Things got personal during last night's Project Runway textile challenge.
In the family way.
The challenge: Create a textile inspired by your "cultural heritage." A loved one will deliver an HP tablet to you and dig up painful memories from your childhood to help you come up with something.
Guest judge: Mondo Guerra and Anya Ayoung-Chee
The winner: Dmitry with a magical floating jacket!
The auf'd: Gunnar, whose personality could only keep him in this game so long (especially after he made up with Christopher). We're crossing our fingers for Cute Ass Dress though!
Yet another spinoff show idea: Tim Gunn and Mondo Guerra hang out with us. Lifetime, you in?
Designers, this is your life!
For a show where the designers frequently complain about lack of time, and that was extended by a half hour due to an audience's desire to see more of the design process, it always seems a little off for PR to devote a whole segment to the contestants hugging their loved ones. In the past this "Surprise! Your families & friends are here!" segment has been more incorporated into a challenge, with contestants designing for each other's moms or whatever. But while Ven was crying and Elena was hugging and Dmitry's baby photos were scrolling, I couldn't help but think "Uhhh, don't you have outfits to work on?" I know this segment technically counted as "research," but let's be real. That whole portion of the show was pure fodder. And part of me loved it?
The fan of reality television in me wanted to see even more childhood photos and more tears, because it's good entertainment. To see the more reserved designers break down or to realize that they all weren't always so stylishly coiffed obviously makes us more invested. I fully realize that I was the girl last week talking about how fascinating and entertaining I found Elena's commentary, who by the way did not disappoint this episode (who didn't love seeing her and her look-a-like mom together?). However, my inner PR cynic needs to chime in. More than halfway through the season, haven't we already decided who's in and who's out on our runways?
What I found most irksome about meeting the moms & co. is that this segment was distracting from a challenge that truly highlights the creative process. While we heard lots from Gunnar, Christopher, and Ven (and let's not forget Fabio's fallopian tubes!), I barely caught what the inspiration was for the other designers. Watching them test and toss potential prints has always been fascinating. And it was obviously distracting to some of the contestants to have their families there—Christopher even blamed his draper's block on his parent's visit. In an ideal world, I would want a season that featured both a HP pattern and a "MOM!" challenge, but not competing in the same episode. Couldn't they have tacked "heritage inspiration" on the Lexus episode?
Heidi Klum in hirsute (get it?)
HEIDI! I could HAIR-dly believe what you were wearing! Did you not ask Tim Gunn's opinion before stepping out on the runway FUR-st? I'm sure you had MANE-y dresses to choose from! You usually look so PELT together!
Awkward Runway Photos
The Mondo Guerra Patterns of Hardship Challenge
Does anyone remember way back to season seven, when Emilio Sosa won the textiles challenge with his navel-gaze-y graffiti print? Well, the days of scribbling and doodling on your HP tablet are OVER. Since Mondo's genuinely moving textile won him this challenge in season eight, it's become the Overshare Olympics.
Gunnar's tale of being bullied (which you could tell he thought was enough to win) was the most obvious, but the designers clearly felt pressure to dig deep and come up with increasingly painful personal narratives to turn into bright and cheery palazzo pants fabric. It's as if, since Mondo's revealing of his HIV status resonated with so many people, the producers of Project Runway put the pressure on the designers to one up him. Newsflash everyone: You can't out-print the Prince of Prints! Mondo Guerra could make a meaningful print out of a trip to the grocery store. Besides, the textile challenge should be about making textiles. As much as it makes for good television to see wooden-faced Ven try to cry while he talks about religious traditions, the whole thing felt bizarre and forced. I could practically hear the crew in the background shouting, "More tears! Come on, don't any of you have upsetting secrets you could reveal?! What do you think we brought your families here for? TO WATCH YOU LOSE IT. SO LOSE IT." How about just making a cute pattern?
See? Sonjia and her mom are having fun!
In the end, Dmitry's tears and Belarusian textile got him the win though, so what do I know? I just hope his artist dad is proud, because that was a kickass jacket.
How fun was it to see Tim Gunn come out during the judging? I wish he'd do that every week.
Also, how many times did the designers use penises, vaginas, fallopian tubes, and blood in these textiles? It's like if they didn't have a sob story they figured they might as well go genital. Make it work!
It looked like a Rockettes challenge, so you know Dmitry "Strictly Ballroom" Sholokhov has this one in the bag.
The Gunn Show:
As PR devotees know, this is Tim Gunn's world and we just live in it. Each week we pick our favorite Gunn moment (tell us yours too!). This week? It had to be Tim's critique of Ven's first look: "I see an homage to a menstrual cycle. It looks like cloth that has soaked up blood. I just hope no one's offended by it because they look like Maxi pads." TG is always thinking of others.