Season 15, Episode 7 Recap: Welcome to the Urban Jungle

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love autumn in New York. But there is something about this city in this season that is absolutely exhausting. The abrupt shift from summer fun combined with the anticipation for the upcoming holidays makes me want to hibernate until it’s time to stuff my face full of pecan pie. So while I haven’t been as productive as our cast of (now) ten designers, I can relate to their need for some real-deal rest and relaxation.

Heidi notices straight away that the designers are completely breaking down and rewards their hard work with a surprise trip to Universal Orlando Resorts! In the tropical climate of Florida, the designers meet Tim and Mike West, Director/Executive Producer of Universal Creative, outside of the brand new multi-dimensional attraction Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

In the cheeky way that only Tim can get away with, he announces that the jungle surrounding Skull Island reminds him of another jungle – the urban jungle!

The Challenge:
In one day, with $200 and using their expedition through Skull Island as inspiration, create streetwear looks for the urban jungle – the city.

After their 30 minutes of sketching by the pool, the designers get back on a plane to New York. That wraps up their whirlwind trip to Orlando.

At Mood, Brik and Nathalia make some interesting choices. Brik goes for stripes and geometric shapes in two different fabrics and colors, inspired by I-don’t-know-what, while Nathalia grabs some Kong-inspired faux fur. Laurence chooses a red leather, even though she claims she’s not a “leather designer.” I say she can call herself whatever she likes as long as she keeps delivering those sweet and salty leather looks. Finally, in what he believes to be a stroke of genius, Cornelius grabs yellow leather thinking a pop of color will stand out on the runway. We shall see.

At this point in the competition, some designers are taking some serious risks. Erin is going back to her roots with an embroidery technique that from this angle looks like something my cat destroyed. Dexter is experimenting with a giant, round shoulder. And Brik is doing pants again. This is like the lions and tigers and bears of “Runway.” Embellishments and shoulders and pants, oh my!

During Dexter’s critique, he and Tim reflect on the judges’ comments of late, wondering how they’ll respond if/when Dexter stops playing it safe. Eventually he and Tim both come to the conclusion that you have to be yourself, even if it gets you sent home.

That being said, whatever Brik is doing, he should probably just stop. Is Brik really this stained-glass, Jack Skellington, hodge-podge-of-ideas designer? Why is pairing textiles such a challenge for him? Which part of these fabrics is in reference to Skull Island? Brik is taking a vinyl, geometric-printed material and cutting out and repurposing the shapes to create a top. Tim, possibly hypnotized by the prints, merely offers that Brik should be considerate of the sizes of shapes he creates for the top so as not to make the look too busy. But this look is already so busy, it forgot to pick up its kids from school.

Other notable moments during Tim’s critique: Jenni is keeping her usual customer in mind by cropping her top, Tim is concerned with how much Erin has left to do, Nathalia should probably throw that faux fur in the garbage, and Laurence’s red leather jacket is a thriller. (See what I did there?)

When runway day rolls around, you would think these kids had no idea they would ever be expected to present finished garments. Cornelius and Erin both have to throw together tops for their models. They’re ill-fitting and unfinished. But Cornelius’ model’s chest potentially escaping midst runway walk is the least of their concerns when Heidi announces that going forward there will be no more immunity.

Heidi introduces Zac, Nina, and the guest judges: designer (and investor on “Project Runway: Fashion Startup”) Rebecca Minkoff and actress Carly Chaikin of “Mr. Robot” fame.

The Top:
Dexter: The judges were very mixed on Dexter and it was unclear whether he fell into the top or bottom ranks, but I liked it so I’m going to put it in the top. Pulling quite a bit of inspiration from the female protagonist in the Skull Island ride, Dexter took a green denim and created a sort of “safari street queen” pair of shorts and a jacket. The shoulders of the jacket are oversized and rounded. Underneath, the model wears a cropped, distressed black top. The judges react very differently to Dexter’s look. While Nina agrees with Dexter on the point he makes about working outside the box, Zac and Heidi explain that they don’t find Dexter’s look all that crazy or new. Zac says that he sees “a lot of reference here from a lot of other brands,” and Heidi says “it’s trying too hard to be avant-garde.” Regardless of whether or not they love it, the judges can all agree that the look is a head-turner.

Nathalia: Inspired by the bats at Skull Island, Nathalia has made an exaggerated brown dolman sleeve jacket, a casual khaki trouser, and an ivory top. On the neck of the top and cuffs of the pant, Nathalia has added a ribbed-knit detail that takes the look to a whole new level. Carly is very impressed by how cool and “effortlessly chic” the model looks in the clothes. Zac calls it “impeccable” and compliments Nathalia for channeling her own style into the final look. Nina takes a small issue with the inclusion of a chandelier earring, but otherwise loves the outfit.

Laurence, the winner: Inspired by a terrifying worm-like creature and the actress’ jungle-chic style, Laurence created a khaki drop-crotch pant, simple black tank, and red leather bomber jacket. It’s simple and yet a very smart interpretation of the challenge. Nina loves that Laurence is committed to her signature brand, Zac is impressed with the finish of the look, and Heidi loves everything about the look, even complimenting the styling.

The Bottom:
Erin: Steel-grey matching separates. Spending the majority of her time embroidering random yellow-green patches on the shorts, Erin didn’t have much time to complete her top, which has black sleeves and a back that looks tacked on at the shoulders. Zac says that the patches of embroidery make it look like the model threw up on herself. Rebecca Minkoff says that the construction is off and the embroidery doesn’t look like it has anything to do with the jungle. Nina notes that the whole look feels “immature,” and points out the strange seam down the middle of the top. When Erin explains that she wishes she could have focused more on the top, Heidi is disturbed by the amount of time Erin spent on the embroidery. For me, the whole look is a miss. It doesn’t fit, it’s not flattering, and the concept behind the design is hard to follow.

Brik, the loser: Brik says he was inspired by the multi-dimensional aspect of the Skull Island experience and hoped his look would channel the idea of…stuff coming out at you. It is a black and white striped fitted pant, reminiscent of a zebra. The pants are very well made and tailored to fit the model perfectly, but as Nina points out the print gives the optical illusion that the model’s booty is expanding. The top is a black base with brown and gold tribal-like vinyl cutouts. It is also well made and actually a pretty great top, except that it was paired with this crazy town pant! The past two times Brik has made separates, the judges have had problems with the top and bottom lacking cohesion, and yet still he says of this look, “It didn’t really go together, but it went together in a way?” And then when Nina mentions that she wished that he’d been more considerate of the actual conception of the look and that it feels unplanned, Brik admits that he didn’t plan at all. Ack.

Cornelius: I’m not sure what ride Cornelius was on, but this is much more “early ’90s R&B singer” than Skull Island. It’s a baggy drop-crotch denim pant with patchy, distressed work from the knee down. On top the model wears an unfinished yellow leather halter top that looks several sizes too big. In general, the judges complain that the look is messy and unfinished.

Quick honorable mention goes to Jenni who had immunity but still created a hella cool sweatshirt and pant. I would have given her the win based simply on my own want to wear it. Instead we say congrats to Laurence once again. And sadly, we say goodbye to Brik. He was a fun one to have around, but in the sport of fashion, three strikes means you’re out. He may have lasted longer if he had avoided his Achilles’ heel: separates. I guess all in all, we’re all just Briks in the wall.

Since I know you’re seeking more of me and my clumsily cobbled-together references, you can subscribe to The Official Project Runway Recap Podcast on iTunes or stream it here on

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