Project Runway: Butterflies Are Free; L’Oreal is Not

Posted on October 04, 2013

Oh, God. We really have become the Grumpy Old Men of Project Runway recapping. The Statler & Waldorf of sewing competitions. Because we just spent 20 minutes ranting at each other to the effect of, “In MY day, inspiration challenges actually MEANT something! HARRUMPH.”


We love anything that sets the designers loose on the world and asks them to find inspiration in it. It’s the closest the show ever comes to depicting the actual creative process, even though it’s all terribly fake and staged. But they really outdid themselves on the fakery this time around. In a season in which Tim Gunn couldn’t clear his throat without mentioning the name of a product, we about hit the wall last night when the designers were asked to take inspiration both from a makeup product…


… and also butterflies.

Sorry, but that’s just dumb. We miss the days of “Here’s a camera and a setting. Spend the day taking pictures and sketching.” Now it’s “Make something inspired by THIS product and THIS thing.” If we really wanted to get into high dudgeon, we’d go so far as to say that a challenge like this is an offense to the very idea of creativity. As if it could be focus-group tested and directed toward a certain goal.

And if that wasn’t complicated enough – Butterflies! Makeup! Also, avant garde! – they went and did this:


Again: pretty much an offense to the very ideas of creativity, inspiration, or avant garde design. A twist set up for one reason: to make it that much harder for anyone to produce a truly creative, inspired, and avant garde look. Actually, there was a second reason they did this which we’ll get to in a second.

Seriously, remember when the inspiration challenges were just “Be inspired?” It was always the reward for getting to the end of the competition, having jumped through every hoop the show set up for them. “Now you get to show us what you can really do.” Are we the only ones who remember that? There are a half dozen criteria here that need to be met just to fulfill the dictates of one challenge – and it’s the challenge the show always described as the most free and open of all of them.




So congratulations, Bradon! We did not think this should have won, though. It’s odd, certainly. But that doesn’t necessarily make it avant garde and we don’t see any sort of butterfly inspiration here. And we just don’t think the shape of it is, as Nina would say, aesthetically pleasing. She looks like a toilet paper roll after a kitten went to town on it.



Sue’s original

This is fine. Pretty. We can’t get excited, but whatever.




Oh please. This so should have won. You’re lucky if once a season a garment walks down that runway that truly looks like it should be walking one of the major runways of the world. This is easily the most high-fashion look all season and might even be the most high-fashion look seen in several seasons. When Emmy Rossum immediately tried it on and it looked as good or better on her than on the model, it said to us that this was an extremely well-made garment as well, considering the time allotted. Just a gorgeous look all around and one of our favorites in quite some time. We don’t know that it necessarily qualifies as avant garde (since it looks like it could be walking in a Marc Jacobs show), but then again, we can count on one hand the number of times anything approached avant garde on Project Runway.

Jeremy’s original

She did some really smart work with that jacket and print. It’s not the greatest look in the world, but it’s a vast improvement over the original. Dom’s the real deal. She’s got the skills and she’s got the vision.





We disagreed on this one. Lorenzo hated it and thought it looked student-y. Tom admitted that it was rough, but thought there was a dark elegance to the look.

Miranda’s original

She did genius-level reworking on those pants, too. Honestly, she’s not the most likeable person on the show and she does tend to gravitate toward some weirdness in her designs, but we think she’s talented.





Nope. Hot freaking mess. And the judges tied themselves into knots pretending that it wasn’t. Worse: it’s a ridiculously conventional gown; a slight variation on something done a hundred times before. So it’s a mess AND it’s conventional in an avant garde challenge. Smells like grounds for auf’ing to us, but they of course, want to extend Afterschool Special’s penchant for weepy drama as long as they can.

Kate’s original


A fine, but not particularly interesting rework.




Boy oh boy, those judges REALLY wanted to give Justin the win last night; overpraising this awkward and ugly outfit to an absurd extent…


Justin’s Original 


And then practically weeping over his being reunited with HIS GREATEST FAILURE EVER, which is, let’s face it, the real reason why this twist was devised. It goes hand-in-hand with the concept of Tim’s Save and it was probably thought up at the same time, knowing that most people in Justin’s position would do exactly what he did, thus giving them the storyline they want.

But as much as they want the gay deaf guy in the finale, they couldn’t give him the win for either of these looks. The first one is awful and the second one lacks the cleverness of some of the better re-designs, like Bradon’s and Dom’s. We hate to say it, but his work has always been drab, monochromatic, and lacking in creativity throughout the challenge, but they overpraise or overlook (Have they even once criticized him for only making black and white dresses?) all of it. It’s a little embarrassing and we have to conclude that somehow Justin got a little caught up in it all because our jaws dropped when he said he should be in the finale because he’s gay and deaf. The former is not exactly an original point of view in the world of fashion and the latter has not been evident anywhere in his designs, if it even can be. What we mean by that is, we can buy the argument that his being deaf gives him a unique perspective and point of view in his design work, but we haven’t seen any such thing.

But whatevs. This is what they always do now; pretend like they don’t have a clear final three because there are a couple people left who are bound to provide some drama or tears so they pretend like they can’t make a decision.  We would have put Alexandria in the final three because Helen and Justin simply made terrible work this time around, but we could’ve bought the argument for putting Helen in the final three because cumulatively, her work has been better than Alexandria’s. But either way, Justin should’ve been gone and it really shouldn’t be all that hard to decide between the remaining two.




[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke for Lifetime – Stills:]

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