As if we needed confirmation that Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn know how to make it work! Yesterday the "Project Runway" hosts took home the 2013 Emmy award for Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program. "OMG, I am in a state of apoplexy! Love to everyone," Tim tweeted after their win. And Heidi echoed his sentiment, tweeting, "We won!!!!!!! yay!!!!!"
Send Heidi and Tim your congrats!
Photo: Mark Davis/Getty Images
We're nine challenges in and the designers have wised up. When Heidi and Tim offer them a relaxed sit-down brunch, the gang immediately starts to brainstorm how it might tie in to their next task. "Do you think we're designing for a garden party?" "Mad Hatter's tea party." "Socialite women." "Maybe [the clients are] our servers." Tim finally clues them in: They'll be designing for the modern Southern woman, or more specifically, the Belk customer. The look can be for day or evening. 30 minutes to sketch, a suggested Mood budget between $200 and $250, and -- as usual so far this season -- they have a day to finish. The winning look will be sold in Belk stores and on belk.com.
"Southern" means different things to different people. Alexander, Alexandria, and Helen admit outright that they don't know who this customer is at all. On the other end of the spectrum, Dom and Ken feel self-assured since they both hail from Southern families. (Dom's family is from New Orleans; Ken's is from Birmingham, Alabama.) Dom and Ken roll their eyes at the stereotypical understanding of the South that their fellow designers latch on to. "Tim said to design for the modern Southern woman, not 'Little House on the Prairie,'" Ken says as Bradon, Alexander and Alexandria gravitate toward plaid fabrics and flouncy skirts. Dom agrees: "The women in my family? They're not going to throw some polyester plaid dress on. These aren't farm boys. They're people who live in cities."
Interestingly, the judges feel the opposite about the looks that are eventually sent down the runway. They dislike the bottom three -- Dom, Jeremy, and Ken -- so much that they send those designers back to the workroom for 60 minutes to either create a new look or alter the garments they've already made to better match the goal of the challenge. Twist! (Helen, Alexander and Kate are brought in as reinforcements, thank goodness.)
Our guest judges: Belk's Executive VP of Private Brands, John Thomas, and "Supermarket Superstar" host Stacy Keibler.Top Three
Bradon - A sleeveless cotton shirtdress with a high-low hemline done in a sort of pastel madras plaid. The judges really like it, citing the sex appeal and modern feel of the silhouette as a huge plus. Plus it's made well. Bradon wins.
Kate - An empire-waist dress with cap sleeves in a bright orange, white, and pink print. Heidi thinks the model looks pregnant (no surprise -- she never seems to like empire waists, which do add volume to thin women but are usually very flattering on average- or plus-size figures) but Nina and Stacy both adore the colors and the print.
Alexander - A painted-plaid patterned handkerchief-hem dress with a sweetheart neckline at the fitted bodice. John and Stacy both love the way it moves on the runway. The bodice earns praise for being nicely constructed and the judging panel agrees that the overall look is fresh and young.
Dom - Dom, frustrated with landing in the safe zone nearly every challenge so far, wants to show the judges that she's capable of making tightly designed, pattern-free work, so she sends this floor-length cap-sleeved purple and green gown down the runway. Nina is disappointed in the color and Zac just seems bored.
Heidi LOVES Dom's second, totally different look, an asymmetrically draped, flirty dress in a black and white pattern. Zac, Nina, and Stacy love its effortless style, and John Thomas loves it so much that he decides to produce it for Belk along with Bradon's. This means that Dom is a winner of the challenge, too. Yay Dom!
Ken - A floor-length deep purple racerback gown. Zac likes the color but calls the dress "a beautifully-cut purple nightgown." Heidi and Ken have a staring contest after she says she doesn't find the gown very flattering. John says he's seen the look before.
Ken's second look is a glammed-up version of his gown. He keeps the racerback, adds a drapy dolman sleeve, and shortens the length to make it more of a bodycon mini-dress. The judges are placated. Ken's safe.
Jeremy - A sleeveless, knee-length V-neck dress in a pink-hued floral print, paired with a red jacket. Heidi's quick to let Jeremy know that she finds it old and un-sexy. Zac is disappointed by the jacket. Nina hates the print. When he gets a closer look at it, Zac says, "It looks like a college fashion show in a non-metropolitan city," which I think sums it up: It's inoffensive, but absolutely been-there-done-that in terms of cut, fit and color choice.
Jeremy goes in the opposite direction with his new look, a bias-cut sleeveless beige dress. The judges appreciate that this look is considerably more youthful and brunch-appropriate but it's still a little too boring. Auf wiedersehen, Jeremy.(He takes the loss with a good attitude: "I get to see my kids...and I get to f***ing drink tonight!" Cheers.)
Were you as disappointed in the runway looks as the judges were? Did you think the new looks were an improvement for the bottom three designers? How well do you think the group captured the idea of the modern Southern woman? Let me know in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
The designers meet activewear-clad Heidi and Tim at the Upper East Side's Asphalt Green recreation area, where they're tasked with completing an obstacle course consisting of a three-legged race, a tire run, a wheelbarrow race, and a flag grab. They have to complete the race in pairs, but thankfully this isn't a team challenge. But it's one we've seen before: Design an activewear look for Heidi's New Balance line. The pair that wins the obstacle course will choose their fabric first, AND they'll get an extra hour to work on our garments.
Dom and Justin win the thing (and celebrate with an adorable chest-bump); meanwhile, Heidi's screaming at Bradon and Helen: "IT'S A FLAG. IT HAS A STICK ON IT." Jeremy and Alexander come in dead last. The gang grabs their fabric ($50 worth, per person, from stuff approved for Heidi's line) and get to sketching.
Back in the workroom, Ken has a for-real freakout at Helen for...no real reason? I've re-watched it a few times and all I can glean is that he's already frustrated by the usual competition-related things when Helen's weird self-centered melodramatic tendencies start to grate a little too much, so all his crabbiness gets directed her way in a loud, uncomfortable argument. Helen feels threatened (understandably) and asks Tim to intervene. Ken's eventual apology seems sincere, Helen accepts, and that is, thankfully, the end of that.
This week's guest judge is the magical Michael Kors!!! Three exclamation points because Michael is the best.
Helen - Black cinch-waisted, flowy zip-up hooded jacket, black and grey mid-calf leggings, and a tee with kangaroo pocket. The jacket gets raves from everyone. Nina loves that it covers the butt and thighs, the gentlemen give it complimentary names (Zac: "Elvira at the gym," Kors: "Stevie Nicks active"), Heidi says she'd wear it in a heartbeat. There's no love for the rest of her outfit, so it's clear the jacket alone is responsible for Helen's win.
Kate - Black pants, long-sleeved kangaroo-pocketed pullover with a zipper up the back and a pop of red at the loose cowl neck. Nina loves the fashion-with-function combination, and Zac -- who has without a doubt taken a liking to Kate's work this season anyway -- digs it, too, noting that Kate understands flattering lines.
Alexander - Black, purple, and heather grey bra top, pant, and jacket. Everyone on the panel loves the fit of the pants -- draped without an outside seam, as is proper for form-fitting fabrics -- but the asymmetry of the top and the color-blocking on the pants gets debated a little bit. "It looks like something you'd see on a sale rack in an active department," Kors says. "It's in a store though! It might be on sale, but it's in a store. It got there."
Alexandria - Black drop-crotch knee-length pants and long-sleeved zip-up jacket, both with a pop of purple, layered over a light grey tee. Zac is disappointed over the drop-crotch pants (accented by what Kors calls "pleasure-me pockets"), and Nina calls out the silliness of the trio of gashes on the stomach of the t-shirt. Heidi likes this look (no surprise) but not enough to help it land in the top.
Ken - A long purple tank top with black and purple knee-length leggings. Kors thinks Ken thought too much about function and not about fashion. When he gets up close to it, Zac frowns at the harness-y straps in back and the proportion of the top.
Karen - This utterly perfunctory black sweatshirt-sweatpant combo is the direct result of Heidi's awful critique of Karen's original take on the challenge. I'm not convinced Karen's first design would have turned out quite as horrifically as Heidi imagined. Regardless, Karen's actual runway look is unflattering and bo-o-o-ring, so she's auf'd.
What say you? Should Karen have ignored Heidi and risked an even more embarrassing elimination? Was Helen's jacket really special enough to cancel out her so-so shirt and leggings? Were you terrified or just annoyed by Ken's outburst? And now that immunity is off the table, who do you think will be the next to go? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
Justin LeBlanc made history not only as the first designer to ever receive Tim Gunn's Save in Episode 6, but he's also the first deaf designer to compete on the show. To learn more about Justin's hearing loss and how he didn't let his disability affect his performance in the competition, read our Q&A below:
Q: Justin, would you please tell us a little about your history as far as your hearing loss?
Justin: When I was around 1 year old, my parents became concerned that I wasn't responding to sound. They took me to my pediatrician. According to my parents, after a general exam, he looked at me and said, "Where's your dad?" I smiled and poked my father in the stomach. What that, the pediatrician said, "There’s nothing wrong with his hearing." My parents weren’t convinced. They took me to Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. There they did some sophisticated tested that involved measuring my brains response to sound. The tests revealed that I was deaf.
I was raised in an environment of "total communication." My parents hired a sign language teacher to teach us all sign language. They also provided me a speech therapist through most of my pre-college years. As a young child, I relied more on sign language, but as I got older, and interacted more with the hearing world, I relied more and more on speech. I have many deaf friends, so sign language is still an important means of communication for me. Throughout school, I’ve been mainstreamed in regular classes with the help of a sign language interpreter.
I always saw this as an opportunity to educate people about that aspect of myself. There were discouraging times, many in fact. But I am a VERY positive person. I am proud to be a deaf person. It is who I am, and I embrace it.
Q: What are your thoughts around cochlear implants?
Justin: I can only speak to my experience. This is not the best option for everyone. Each person needs to decide what best fulfills their goals and lifestyle. It provided me with greater access to the hearing world and the possibility to further my education and meet my personal dreams for the future. But that is a personal choice. I received my cochlear implant when I was 18 years old, I made the decision for myself.
Q: Can you share some of your reflections on being on "Project Runway"?
Justin:It’s been a truly life-enhancing experience. I’ve pushed myself to the limit physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my peers and I’ve established friendships that I hope will be life-long. And believe it or not, it was a lot of fun!
Q: Has your hearing loss ever been a barrier or kept you from achieving a goal?
Justin: Never. If anything, being deaf gave me more incentive to achieve my goals. A deaf person can achieve anything that they choose.
I remember my parents telling me that that when I was little, a couple who had just learned that their child was deaf, came up to us to say that they were terrified at the prospect of having a deaf child. But after seeing me, they were put at ease because I was so happy, outgoing, communicative, and well adjusted. I hope that, as an adult, I can get the same message across. I don’t view deafness as a disability or a handicap. It’s part of who I am and I am proud to be deaf.
Q: What advice would you give to young people who are deaf and would love to follow in your footstep?
Justin: Work hard, really really hard. Pursue your educational goals with whatever resources you can find. Don’t use your deafness as a crutch. Demand equal treatment and access to educational resources. Experiment with art in all of its forms. Do not sell yourself short. And find something that you are passionate about.
It's time for a pulse-taking. The designers chat about the fact that the stakes are higher, both because the competition is now halfway over and because Tim's sole designer-rescue card was put in play last week to keep Justin around. Better step it up, make it work, etc.
The gang heads to the Marie Claire offices at Hearst to peek in on the mag's epic shoe closet. Editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider is there to help introduce the challenge: Design a look inspired by a pair of shoes. The models will be wearing those shoes on the runway, so the looks have to complement and show off the footwear, too. The suggested budget is $250, and the designers have 30 minutes to shop.
Alexandria gets first dibs in the shoe-picking game thanks to her win last week. She grabs a pair of intimidating thigh-high gladiator sandals. In order to determine who'll pick next, the designers are quizzed on fashion history by Tim and Anne. They're asked about the inspiration for Christian Louboutin's famous red-soled heels, the creator of the Little Black Dress, Dior, McQueen, Marc Jacobs, and the famous ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, until finally Miranda, last to choose, nabs a pair of red leather loafers.
At Mood, Alexander and Miranda gravitate toward very similar wool plaids, and in the workroom they realize they're creating nearly the same outfit: White tops and fitted, high-waisted plaid pants. Both designers acknowledge the coincidence, but neither backs down from continuing to make their garments. I think there's an interesting challenge idea in there somewhere -- it would really test the creativity and construction abilities of the group if they were all required to make the same basic outfit, no? I can't be the only one who'd love a jeans-and-white-tees challenge -- but, as Ken points out, when two people create nearly identical looks, it's going to benefit one of them and leave the other in the dust.
For the runway show, Anne Fulenwider steps in as a guest judge, along with The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco. Onward:
Shoes: Black stiletto booties with silver studded toe embellishments
A tailored sleeveless knee-length dress with a black shrug cape. Nina fawns that it's minimal and classic and sophisticated and fashionable (enough adjectives to prove she really likes it), and Zac digs the simplicity of it. Heidi compliments the young, modern hair and makeup. Faced with three solid, chic black dresses, the judges pick this one for the win.
Shoes: Thigh-high black gladiator sandals with knee pads
An understated black shift dress with lace cutouts at the clavicle and an asymmetrical hemline also trimmed with lace. Heidi loves that its femininity contrasts with the hardness of the shoes. Nina likes that it has an editorial attitude. Zac doesn't love the shoes or the dress nearly as much as the ladies on the panel, and even goes so far as to call the look "pedestrian," but he's easily outvoted.
Shoes: Lace-up black sandal heels
"My interpretation of a maneater for the new milennium," Ken says of this black peplum cap-sleeve minidress. The judges are impressed by the fabric choice and the garment's edginess, especially since Ken has struggled to keep his looks youthful. This one fares even better once the panel gets a closer look at it.
Shoes: Black velvet knee-high stiletto boots with gold buttons along the outside length
A tube miniskirt and shimmery gold tank paired with a cream-colored silk chiffon mock-argyle sweater. Like many of Jeremy's previous designs, this one veers too old and too trampy for the tastes of our judges. Zac gets real: "I'm starting to question who you are as a designer. [...] I really need to see [your techniques and skills] come together so we can properly assess you." That's an official warning, Jeremy!
Shoes: Gold tuxedo loafers with gold beading decoration
A halter-necked silk top draped and sewed to resemble water paired with a brown silk circle skirt. There's no love in the room for this garment, but the judging panel likes Bradon a lot so they offer a lot of suggestions for what they would've liked to see with those shoes instead, like a suit or a brocade t-shirt dress. He's in the bottom two, but let's be real: It's too early for him to go home.
Shoes: Red patent leather tuxedo loafers
Plaid pegged pants with a white polka-dot top and a white leather bolero jacket. This is not offensely bad, in my opinion, but the judges have no residual affection for Miranda's work so they tear into it a bit. Zac admits that he likes its inherent "nerd alert"-ness, but Nina says it's too Christmas-y and too obvious. It's also way too similar to many of Miranda's earlier works. Miranda gets the auf.
What say you, commentariat? Was Miranda's look that much worse than Alexander's? Was Helen's dress that much better than Alexandria's or Ken's? Do you think this is the beginning of the end for Bradon? Which pair of shoes appealed to you the most? (I loved those studded black booties. Gimme.) Holler at me in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!
It says a lot about our designers' states of mind this week that upon hearing that they'll be treated to an overnight camping trip, they immediately start to brainstorm what sort of bizarre challenge will be thrown their way. "Worse case scenario: We can use our own blood to dye things," Kate says, and I don't doubt for a second she'd do just that.
Tim meets them at a remote, forest-y locale, where sponsor Resource Natural Spring Water has set up a first-class campsite. This not just a camping trip! It's a glamping trip, which is apparently a more glamorous version of camping complete with tents on risers, hammocks, lantern lighting, and a sit-down dinner at a real table.
Access to fresh air and fun activities seems to chill the whole group out considerably. They go rafting, take turns ziplining through the woods, and roast marshmallows over a crackling fire. As it turns out, outside the workroom they're an amiable, funny bunch of people. It's a relief to see them enjoy each other's company after five episodes of exhausting drama.
After last week's hodgepodge of requirements and inspirations, this challenge is blessedly straightforward: Design a high-end look inspired by the glamping trip. They get one day to work and a suggested budget of $300. The workroom is relatively subdued this week as Tim counsels the designers on fabric choice and color. Let's jump right to the runway (featuring guest judge Allison Williams):
Alexandria - Modern basics: A long-sleeved zip-up chambray denim jacket with an upper back cutout and draping along the spine, paired with white drop-crotch knee-length pants. Alexandria gets unanimous approval for going out of the box with her design, and she takes the win.
Jeremy - Jeremy transcribed the text of a love letter he wrote to his family in script across the bodice of bias-cut white gown with white button details along the side. The panel is captivated by the romance of it, and Jeremy wins praise for the gown's easy elegance.
Alexander - A deep blue sleeveless floor-length gown with a leather train and handpainted details intended to resemble trees at midnight. Nina likes the drama of it, and Alexander gets kudos for impeccable construction. Zac doesn't seem all that excited, citing the gown's mid-thigh seam as a negative.
Ken - A moss green wool knee-length dress with structured layering at the chest. Nina points out that seen in profile, the padded chest thing overpowers the rest of the dress; Allison and Heidi think the technique used to construct it might have been better utilized elsewhere. Zac calls it "a squished frog." Further thumbs down are given for the too-'80s styling.
Karen - A billowy yellow ombre dress cinched in just above the bust, accented with a brown belted strap, this one makes the judges frown. They toss around words like "trashy," "muumuu," and "runny eggs," and they call out the dissonance between the look's cowboy vibe and its alleged African safari inspiration.
Justin - In a move better suited for an unconventional materials challenge, Justin accented an airy gray gown with boatloads of dried hot glue. The effect is akin to "a foaming vagina," Nina says. The judges acknowledge that Justin was good to push himself to try something new, but as Heidi says, "At what point are you gonna say, 'I wanted to try something different but it actually looks really ugly, so I'm gonna stop myself'?" Justin is auf'd.
OR IS HE?! Many tears are shed by the rest of the designers, who clearly have a lot of affection for Justin. But then Tim Gunn pops in to announce that he will be using his Tim Gunn Save to keep Justin around for a little while longer. Problem solved!
What do you think? Should Tim Gunn have saved his save for someone else? Was Justin's garment bad enough to warrant his elimination? How do you feel about drop-crotch pants and Alexandria's execution of same? Bonus points if you have any fun camping stories to share. Let me hear 'em in the comments.
Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think were the Top and Bottom looks each week!