Season 15, Episode 4 Recap: Sink or Swim

Remember when I was excited for fall? Well it hit me like a ton of Brik’s bricks and I’m practically down for the count. But don’t worry: Me and my cold medicine are here for you, delivering a totally focused and coherent recap (I hope).

Predictably, everyone is annoyed with Erin for being talented. She’s got a second win under her belt in just three challenges and the judges have called her out as an early favorite. And even worse for the wild band of haterade-drinking designers, Erin doesn’t care about what they have to say. She just keeps on keepin’ on, which is probably a contributing factor of her consistent greatness. She’s got her eye on the prize!

Erin does have one major ally in the competition though: Sarah. So far we’ve seen Sarah… wait, what have we seen Sarah do? She’s made a few safe looks, and as Heidi later mentions during her critique, she has yet to even really meet the judges because she’s never been in the top or bottom.

Speaking of Heidi, the designers meet her on the runway to get their next challenge. Together they all call for Tim, who emerges from behind the runway wearing board shorts, a t-shirt with a pocket square (so Tim), and some sunblock on his nose like a certain counselor at Camp Anawanna in the 1990s. We hold you in our hearts, Tim.

The Challenge:
With one day and $100 to spend at Mood, create your own printed textile for a swimsuit and cover-up inspired by Heidi Klum Swim. The winner will have their look reproduced and sold as part of Heidi Klum Swim.

The concept of this challenge gives Cornelius serious pause. He looks at the models in sample Heidi Klum Swim suit options as if they’re a troop of alien invaders and he’s dubious about whether they’ve actually come in peace.

Cornelius is right to be afraid. This challenge is rather complex. The designers have to create their own textile that will not only fit in with Heidi’s brand but will appropriately represent their own aesthetic. Then they have to figure out how in the world to make a swimsuit which, as Dexter points out, is incredibly difficult. And on top of everything else, Heidi is your client – so, you know, no pressure.

My favorite designer-created textiles include Roberi’s macaw feathers, Dexter’s dragon (though it’s not exactly on brand for Heidi), Alex’s floral/grid pattern, and Nathalia’s pink and green floral, which looks kind of like a page from a “Magic Eye” book from afar. But I’m kind of shocked by how low-key some of these designers went with creating their own textile. I mean, a mellow lavender mandala (Jenni)? Green, pink, and black paint splotches (Cornelius)? Bricks (you know who)?! Are we designing for cool young women or the lost and found box at the local Y after a senior citizens’ water aerobics class? I am yawning, y’all.

When Tim and Heidi come in for critiques, they enter a room full of some seriously stressed out designers. A quick rundown of the best and worst: Heidi loves Alex’s print but advises him to lose the large panels of plain blue material on the sides; she’s concerned about Cornelius’ top, particularly the way he’s incorporated the logo at the cleavage, and she hates his high-waisted bottoms; she’s okay with Sarah’s print but has a problem with the color of the look’s accents and asks, “How will this be a winning look?” She loves Rik’s print and encourages him to up the sexiness ante. She compares Tasha’s print to a Chinese food menu and Tim says Tasha needs to rethink the concept of her look.

Heidi has the biggest problem with Jenni’s look. She puts Jenni’s high-waisted bottoms on over her jeans to prove that the cut is not flattering. Then she looks at the pants Jenni has created as her cover-up. “You would wear that?” she asks incredulously. Jenni stands by her look, but Heidi is clear that she does not like what she sees. When Heidi leaves, Jenni decides to remake the bottom of the bikini but leave the pant, convinced she can sell the other judges on the look. She even tries the suit on for the rest of the designers, asking if they think it’ll work. Everyone verbally encourages her but the looks on their faces say, “Better she screws up on this one than me.” And to be honest, the only thing I’m convinced of is that Jenni can rock a bikini and socks.

The designers spend the rest of the day and some of the next morning trying to figure out how to keep their models from sporting wedgies on the runway.

The Runway:
Dressed in green from head-to-toe, Heidi introduces us to Zac, Nina, and guest judge model/musician/author Lucky Blue Smith. Mentor Tim Gunn also joins the panel as a quiet observer.

The Top:
Roberi: Inspired by the macaw bird’s feathers, it’s a black background with red, yellow, and blue feather-printed one piece with cutouts at the sides. As a cover-up, Roberi has taken red silk crêpe material to create a casual but chic top. The judges all agree that the print is spot on. Zac appreciates the shape and finish of the cover-up. Nina wishes the scale of the print was larger but loves it anyway and compliments the shape of the bathing suit. Heidi calls the look “flattering” and says she can see it in her line.

Rik, the winner: Using an Escher-inspired black and white geometric pattern, Rik has created a sporty one-piece with a low back and deep neck. The cover-up is a pair of flowy open pants made of the same material. Zac says Rik’s print is fantastic, calling the look, “The best work that I’ve seen you do.” Heidi and Lucky both agree that the print is great and Lucky points out that he thinks a lot of women will want to buy this swimsuit. Nina compliments Rik on how polished the model looks in his design.

Alex: Paying close attention to Heidi’s dossier, Alex went for a subtle print inspired by his own floral tattoo. It’s a blue and white one-piece with a deep neckline and thin blue accent lines. The cover-up in the same print is an easy, casual dress that is broken up with a block of white fabric at the bottom. Heidi loved Alex’s cover-up most out of all of the looks, saying it “sells the look.” Zac says the colors remind him of Greece and says the look feels “special.” Nina loves the vibe and Lucky says that he could see his sisters wearing the look in “all different types of places.” In my opinion, Alex was the most successful in keeping a balance between his own aesthetic and Heidi’s brand.

The Bottom:
Tasha: Using Rasta colors as the inspiration from her print, it is a tiny yellow triangle bikini with red, green, and black accents in the print. The cover-up is a slouchy black top that’s sort of the shape of an oversized cardigan. Lucky says she went too safe with her swimsuit design. Nina compares the print to a Japanese food menu and dislikes the throwaway cover up. Heidi says Tasha should have just owned the print and done the whole cover-up in it, while also pointing out that even with the simple silhouette, the fit of the suit itself is not great.

Jenni: Inspired by a mandala, Jenni meant for her look to be lavender but it actually came out a lot more pink than intended. So it’s a sort of soft purpley-pink halter-top bikini and wrap pant. In Jenni’s defense, it does look like a complete outfit, but the judges have a lot of issues with it. Nina says the print reminds her of a yoga mat and does not care for the color of the suit, particularly when paired with this design. Zac calls it “Miss Piggy meets the ‘Golden Girls,’” and he does not appreciate the way the top and bottom seem to be fighting each other aesthetically. Heidi calls it “old lady,” and is concerned by its lack of modernity.

Sarah, the loser: For her print, Sarah drew a “fashion illustration” of a retro girl in a bikini sunbathing, then repeated this drawing in green and pink to create a vertical stripe. She then used this textile to create a bikini and threw a white, blue, and pink cover-up on over top. Nina says the print makes it look like something for a child and the cover-up doesn’t help anything. Heidi agrees that the look is not for a grown woman. Zac compares the bottoms to boys’ underwear.

So there you have it. Sarah was looking to make her mark but instead sort of just fizzled out. I wonder if this episode would have had a similar outcome if Sarah had been in the top before. Meanwhile, Rik really redeemed himself after his awful ultraviolet misstep last week. All in all, while this selection of designers has really impressed me so far, I kind of feel like they didn’t step up to this challenge. Maybe the curve ball of a team challenge next week will kick them back into high gear?

Also if you haven’t heard, I’m co-hosting The Official Project Runway Recap Podcast, which you can find here (or directly on iTunes here). Laura Reineke and I talk each week about the latest episode and have spirited discussions about important things like Brik’s hair. Subscribe, rate, review, and enjoy!

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