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Season 13, Episode 11: Unmannerly Auf

Posted By laurareineke 4:36am GMT

As we head to the (almost) home stretch of this season of "Project Runway" we are down to only six designers. The quick intro recap of this week's episode reminds us that hipster boy Alexander was out on his hideous Part 2 look, there was also Char's ZipperGate, plus, Korina won. Something tells me this episode will deal with the latter two designers. Just a "Nick Intuition."

The designers wake up at their Gotham West apartments (do they really sleep NEXT to the kitchens!?) to find a Samsung Tablet with Heidi telling them that they are to meet Tim Gunn at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She adds that "You will need to UNLOCK your creativity" and "Open the door to your imagination...which is the KEY to your success in your next challenge." An hour or so later, they meet up with Tim where he is waiting with five storage units behind him.

Tim tells the designers that these units contain the materials for their next challenge and they will be working in teams of two (uh oh, another Team Challenge!). Tim gets that button bag and randomly (NOT!) selects the teams. Amanda and Kini are Team Blue, Emily and Korina are Team Purple, and Sean and Char are Team Green. And in typical "Project Runway" Challenge fashion, there's more: an auction. There are five storage units and each team has $500 to bid on a unit -- or units. Since there are only three teams, at least one team will end up with more than one unit and what's inside. Finally, Tim announces what the Challenge is (I was wondering if that was ever was going to happen!): Create two cohesive looks from found materials in the storage bins.

Storage bin #1 was filled with furniture and sold to Emily and Korina; they also bid for Bin #4 which had textiles, fabric and a wedding dress. Bin #2 had children's toys, soccer balls, beach stuff and a psychedelic Stephen Sprouse-like yeti poster, and it went to Amanda and Kini. Bin #3 went to Sean and Char with scarcely anything but a packing blanket. They also bid and won Bin #5 which had lots of leather and suitcases. Tim tells the designers that they get 30 minutes to grab all they can.

Back in the workroom, the teams are busy creating their two looks. Of note on Day One, Sean and Char are struggling a little bit since Sean feels overwhelmed with having to help and assist Char with construction. Day Two brings a twist: Tim Gunn announces to the designers that they are to create a THIRD look. The teams get $100 each to go to Mood and shop.

Tim checks in with Team Purple. He thinks Emily's look is a mess and reminiscent of Sponge Bob Squarepants (I do too!). I also personally think their looks are a bit all over the place, too "Winter Heavy." Reminds me of a cuckoo Tarot Card reader living in fictional Portlandia...or Siberia. Naturally, Tim thinks Sean's look for Team Green is "remarkable." Is there anything that boy does that Tim doesn't like? Well, maybe not the lampshade dress he's making. Last but not least, he concedes that Team Blue's creations are "a lot of look." He even adds that Kini's creation reminds him of a teenage hooker. Ouch. I agree with Tim; it all looks tacky-licious. Luckily -- and thank goodness for Tim's not-so-subtle comments -- Kini and Amanda change things in their mini collection, and for the better, we later find out. Seeing Kini make a gathered ball gown skirt out of plastic tablecloth material in less than the 3 hours left in the workroom day was EVERYTHING.

Judges Zac Posen, Nina Garcia, Heidi and Season 4 winner Christian "Fierce" Siriano are there to give their two cents on the "Storage Bin Chic" challenge.

Team Blue's creations are first. Up until halfway through this episode, it seemed (via the editing) that Kini and Amanda would not be safe. But alas, we were fooled (or at least, I was!). They were FABULOUS. I loved the cropped jacket made of the "psychedelic yeti" poster and yes, Kini's ball gown skirt was Met Gala chic. But the star was Kini's soccer ball dress. You know when Nina Garcia can barely speak, it's good. This creation should go down in "Project Runway" history as one of the best; top ten for sure.

Team Green's designs are next and while I like Sean's blue coat, his black lampshadedress is restrictive and very "amateur Gaultier." I have to ask: Who is Sean? (Design-wise.) Char's bomber jacket and dress was hoochie-licious. Zac called it a "walk of shame" dress and he was right.

Finally, Team Purple's designs. I completely disliked these. I thought Emily's football-shoulder coat with fur collar didn't make any sense and Korina's Machu Picchu-meets-Navajo poncho look was a layered confusing mess. When Korina kept saying that at least hers was wearable -- a "snap" to Sean and Char's looks -- I thought "Wow! This girl is ready for a runway fight." In addition, Korina continued to argue with Nina (and the rest of the judges, for that matter). I always cringe when "Project Runway" contestants do that; this always comes off badly. My advice is just to sit there, smile uncomfortably and take it. You will NEVER win with the editing department if you do anything else.

It was pretty obvious who the top team was and more importantly, the best designer: Kini. He won this challenge for that soccer ball dress. And now, the bottom. The judges deliberated and they put Char and Korina as the worst. But they can't make up their minds who was worthy of going home. Heidi announces that there is a Twist to the auf: there will be a Sew-Off between Char and Korina. They will have one hour to create a new look using fabrics left over from previous challenges. Korina fails and Char succeeds.

The entire time Korina is sewing her creation, she is bitter and Meany McMeany. I always say that you have to "Sew with Love" and well, this was a perfect example where that didn't happen, and the final result showed it. Char's cobalt blue dress with chiffon back cape was the better of the two and Korina was OUT. In typical Korina fashion, she could not understand the outcome and argued with Char in front of the other designers and Tim. It was very uncomfortable and, most of all, really tacky of Korina. I just about fell off my couch when she said to Char "It's not about you!" Yep Korina, it's always about YOU. Congrats darling, you just cemented your place in "Project Runway Villain" history. What a way to go. I wish her all the success but hopefully with time, she will be served many slices of humble pie; the fashion industry has a way of dishing those out. Trust me. Oh, and I'm sure we'll see her in a future season of "Project Runway All Stars." Guaranteed.


Generation HP

Posted By laurareineke 4:15am GMT

Previously on "Project Runway": the UBER SUPER DUPER fans were celebrated with their very own episode, while designer Ken's anger management issues were "celebrated" as well, for the world to see. I still can't get the image out of my head of Ken looking like Faye Dunaway in "Mommy Dearest," shrieking and yelling at the top of his lungs. Besides myself, I'm thinking that most viewers -- and I'm sure everyone associated with the production of the show (oh those poor talent coordinators, P.A.'s, camera and sound people) -- were happy to see Ken get the "You're out!î from Fr‰ulein Heidi. I hear Ken's trash-talking on Twitter, saying he purposely threw the competition (what is this, ìBig Brother"?) as well as dissing Lifetime's target audience. Bless his heart. Now that the nastiness is gone, let's get back to designing and one of my favorite challenges of the show.

YAY: It's The HP Challenge!
After changing from his "Therapist Tim" uniform back to his "Mentor/Co-Host Tim" ensemble, Tim Gunn walks into the lounge, greeting the remaining seven designers and introducing Rob Le Bras-Brown, Senior VP at HP Worldwide Marketing. He is there to announce that this is the HP and Intel Textile Design Challenge. Usually, during this much-anticipated episode, the designers create a print inspired by something personal or their surroundings. This time, it will be different: They will be inspired by a "Next-Gen Innovator. The winning designer and his or her Innovator partner will get an HP Technology Suite consisting of the Split X-2 and Notebook Rove.

Designer/Next-Gen Innovator Pairings:
Helen, who won last weekís challenge, gets first pick and chooses Ryan Keeley, an artist who combines painting with new media and technology. Bradon is with Nigel Sylvester, a world-recognized DMX rider/entrepreneur and youth mentor. Alexandria chooses Ilana Greenberg, a top graphic designer who uses her creativity to advance social causes. Alexander is with Thiago Silva, Executive Pastry Chef at Catch Restaurant (who coincidentally has THE BEST EYEBROWS EVAH). Kate chooses Maria Gonzalez, teen software developer and creator of the app ìSay Somethingî to help homeless individuals. Justin goes for Nana Meriwether, Miss USA 2012, who created a foundation focusing on education and health in Africa. Dom gets Premal Shah, co-founder of KIVA.org, a crowdfunding organization for entrepreneurs worldwide.

After visiting with their innovators, the designers go back to the Parsons workroom where there are FAB HP Envy Roves for each designer to create their original prints. After they are done, the prints are sent to Dynamics (a textile/print printing company) and in 24 hours...poof! The prints are done and on the designers' workroom tables, ready for some designin'.

Afterschool Special Helen
Tim makes his requisite check-in to see how the designers are doing. He's crazy about Dom's bold graphic print (so am I). Bradon wants to make a long A-line skirt out of his "washed" plaid print but Tim is perplexed by this, which leads Bradon to nix that idea (good). Helen is just an overall weepy mess, over-thinking every drape, cut and seam she makes, and asking advice from her fellow designers. Famed bloggers Tom and Lorenzo refer to her as an "Afterschool Special" and that pretty much sums it up. I'll also add that she reminds me of one of my first quarter students at fashion school. I think at this point she shouldn't be acting like a student but more like a full-fledged designer. On top of all that, Helen keeps saying that she doesn't "do prints" which of course leads me to yell at the TV, "Well, GIRL, you better start now!"

The Runway
The following day, the designers are working frantically to finish their looks. When the camera quickly pans to Kate's look on the model, I just about lose it: WHERE'S THE PRINT, KATE? It's a PRINT Challenge! Did she not get the memo? I just know she'll be on the bottom. Onto the runway: Miss Nina is back from her Capri vacation (in my dreams) and designer Peter Som is the guest judge. Here is what I wrote in my sitting-at-home judge's notecard:

Bradon - Love the bomber jacket. The black tube dress is sexy and once again, his model Ya works it OVERTIME (that girl can wear a garbage bag and make it look couture). But I'm a little dumbfounded by the lack of print used in the entire look.

Justin - Love the top section but from the hips down, a mess. There was too much white and once again (for me), not enough celebration of the print. P.S., the fact that it kind of looked like a pageant gown was NOT a bad thing, at least to me. It was just a poorly designed and constructed pageant gown.

Kate - Oh honey. What happened? What are all those godets? And where is the print? Why is it hidden? She really didn't get the memo. Hasn't she watched past seasons and the amazing work designers like Mondo and Emilio Sosa did for this challenge? Bottom for sure.

Alexander - All I wrote was "he's going home." Oh, and yes, she looks like a high-priestess of the Catholic Chocolate Factory.

Dom - THE WINNER, by far. Hot, gorgeous, celebratory and exactly the kind of look (and perfect use of print) for THE PRINT CHALLENGE!

Alexandria - Alexandria says in her voice-over, "It's cool. It's well made." And my response to her is "No and No." What is that jacket? What is that skirt? And why does the top make the model look as if she's got a pooch? The look is dated and tacky, like for some Club Kid in 2002.

Helen - Miss weepy-mess Helen pulled this look out of nowhere. Good for her. I liked it. It was very on-trend; every other collection during the latest NY Fashion Week showed midriff-baring crop tops. And she used the print well. Only complaint: Too short in the front.

Print Celebration
After the designs come out, Miss Heidi warns that there will be one winner and that one...OR TWO...will be out. She's done this before, almost every season in fact, and lots of times, it's just a faux warning. Not this time, darlings. By the luck of the 2002 Club Kids Gods, Alexandria is safe. I cannot imagine how. Dom's bold and graphic dress is the winner, of course. I additionally praise her for cutting those raglan sleeves so beautifully, especially with that stiff twill fabric they had to use.

One...Or Two...Will be Out
The bottom, unsurprisingly, are Kate and Alexander. Alexander's is criticized for not being "yummy, sweet or sexy" and for looking like a chocolate cult leader (thank you Zac Posen. Whenís your next Comedy Show?). Then there's little Kate. I wish I could put Nina Garcia's "Ohhhh God!" remark (when discussing Kate's dress) on a running GIF loop and watch it EVERY other day. Classic Donít-Mess-With-Me Nina. Alexander is first to be waved goodbye and then it's just Kate. I would have bet money she was staying. She has done so well throughout the season and in fact many fans/viewers suggested that she was the "chosen one" and might win the whole thing; perfect "comeback kid" story. But alas, it wasnít meant to be. In a double elimination shocker, Kate is indeed out. During the goodbyes, Dom tells a weepy Kate how amazing of her that she even did the show a second time. And I wanted to tell Dom, "Honey, don't worry. I have a feeling Kate will be back a THIRD time...I can just imagine her in an upcoming season 'Project Runway All Stars.'" Iíll bet money on that one.


Do Not Disappoint Nina!

Posted By kim_messina 4:03am GMT

Last week's HP Challenge episode garnered a win for Stanley and sent Richard packing to join the rest of the eliminated designers in a secret undisclosed location. This week, the episode begins right after the elimination as Tim and Heidi announce to the remaining five designers that it’s time for each of them to "work on your own." There will be NO MORE TEAMS! After the screams of joy dissipate, Heidi reminds them, however, that it is still "Project Runway: Teams Edition" and that tomorrow they will be getting "helpers" and sewing assistants for their next challenge. Oh, what fun. Not.

No, No, No
The following day, Tim takes the designers to the Hearst Building, home of Marie Claire Magazine, where Nina Garcia is waiting for them to announce their new challenge: to create a fashion-forward editorial look for actress Jordana Brewster. The winning look will be featured in the May 2013 edition of Marie Claire. Nina then sets the "Nina Rules": NO red carpet, NO gowns, NO t-shirt and pants, it must be EDITORIAL plus be bold in color, shape and silhouette. Before saying Adios, Nina reminds the designers of two very important Nina-isms: Do Not Disappoint or Embarrass Miss Nina. Got it. Bueno.

Free Labor
After Mood shopping, they all head to the workroom where Tim introduces them to their "sewing assistants": the last five eliminated designers Amanda, Kate, Richard, Samantha and Tu (PS: How lucky were all those early eliminated designers?!). Stanley (who won the last challenge) gets first pick on his helper and chooses Tu. Although he says that he chose Tu because he is an excellent sewer, I think the true reason is that he knew that he could easily boss him around.

So Over The Button Bag
Tim then brings out the dreaded button bag to "decide" who the next ones to choose are. Michelle picks Amanda, Daniel is with Samantha, Layana gets Kate and Patricia is last (of course) and she gets her nemesis of last week, Richard. Now, can we please stop this charade that the names are chosen at random? It’s been eleven seasons and unless you are THE MOST NAÏVE VIEWER in TV history, you know that the names have been pre-chosen.

Downtrodden and Helpless
Naturally, Patricia is feeling downtrodden and helpless with the thought of working with Richard, again. I would be too. But this added stress is pushing her to her breaking point. Throughout her time in the workroom, she is mentally, physically and creatively spent. It’s easy to say, "GURL! Snap out of it!" but in that surreal bubble that is "Project Runway" and all the level of stress that comes with that, I can understand sinking deeper and deeper into a black hole of creative suffocation.

Sewing 101
And Richard ain’t helping. Patricia asks him to French seam a dress she's making so then she can work on other things and lo and behold, Richard doesn’t know how to do a French seam. She therefore has to waste valuable time teaching him which is so embarrassing, for Richard. What so-called designer coming onto "Project Runway" does not know how to French seam?! No excuse. Seriously, these last two episodes have been the worst public relations moments for Richard Hallmarq. Not only did he make a fug-a-licious look last week and was annoying to work with, now, all of America (and the rest of the world) knows he can’t sew a basic French seam. File under: bless his heart.

Bossy Lady
Besides the Patricia and Richard drama, we’ve also got Stanley and Tu. Little Tu is doing as much as he can but every other second Bossy Stanley thinks he is the Joan Crawford of the Fashion Design World and Tu is his own little Christina. Stanley is yelling orders and treating Tu like he was a sweatshop worker in a Third World country; Tu can’t talk, sleep, or take a coffee break. But as we soon find out, it was all for good and being a tyrant in the workroom ends up being a positive for Stanley.

The Top
It’s Runway Day and besides the news that Zac Posen is back from my fantasy Amalfi Coast vacation, Nina and Heidi are there, as well as actress Jordana Brewster who will be wearing whatever fabulous ensemble the winning designer made for her for the Marie Claire editorial. Here are my "Nick Two Cents" on the designs: First off, I thought Stanley’s creation was odd. The culottes looked like they were muslin and not some expensive fabric. The shape was interesting but at the same time, looked dated and not so directional. The leather jacket was well-done (Go Team Tu!), but the coloring of the brown with the off-white pants was off. Ah well, what do I know: the judges LOVED it! Nina couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was, so he won. Layana’s was very referential to me. Zac (my new best friend!) correctly pointed out that it was very Paco Rabanne. I did appreciate how she tried to mimic the architecture of the Hearst Building on her leather and chain top although, I did not like the skirt silhouette; it didn’t make sense with the rest of the look. But once again, the judges liked it, all of it. (I need to make an appointment with my optometrist, soon!)

The Bottom…Kind Of
Daniel’s lemon yellow shorts and exaggerated shouldered jacket looked like a cross between bunny ears and a costume from "Star Trek," as the judges correctly pointed out. I was not a fan. I thought his outfit was contrived and too gimmicky. But somehow, he got praise and excused, for at least "going there." Michelle’s look was comprised of two "Nina No-No’s": a t-shirt and pants. I actually liked this and thought it was a very chic-looking t-shirt and pants, but it was a t-shirt and pants nonetheless. When Nina reminded Michelle of this plus the fact that it was a rather "pedestrian" look with little "fantasy" editorial appeal, I understood more why she was going to be in the bottom. Speaking of bad, Patricia’s was a Pocahontas mess. It looked like student work; the construction was wonky and the fit was not flattering. You could see all the pain and hardship she went through in the past 24 hours all in that one dress. So who goes home?

Do or Die…in Europe?
I could tell halfway through Heidi’s recap of the designers and their looks during the deliberation that NO ONE was going home; she was excusing each and every one of them and finding a positive. So, it came as no surprise to me that no one was aufed. Michelle was the last woman standing and as Heidi tells her that she’s in, she adds that this is a "do or die" moment and that she’s being given one more chance. What does that mean Heidi? Please explain? Well, there’s no explanation just a "to be continued." Next week’s preview shows that the designers are all going to Europe (so jealous!) and wait, why is there no Michelle? Uh Oh...



Posted By kim_messina 4:51am GMT

Last night's "Project Runway" was one of those episodes that left me saying "Wh-Wh-What?", mainly because a designer stayed, even though in my eyes they did the worst job. In addition, I think it was one of the first times a designer was NOT eliminated for doing Safe and Boring. The episode left me quite dumbfounded, trying to justify in my mind the outcome. All I could think is that the judges looked at the designers' overall work as opposed to the actual design for THIS challenge at hand. And they always say they do not do that — but it's obvious they do. There's more that irked me — and yes, things that I LOVED — so, allow me to give my "Nick Two Cents" for this week.

Oh Baby!

There are only six designers left on this season and therefore they are feeling the pressure as they get closer to the grand prize. This week, they all go to a Babies"R"Us store, where Heidi and Tim are waiting. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to guess what this challenge will be. Heidi has a new line of affordable baby clothing, "Truly Scrumptious", that sells exclusively at Babies"R"Us. The challenge this week is to create a look for this line that will then, be manufactured and sold at "Babies 'R' Us". Heidi tells the designers that there will be 2 winning looks — one boy and one girl — and they only have one day to do it.

Why Do I Care What The Mommies Like to Wear?

The designers' tepid yet pretending-to-be-excited reactions are priceless. Before they can run out and say "I'm Outta Here!", the dreaded velvet bag comes out and each designer is "assigned" their baby models and respective moms. Each designer confers with the moms as to what their needs and style ideas are for their toddlers. The mom's are also describing their own styles, which makes me wonder, "Why do I care what YOU like to wear..." unless (cue the dramatic music in my brain) there might be a TWIST later and they have to design for the mommies too (not my first time at the "'Project Runway' Rodeo"). The only thing that's memorable from this consultation is when Nanci (Christopher's baby momma) says "Dior uses a lot of tulle" in talking about the children's clothes. In case y'all are not aware, a "Baby Dior" tulle dress — for a BABY — goes for $3,680. I instantly think "Oh no, this one's a DIVA!" Later we find out, she was.

Faux Babies...Why?

The designers head back to Parsons where Ms. Klum left them dossiers, fabric, notions and trims from her "Truly Scrumptious" collection so their creations can coordinate with the rest of her line. There are also toddler body forms and a "special surprise": Lifelike Crying Baby Dolls. Yeah, the kind those "16 and Pregnant" girls use. They cry, cry and cry; when they need to be fed, rocked or diaper changed. Is this really necessary, I wonder? The explanation — from Poppa Tim — was that they are there so the designers know "what goes into creating baby clothes." I don't even think he believed what he said. It seemed like a forced edition to the episode that didn't really need it. This became more evident as WAY too much time was wasted showing the stressed out designers trying to care for their "babies" as opposed to actually creating their designs. More importantly, as a viewer, all that faux baby crying really got on MY last nerve.

Mommy Wear?

After much Rock-a-Bye-Baby-at-Parsons time, Tim and Heidi check in on the designers. They give good constructive critiques to the likes of Dmitry (His red hooded jumpsuit seems disjointed, they say) and Melissa (Her printed leggings and basic vest lacks a "fun factor"). Heidi then announces "The Twist": they have to also design and create a companion look for the mommies (PS: I told you so!). There is good news, however. They are given an extra day to do it and the judges will really be judging on the baby couture and not really the mom's ensemble. After Mood shopping and a sleepless night tending to their faux-bies, I think even the novelty of having these crying dolls got on the producer's nerves as Tim walks in to whisk them away to "Day Care," only to never be seen, and more importantly, heard from again.

Under No Circumstances

The designers continue working on the mom and baby creations and have fittings. Melissa doesn't have anything for the mom and is having fit issues, actually having trouble putting a dress on her baby (That's never good). Christopher has to deal with yes, that Diva mommy, Nanci. She hates her child's dress saying that "under no circumstances" would her daughter ever wear that. How do I say this politely? Nanci, SHUT UP and let the designer do his job. Thank you. She also dismisses the dress Christopher made for her out of a beautiful Oscar de la Renta flower print fabric, calling it a "1970s tablecloth." Wow, she's going to come off real good (NOT!). The following day, she quickly apologized to Christopher for her grating remarks, possibly realizing my previous sentence. Bless her heart.

Hey Jude!

Runway Day and guest judge, actress and new mom Hilary Duff is on hand to check out the Cradle Catwalk. Remember that there will be two winners — one boy look and then a girl look. The best boy looks are Fabio's practical blue onesie finished with a baby baseball cap. I thought that Dmitry's red hooded jumper was whimsical but possibly too "costumey" (judges agreed). Sonjia's outfit for her cutie patootie Jude was PERFECT. His grey and blue lapelled knit "suit" was polished, modern and as Heidi said, "sharp." Hers was the clear winner, helped by the fact that Jude, her baby model, was ADORABLE. A big ol' ham, as they say.

Sunday Brunch Princess

In terms of the best for the baby girl look, it was Christopher's white appliqué dress that was the clear winner. Christopher's "Special Occasion" dress would guarantee cries of "Oooh She Looks So Precious" at any brunch, church or birthday party from all the jealous moms. It was a MAJAH slap in the face for Diva Mom Nanci (who HATED the little dress) and so I could totally see Christopher privately grinning just a little bit more.

Worst Didn't Go Home...

And now to the bottom. Elena's baby look was all over the place. Yes, it was too much. The jacket was interesting but then she tried to throw in everything AND the proverbial kitchen sink. But at least there was something to talk about. Whereas Melissa's — who struggled up until the end of this challenge — was ba-ba-boring. To me, without question, Melissa's was the worst. It had no design appeal and fit badly (Baby Diaper Britney Moment!). The jacket was OK, but take out the back detail and what do you have, an unexciting black jacket. And the moms? What the heck was happening with the crotch of those wrinkled pants? She looked homeless and sad. So...Elena goes home. Wh-Wh-What?

Judging the Judges

I'm sure it is tough for the judges to have to eliminate designers based on the challenge (especially such a silly challenge as this) while still keeping the end result in mind...who the actual winner will be. But the more surprising and exciting result would be if they actually eliminated the worst designer based on the challenge. What a novel idea!!


Project "I Don't Care How She Gets Into It"

Posted By LisaRaphael 5:09pm GMT

Anthony Ryan and his Hippy Dippy Navajo-print Girls are gone. Sigh. I fantasize that they're probably enrolling in a Women's Studies Program in New Mexico — with their mohawk'ed "Best Gay." For now, six designers are left. Now what? Here's a sampling: Birds, birds, and more birds, plus a head-to-head challenge with A LOT of twists and a $20,000 prize! There are glue-gun meltdowns and the infamous Project Seamstress or Project "Make It Work" Dilemma. It's enough to drive a boy to ... write a recap.

$20,000, Sweetie Darling
We begin with our fourth Advertorial Challenge (but who's counting!). This one is different. For starters, it's L'Oréal. Second, there are birds waiting for the designers back at Parsons as their next challenge is announced: they must create a high-fashion runway look inspired by a cockatoo, a parrot, a raven and (if you look closely …) an owl! The six designers are split into teams of two and given their Bird Inspiration. Anya and Laura get the raven, Joshua and Bert get "Sweetie" (how ironic) the parrot, and Viktor and Kimberly get the cockatoo. The owl gets left behind, unfortunately. Finally, what makes this challenge really different? The prize (besides the Marie Claire/L'Oréal advertorial): a $20,000 check. Shut. The. Front. Door.

Head to Runway Head
Twist No. 1: Instead of competing against the other teams, they are competing HEAD TO HEAD — against each other. As original as this "Head to Head" component was, I was a bit questionable of the idea: What if both members of a team were equally FABULOUS? What then? Moving on …

Twist No. 2: After the designers have been working for a full day, Tim walks in to announce that they are to create a SECOND look as well, and they are given $300! "Project Runway" has definitely upped the budget! I remember having $30 to make a flower dress!

Kimberly and Tim Gunn hug in the workroomThe Unraveling of Kim
Day 2, and stress is in the air. Joshua hates his first creation (with good reason — it looks like a pleated nightgown for a woman who pops a lot of pills!). He asks Anya if he can borrow fabric. She disregards him, acting as if he's speaking in tongues. Kimberly begins unraveling emotionally. She's having issues: She sews through her finger, and her fabric gets stained. Oh, and a glue gun melts a hole in her dress. Not a good Kimberly Day. Bathroom crying ensues. Anya and Laura console her, as well as Tim, who gives her a "Poppa Gunn" hug.

Girl, I Feel For You ...
I unraveled and almost threw in the Frette towel back in my season. It's a result of the abnormal and surreal work environment and pressures of the competition, so I get it, Kimberly. In my case, I had my own Anya and Laura in the form of my fellow designer (Daniel Vosovic) who pulled me aside and read me the "You've Lasted This Long ... Don't Give Up" Riot Act. I snapped back. So did Kimberly. She decides to make a new dress with only THREE hours remaining in the day. As Tim is about to lock the workroom doors, he announces Twist No. 3: Only one look will go down the runway. Stress relieved.

Project I-Don't-Care-How-She-Gets-Into-It
Runway Day, and Anya is struggling to get her model into her dress, after inexplicably forgetting to put an opening/closure. She seam-rips it open and sews it back (or glue-guns it, who knows?) Well, that little detail of construction ignorance did not sit well with Viktor and Joshua, the "Sewing & Construction Stepsisters."

Anya on the runway Here's the deal: I know it's frustrating when you see and know how some of your fellow designers can barely construct a garment but then are able to "Make It Work" come runway time. We all must come to realize that the judges don't care how the model gets into the outfit and arrives on the runway. They turn a blind eye to sloppy hand-sewing and glue guns. Yes, they praise good construction and sewing, but they praise design, presentation, good taste level and the "It Factor" more. There is NOTHING in the "Project Runway" Rulebook that says that it needs to be made so well that it can be sold in a store and worn by an actual non-model in an everyday situation THAT NIGHT. Is it fair? No. But again, as Ms. Kors has repeated several times this season, "It's NOT Project Seamstress, it's Project RUNWAY."

Miss Elie Saab 2011 or Miss Anya
Speaking of The Runway, Francisco Costa, Women's Wear Creative Director for Calvin Klein, is the guest judge for this challenge. Kimberly, Joshua and Anya are deemed the best. Kimberly's "3-Hour Gown" was very Elie Saab and yes, a little pageant-y, as Nina Garcia said. The construction was wonky (what were those unintentional mini-pleats in the waist?), but overall, it was an elegant and sensual representation of her bird. Joshua did a one-shoulder side-cowl draped orange cocktail number that wasn't Bedazzled or tacky-licious. Also — interestingly enough — it was VERY "Sophisticated '70s." Why didn't he do THAT dress in the previous challenge? Anya's edgy, black, high-necked, shoulder-capped dress was exceptional (minus the "How Does She Get Into It" factor). It was my favorite, in fact, reminding me a lot of the dresses Karl Lagerfeld just showed in his Chanel Spring 2012 Collection in Paris. She wins, much to the dismay of her "Construction Stepsisters."

Shredded vs. Un-Joyous
Viktor's shredded gown was not a favorite and was labeled too literal by the judges. For me, a bigger problem is why he didn't line the entire floor-length skirt? I know the whole transparency thing is "In," but there's a difference between when Frida Giannini of Gucci did it (Fall/Winter 2011) and when Viktor attempted it. Laura's too-tight skinny pants and bird-feather-like-neckline jacket was not High Fashion Runway. But poor Bert; his strapless faux-python-skin bustier with matching belt and multi-layered-skirt gown with a center front slit was oh-so-boring, not joyous and, more importantly — as the judges (again) correctly stated — not NEW or INTERESTING. It also looked like a Pageant Gown that a Miss Cayman Islands would wear — in 1998! And when Bert got the boot, even he concurred that "You (the judges) made the right choice." Yep, they finally did.