Season 15, Episode 10 Recap: A Power Trip

If you’re like me and you measure your life by “Runway” seasons, you’re wondering right about now: Where in the world did the time go? This season is flying by, and I’m just along for the ride like Mah-Jing, stifling screams from the seat of a helicopter soaring above NYC. But we’re not quite done yet. There are still eight designers left, and after last week’s emotional family reunions, there should be a renewed appetite among them for that New York Fashion Week moment.

There certainly is for Erin as she reflects on the last four challenges and her time served in the bottom. She hopes she can pull herself out of the rut. But her audible self-reflection is cut short when the designers receive mail from Heidi hinting that the next challenge may have to do with flying.

The designers meet Tim and Anne Fullenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire, who have recently arrived in style via “Project Runway” helicopter. Mah-Jing is shaking in his sneakers. Anne and Tim explain that Marie Claire is all about powerful, confident women, and with that in mind the designers are being sent on a “power trip,” where they’ll be treated to an aerial view of New York City. I’m not sure but I think I heard Mah-Jing dramatically gulp like a nervous cartoon character.

The Challenge:
In one day and with $300 to spend at Mood, create an editorial look for a powerful woman inspired by a flyover of NYC. The winning look will be featured in a spread in Marie Claire.

After experiencing the awe of the city that never sleeps from above, the designers sketch for thirty minutes in a hangar and then head off to Mood. After a successful trip the designers take the party to the workroom and unpack their fabrics.

Rik is taking a risk by applying watery ink to his fabric, hoping to expand the judges’ perception of his work beyond the “very tailored, very well-polished.” So far, it looks like a Rorschach test on a wet napkin, but I’ll reserve my judgement until I see the final product on this one. (And if you’re wondering, I see a butterfly.) The technique does get rave reviews from Tim during his critique, though Mah-Jing, who has experience with this particular technique, is not impressed.

Mah-Jing has taken a strange orange tweed and stitched it together with a denim. It’s a rather risky move because one fabric is knit and the other is woven, but if Mah-Jing can pull it off, it’ll be a very interesting look.

Cornelius has a colorful collection of leathers that when put together seem very “Willy Wonka.” He’s explaining a textile-within-a-textile concept that goes right over my head, but Tim is intrigued. He suggests losing the strange amoeba shapes that Cornelius has created in order to streamline the look overall.

Roberi has chosen a flowy purple fabric and is hard at work creating a dress that gives a fluttering effect when the model walks the runway. He’s clearly derived his inspiration from the flight, which is great, but Tim wonders if the gimmick of the fabric flowing behind the model isn’t enough to sustain the entire look.

Laurence, having interpreted the skyline of NYC in a cool and alternative way, is also going for a print for the first time on the show. Tim is excited that she’s changing it up.

Dexter is creating a stretchy black lace dress that he fears might show the model’s *whistle noise* and *similar but slightly different whistle noise* but he thinks he can make it work. He’s also planning to build up the shoulder of the jacket he is creating with a coated denim, but promises it won’t look like the shoulders he’s created before. Tim is concerned with the amount of time the look will take.

Nathalia is questioning her every step without Jenni, who used to provide support. Without her sounding board, Nathalia flounders around the workroom asking the other designers if she should or shouldn’t make this or that. She has too many ideas for her jumpsuit! Tim tells her to pare down the concept and textiles, and also encourages her to keep a powerful woman in mind.

Meanwhile Erin is working on some sort of wearable, bubblegum-colored puzzle piece. Actually, that sounds cooler than what it actually is – from looking at it I’m mostly just getting notes of the Nintendo video game “Kirby” with a dash of Pokémon’s Jigglypuff. Tim finds the concept intriguing but is confused about the color choice and volume of the “vest.” Erin and Tim have a heart to heart about the amount of time she has spent on the bottom recently, and he basically serves as a fashion defibrillator for Erin, who scraps the vest and starts over.

In their adjustments after critiques, Dexter begs his model to wear black undergarments the next day; Erin’s model’s faith in her work inspires her to start anew with a fresh metallic tweed; Nathalia spices up her jumpsuit with shiny leather; and Roberi tones down the spice of his dress. Meanwhile, a confident Rik takes a lil nap in the Designers’ Lounge.

Dexter and Nathalia are both having a lot of trouble. After having promised not to repeat the shoulder of his older jacket, Dexter is doing just that. Erin warns that he should be mindful of the similarity, but he dismisses it, saying that he has a certain aesthetic that he is maintaining. Meanwhile, Nathalia is falling apart. Even though they don’t generally get along, Dexter reaches out with a handful of tissues while Nathalia cries at her sewing machine. I’m not sure why but I found this sincere act of kindness so redeeming for Dexter! He’s such a sweetie!

Speaking of sweeties, our judges Heidi, Zac, and Nina are joined by our friend Anne Fullenwider and the actress Camilla Belle. She’s starring in the upcoming film “The Mad Whale,” but I know her as one of the students at Miss Minchin’s boarding school in the 1995 film adaptation of “A Little Princess.” So good.

The Top:
Mah-Jing: Drawing inspiration from colorful shipping containers and the water below, and hoping to make his powerful woman feel like African royalty, Mah-Jing created his own denim-tweed hybrid textile sheath dress. The color of the tweed is sort of a burnt orange blend, and Nina points out that the way he’s included the denim gives a sort of aerial map view of Manhattan. Camilla loves the look as well, calling the color combination “extremely flattering.” Zac compliments the workmanship and the styling, saying that he can tell the visit from Mah-Jing’s mother was highly effective in motivating him. Heidi has one small edit she would make in the placement of the denim on the chest but otherwise loves the look, and Anne appreciates that it looks like a suit of armor for a powerful woman.

Erin: Using her own “funny feeling” during the helicopter ride as inspiration, it is a fun and playful pink metallic, V-neck, tea-length tweed dress. Erin has accented the high-low hem with a blue ruffle. There is something very sweet about the simplicity. Camilla likes the movement on the runway, Heidi calls it editorial, Anne thinks it’s fun and cool, and Zac likes that it’s sort of weird and new. Nina calls it safe.

Cornelius, the winner: Taking inspiration from the positioning of the buildings against each other, as well as a golf course (?!), Cornelius created a grey structured dress with cut-outs in strageic places around the dress. In the cut-outs, Cornelius used the colored leather in different feather-like shapes to build texture and dimension. It is the most interesting thing Cornelius has done on the show and his sense of control is apparent. Heidi calls it her favorite look on the runway. Anne loves that Cornelius was inspired by a golf course and appreciates his unique perspective. Zac likes the risks he took. Nina likes the play on hard structure and whimsy, saying she’s glad Tim used his Save on Cornelius.

The Bottom:
Nathalia, the loser: Inspired by the metallic buildings and the light bouncing off the glass of the skyscrapers, it is a bright blue fitted jumpsuit with a holographic vertical strip down the chest. Nathalia also made a long sleeve black jacket with shiny silver details. The look is futuristic and one can certainly see that Nathalia was hoping to make her powerful woman look like a sort of superhero, but the look is just sort of meh. Heidi thinks it looks like a kid’s costume. Zac is upset that the construction of the look is not up to par. And in my favorite line of the episode, Nina delivers a sort of uninspired monotone “Beam me up, Scotty.”

Rik: Inspired by the Statue of Liberty, Rik created a drape-y floor-length white dress with metallic accents at the arms. His black ink effect on the textile doesn’t go over that well with Heidi because with that much fabric it looks a little messy. The weirdest choice Rik made was to leave the model’s back devoid of any of the draping. Zac says the open back made him feel like this was some sort of toga party. Camilla says it feels incomplete, and Nina says the back takes away from the entire vibe of the look. Anne disagrees with all of the judges, saying she loved the dress and was blown away by how beautiful it looked on the model. I have to say at least Rik took an obvious inspiration like the Statue of Liberty and elevated it to a strange, new place.

Dexter, the other loser: Inspired by the sometimes-dark city and the feeling of being a voyeur, Dexter created a kind of goth look. It is a stretch black see-through sleeveless lace dress with a mock turtleneck and a black jacket. The model also wears a black hood. The shoulder of the jacket is strikingly similar to his previous shoulder and Anne, who did not see the other shoulder, still says it feels too familiar. Camilla calls it “Minnie Mouse meets Marilyn Manson.” Heidi reprimands Dexter for re-using the shoulder, especially after the judges were so split on the shape last time he used it. Zac likes the look without the jacket. Dexter does attempt to defend himself by pointing out that other designers tend to reuse ideas and aesthetics, but it does little to change the judges’ minds.

Like two phoenixes from the ashes, the previously eliminated Cornelius and the four-time almost-eliminated Erin rise. Erin feels a renewed sense of energy, and Cornelius is elated that he was able to prove himself. Looks like keeping himself out of drama might be the best bet for Cornelius, which is great for him but sad for me. Speaking of sad! The beautiful Dexter and the darling Nathalia leave us in a surprise double elimination. I’ve been following the two of them on Instagram recently and I have to say, we can expect vibrant, fresh, amazing things from the two of them in the future. If I could draw, I’d make a comic book about the two of them having sassy, fashion-forward adventures together. Farewell!

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