Project Runway Blog

Season 15, Episode 12 Recap: An Unconventional Trip

Holy Tex-Mex guacamole, y’all. This is the last challenge of the season before the designers left standing begin preparing for New York Fashion Week, so naturally the “Runway” gods hold nothing back when presenting this final hurdle.

The designers meet Tim and Heidi on the runway where Heidi suddenly has a southern accent. “Is this like a Madonna/Lindsay Lohan thing?” I wonder. No, it’s just a little gag she’s doing because the group is getting a surprise quick trip to Austin, Texas. The goal in mind during the trip is, of course, to live up to the city’s slogan and “Keep Austin weird.”

When the designers arrive at the Austin Best Western they quickly rush to the pool. There they meet Tim and special guest, previous “Runway” contestant and esteemed recapper, Nick Verreos. Together Tim and Nick announce this week’s challenge.

The Challenge:
In two days, create a high fashion look inspired by Austin using unconventional materials from Georgetown Farm Supply: America’s Country Store, where they will have $500 and 30 minutes to shop. The designers will also scavenge for materials at Stubb’s BBQ for just 5 minutes. The winner of this week’s challenge will receive 50 free nights at Best Western and will continue on to NYFW.

The Twist: After their first day of work the designers discover that with a budget of $200 and using conventional materials, they must create a second, high-end fashion look to correspond with the first.

At Georgetown Farm Center, Cornelius has chosen this very odd, very tense moment in the competition to relax and let his materials “speak” to him. Apparently dog treats had a lot to say. An excited Erin grabs the weirdest things possible including dried mealworms. Laurence, always on brand, picks up leather horse straps. At Stubbs Erin grabs guitar picks, Roberi grabs plastic cutlery and Rik grabs vinyl records. Then they all sit down for a delicious BBQ meal with Tim and though I’m not often jealous of the exhausted designers, I am in this moment overcome with envy.

Back in New York the designers re-enter the workroom and immediately dig in to their work. Roberi uses his anxiety and exhaustion to his advantage, knotting twine in a pattern that will hopefully one day become a garment. Laurence’s goal is to use the unconventional materials in such a way that camouflages the fact that they are unconventional. Cornelius begins an attempt at a print with the dog treats, spray-painting it white, but says it’s looking too “moo moo cow,” and scraps the treats entirely. Slowly, the lack of ideas begins to wear at Cornelius’ free-spirited attitude.

During lunch the designers express relief about having two whole days to work on their looks, but the gods are fickle and when Tim comes in to visit the next day he bursts their collective bubble. Turns out, Tim wasn’t telling the whole truth in Austin! They’ll have to create a second look!

At Mood, Laurence moves outside of her comfort zone with a mustard fabric, Rik goes for a dark tweed, Roberi intends to mimic his first silhouette using a mix of fabrics, Cornelius plans to make a one-piece jumper and Erin matches her weird unconventional vibe with a pineapple fabric. The designers say one last goodbye to Swatch and the rest of Mood and race back to the workroom.

During his check-in with Erin, Tim expresses a concern about the underwhelming base for her look and encourages her to rethink it. She decides to scrap her basic sun visor dress for the much more interesting silhouette of a bib top and short, flared skirt. When speaking to Rik, Tim is deeply disturbed by his conventional look, calling it “country bumpkin.” Rik adjusts his attention, distressing the conventional material in the hopes that unfinished edges with make it more…edgy. Tim then moves to Laurence and asks her to be thoughtful about the exposed muslin in the pleats of her unconventional look. She considers it for a while and ultimately makes use of some paper napkins and grey dye. In his critique with Roberi, Tim first notices that his fingers have all been bandaged. Then he looks to the macramé dress and asks, “What about the modesty factor?” In an attempt to keep his model covered, Roberi later creates a tight, flesh colored skirt to wear underneath the dress and hopefully keep it a PG runway. Tim also realizes that Roberi isn’t anywhere near even beginning his second look and the idea absolutely terrifies him. A stressed Roberi just nods solemnly as Tim moves on to his critique with Cornelius. Tim encourages Cornelius to focus on the very unfinished unconventional look, really emphasizing to the entire group that time management is key.

In the last moments before runway it is an absolute mad dash to the finish. Even Erin, who is confident with unconventional materials considering her two unconventional wins so far, is hot gluing (and burning her model in the process) at the last moment. In the final seconds, Cornelius runs into the Brother sewing room and finishes the zipper on his jumpsuit. It’s so frantic, it’s actually kind of hard to watch.

The Runway:
Thankfully, it’s over quickly and Heidi, dressed in a colorful silk top and pants that almost look like high-fashion pajamas, introduces Zac, Nina, the gorgeous actress Priyanka Chopra and Georgina Chapman.

Laurence:
The unconventional materials look is an above-the-knee dress with a bustier top and pleated skirt. Laurence used the tan leather horse harness and heavy-duty rope as a skeleton of sorts for the dress. She glued birdseed on the top and through the pleats, which creates a tan, textured effect. In between the birdseed pleats, Laurence added dyed paper napkins to hide the muslin and create dimension. Nina loves this “extraordinary” look and appreciates that Laurence tried something different. She and Georgina also both enjoy the play between hard and soft. Zac points out that it feels a little costume-y but it’s okay with him because of how successful Laurence was with the materials. Heidi also sees costume, picking up something German in it. She likes it but points out that the skirt is a bit messy.

The conventional materials look is a fitted, sleeveless, below-the-knee mustard dress. Laurence used brown leather detailing on the shoulder and down the sides. Additionally, she mimicked the vibe of the first look in leather detailing on an open back. Nina loves how sexy the back looks and recognizes the ways in which the two looks would make sense in the same collection. Georgina doesn’t love the color, particularly when paired with brown leather. Priyanka disagrees, saying she could rock the mustard. Zac and Heidi both think it’s a bit lackluster and Heidi says the color is “very hard to wear.” I never realized mustard was such a divisive shade.

Rik:
The unconventional materials look is a sleeveless little black dress. On top Rik broke up vinyl records and placed them in a mosaic-like fashion for a textured, shiny top. On the bottom Rik sewed together dog leashes and guitar straps to create the tight, fitted skirt of the dress. Everyone agrees that the leather straps that Rik used in the back were the highlight of the look. Priyanka says should would wear it, Zac loves the texture on top but compares the bottom to a bandage skirt and calls it “expected.” Nina is a little bothered by how perfect the look is, calling Rik out for not being playful enough. Georgina thinks the dog leashes bring the look’s taste level down.

The conventional materials look is an A-line dress made of a black and white tweed, which Rik has distressed in an attempt to match the rocker chick feel of the unconventional look. Zac says it lacks personality, Nina had a hard time distinguishing between which was conventional and which wasn’t because the conventional look lacks polish and seems like an afterthought. Heidi says neither look is memorable.

Roberi, the winner:
Knotting beige twine over electrical cords, Roberi created a tight, intricate, macramé dress of unconventional material. This one is hard to describe so definitely check out the linked photo. Under the dress Roberi created a tight, flesh colored skirt in order to keep the model from revealing too much on the runway. The judges are all shocked by the amount of work it must have taken to put together. Heidi appreciates the risk Roberi took with attempting this look, Zac likes that it calls to mind a 70’s vibe, and although she loves the “fairytale quality” of the look, she doesn’t like the exposed navel.

For his conventional material look, Roberi melded together a red, black, blue and white striped fabric and a blue and brown fabric to make his own textile. He used this to create a sleeveless one-shoulder dress with a jagged hem in the front. It fits impeccably well and the judges are very impressed. Zac likes the way in which the seams mimic the movement of the knots of the first look. Nina loves how polished the two looks are and that Roberi has such a distinct fashion voice.

Erin:
For her unconventional materials piece Erin put together blue and white spray-painted guitar picks to create flower appliques. In the center of each flower she placed gold-painted dried mealworms so they look sort of like lilies (I think. I’m not a botanist!) She used these flowers and upside-down pin-back buttons to cover a bib top. On the bottom Erin used white sunshades to create a short, flirty little skirt. The judges are all shocked by the use of mealworms. Zac loves the 3-D element of the dress, Georgina calls the texture incredible, Heidi thinks the top is more interesting than the bottom, but loves it.

Knowing the unconventional materials look was on the weird side, Erin matched the feeling by choosing a loud purple, black, pink, red and white print at Mood. With this print she created an easy, V-neck, ankle-length jumpsuit with ¾ length sort-of bell sleeves. Zac says he knows “a million girls that would wear it right now,” and Georgina, Heidi and Priyanka raise their hands in agreement. Georgina points out that there may be some construction issues but still thinks it’s fantastic. Nina doesn’t like it, saying essentially that Erin didn’t push herself.

Cornelius, the loser:
In his unconventional materials look, Cornelius took a dyed dark grey fabric and created a fitted, above-the-knee, sleeveless dress. He then took some spray-painted plastic cups and created starbursts, which he then glued to the dress. Heidi likes the texture, particularly since she couldn’t figure out how he made the stars. Georgina thinks the back of the look feels “unresolved,” and Nina and Zac think the look is too safe.

In conventional materials Cornelius created a polished black jumpsuit with gold appliques on the sleeves. It’s a smart look and a silhouette we haven’t seen from him yet. Georgina calls it, “a perfect little jumpsuit.” Nina calls the look surprising, but points out that in the styling Cornelius covered the most interesting part of the look (the gold applique) with the model’s hair. Priyanka loves the fit of the jumpsuit, particularly the on the behind.

After an admirable effort and a really great showing, Cornelius turns out to have fallen just short of the final four. But he should be proud of all that he accomplished – and being saved my Tim is no small thing. I can’t wait to see what Cornelius does in his career, after having just completed school and making it to the final five. After I finished my undergrad, I spent a year eating ramen on my dad’s couch. Please know that I am serious when I say that to this day there is a Danielle-sized imprint on one of the cushions of my father’s sofa.

Meanwhile, Roberi’s very hard work paid off! He took a huge risk and it was totally worth it because he’ll be showing at fashion week with Laurence, Rik and Erin. And I, for one, cannot wait. See you all next week!

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