Last night was Project Runway's first team challenge of the season and a blast from the past for longtime fans. How did our designers fare?
Sonjia, you are a treasure.
The challenge: In teams of two, make a red-carpet ready look for the Emmys that is also weirdly connected to Lexus. The color of each team's Lexus must be incorporated into the look, and the clients are previous Project Runway contestants. The winning designer gets to go to the Emmys. There was so much happening with this challenge!
Guest judge: Krysten Ritter
The winner: Ven, again. With a pleated top, again. Mix it up already!
The auf'd: Raul and his bad attitude.
Michael and Nina hate the Olympics
...Or so it would seem, given their lack of interest in the silver or gold gowns designed last night. Let's back up. The 14 contestants break into seven teams of two and are given a Lexus color and a former designer to make an Emmys gown for. The usual bickering ensues, in addition to some incredibly well-suited and other terribly matched partnerships (the fact that Dmitry and Melissa got each other and THEN got April as a client, who is like their long lost triplet, makes me doubt the randomness of it all. Bring back the button bag!). Some of the results are bad. Some of the results are alright. And a very few (possibly only one) was great. As Heidi called out the names of Melissa & Dmitry (silver Lexus + April) and Sonjia & Nathan (gold Lexus + Valerie), I thought for sure they were going to be asked to remain on the runway. However, in an unforeseen twist, Heidi tells them they're safe and to please leave the stage (oh yeah, you too, Buffi & Elena. Well done not murdering each other). The top two end up being Gunnar & Kooan (white Lexus + Irina) and Ven & Fabio (blue Lexus + Kenley) and then I yawned and wondered what was going on on the Olympics.
Seriously, judges?! Sonjia & Nathan's gold sequin gown was damn near perfect, not to mention interesting looking and well constructed. Additionally, it didn't seem like any one designer of the three steamrolled the others. Melissa & Dmitry pushed out a silver silk charmeuse gown that was a little bunchy in the front but had a great back and was generally refreshingly different. Didn't you hear them talk about how difficult it is to sew with silk charmeuse, Michael?! On the flip side, Deatherage & Ko.'s white gown seemed likely for the bottom all episode, enduring a hypercritical Irina and wedding dress comparisons. The judges even criticized them for their poor selection of fabric. And didn't it seem a tad short? C'mon NIna! Ven & Fabio, by which I mean "just Ven," produced a navy gown fit for a loud girl. They were hands down the team with the easiest challenge and no one cared. Nina, Michael, and Heidi, I know you weren't part of All Stars, but don't you remember that that dress was the product of every challenge with Kenley's name on it? To their credit, it was well made, but even the judges said that it would be hardly memorable at the Emmys. So let's give it a win! Ven is shaping up to be the most talented and boring designer this season and I'm worried that the judges could not care less [insert Christopher temper tantrum here].
I find it surprising that such a staple of a ProjRun season, "Design a red carpet look for this semi- to very famous person," would throw so many designers for a loop. Have you all ever watched this show? Just wait until you design your own fabric or are sent out with an inspiration-seeking camera. YOUR MIND WILL BE BLOWN. They should have brought Rami in to show these kiddos a thing or two about gowns!
And a thing or two about dancing.
Predictions for next week:
The challenge seems to be "Design something Kors-ian." Maybe? They are being pretty elusive about it, but possibly for good reason. Last night's episode ended on the first "To be continued..." in recent memory, when it is discovered that Andrea may have left the show in the middle of the night. On top of that, the designers appear to all want to leave. Who can think of future design challenges at a time like this?!
Gunnar, you were the most obnoxious part of last night's episode, and KENLEY was a guest star. Yeesh.
A sponsorship too far...
Over 10 Project Runway seasons, we viewers have developed a very high tolerance for corporate sponsorship. So much so that I barely notice when, say, Tim Gunn mentions the "Lord & Taylor (or Piperlime or Macy's or Bluefly or Neiman Marcus) accessories wall" or when Heidi rattles off the grand prize sponsors—HP, Marie Claire, Lexus, L'Oreal, and Lord & Taylor—at the beginning of each episode. Hell, even when another company sponsors a challenge on top of all that, as Dylan's Candy Bar did with last week's candy couture challenge, nary an eye is batted. Reality television is full of corporate sponsorships, and Project Runway has always been among the most blatant. However, a line must be drawn SOMEWHERE. We're not animals! Did the PR producers think we wouldn't notice that Lexus had absolutely nothing to do with last night's challenge?!
At least it appears the engine revs from this Lexus are thawing Dmitry's ice-cold heart a little.
A candy store sponsoring a candy challenge, or an athletic company sponsoring a sportswear challenge? Okay. It's a competition show on basic cable; we're willing to accept the occasional logo being shoved down our throats. But to hamfistedly tie an Emmys red carpet challenge (which is already a meta-promo for Project Runway since the clients are former contestants) to a fleet of Lexuses (Lexi?) for the sheer sake of a five-minute driving sequence and yet ANOTHER mention of the name of a company that is already a sponsor? NO. Project Runway you have gone too far! Reel it in before it's too late! (Tip: When your red-carpet dresses must match the luxury sedans of one of your corporate sponsors, it's too late.)
Et tu, Tim Gunn?
As old as the "design a red carpet look for this semi- to very famous person" challenge is the "design something for this non-model-type person challenge." However, Project Runway eliminated the usual fatphobia we get when regular people hit the runway by selecting only the most modelesque of its previous contestants. Maybe it was just the thin, tallish, youngish women who wanted a dress designed for them at the Emmys, but my guess is that looks went a looong way in picking which auf'd ladies would be back in the workroom last night. Case in point: I maintain that Gunnar and Kooan's dress, which was boring and poorly made, beat Sonjia and Nathan's shiny gold prettiness mainly because Irina looks more like a model than Valerie does. Not fair! Also, is that why Korto didn't come back?! Bring her back!
It shoulda been you, Valerie.
Did anyone else catch that adorable hug between Alicia and Elena last night when Alicia narrowly escaped the chopping block? Between that and Dmitry's lovefest with Melissa, I'm beginning to suspect that Project Runway's producers are editing the Eastern Europeans to make them seem much icier and more dour than they actually are. Reality TV manipulating personalities through editing, you say? Gasp! (Still, moving forward maybe I should lighten up on the Bond villain jokes whenever Dmitry's on screen.)
Predictions for next week: I'm with you Annalee—after that "to be continued..." it's tough to predict who will even be on the show next week! However, I am still firmly a member of Team Sonjia and I think her aesthetic could wow Michael Kors if he'd just get off Ven's jock for one second. Enough with the pleats! Sonjia FTW!
The Gunn Show: As PR devotees know, this is Tim Gunn's world and we just live in it. Each week we'll pick our favorite Gunn moment (tell us yours too!). This week? Sir Gunn's confession to Gunnar and Kooan that their plans for Irina's dress were "borderline vulgar." Said tactfully as ever, and it was a key critique for the team who, for better or worse, went on to be in the top three.