Season 15, Episode 8 Recap: Poppin' Off

Previously on “Project Runway,” the designers got to take a trip to Universal Orlando Resorts, enjoy the Skull Island: Reign of Kong, and be inspired to create Urban Jungle streetwear designs. Now, they get to take their designs to the actual streets… in the form of a pop up store. There were catfights and throwing of fellow designers under the bus. But there were also some cute styles and an eventual Tim Gunn Save. Time for the recap!

Tim Gunn greets the designers on the runway stage along with Gregory Patterson. I have fond memories of Gregory when I worked with him on “Project Runway: Under The Gunn.” Back then he was the lead stylist for Blow Pro, and now he’s with Sally Beauty. Patterson announces the “Project Runway” and Sally Beauty Pop Up Color Shop, and Tim joins in to define the actual challenge:

  1. They are to create a three-look collection inspired by a color palette of either red violet, neutrals or blue.
  2. The designers will work in 3 teams of three.
  3. They are to show their finished creations to the public in—as Gunn states—the “first ever pop-up store” where passerbys will get to vote for their favorite window looks.

I hope there are some old school “Project Runway” fans who have been watching since its inception because you might remember back in Season 2—the season I was on—we did something very similar to this in the window dressing challenge. Back then, we created three designs for Banana Republic, and yes, the public got to vote on their favorite window looks. At the time (2005) there was no such thing as a pop-up store so they just deemed it a fashion window display. So I’m not so sure this was a “first time ever,” but I digress. Back to the challenge…

Three teams are created: Team Red consisting of besties Erin and Dexter…with Cornelius, Team Neutral with Jenni, Nathalia and Mah-Jing, and finally Team Blue: Roberi, Rik and Laurence. After sketching time and Mood shopping, the teams are all back in the workroom. Tim checks in, starting with Team Blue. He feels their designs need something more. (Yep! True that!) Roberi, Rik and Laurence are some of the strongest designers this season so I think they will figure it out.

Team Red is next and boy, there is A LOT of red. Early on, Cornelius was questionable about all that color, but Tim seems okay and concurs that he’s getting “chills” from their designs. (Tim, you might want to see if you’re getting sick.) Lastly, Team Neutral is up and it’s so bland that it almost put me to sleep. The designs remind me of European budget airline uniforms, and while that may sound cute, it wasn’t. Tim said that they were blah, warning Jenni, Nathalia and Mah-Jing that something needed to happen, and quick!

Luckily, the following day Team Neutral gets their style act in order and begins turning their drab into fab. Not so lucky is Cornelius who is still on “Outsider Island” and annoyed that he is doing most of the work, while Erin and Dexter are too busy enjoying the gluten-free chips from craft service. This could be editing, but the producers “use what you give them”—spend too much time in that lounge and they’ll have enough footage to make you look like you ain’t workin’. Who would have predicted that Cornelius would go from villain to victim. It took eight episodes, but it happened.

Finally, it’s pop up time. The teams finish their designs and head to SoHo, aka the “trendiest shopping neighborhood in NYC.” The models are propped up in three windows displaying the designs. Shoppers get to vote by inserting buttons into ballot boxes in front of the windows. This is the first glimpse we get of the completed looks and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I like Team Neutral. I normally tend to go for color, but at first glance, their designs are more polished and chic than the others. I would have voted for them, with Team Blue a close second. And yeah, Team Red was just soooo much red. Maybe it would work during a Valentine’s Day sale window display but…

It’s time for the runway and the guest judge is Kelly Osborne. Before the fashions even come out, Heidi inexplicably announces who the general public’s winner is from the pop up: Team Neutral. Each designer gets $500 from Sally Beauty and by winning they get a 20 percent vote advantage. I have to say, I’m not sure if it was fair to announce the public vote before any of the judges even saw the collections. At the very least, it was a bit odd.

When the team’s collections did come out, I still loved Team Neutral’s designs and applauded them for taking their dull “Air Europa” uniforms and transforming them into Swiss ski chalet cocktail fab. Not for nothing but Nathalia can make a mean jacket and amazing pants! I understand, however, why the judges chose Team Blue as their favorite. Their designs had more of an editorial, fashionable sensibility and I also liked how they combined textures as well as the plaid and white to break up the blues. While I wasn’t a fan of Rik’s coat and dress ensemble (Sorry Heidi, but the dress was too short and the coat was clunky), I thought Laurence’s Chanel-like “le smoking,” slouchy pants and top were effortless. Roberi’s, though, was my favorite of Team Blue. I especially loved how the skirt looked as if the wearer had tied a plaid shirt sideways on her waist. It was super cool and—I know Roberi hates this word—SEXY! As a result, he got his first win.

Team Red was the losing team, and only by default since they really didn’t mess up terribly. Dexter, Erin and Cornelius were at the bottom and you knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. I have to say that of all the team’s designs, Erin’s coat was the best. Dexter’s flange-shouldered Samurai-like vest outfit was okay except for the fact his model didn’t have a top. Cornelius’ jacket and asymmetrical pleated skirt was the least successful. The construction was a bit wonky and as an ensemble, it looked forced. I did feel his pain though, since that skirt wasn’t really his but Erin’s design—he just sewed it. Not to mention the fact that he was sewing for THREE people, so some garments were bound to falter. Naturally, when Heidi asked the dreaded, “Who should go home?” the mean girls pointed to Cornelius. The judges were between a rock and a stiff taffeta hard place and had no choice but to send him packing.

Back in the lounge, Tim enters as the white knight in a ensemble to save the day, and specifically, Cornelius, by giving him the “Tim Gunn Save.” Predictably, the cameras cut to Dexter as he scowls at the decision while everyone else celebrates. While you could definitely argue that Cornelius did not deserve to go home, it was certainly an odd save for Tim. Cornelius has not really been one of the stronger designers this season and has yet to prove his worth. The jaded side of me wonders if this was done to keep a bit of drama alive in the workroom. We’ll see how long the happiness lasts and how soon “Cornelius the Victim” returns to “Corneliust the Villain.” There are still plenty more challenges to go!

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