Richard absolutely wins this episode for employing the phrase "RuPaul meets 'Gilligan's Island'" and by extension filling my mind with visions of an incredible celeb and drag queen-filled themed photo shoot. Someone call Annie Liebovitz!
I've always loved the now-infamous Unconventional Challenge (so infamous it gets capitalized!) and this season's contribution to the pantheon doesn't disappoint. Tim kicks things off with a little shakeup: bottom-placing Dream Team, down to five members, can snag two designers from Keeping It Real, who can then steal one of Dream Team's original designers for themselves. DT smartly chooses solid utility players Stanley and Layana. Keeping It Real makes the equally sound move to grab Michelle, one of the few Dream Team designers to stand out for good work instead of bad. The Season 11 group might not have been prepared for the team angle, but they've caught on quickly to the strategy that must be employed toahemmake it work.
Tim announces that the teams have two days and $2,500 a piece to spend on this challenge, which is fabulous. More time + more money = better looks. Working with weird materials means the designers need all the time and money they can get.
The shopping portion of the unconventional challenge is a make-or-break moment. Flowers, plants and hardware are more difficult to measure in large quantities than fabric, and it's inevitable that someone will wind up with an uncooperative (or surprisingly ugly) material, so the choices the designers make here are crucial. Wire, twine, tape, buckets, clasps, blinds, stacks upon stacks of petals and branches and leaves? I wouldn't know where to start.
But these groups don't get the luxury of complaining! So they get to work. The results are actually kind of awesome. Stanley's forcefulness in pushing Dream Team's "1950s Dior" style results in a collection that's impressively cohesive. Team Keeping It Real's errs when they forge ahead on individual looks without concerning themselves with a unifying them. But the judges (including the incomparable Bette Midler and the man repeller herself, Leandra Medine) seem to genuinely love every piece that walk the runway, so let's get to it:
Dream Team - Top (Finally!)
The judges really love this collection, and I don't blame them one bit. There are a lot of details to appreciate, from Layana's delicate cage skirt with dainty flower embellishment to Tu's gorgeous, seemingly wooden blouse, and of course Benjamin's painstaking loom work. But the judges single out Samantha's mesh peplum-y skirt and lattice top for the win.
Team Keeping It Real - Not The Top (But Not the Bottom?)
The lack of a convincing theme gives the edge to their opposition, but the judges like Keeping It Real's set of looks as well. The judges come down hard on Joe's oversize sweater dress (which I loved) and have surprisingly little to say about Patricia's. . .inventive Mother Nature dress/shawl-looking thing. The rest of the team points at Amanda's minidress as the source of their problems, but the judges have the final say on these matters and choose Joe to depart our little game.
We didn't get to see a whole lot from his this season, but I really appreciated Joe's zen, wholly unique take on fashion. Do you think Joe should have been auf'd? If not, who deserved to be cut? Which runway looks caught your eye? And if you had to design an outfit based on either florals or hardware, which would you choose to work with?