Season 15, Episode 8 Recap: Project Pop Up

I’m self-aware enough to know that my love for Cornelius and all his chutzpah is just like having a friend that brings only drama into my life and despite warnings from loved ones, I keep going back. I’m messy and I love it, what can I say?

Anyway, my commitment to Cornelius paid off this week in a big way. Not to skip ahead but our shady prince has an actual confrontation in the Designers’ Lounge after critiques with the judges and it’s so juicy it’s practically Juicy Couture! But let’s rewind.

In the apartments a determined Cornelius promises not to have another “mishap” this week after his mess of a streetwear look landed him in the bottom. The designers meet Tim and Lead Hair Stylist for Sally Beauty, Gregory Patterson on the runway. In a dramatic curtain drop they announce that this week the remaining nine designers will participate in the first ever Project Runway and Sally Beauty Pop Up Color Shop.

The Challenge:

In three teams of three the designers will have one day and $600 to create a cohesive three look Fall collection inspired by a color palette. Their designs will be modeled in a window display in SoHo where the public will vote on which looks appeal to them most. The mini-collection with the most votes will receive a 20% boost to their overall judging.

The Button Bag determines the following teams and color inspirations:

Erin, Dexter, Cornelius are Red Violet, Jenni, Nathalia, Mah-Jing are New Neutral and Roberi, Rik, Laurence are Hues of Blue.

Of course, Dexter and Erin are excited to work together and Cornelius puts on a brave face but is perturbed at the thought of working with best friends. Also perturbed, unsurprisingly, is Mah-Jing. Before they say a word he assumed that Nathalia and Jenni will be resistant to working with him. Meanwhile, the calm cool and collected designers at the adult table, Roberi, Rik and Laurence expect the challenge to run smoothly.

The designers begin sketching and planning their Mood trips in the workroom. Dexter wants his team to take the red looks in a punk direction. Cornelius quietly expresses a genuine and justified concern that there is too much red in their designs but is ignored. The blue team is looking to incorporate geometry and textures. And the neutral team is making the smart choice to add an additional color to the mix to break up all the neutrals.

The trip to Mood is relatively successful for everyone, apart from Cornelius, who, in an effort to tone down the red chose a plaid material. Unfortunately, Erin, who apparently needed it more, quickly sweeps up the plaid. Mah-Jing also worries that his teammates aren’t hearing what he’s saying but manages to find some fabric anyhow.

When Tim comes in for critiques he sees three distinct problems with the different teams. Hues of blues should be concerned about the more straightforward, simple pieces in their collection because they might not stack up to the stronger pieces. He then urges Team Red Violet to think about ways to break up their looks. Cornelius suggests moving his plaid skirt, now paired with a plaid jacket, to be paired with Erin’s redefined motorcycle jacket look. Everyone agrees this is an inspired thought and the team makes the change. This, of course, leaves Cornelius high and dry and scrambling to make a second bottom for his look. Finally, the neutral team has a bad case of the basics. Tim is bored by the whole collection and is concerned that the three designers have “lost themselves.”

The three teams work together to adjust. Well, everyone but the red team. Erin and Dexter laugh and eat and play in the workroom while Cornelius bears the burden of the group’s work like some kind of fashion martyr. Not sure why he didn’t just ask them to do more, they even comment while loafing around about what a hard worker he’s been on this project. As the kid who had no shame in freeloading during a group project, but also as a woman who has more than made up for all of that freeloading in my adult life, I am torn!

The designers perfect their looks and lead the models out to the Pop Up Shop. I have to say, I’m very impressed with my fellow New Yorkers. For one, they actually stopped to look at the looks. Had it been me, I most likely wouldn’t have noticed any of the “Runway”-related kerfuffle. Additionally, these everyday people have super insightful things to say about the looks. Of the neutral collection, one man notes that it feels both modern and vintage. Of Erin’s beautiful red coat, one woman finds hints of classic Chanel. And my favorite comment came from a gorgeous mom standing next to her teen daughter explaining that they chose the blue collection because the tuxedo jacket’s play on old-fashioned vs. modernity and it’s ability to make the wearer feel empowered.

The designers sit watching this all unfold on a monitor behind a curtain. They cheer excitedly every time their collections are chosen or their pieces are called out for praise. Everyone seems to be having a great time apart from Dexter who is noticing that his team isn’t getting the same kind of attention. Irritated, he says that he didn’t expect them to take the process so seriously. That’s New York, man, serious about fashion. Speaking of, let’s get ready to runway!


The next day, Heidi dressed literally in hues of blue, reveals that the winner of the popular vote by the kindly men and women of SoHo was Team New Neutral. The blue dress was a total red herring. Mah-Jing, Nathalia and Jenni will enjoy a 20% leg up on the competition before their looks even walk the runway. They also get $500 to spend at Sally Beauty, which apparently Mah-Jing needs for his well-groomed ‘do.

Heidi then introduces Zac, a sparkly Nina and guest judge Kelly Osbourne. You may know her as a judge on “Project Runway Junior,” but she’s also the author of a new book titled, “There’s No F*cking Secret.”

The Top:

The judges have a difficult time deciding on which look they like most because the whole collection is so smart and cohesive. Each piece makes sense to mix and match and just generally the vibe of the whole collection is perfect.

Look 1: Roberi created a sort of muted royal blue boat-neck sweater with two rectangular indigo patches placed over top, adding some great texture. Underneath is a simple white t-shirt. He also used a blue plaid wool and some black leather to create an asymmetrical skirt worthy of an editorial spread. His blonde model wears a subtle blue ombré in her hair and some simple yet chic black booties. Kelly loves the mix of “structure and texture combined with comfort.”

Look 2: Rik created an effortless shift dress with the white t-shirt material and muted blue silk linen sateen. Over top Rik created a plaid coat with the same tartan plaid wool that Roberi used in his skirt. His model has some blue extensions weaved into a smart braid. Heidi appreciates the detail of the dress and beauty of the coat.

Look 3: Laurence took her signature structured shoulder to a wool fitted jacket with long tails. It’s modern yet classic. Underneath is a simple white t-shirt and on the bottom Laurence’s model wears dark blue slacks. It’s powerful in its simplicity. And the part in her model’s hair is blue! The judges know right away that the jacket is signature Laurence.

The Bottom:

All-in-all the judges didn’t hate the collection but have some issues with it. It is way too red and the promise of a “nod to punk” was never delivered upon.

Look 1: Erin made a long, dark red jacket with oversized 3-dimensional pockets. The cut and fit are immaculate and the detailing on the lapels and hems of the sleeves and coat itself are a sophisticated touch. Underneath, Erin has made a cropped red turtleneck and placed Cornelius’ fitted plaid, thigh-length red pencil skirt. The model has red ombré in her long dark hair. Each model is styled with red socks and black booties.

Look 2: Dexter made a long red vest with a pocketed epaulette and red a-line skirt out of denim. The model wears no top underneath, providing a little bit of relief from the red on red motif. The look is simple and polished but underwhelming. The model’s blonde hair is styled with a thick horizontal band of red hair paint. Kelly says the look is “missing its wow factor,” though once she learns that it is made of denim, she and Nina are a bit more impressed.

Look 3: Cornelius created a fitted short red plaid jacket with leather detail and pleated red skirt. They have embellished this model’s black hair with red extensions, which wrap around her ponytail. She also carries a red fringe bag. Kelly points out that the skirt is a bit ill fitted and ill finished.

After discussing the pieces the judges ask each member of the team to c hoose who they would send home. With no hesitation, Dexter chooses Cornelius. Erin has a more difficult time pointing the finger and says that since the judges didn’t love the pleated skirt, and Cornelius made that skirt, maybe he should go home. When Zac then asks who conceived the skirt Cornelius bites back, explaining that the skirt was Erin’s idea and that he carried the team.

The tension only grows when the designers return to the Designers’ Lounge. They begin explaining what went down and Cornelius and Dexter get into a heated fight without ever actually looking at each other! Mah-Jing jumps in between them, though it’s unclear whether that was ever necessary, and when Cornelius is eliminated by the judges, no one is happier than Dexter.

But then, Tim comes in and reveals the most coveted and intangible object of desire: his Tim Gunn Save. Meanwhile, all of this drama overshadows the fact that Roberi is the winner of this challenge! Both outcomes feel well deserved and in my humble opinion, Roberi’s win was a long time coming.

Tune in next week as Dexter vs. Cornelius goes into overtime and in the meantime, stay serious about fashion.

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