Season 15, Episode 11 Recap: Didn’t You Hear? I Said BOLD!

Now that we have moved on from overindulging on turkey, pie and cyber shopping, it’s time to get back to more important matters: “Project Runway”! This week’s episode tried to merge the avant-garde with the unconventional as well as conventional. With all that, it had the prospect of design gold! Instead, we got aluminum, copper and a wire mesh mess. Time to recap!

Heidi greets the designers by telling them that there are only two challenges left (mon Dieu!). She then cryptically says that they better “buckle up because it’s going to be a thrill of a ride.” Before sending them off to meet Tim, she warns, “You better be BOLD and make sure your designs really STAND OUT. Go BIG or you’ll be going home.”

Much to Rik’s sadness, instead of going to Rome or Paris, the designers end up in a supersized warehouse where we find Tim, Brian Bolain, the Lexus USA GM of product and consumer marketing, and two Lexus automobiles. Bolain begins by saying that Lexus is passionate about visionary design, product innovation and that “we want it to be BOLD.” Tim then tells the designers that for the next challenge, they will be going “BOLD”! Okay first Heidi says it, then the Lexus guy and now Tim?! If these designers don’t go BOLD, I will really start to question their hearing!

Finally, after all the BOLD, BOLD, BOLD hints, Tim announces that this is the avant-garde challenge…with a bonus. It’s also an unconventional materials challenge. They will be using pieces of metal and machinery found in the warehouse to “inspire” their designs. The designers get five minutes to gather as much as they can and then a trip to Mood for textiles and notions. Tim finishes by saying that this two-day challenge will merge the unconventional and conventional for an avant-garde look and that he’s expecting something “spectacular and show-stopping.” Wishful thinking, Tim.

Back in their workroom, the designers are beginning their creations. There’s a lot of cutting, pounding, molding, and gluing occurring this first day as the designers figure out what the heck they are even doing. I can definitely relate to this. I remember it taking me HOURS to figure out what to do with a pile of flowers during my unconventional materials challenge in Season 2! It ain’t always easy!

Day two and the designers are having a slightly better grasp of their creations, as well as their glue guns. Tim walks in for his critiques. Rik is playing with textures, using glass, metal tiles and safety pins. Tim questions the pins suggesting that they are too “fashion schooly” and I agree. Roberi is creating aerodynamic shapes by molding metals onto his design, saying that he wants to “disrupt the body.” I’m kind of loving what he’s doing, reminding me of John Galliano’s Dior Couture Fall 2006  “Joan of Arc” collection. Mah-Jing is working with wire mesh over denim (naturally!). It looks messy and not avant-garde. Tim warns that it’s too costumey.

Erin is doing a paper doll dress using chicken wire and metallic appliqués she created. Tim thinks it’s ambitious, and personally, I just love the use of color (as opposed to everyone else!). Leather and square shoulder enthusiast Laurence is making a stairway dress. On the form, it’s looking too short and slightly like a mini goth wedding cake.

Finally, Cornelius describes his design as butterfly-inspired “with scary faces.” Tim questions the baby bump markings. As a result, Cornelius decides to scrap the design and go for something even stranger: a “host” consumed by a parasite as he begins to play with black tubing. Oh, dear! Now speaking of Cornelius, Lady Cornelius from the Land of Shade is BACK, and is all too willing to give his two cents on the designers’ creations this week, mostly not too kind, of course. I’m wondering if Cornelius is auditioning for a guest appearance on Fashion Police or trying to win “Project Runway”?

Day of the runway and guest judge is “UnREAL” actress Shiri Appleby. Of note, Shiri had some of the most intelligent, well-thought-out comments of all the judges, putting Heidi, Zac and Nina on notice! The designs come out and personally, it’s a bit of a letdown. Heidi said that they were all “impressed with the looks.” I don’t think she even believed what she was saying. Overall, I thought I was watching the Latin Grammy Awards red carpet as opposed to an avant-garde meets unconventional materials runway show.

Let’s discuss the best of the not-so-avant-garde bunch. Rik’s black and silver tiled dress was nice and probably one of the best displays of merging the unconventional with conventional, but it was certainly not avant-garde. I could see this in a window at the Prada boutique. Laurence’s black leather, neoprene with chicken wire mini dress looked finished and sexy, but was way too short and where was the avant-garde or boldness?

Roberi’s was my favorite in the workroom and it still remained my favorite after the runway. I liked how he used the aluminum and wool, creating a Medieval-like 21st century runway diva. I just wished he would have created a longer, more dramatic and BOLDER gown! Ultimately, Erin turned out to be the winner, most likely because she was the only one who listened to Heidi, Tim and the Lexus guy and went bold, compared to the other designers. I didn’t dislike her design but it wasn’t an unconventional avant-garde wow. It was more Ziegfeld Follies meets a Miss Aruba costume.

In regards to the bottom two, I disagreed with the judges’ hyper negative perception of Cornelius’ design–it had the semblance of being probably the most “avant-garde” at the very least. It baffled me that the judges were obsessed with those tubes and where they were coming from: the uterus or belly button? WHO CARES! I applaud him for at least having a concept and pushing himself. I just wish he would have tried even harder and maybe stuck to his original concept? Mah-Jing also just made one of his nice denim dresses and glued on chicken wire mesh. It was a less finished result than Cornelius and for that, he was the unlucky one. He was gracious and beautifully humble in his exit which was nice to see.

Now, I feel compelled to tie up this recap with a couple of thoughts. First, I really didn’t understand how most of the designers (except for Erin) went with short cocktail dresses. When I think of avant-garde, I certainly don’t think short cocktail dresses! Lastly, why was this an avant-garde-less runway? I have a theory: I think that this group of designers, while talented and can make pretty designs, are all rather “safe” and suffering from a lack of ability to step outside of their comfort zone. Heidi, Tim and the producers recognized this prior to this week’s challenge and tried to overtly throw hints by repeating the mantra: BOLD, BOLD, BOLD. Yet, most of them continued on their safe path. Let’s hope next week for their last challenge, they will finally shake things up and step out of their safe zone. Pretty please? Or should I say UN-pretty please?!

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