights on the bust were a little off. Either way, if this turns out to be one of those years where four people get to show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (as everyone on this show is apparently required to call it), bank and Candice being the fourth.
3.Edmond (Last week: #5)
The other two looks in the top had a higher Wow Factor than Edmond’s dress, but Edmond’s dress looked like something a human woman would wear somewhere other than in a sci-fi movie. Whereas Lindsey used flat white keyboard keys on her dress, Edmond used deep black ones, he turned them upside down to reveal something much more interesting than a letter, and he didn’t cover his whole dress with them, instead using them as beadwork in an interesting line pattern. The big fringed shoulder pads made out of mouse pads should not have worked but somehow they did, and he even made a clutch at the last minute. Edmond is gonna win this thing, you guys.
2.Ashley (Last week: #3)
Another reason I’m enjoying this season so much is that the best designers in this bunch are incredibly consistent, and hardly seem to have any off weeks, and in this regard Ashley has been the strongest. Her Polaroid dress wasn’t just an incredibly inventive use of the available material and a great example of adapting a plan as it develops (see what I did there?) – but it was also just a cool dress, with a four-point skirt and an inverted V crop top, and it fit her model perfectly.
1.Kelly (Last week: #8)
Choosing flexible ducting as her primary material was a gutsy move, and it paid off. Kelly has mentioned her craft-store background about a thousand times this season, and it served her well on this challenge, helping her to create a little cocktail dress that looked like a suit of armor. I don’t know if anyone would want to really buy or wear it, but it looked good. Kelly’s performance over the course of the season has been spotty at best, and I don’t think her win does much to improve her chances at going to Bryant Park, but she’s got immunity this week, and that’s not nothing!
THIS WEEK: The designers are swept away to Broadway to create looks based on the musical “Finding Neverland.”
New episodes of Project Runway air Thursday nights at 9pm ET on Lifetime.