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Home Stretch

By kim_messina Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:57 am EDT

The top four designers are told they have $10K to make 12 looks for their final collections, and that they shall return to New York for another judging to determine who will then compete at New York Fashion Week to become the winner of Season 11 of ("Project Runway Teams," remember?). If those designers are feeling at all as I did that day, it is an immense sense of relief and accomplishment, as the utter exhaustion sets in and it all feels quite surreal. As I was "released" and given my cell phone back, and permitted to take a walk by myself in New York to kill time before my flight, it was a strange feeling of vulnerability and displacement...even though Iʼd lived in and subsequently visited New York before. The whole thing felt like a dream. What just happened?

Now for the home visits!

Timʼs first destination is Taos Pueblo, NM, to see Patricia and experience her environment, which is incredibly culturally rich. The food her family cooked looked amazing, and what a beautiful setting, right down to her studio (really impressive)! Timʼs time in Patriciaʼs native land gave him an epiphany about who she is and where much of her aesthetic comes from7#151;itʼs hard not to! She tells Tim her inspiration is simply, "trees," which seems a bit general.

Next he visits Michelle in Portland, where she reveals she had been in the wine industry for years had decided one day to start making clothes. Her collection is inspired by the "Lone Wolf," a descriptive which interestingly she had used to refer to her emotional state earlier in the season. I have to say I can relate to that sentiment. I often felt lonely during the intense experience that is "Project Runway." It sounds odd to say that, unless youʼve been through it, because ironically youʼre surrounded by others constantly. There is no privacy except when youʼre in the bathroom. Contestants are either chaperoned or with roommates at all times. It wasnʼt until I was the last woman standing that I was even fully alone for more than a few minutes. And even then, the competition was almost over at that point.

In Austin, Tim calls on Daniel, sporting a new Labradoodle (or as Tim says, "Chia Pet") hairdo, and does not reveal where he lives...why? He sets everything up in his friendʼs house. He is using a lot of black—and stingray—in his collection, which has multiple inspirations that do not necessarily relate to one another. Daniel shows Tim his mood board and explains that he was influenced by his trip to Berlin, the Cosmos, and...Salvador Dali. Then a light bulb went off in my head. Dali...moustache! Everyone Google images of Dali now. Do it. Daniel is SO channeling him, from the hair to the moustache to the facial expressions.

Here in La L aLand, Tim checks in on Stanley, who is working out of a glamorous space right on Hollywood Boulevard, merely blocks away from the Walk of Fame, very appropriate for his luxurious "Old Hollywood" collection. He says itʼs 1960s meets Renaissance Spain. Nice mid-century dinette set, Stanley!

As predicted, when the designers return to New York and the 1407 Broadway building as their satellite workroom, they are instructed to select the three looks which best exemplify their collections and (ideally) will leave the judges salivating to see more, so that they will go through to NYFW.The producers just couldnʼt leave it alone, so they invited the last four designers back to help. Apparently Stanley needs the most help of all, with some looks barely sewn, so he gets Richard, the least helpful! Layana helps Patricia, and then gossips about her to the others—are we surprised? Michelle and Amanda (with a very fetching ombré hair color, I might add) are reunited, and Samantha gets to help Daniel add four inches to one of his small-fitting pieces. (Which would mean that garment was what...a double-0?)

Stanley selected three looks which, while very luxurious and well-crafted, were quite stodgy. They strike me as *too* vintage, as if one were to go into a costume house or high-end vintage store and copy period pieces exactly, only changing the textiles. However even the textiles looked vintage, though it is impressive that all the beading was done by hand. Nina was somewhat drawn to his collection because of the luxury element, but the proportions were all wrong, and the looks lack any sort of forward design or allure/sex appeal. Itʼs not to say they need to be sexy, but they could use an injection of modernity. The gold dress, in particular, made the model appear to be twice her size, and was too heavy-handed. Stanley said he loves American sportswear, yet the sportswear element was completely absent.

Patricia, kooky Patricia. She is a talented and creative textile artisan, but she does not understand how to put a collection together. Granted, we have not seen the whole thing, but the three looks she showed were not cohesive. One material (horsehair) is not enough to hold a collection together. The cape trimmed with horsehair was clearly the star, but I donʼt see how the "Dr. Seuss" blue dress with sea-anemone headpiece would be in the same collection or worn by the same woman. And the third look, while graphic and ethnic, was not special enough. I got a real Chicoʼs vibe from that one. However, Heidi has a soft spot for Patricia because she is so different, and designs things we havenʼt seen before (for better or for worse). Heidi: "You could win this thing!" Really?

Daniel seemed very confident in the workroom, and reluctant to take any advice from Tim. He showed three all-black looks, which anyone whoʼs watched the show knows is extremely risky and almost never outshines another collection. I was waiting for Nina to go off on him, and of course she did (I got a similar lecture from her because I hardly used any color in my final collection, either). But Nina is right: if youʼre going to use ALL black, the shapes need to be fantastic, graphic, striking. Texture is key as well. He used stingray, but like Patricia, thought it was enough of a common element to tie everything together. His looks were simply not forward or interesting enough. This was no surprise to me, though, as Iʼve thought in general Danielʼs design tends to be dated. What *was* surprising, though, is the fact that he used all black, after seeing his past designs and how much he loves bright color. In the end, Daniel does not advance; Iʼve said it before: the judges almost always favor the designer with MORE ideas (even if they are questionable ones) to the one with not enough.

Michelle is the only designer, in my opinion, who fully executed and understands how to translate a concept. Not only were her three "Lone Wolf" looks thoughtful and rich with layers and texture, they made me want to see more. They were diverse in material and style, yet still very cohesive. The sweater was fantastic, and I love that she collaborated with "LOL Cats" Joe and utilized his knit expertise! I also really like the delicate, sheer "underpinning" layers, contrasted with hardware, leather, knit, and neoprene. Overall the looks were bordering on too busy for me personally, but then again, the runway is about fantasy to some degree, and editing is always a possibility. The compass was too gimmicky and even though I like the tousled hair, it was just a tad TOO messy. The makeup could have benefitted from a neutral shadow and deep berry or brown lip to emulate a modern huntress. Iʼm looking forward to seeing the entire collection next week.

Finale, Part 1: The Wubbulous World of "Runway"

By laurareineke Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:44 am EDT

We're down to the Final Four: Stanley, Patricia, Michelle and Daniel. Heidi and Tim sternly remind the designers that "now is not the time to rest on your laurels," and that "any one of you could win this"! The four each receive $10,000 to create a 12-look collection for Fall 2013. They'll show three looks each to the judges, who will then choose three designers to show full collections at Fashion Week. And with that, they head home to detox from the cameras and get to work.

It's time for home visits! Tim heads out on a cross-country trip to check in on the final four and critique their collections. In Taos, NM, Tim meets Patricia's family. "People enjoy our celebration [of] our culture," Patricia explains, "but then they don't want to be intrusive, so that's what made me think of [making] contemporary clothing." In her (huge!) studio, she presents Tim with the seeds of her collection; his advice is for her to back off from her more literal tendencies. Stay away from the arts and crafts, Patricia!

Tim jets off to Portland for a meal with Michelle's husband, brother and parents. He confesses to speaking on Michelle's behalf after a few "dicey moments" with the judges. She shows off the beginnings of a wolf-inspired, dark-hued collection, to which Tim responds favorably. "Just don't over-design!" he whispers on his way out the door.

Time for Daniel, whose hair has grown out like a Chia Pet. In his Austin studio Daniel describes the melting pot of inspiration for his collection: the cosmos, astronomy, Salvador Dali and surrealism, and his trip to Berlin. Tim seems to dig a lot of what Daniel has put together, but he also has a viscerally negative reaction to many of Daniel's other ideas. Which is...probably not good.

On to West Hollywood, where Stanley is putting together a very dramatic, opulent group of garments that Tim cautions must be edited well in order to be effective. The only problem Tim really has is with a discordant orange dress that Stanley agrees to get rid of. Over lunch with Stanley's partner and niece, Tim tells him that the other designers see Stanley as a force to be reckoned with.

Back in NYC and back in the workroom, the designers unload their collections and get to work making adjustments and finishing things up, with special help from Amanda, Richard, Layana and Samantha. The rest of the episode is a lot of busy-busy workroom stuff. Tim comes in to critique again. Michelle notes that Stanley has an enormous amount of work left to do and very little time in which to do it. Layana and Samantha gossip about the uneven quality of Patricia's looks. But let's get right to the runway!

Michelle - I confess that Michelle's aesthetic is right up my alley, but even if it wasn't I think I'd approve of these pieces. They demonstrate an attention to detail and cohesion that wasn't totally apparent in Michelle's earlier work this season. The judges compliment the mini-collection's wearability and the incorporation of different fabrics, but Nina asks that Michelle refrain from adding too many unnecessary details, namely the messenger bags and the compasses. Heidi also hints that she'd like to see more color. Michelle easily moves on to Fashion Week.

Patricia - I was very curious to see what Patricia would produce with more time and fewer constraints. The horsehair cape with leather pants is a total knockout, and might be my favorite thing that Patricia's ever sent down the runway. But that grey dress with the gaudy necklace and scarf is horribly misguided, and the sequined blue dress is one of those divisive looks that can make or break a runway show. The judges go back and forth, acknowledging the merit of Patricia's artisanal techniques but hesitating over the thought of her sending out a collection that lacks cohesion and maturity. But they err on the side of generosity, and Patricia moves forward.

Stanley - Stanley's interest in and skill with luxe, ornate fabrics are his saving grace after showing these otherwise "blah" looks. Zac and Nina both decry the proportions and the dated styling, with Zac taking a moment to call Stanley out specifically for not producing anything more interesting in his time away from the show. "Chic banal," Zac calls these looks, and the other judges seem to agree. But Stanley's done too well this season (and impressed the judges too often) not to move on, so he's confirmed for Fashion Week as well.

Daniel - These looks are a far cry from the white, red, black and light blue ensembles we saw in his studio space at home. Heeding some of Tim's advice about staying away from unexciting colors, Daniel chooses to emphasize his use of stingray. But showing three all-black ensembles that mirror work you've done before is certainly not the way to convince the judges that you belong at Fashion Week. The judges are bored, and Daniel is auf'd.

Here we go! Off to the final runway show of Season 11. How do you feel about the final three? Who of the eliminated designers do you wish would have made it this far? Were you as bored by Stanley and Daniel's capsule collections tonight as I was? And based off what we saw in this episode, whose collection will come out on top next week? Let me know in the comments.

Only One Can Win…And I Have a Good Guess!

By kim_messina Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:17 am EDT

When looking back at past seasons of "Project Runway"—and particularly the pre-finale episode—it wasn’t always obvious who the winner might be. Whether it was the editing or the amount of talent, there was always a sense of "I wonder who it will be?" Not this time. At the end of this episode, it was pretty obvious that this was Michelle’s year to win. The other designers didn't even come close, in my eyes, to what she presented. So how did this penultimate episode play out and will my prediction be right? Time to discuss…

Fall Schoolin'
Michelle, Stanley, Patricia and Daniel are in the top four. The episode begins with Heidi and Tim congratulating—and reminding them7#151;that "only one can win." Heidi announces that she’s giving them each $10,000 to create a 12-look collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week (That’s about $833 per outfit!). Oddly, she then tells the designers that they need to use Fall colors, make sure to forecast Fall Trends, and think outerwear. It reminded me of when I give a "How to Make a Collection" assignment to my fashion students; it’s understandable that I have to tell my students this, but why say it to these designers. Shouldn’t this be obvious if you are showing during Fall Fashion Week? But I digress...it's time for the designers to head home and create their collections.

Taos Momma
Four months later and Tim begins his home visits. First, he’s in Taos Pueblo, NM, to visit Patricia. After a nice lunch with her family, he surveys her pieces. Patricia’s inspiration is "trees." She’s done a lot of fabric manipulation to the textiles she’s using, giving her collection a definite "Patricia" stamp. Tim is intrigued but worried it might look too "arts-and-crafty."

Portlandia Hunger Games
Tim is now in Portland, OR, to visit Michelle. Her inspiration is wolves, and particularly a female hunting "lone wolf," which she says is a perfect metaphor to how she felt during the entire filming of the season. She’s making breastplates as well as a great hunting coat (She listened to Heidi and her "make some outerwear" directive!). It looks very “Hunger Games," the Ready-to-Wear Collection. And just from the small sampling of garments she is offering up to Tim, I can tell it is going to be a great collection.

Salvador Daniel Cosmo Girl
Next up, Tim is in Austin Texas to visit Daniel. First off, I’m surprised Daniel wasn’t crying 30 seconds after Tim showed up. Instead, it was his sister who began tearing up (It must be in the blood!). After the Kleenex box was put down, Daniel showed his collection, inspired by Salvador Dali, Surrealism, the Nebulae around the planets, Berlin and architecture. Tim seems to like most of it until…he sees the "Grandma Robe." In not so many words, he tells Daniel to get rid of it because well, "it stinks." Si.

Madame Walters
Finally, Tim goes to Los Angeles to see what Stanley has been working on. His inspiration: the 60s and Renaissance Spain. It looks luxe, elegant, "Oscar de la Renta Ladies Who Lunch" and very Barbara Walters. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I can just hear the judges saying that it doesn’t look new or directional. When he said it was 60s-inspired, did he mean he was inspired by a 60-year-old heiress who lives in the Upper East Side?

Cast-Off Kids: We're Not Done With You Yet
It is four weeks later and the designers are back in NYC. After the designers settle into their penthouse suite at an undisclosed hotel, they head off to their workroom to unzip the garment bags that hold their collections. Tim welcomes the designers with the news that they will have to show three of their favorite looks to the judges, who will decide which three designers will continue on to Fashion Week. To keep up the "Team" theme (Aren't we over this by now!?), they get sewing helpers: Richard, Amanda, Samantha and Layana. Highlights (or low-lights) include Layana bad-mouthing the designer she's helping (Patricia) and Stanley not even close to being done. Somehow six months wasn’t long enough for him to almost-finish a collection.

Patricia
Finally it’s Runway Day. Heidi, Zac and Nina are ready to give one designer the auf. Patricia is first. I am not a fan of her first ensemble, a hippy-dippy dress and scarf appropriate for a mom taking her teenagers to Coachella. The shoes, styling, earrings are dated and not stylish at all. However, Patricia redeems herself (in my eyes) with her second and third looks. I liked the horsehair trimmed cape (Sorry, Nina) and the blue sequined dress with the unique dyed horsehair headdress. But (It’s a BIG but), the three ensembles were not necessarily cohesive. Nevertheless, I’m kind rooting for her. After watching this entire season, I feel emotionally attached to her story, her kookiness and especially her strong conviction to her unusual vision.

Daniel
Daniel is next and it’s all black. First impression: where’s the COLOR? Where was all the red, crème and "celestial blue" we saw back in his Austin home visit? The judges slammed him for showing three all black looks. Heidi also said that she was underwhelmed. It was a snooze fest of looks. He sent out two semi-fashionable girls (Marina worked that runway walk OVERTIME!), and one stodgy "sweater girl" that held a purse as if she was the 86 year-old Queen of England.

Stanley
The positive: the clothes were beautiful and very rich in their fabrications, but as I predicted, the judges said the styles were not sexy and lacked modernity. s nooze fest part deux. And then there's his stubbornness and excuses: I almost spit out my red wine when Stanley commented that his gold dress wasn’t looking right because of the models body. Really Stanley? I think the problem was more about THE DRESS and less about the model.

Michelle
Michelle’s "Hunger Games"-Lone Wolf Girls were modern, fresh, new and cohesive. Zac correctly said that she "created a Universe"; the three looks seemed as if they came from one girl's closet (unlike Patricia or Daniel). If there was any criticism, I would agree with Nina and Heidi in that she may want to lose all the bags&3151;or at least a couple of them; it's a little too accessorized and tricky. But otherwise, Michelle's is the best of the four. Even the judges critiques couldn't disguise that.

Only One Can Win
Stanley and Daniel—the "Snooze Boys" understandably were in the bottom while Patricia made it through and Michelle was an obvious shoo-in for the win. Daniel eventually got the boot for underwhelming and disappointing the judges and serving up "sloppy seconds," according to Heidi. Stanley got very lucky, because luxe-loving Nina is his biggest cheerleader. Coming in to this finale episode, it's pretty obvious who might win the entire thing. Patricia and Stanley better step it up...and fast! Only one can win, and by all estimations, the Hunger Games Wolf Girl has this one all wrapped up.

Stung by the Sting Ray

By kim_messina Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 ,4:11 am EDT

Last week we lost our some solid talent and a girl, though oddly whiny at times, was such a beauty to grace our television and enter our living room each week, Layana. It was sad to see her go because all season we had seen some really concrete work come from her and I imagine with the five months the designers had to put together their 12 look collections, she would have nailed it. Unfortunately we will not have the pleasure of seeing the masterpiece that is Layana. What always upsets me the most about an elimination is when it comes down to a garment that is not something the designer typically designs and in Layana’s case, as Heidi Klum described it "a house coat" sent her home. We all know she would have given us some fabulous eveningwear with her signature "hard and soft" aesthetic.

EGN (Excited Gossip Note): SHE’S BACK! Even if only to lend a helping hand to Patricia, BUT she’s PREGNANT! Congratulations Layana, what a special treat!

Tim is immediately off to visit the designer’s and check in on their progress. First on our tour is Patricia in New Mexico! As the camera descends upon a beautiful sunrise and the gorgeous mountains it’s probably the first realization for most of us watching that Patricia doesn’t look oddly out of place or perhaps that it’s true your surroundings can help you blend. Tim mentions the "epiphany" he is feeling about Patricia, and I do feel he has summed that up for most of us.

Side note: you really want to love the chick, but all that complaining and whining about Richard and not being able to get things finished was really wearing on me!

However it really helps to see people in their natural environment and I think this home visit really has helped to put Patricia in a positive light. I must admit that Patricia’s collection was the one that I was most anticipating because of her background in textiles. I know the short time period of the challenge’s and how hard it is to completely deliver your entire vision, but after seeing most of Patricia’s looks in the works I was much more interested in discussing how delicious the lunch looked that was being served, b/c I didn’t see anything being delivered from the design studio, with an exception to the horsehair caplet, which I thought was SIMPLY DIVINE!

Next off we are almost engulfed by Daniel and his new do, and all I am thinking is…OMG, it’s been four months, do the drapes match the carpet!?

Side note: I know it’s a stressful time, but one must keep everything in check, I only had four and a half weeks to make a collection and I didn’t look like Raggedy Ann!

On a lighter and less thought provoking note, it is so wonderful to see the excitement in Daniel. He has really delivered some kooky humor to the entire season, along with some fabulous jackets! Can we talk about his molding technique? LIVING for that! As we previewed the collection, I was a little lost on how the solar system and Dali were playing into the pieces that we were seeing. It really didn’t make any sense to me at all. The stingray is a fabulous touch, but doing it on an excessive amount of pieces is really over kill for me!

Design note: there are only 12 looks, so don’t overkill one technique or one fabrication, as a designer to put a solid cohesive collection together, you really have to know how to merchandise in all of those elements and even though you may LOVE one thing, do your best to edit down. And trust; I learned my fair share of editing!

It’s off to Stanley’s, and as I guessed we have to blow off all the dust and remove the moth balls before we can take a look at the collection! I say that with love, but also some frustration. I think Stanley has some of the best construction and tailoring on the show. The man has such skill and talent, that I think at points it has worked against him. It is hard to let go of everything you know and love and are attracted to, and throw it out the window to try new things. One thing is CERTAIN for sure, he knows EXACTLY who is client is, and for that I applaud him 100%, however he will not win the show if he only does it the way Stanley wants it.

Side note: this is a design competition and part of these challenges is to listen and take the critiques from the judges and show them how you have listened and respected them.

I don’t feel there was much listening at all, nor really caring about their opinions and past critiques. All I have to say is that this is THEIR 10,000 dollars and as much as YOU want to show what YOU want to show, THEY want to see what THEY want to see. Confusing I realize, but let’s just make it simple and say, "Even politics play into fashion."

Last but not least we land in the beautiful city of Portland to see how Michelle is doing. It had been a tough last few episodes for her but I can see the fight in her eyes this entire season, so of course I am intrigued to see the magic she has been producing. First and foremost I must say that I love her workspace! It’s almost as though HGTV came in and set up the room to compliment her designs. What I think really set Michelle apart from the rest is the story and vision of the woman she is dressing. I love the whole idea of the "lone wolf/woman." I think as she said it really translates the story of her journey on the show, and in fact it really embodies most designer’s stories. I of course am gagging over the design with detachable bags because I am in love with oddly functional clothing and anything dealing with the "more is better" aesthetic! Some of her fabric manipulations and over the top design has me really craving to see the collection in its entirety!

Judging note: who else thought Zac Posen’s commentary about design from the cuts, to the length, to the techniques used was fabulous and spot on!? Such a brilliant designer and judge!

Well you all know the results…Michelle, Stanley and Patricia—IN, Daniel—OUT!

Do you think they got it right, or was Daniel "stung"?

Much Ado About Nothing!

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 ,5:03 am EDT

Will it ever end? This episode, I mean. Those of us who write blogs about the show are sent commercial-free DVDs of each episode. Usually I appreciate that little perk, but part way through this episode I was missing the diversion a commercial would bring. Sorry! All the previous episodes were, for the most part, fast-paced, intriguing and amusing, and presented some interesting fashion. What happened?

Heidi opens the show on the runway looking sleek and modern in a black top dusted with crystals worn with slim black pants. Please enjoy this look. It is about the only fashion you will see for most of this episode. Mr. Gunn joins her on the runway and is at a loss for words about how proud he is of the four remaining designers. This is exactly when this episode slips into Dullsville. Mr. Gunn and "loss for words" in the same sentence?

Each of the designers are given $9,000 and five weeks (the same as Season 9) to create their collections. The "twist" is that the four designers are not guaranteed a spot at Fashion Week. Don’t worry. Wait and see. Their collections are almost all so humdrum that it would be pointless to eliminate just one.

Mr. Gunn tells the designers to "skedaddle" home and get to work right away. Okay, kiddies, get to "skedaddling.”

The first home visit is with Christopher in Massapequa, NY, a rural "Family Guy" sort of town. Christopher's work space appears to be in his parents’ family room. Cozy and convenient. "Mom, can I get a sandwich and a glass of milk, please?” My only comment is that this may not be the most inspiring environment in which to create a collection destined for New York Fashion Week. Christopher's inspiration comes from an X-ray of his mother’s back taken after reconstruction following a "little car accident.” Christopher says, "I wanted something haunting and alluring at the same time.” Well, you got the haunting part for sure! Now where's the allure? With a print like that I would expect a very edgy and forward collection. Didn't happen. A sweetheart neckline bustier in black leather does not read anything but lack of imagination. I do like his belted black trench coat, though; very sharp. Mr. Gunn flips over Christopher's bleach effect on black leather, but I’m not sure how strong an impact this detail will have on the runway.

Back in Manhattan, we drop in on Fabio, who has the use of a friend’s beautiful and airy loft on lower Fifth Avenue. Nice friends! Fabio's initial direction should please the judges. Finally someone has discovered COLOR! His collection is named "Cosmic Tribalism,” and it’s sort of an Avatar resort look. Mr. Gunn appears to be mystified by a particular pant. I know, it must be shocking to FINALLY see something creative and different after a season like this. Maybe it will grow on him? He suggests an organza pant - that's just not going to happen. Fabio apparently has a direction for this look and it's not organza! Whew! Mr. Gunn continues to sort of nitpick over several pieces, the shoes, details, etc. I always feel a critique should focus on the initial impact of a collection. Leave the fine tuning to the talent! Mr. Gunn exits the critique "baffled and confused.”

After a short trip across the Hudson River to Jersey City, NJ, we meet up with Dmitry. He also has a fabulous space loaned by a well-heeled friend. Yay for rich friends! Dmitry mentions the hardships designers experience by being on “Project Runway.” He has had to resign from his job due to dedicating 10-12 weeks to being on the show. Without any income, Dmitry has also had to give up his apartment. This type of sacrifice is typical of most designers that come on “Project Runway.” There is only one winner who will receive a monetary award and products. My reaction when a designer is "aufed" due to a producer's whim or a judge’s fancy is this: If you are going to play games with the designers, at least give them some financial incentive for being part of your show! On to the critique. Dmitry’s inspiration is "organic architecture.” I see the architectural point of view, but I’m not sure where the “organic” comes in. One thing is evident: He is a master at clean, minimal construction. All his looks are sharp and have a lightness about them. In Mr. Gunn's best critique so far, he asks is there enough newness and surprise in this collection to impress the judges.

Melissa greets Mr. Gunn in her San Francisco apartment. This overly sweet reunion makes me yearn for another sponsored commercial break. Yuk! Melissa has apparently not heeded any of the numerous past critiques concerning her fixation on black and its variations, grey and taupes. She shows a "summer" long black dress, to be worn under a heavy crackled cowhide long-sleeved high-necked jacket (like we’ve seen from her sooo many times before). Sure doesn't say summer to me! There appears to be a red garment on the racks. I hope it's part of the collection. Mr. Gunn is impressed. He sees an aura about her. Maybe it's her almost Satanic color scheme! Has she bewitched him? And here’s another painful family moment on a noisy boat ride in San Francisco Bay! Where's that commercial?

Finally, we are back in New York. After a shriek, hug-and-kiss reunion fest with all four designers in their hotel suite, the designers toast to what tomorrow will bring! The next day at their new workroom in 1407 Broadway, the designers unpack their collections. The "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" time arrives. I can see Melissa's fascination with Fabio's looks. Yes, dear, this is what color looks like. Imagine the possibilities! Christopher catches what Mr. Gunn did not: The repetitiveness of Melissa’s shapes, especially the black and white jacket, which has spawned a clone in crinkled pigskin. I’m not really sure what Dmitry mumbled while looking at Christopher's looks, but it sounded a lot like slutty. MEOW! He is next to be scrutinized by his fellow designers. Apparently seeing all of the other designers work has shaken some of the confidence in their own collections. Honey, you’re not in San Fran or Massapequa anymore!

Mr. Gunn enters and announces that they will be presenting three looks each to the judges to decide who moves forward. He suggests they each pick their best looks. Makes sense to me. They are given until 11 p.m…to do what? Aren't the collections completely done at this point? Except for hems and a few details, they should have all been completed at home. Dmitry's looks complete, but as for the others I'm not so sure. Oh well.

The next day, Melissa can't believe there is only one day to pick the three looks to show the judges. Maybe she would like a week? Christopher has no clue which looks to show. Is this drama for drama’s sake or is he for real? Apparently Dmitry did indeed say “slutty” in reference to Christopher's collection. He is totally underwhelmed by all of Christopher’s looks and feels Christopher’s collection “doesn't really flow". Mr. Gunn enters. Fabio is critiqued first. After a few comments or questions from Mr. Gunn, who still seems to have a hard time getting Fabio's vibe, Fabio just exclaims with a great sigh "Well Tim, that's life.” I love his confidence and commitment to stand behind his collection. My hat is off to him for that.

Mr. Gunn continues to love Christopher's bleached black leather. What's that all about? Christopher still has no idea which three looks he is showing. YAWN! Melissa is torn between which of those FRIGGING jackets to show. How about NONE? She is holding off on letting the world see her gown. God forbid we see anything new.

Dmitry is next. I'm on board with two of his looks. I love the white dress with illusion seaming. The sheer black top with the white pants is definitely pushing, it but I see his point in merchandising it this way. The one-shouldered dress, I'm afraid, falls into an Ivana Trump moment of the 1980's. A definite niet! I have to hand it to him for his great attitude. He is very focused and calm, and is able to maintain his charming sense of humor through the whole process. I love it when he says he has "gooze bumps!”

Mr. Gunn reiterates that the designers should show their best pieces and not hold back. Do they listen? Nooooo!

RUNWAY DAY ARRIVES. Thank you. Jesus! Three hours left and the nerves of a few (Christopher and Melissa) are just a bit fried. The models arrive. Christopher and Dmitry appear to have fitting problems. Hair and makeup are done, the clock ticks, and voila: They are ready to WOW the judges. Or are they?

Heidi starts the runway show with her famous quote. "One day you’re in, the next day you’re out!" Let’s see who could possibly not be out in a line up like this.

Dmitry's white dress is first. It looks sharp, clean and modern, but not that young. If he shortened it just a tad that would do the trick. Next is his pant and top. Two nice pieces, but put together? Last is his fringe jacket, sheer top and black satin skirt. Again, all nice pieces, but not together.

Snoozefest arrives with Christopher's trio of dull and repetitive looks. Really? You are showing Nina Garcia two looks comprised of basically the same black shorts? I remember in Season 9, Josh C. was almost voted off for showing a pair of shorts. And that was in the FIRST EPISODE, not one step from Fashion Week! Christopher may not win the fashion show, but he's definitely in line for the Lamest Edit award. Listening to him justify his choices, you begin to think he is somewhat delusional or something. (Shades of the long-departed Ven).

Fabio's color palatte hits the runway. Pale blue, pink and violet are refreshing after all the black and white. The silhouettes are organic and new. The only piece I did not feel was the side-zippered skirt. A person will either love this collection or hate it, and I love it. His accessories enhance the tribal vibes in a non-cliche way.

Melissa's black-and-white pieces, while more impressive than Christopher's, are just more of what we have seen from her before. Her umpteenth version of her now-famous jacket is nice, but I'm beginning to wonder if there’s anything else. Her other repeat is an almost line-for-line copy of her "condom dress.” Ms. Garcia does NOT look amused.

Fabio does well with his critique, as he should. He is really the only designer that did anything new or experimental. Heidi is impressed. MK feels Fabio’s colors work well, and likes his Ying and Yang vibe, along with the "demented shoes.” Nina is also pleased. She loves it but wants his looks to appear more luxurious. She feels making it more polished along with better editing are his keys to success.

Dmitry also fares well. Nina feels his collection looks glamorous and expensive. The white dress is a hit. She sees a few styling issues. MK also sees the styling holding it back: The collection needs to read fresher and younger. The biggest complaint is the bra blouse under the fringe jacket. Separate, they work. Together, no way! Less is more. Keep it simple!

Christopher explains that he took his inspiration for what is supposed to be a Spring collection from his mother's broken bones, metal screws and X-rays. I'm not exactly feeling Easter Sunday in this description. Actually, all we’re seeing are two pairs of very basic black shorts, one bustier, and some other "stuff.” Not much design at all. Heidi feels the print is a tad creepy, and says she was hoping for some WOW pieces. Nina wants to make sure Christopher has what it takes for a runway show. He assures them he does…he just didn't want show them just yet?

Melissa is in the same boat. Heidi says there wasn't a doubt in her mind about who designed these three looks. I guess not, since we have seen them from her so many times before. Melissa was also saving her surprise looks for later. MK and Heidi imply there may not be a later. Nina asks if it’s ALL black and white. Almost! I am amazed none of the judges rip her a new one for repeating two of her previous designs, especially that jacket, which she has done over and over all season.

Nina sort of lets it fly for all the designers to hear. This is the LAST STOP before fashion week. Five weeks’ worth of work and this is the best they have to show? Not good. Maybe it's not too late to cancel the episode? We can blame it on an outbreak of influenza amongst the designers or something!

The judges are clearly appalled at all the excuses from Christopher and Melissa. Dmitry's styling and combinations are dragged across the coals. Luckily, his pieces stand on their own. Styling is his big issue.

Fabio flies through, pastels and all. Christopher passes even though his designs couldn't have been less interesting. Thank God for his mom’s X-ray.

I am beginning to see where the producers are taking us when the judges start talking about Melissa's vibe and this and that…blah, blah blah. It’s pretty clear that she and the other three designers are all going to show at Fashion Week. No one is eliminated! Let’s just hope that the “secret" designs that we haven’t yet been privy to will tip the scales in some of the designers’ favors! I doubt it, but time will tell.

Calling All Stylists!

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 ,4:39 am EDT

Well kids, we're heading to the end of Season 10 of "Project Runway" and I learned several things from this penultimate "Finale Part 1" episode. For one, most of these kids (save Melissa) do not have a place to call home or their own place to work. Secondly, I learned that a stylist is a very important job and someone ALL these designers needed. I also think that this pre-finale episode is in serious need of a reboot. Wondering what I mean about that? Keep reading...

Don't Be Safe
Last week we saw the end of Sonjia, with her table-napkin-meets-bad-figure-skating-costume design. As I argued in my last recap, there was nothing avant-garde about her design, nor the designs of most of the other four. (Note to producers: Maybe it's time to re-name that particular challenge). I also discussed my annoyance at seeing very safe looks from all these designers. I think I am echoing what Tim, Nina, Heidi and Michael feel EVERY episode. It goes without saying that I think "safe" just doesn't cut it, especially at this stage. Need I remind you? DO NOT BORE NINA. So now we are down to the top four.

Congrats! You're The Top Four
Our dear Heidi congratulates the designers for making it this far and tells them that they will each be given $9,000 and five weeks to create a mini-collection for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that NOT everyone is guaranteed a spot in Fashion Week. Or so she says. As an avid viewer/fan/former contestant/perpetual recapper of the show, I've heard this song from Heidi before. Can anyone say "Season 9"? But oh well, we'll stick to the script, Miss Heidi.

Massapequa X-ray
Four weeks later and Tim Gunn is off to visit the designers. No trips to Trinidad and Tobago (Anya) or Hawaii (Andy South) this time around. So, my friends, no chance of seeing Mr. Gunn in flip-flops, dealing with slimy fishy whiskers, eating plantains or holding Mai Tais. For his first stop, Tim is off to Massapequa, NY to see Christopher Palu. "Golden Boy" Christopher is at his mom and dad's home working on his collection. He tells Tim that he made a print from an X-ray his mother got from a doctor's visit. This could have gone macabre, but it didn't and Tim likes it. Tim also comments on a leather-and-bleach mistake, which he assures Christopher is a "good mistake" and should be done again.

Fabio Manhattan Pastel Palace
Back in Manhattan, Papa Tim visits Fabio in a fabulous apartment that a friend is lending him to work on his collection. By the looks of the apartment, Fabio must be good friends with the Ambassador of Brazil, because it's very luxe — and very expansive — by NY standards. Even Tim remarks on how nice it is. Friends-in-High-Places Fabio shows Tim three pieces from his collection, which he's titled "Cosmic Tribalism.” One look is the "Priestess" and the others are the "people within the tribe." Leave it to Fabio to have a strong concept. I give him FIVE "Nick Points" for that. Tim is captivated by the pastel draped designs. It's avant-garde but, at the same time, very sellable; Alexander Wang meets Rio. But as soon as Tim says "J'adore," he's a bit mystified by some of the individual pieces: A certain pant, a bra and a stacked clunky shoe. There is potential for a "wow" factor, Tim says, but he's underwhelmed by some of the styling choices. Styling. We Have a Problem.

Geometric Belarus and Melissa's SF Artsy Collection
Next up, it's Dmitry. Once again, this designer is NOT living/working in his own place. Dmitry is in another very nice home, but it’s in New Jersey and looks as if it would require a job with Goldman Sachs to even afford. I need to meet Dmitry and Fabio's friends. Seriously. Dmitry is working on his NY Fashion Week Collection based on "Organic Architecture." The looks he shows Tim are very geometric. On the rack, the garments look very clean, modern, and cohesive. Finally, Tim travels to San Francisco to check on Melissa. She's using special textiles, including "cracked" leather. The designs are very her; artsy and edgy. Tim is responding positively to the collection. Of note: Melissa's studio/home is not someone else's. She has a home!

Free Muffins!
Five weeks have passed and time is up. The four designers meet up at the very sleek YOTEL. I've stayed there numerous times and LOVED it (their complimentary coffee and muffins are divine!). They then go to their new workroom offices at the 1407 Broadway building. After setting up their collections and surveying each others' designs, Tim comes in to check on them. In general, he's worried about all the collections. Not a good omen.

Chunky Bangs!
After seeming to have only a VERY short time to fit their clothing on the models, the designers return to Parsons and present their three best looks to Heidi, Nina and Michael. Fabio's "Cosmic Tribalism" gets a positive nod from the judges. Kors thinks it's very cool and sweet. He does suggest to Fabio to rethink the chunky bang wigs (too distracting). He says there are styling issues. Yeah, perhaps. Can we call Rachel Zoe? Like ASAP. But overall, the judges LIKEY. Dmitry's three-piece collection looks polished and expensive according to Nina Garcia. But there's an overall feeling that it is over-styled. It is interesting how overworked it looked on the runway compared to when he showed Tim each piece individually. Purity and simplicity should shine, or so the judges suggest. A strong hint that Dmitry also needs a stylist. That's two for two.

Hoochie Shorts for Fashion Week?
Christopher shows his three looks and it's all a bit underwhelming and not high fashion. Hoochie shorts. Leather bustier. Nothing earth-shattering, and nothing worthy of showing at NY Fashion Week. Supposedly he had fit issues and therefore the three pieces he showed were the only things that actually worked on any models. Um, okay. And then there is Melissa. Her designs are (not-surprisingly) Goth — all she showed was black and white, and who could get past those awful wigs? Now it's official: These kids REALLY need a stylist. Somehow, all four got it wrong. Who will be OUT? Well, kiddies…[drum roll]…NO ONE.

Do They Need a Stylist or a New Collection?
While it is clear that all these designers need a visit from Rachel Zoe, my frustration lies more in the fact that it is more the actual clothing that needs help than the styling. Do I think some amazing styling could elevate all these collections? Yes. But I feel that because the judges are forced to critique the designers a day or two prior to the actual show, they encrypt their comments and are compelled to talk about styling because they know the designers have NO time to change their collections. Changing a shoe or discarding a wig is easier than making FIVE new looks in one day.

"Project Runway" Reboot
Basically, we have all figured out by now that this episode has been structured to have a pay-off at the end. But now the judges must critique the collections in a format that is designed to make almost any collection look bad. Do I think that all the designers should have picked stronger pieces to show the judges? Yes. But it seems that they were given such minimal time with the models that they had to just "make it work." What seems to happen is that the judges are forced to choose between several bad collections and they end up eliminating no one. I think it might be time to re-think the structure of this episode and do a "Project Runway" reboot!

A Wow Moment Without the "Wow"

By kim_messina Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 ,4:33 am EDT

I definitely feel for these designers, only having a very fast five weeks to produce their collections. We had a lot more time, and sometimes even another week can make a difference. Iʼm not sure why, but Timʼs home visits seemed less than eventful. There were some surprises, such as Christopher going with a rather dark inspiration (and collection), Fabio breaking free creatively with a light collection that (at last) seems more “Fabio,” and well...Dmitryʼs leather fringe.

I recall when Tim came to my loft for the home visit. It was a chilly, rainy day and I had slept (maybe) two hours the night before. How can you sleep knowing TIM GUNN is coming to your house?!? Not to mention, itʼs the big critique. At this point, the designers need to have as much done as possible, not only for Tim but also because after he leaves, there is not much time left until the collections are snatched up by a messenger, all at the same time at each designerʼs studio, and whisked away to "Project Runway" Land, waiting for you when you arrive.

When the designers arrive at their new temporary workroom, they are told that there are actually only three spots for fashion week, and that they will need to select three looks to whet the judgesʼ appetites for more, and that they will then determine which THREE designers will move forward. Oh yes, Iʼve been there (Only I had to go head-to-head with Jay to vie for the last spot), and after the nerves and the sleep deprivation, itʼs intense! Well, Iʼm just going to cut to the chase and get to my assessments of the designersʼ showings.

Dmitry

I never thought Iʼd say that Dmitry needed editing. But boy did he. The three looks, while they borderline on not being cohesive except for color story, somehow look like they would be worn by the same woman. I get a very "rich Russian lady shops Rodeo Drive" vibe from his collection. He definitely designs for a more mature and sophisticated customer. The first dress, while very cool, architectural and graphic, could have been made more youthful by shortening the hemline. The second look is all over the place. The trousers are very cool and reflect the futuristic lines of the white dress; however the top is completely the wrong vibe for them. Those trousers deserve to have all the attention, but the pouf sleeves/black bra/crystal embellishments makes it difficult to look at the outfit. The eye canʼt rest in one place as it is not balanced. The third look is a WTF. All I could think of is the Latin ballroom dancing tops with fringed arms. I was shocked that Kors didnʼt have some snarky comment about it. And again, the top underneath, with the black bra, was just a bit too much with the pattern and fringe of the jacket. I think a slim pant would complement it better than a skirt, but I get that Dmitry was probably trying to show diversity in the looks. Dmitry is a master at execution, and it is evident he worked hard, but these three looks make me question his taste a bit.

Christopher

Christopherʼs lack of experience contributed to what I am interpreting as a bit of a "block" which he had when it came to thoughtfully selecting his three looks. Tim showed concern about that, and rightfully so. He seemed to freeze when he needed to pre-select the looks which he thought would best encapsulate his collection and leave the judges wanting more. The result was three random looks which just happen to fit the models the best; these looks fell flat. First of all, WHY would you select black shorts for two out of three looks? Iʼm already bored. While none of the looks were offensive, and they were all well-fit, there was no "wow" piece. The bleach technique on the leather and the fact that he designed his own print are definitely points in his favor, and the textiles all work well together. All the looks are sellable and cool, but they look more like they are part of a trunk show than a runway show. I like the x-ray print but am surprised to see it coming from Christopher. I almost think he was trying to channel a darker, edgier designer, but this is not how I thought of him before; perhaps this is his youth and lack or developing his own point of view as a designer. The first thing I thought when he announced his x-ray concept, though, was Michael Drummondʼs (Season 8) decoy collection, entirely based on x-rays, and really beautiful by the way, for those who havenʼt seen it. All I could think when I saw them was that they look like "filler" looks in a runway show, in between the "statement" looks. As Nina said, "Where are the clothes?" That said, I think there are looks in his final collection that will be more impressive, and as a whole it is pretty cohesive.

Fabio

The collection is called "Cosmic Tribalism" and I recall when I saw it in New York that he really encapsulated his concept; it looks simultaneously futuristic and ethnic/bohemian, which is not easy. I think the collection is one of the strongest ones both creatively and cohesively, and was a total surprise and a breath of fresh air amidst his competitorsʻ darker collections. It makes me love pastels — also not an easy feat! My main problem is that some of the construction and execution looks amateur, which does a disservice to his looks. For example, I adore the first look with the long draped vest, which feels luxe, but those trousers needed to be perfect to be so front-and-center (paired with a bra top), and they had major problems with the waistband/fly execution. The second look is a more tailored contrast to the first look (while still being cohesive), but the vest could have been about an inch longer and the waistband better made; the skirtʼs uneven hemline was probably intentional, but Fabio needed to make it more extreme because it looks like a mistake. The third look is fabulous. His painted silk is gorgeous and the necklace compliments it well. The jewelry overall is just wonderful, and punctuates his concept perfectly. I still canʼt decide if I love the frankenstein shoes or hate them! In any event, his three looks did what they needed to do: pique the judgesʼ curiosity to see more.

Melissa

Melissa has always been an early favorite of mine personally, because I like her dark yet modern aesthetic. But she seems to have made a lot of the same silhouettes and shapes throughout the season. And while there is something (a lot actually) to be said for consistency (the judges LOVE a consist point of view, and it is the mark of a seasoned designer), there need to be surprises sometimes. Michael Kors gave me some of the best advice ever, that I will never forget, during one of my critiques: "To be a successful designer, you constantly have to walk that line of the expected and the unexpected." Unfortunately, Melissaʼs collection only shows us the expected. The first look was a pair of perforated white leather shorts, which are great. But the top opens too high up, and I find it distractingly screaming "look at my abs." A little less of the stomach would have been nice. In general though, this look seems like a "filler" look and lacks impact. The second look is surely what Melissa thought would "wow" the judges, and while the jacket is great, Iʼve seen it before, not only from her but in stores. This silhouette was started by Rick Owens and then knocked off by Helmut Lang and has now trickled down to diffusion brands. Itʼs still a perfectly nice jacket (Though Iʼd have preferred to see a sleek sleeve instead of those big clunky cuffs), and the graphic elements are different. Itʼs just not enough of a surprise. The drop-crotch pants feel heavy with the jacket for spring. It could have been more interesting to pair it with a dress or maybe even a pair of shorts, for more runway impact. The third look, the leather dress, is a great dress but again I thought of it as both a "filler" look, and something we have seen from Melissa before. The hair, as Kors said, is dreadful; Iʼll be interested to see how she changes that for her final show. What didnʼt Melissa and Christopher understand about showing the judges the best of their looks? There seemed to be some sort of disconnect there. They only have one chance to wow the judges to move forward. It is more apparent than ever that the judges have picked Christopher as an early favorite; in my opinion, if they are selecting the three finalists based on each designersʼ three looks, Christopher failed to pique enough interest to go forward. The fact that all four designers went through to fashion week is disappointing and a cop out. Come on, whereʼs the dramatic elimination? Whatʼs the point of the three-looks?

Second Chances

By kim_messina Fri., Oct. 12, 2012 ,4:29 am EDT

The Fab Four? The Fierce Four? Either way, after a season of ups and downs, twists and turns, it has cumulated to Christopher, Dmitry, Fabio and Melissa representing Season 10 at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. But of course, in true "Project Runway" fashion, their road to the big runway was anything but smooth...which fans got to watch play out in this week's episode. Instead of breaking down the episode bit by bit, I'm going to break it down by designer (a la Mila Hermanovski), because if you watched the episode [SPOILER ALERT], you know that all four designers make it to MBFW.

(I now welcome you to the interactive portion of this post…)

Christopher
Christopher was the first designer to face the wrath of Tim Gunn on home turf. His family was just lovely — they sipped tea with Tim. Precious. Upon first glance, I was impressed with Christopher's progress. It's very my style, and I've gravitated toward his looks all season. But I also initially thought that he needed to step outside the box some more and push the envelope. (i.e. Using bleach on leather). I also thought using his mom's X-ray was a bold move and pretty damn creative. I was confused, however, as to why two out of the three looks he sent down the runway were booty shorts. Seeing as though Tim raved about two of his jackets during the home visit (the studded-leather and structured coats), I was shocked to see that neither of those pieces made the cut. However out of all the designers, I thought Christopher had the best styling.

Fabio
First off, if I didn't know that Fabio's sick work space actually belonged to his friend, I would have been super confused that Freegan Fabio had such luxurious digs. If I'm being honest, all season Fabio's clothes have never been my style. But that being said, his creativity and vision for his collection was off the charts. I don't think I've ever heard of "Cosmic Tribalism" in my life, but I'm a believer now. The dyeing? Fab. The draping? Fab. The shoes? Not so much. (Can you imagine someone accidentally stepping on your toes while wearing them?) They scared me almost as much as the blunt bangs that Fabio's models wore on the runway. I think he showed the most diversity with his collection (I like that he did a pants outfit, skirt and dress), but I really had a hard time seeing past those bowl cuts. Oye.

Dmitry
Dmitry was working on his collection just a hop, skip and jump from where I live. Had I known, I would have put on my "Project Runway" super sleuth gear and scoped out the collection. Or at least would have tried to grab a cup of coffee with the Wonder from Belarus. I don't care if you do or do not like Dmitry's clothes — you can't argue with me for one second that they are not impeccably made. I truly think that his craftsmanship has given him an edge up on the competition all season. And as Dmitry put it, he's very "confident" in his collection. He should be. I thought the judges made a really good point that Dmitry has to watch his styling and try to make it "younger." They said you don't want the look to be so busy that you don't know where to focus, and I agree with that. (I also want that white dress.)

Melissa
Throughout the entire season, Melissa has stayed true to herself and has really showed who she is a designer. Her collection is no different. However, I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. Don't get me wrong, I've very much been Team Melissa all season and I think her collection had some strong pieces, but it's Fashion Week! You don't want to play it safe. I can appreciate leaning towards the cautious side, but as Heidi said it didn't "knock me off my chair." I do think her collection was the most consumer and wearable. (PS: And how adorable is Melissa and her boyfriend?!)

All three judges echoed that sentiment to not just Melissa, but to Dmitry, Fabio and Christopher: if this was you're only chance to ever see your collection walk the runway, would you regret not showing your "best" pieces? All four said yes. Luckily, all four get a second chance.

Dead Relatives

By CaitlinBergmann Thu., Oct. 20, 2011 ,8:42 pm EDT

It’s the home visit episode. My second favorite episode of the year, topped only by the unconventional challenge. I love to see not only the direction the designers are taking, but I love seeing where they live and I especially love seeing how they react to Tim Gunn on their turf. Babies, boyfriends, trampolines and turtle poop, it is always a blast. You can learn so much about a person when you visit them at home.

On Kimberly’s home visit, we learn that her collection is about transforming the urban Brooklyn girl. She didn’t say what she is transforming this girl into, but I can only guess the transformation is from urban Brooklyn to suburban Maryland, because her collection is full of way suburban bright colors and large gold earrings from the eighties. Kimberly says she lives in Brooklyn, but it looks like Maryland to me.

Next we go to Anya’s, where we learn that her collection, or lack thereof, is inspired by the islands and not a single viewer from New York to Uzbekistan is surprised. She has photos of the ocean, lagoons, the sky, and palm fronds. And that’s about it — some fabric, but no clothes. We also learn that losing her brother has ignited her love of fashion.

At Viktor’s home visit we learn that he was inspired by the death anniversary of his brother at Guadalajara, Mexico. Photographs from the trip became the fabrics for his collection. The fabrics are so awesome that I don’t really care where the inspiration came from. The garments themselves look awesome, too. Viktor doesn’t really need Tim’s critique.

Joshua, on the other hand, needs Tim’s critique like a suburban Maryland girl needs big gold earrings. He is working with a horrid color palette, and some of the most frightening fabrics I have ever seen hanging on one garment rack. One by one, Tim convinces him to drop them, and props to Josh, he responds.

We knew about Kimberly losing her mother, and god knows we know of Josh’s loss, so basically what we have learned from all of these home visits is that you can’t become a contestant on "Project Runway" and possibly expect to make it to the final four unless you have a dead relative.

The designers return to New York and move into their swank hotel penthouse. In a "Long Island Medium" moment, Joshua mistakes a breeze on the terrace for his mother. The designers pack up their garment bags and their assorted spirits and go to the Piperlime workroom to unveil their collections. Tim comes in to announce that they will be showing three pieces to the judges from which they will decide who will move forward, and he begins his final critiques wit the designers.

Viktor is fine; he doesn’t need Tim’s help. Kimberly is bouncing off the walls and can’t be helped. Anya’s critique doesn’t go well. She is broken because she designed what she designs and won’t surprise the judges. Joshua wins most improved. Seriously, those black and gray neoprene pieces are amazing — so cool and modern. That jacket is amazing. Joshua, please, dump the purple, hot pink, lime green, and that awful vintage fabric that Tim told you to lose that I see hanging on your garment rack, and do an entire collection of these black and gray pieces. Please.

It’s on to the runway, where Joshua is moved on to Fashion Week. I’m telling you, it was the black and gray jacket, once the judges see the other stuff their eyeballs may start to bleed. That jacket was so good, it made the judges forgive the schizophrenic ass-baring gown/catsuit. Viktor is in a bit of trouble because he followed Tim’s advice and put wow-pieces under wow-pieces but the judges want simple pieces under wow-pieces. These are luxury problems and he, too, is moved forward to Fashion Week.

Kimberly and Anya are left on the runway. The judges weren’t happy with either of their collections, but what the hell, let's all go forward. The queen is not amused.

So whether you are drinking the Viktor Kool-Aid or the Anya rum punch (I stole that from a commenter!) or what ever they drink in Queens and Brooklyn/Maryland, everyone’s happy. It’s on to Fashion Week.

I Actually Agree With Joshua This Time

By CaitlinB Thu., Oct. 20, 2011 ,8:39 pm EDT

Home visits. The time when Tim Gunn can play detective and do some spying on our behalf to see how the finalists are doing with their collections. Gone are the days when Season 1 winner Jay McCarroll had a leisurely four months to stroll around his native Pennsylvania and ponder the meaning of life before starting his collection. This crew has a matter of weeks to figure out sketches, fabrics, styling, hair, makeup … well, you get it.

First up, Brooklyn … er, Maryland! (Or maybe she meant Brookland?) Kimberly is hard at work on some looks that I'm not completely sold on, but you can see she knows exactly who her girl is (as usual) and where she's going directionally. I'm distracted by the minty beverages her family is sharing with Tim at the dinner table, but glad to see she seems confident and hungry for Fashion Week.

Tim goes on his first international home visit to Anya's hometown via boat, yet lets me down by not wearing mandals with his suit like he did in Season 6 out in L.A. Speaking of being let down, Anya has either completely dropped the ball or really loves to procrastinate when she shows Tim a whole lot of nothing. No sketches, no garments. Just a bunch of fabric bolts and some muslin. Basically, she showed him Island Mood.

If you've ever seen Tim Gunn concerned or worried, which happens often on "Runway," I don't think we've ever seen him this concerned. At least in a scenario like Seth Aaron in Season 7, Tim was worried by 30-something garments that existed. Tim is worried by figments and hopes and dreams of what will walk down a runway in New York's Lincoln Center. This is DEFCON 1-level "This concerns me" territory.

Back on the mainland, Tim swings by Viktor's workspace to see quite the opposite: a lot of progress. Not only does Viktor have his most of his collection completed, he created his own fabrics from photographs he took with a deeply personal story behind them. And we see the beginnings of what looks like an amazing white leather jacket. (And we know how I feel about Viktor jackets!)

Final stop, is Joshua's home base in Queens. We learn that Josh was not kidding about his track star past in the New Balance challenge when we are blessed by several slow-motion stills of a longer-haired version of himself leaping in the air with wild abandon. Tim is back to his worrying ways when he looks as though he wants to light one of Joshua's fabric choices aflame to protect the masses. As more and more garments in the collection start failing the litmus test, Joshua realizes that he has some big changes to make in a hurry and needs to play to his strengths. Oh, and edit!

As the designers finally arrive to a swank penthouse as they settle in for Fashion Week, Tim announces that the designers must narrow down their collections to three looks that will convince the judges to send three (yes, three) designers through. (We knew there must have been a catch somewhere!)

Viktor, Anya, Joshua and Kimberly are eyeing each other's pieces around the room and one thing is clear: Anya is in trouble. Whatever "trouble" is expressed as a number, times 68, times infinity, TROUBLE. Her details are unfinished and the garments look as though they were a Summer Reading assignment done at 1:30am the night before the first day of school. Meanwhile, Viktor is playfully stroking the luxe pearls sewn onto his this-looks-like-you-need-a-black-AMEX-card-for-that leather jacket. The man is on his game, and on it big time.

Kimberly is trying to sort out which looks she should showcase for her mini-collection for the judges, and Joshua is smartly deciding to hold back his neon moments for a later time. Here goes nothing!

Anya is trying to put on a brave face as her fellow designers are clearly showing her up in the execution department as the clothes come down the runway. Heidi has been pulled into the tractor beam of Viktor's white leather jacket and may have to hope that he really does accept the the titanium black AMEX in her wallet because she doesn't want to give it back. Nina, however, remains laser-focused and questions the leather ode-to-zippers hula skirt on his other model. Michael is once again giving Viktor a hard time for his accessory choices (a pair of sunglasses? Really, MK?), but it's clear that Viktor is going through to the finale.

Joshua has smartly shown his more subdued moments from his collection and demonstrated that he has an eye for tailoring that he wasn't credited for enough during the challenges and is also put through.

Kimberly's big-butt bubble skirt and styling choices has put her into the danger zone, but it's clear that Anya's lack of sewing skills is screaming so loudly next to her, our final three are apparent. Or are they?

Surprise! All four go through!

Yes, yes. I know.

And for once, I actually agree with something Joshua said.