Project Runway: Power Play

Posted on April 19, 2019

We’ve been singing the praises of NU-PR since its Bravo network relaunch, but despite the surface changes and overall feel of a freshening-up having occurred, Project Runway remains Project Runway. That’s a good thing, because a major overhaul of the show probably would have slid it more quickly toward irrelevancy. Seventeenth-season format changes don’t exactly smack of confidence and competency. This is all a somewhat nice way of saying that this episode had one of those patented goofy-ass PR challenges that feel like they’re pretty far away from the world of fashion design, which you pretty much have to accept once per season (at least).

In its defense, it wasn’t a challenge surrounding yogurt or fast food chains, which automatically places it fairly high on the PR list of goofy-ass challenges. Designing looks for video game characters is absolutely a worthy challenge. Design is design, after all. And people who work in videogame design are often pulling from the same aesthetic approaches and schools of thought as your average fashion designer. It’s character-based work with an all-visual impact. It’s costume design for 2-dimensional characters.

And to the show’s credit, they really tried wrapping this challenge in a worthy frame, by making it all about women in gaming design and coding. They probably could have done a better job of highlighting that theme all the way through, but that’s kind of the way of these goofy-ass challenges. They provide an initial theme but the episode quickly gets back to basic fashion design and time management questions and considerations.


In other words, this wasn’t a bad episode of PR and the intentions were pretty good going into it. We just found it a little dull as episodes go. Part of that may come down to Bravo’s admirable and welcome insistence on not making this season of the show all about interpersonal drama and personality conflicts. Again, the backstories of the designers are being presented slowly and usually paired with the specific challenges facing them that week, making a clear connection between a designer’s story and a designer’s work. We’re not at all suggesting that we would have prefered some sort of meltdown in the work room, but when you cast relatively stable and mature personalities who genuinely seem to like and respect each other, you are occasionally going to get episodes like this one, where everyone worked hard to make something and then everyone showed what they made and then one person got the yay and another person got the goodbye. No complaints here; just an acknowledgment that there wasn’t much in the way of fireworks on this one.




The problem with this entry isn’t that it’s costumey. Despite the admonition from Karlie not to go costume, the challenge is literally a costume design challenge and the win was awarded to the most cosplay-looking entry on the runway. No, the problem here is that this looks cheap and like a cliche.




It’s fine. It looks like a gaming character. Not the freshest take, but serviceable.




This is imaginative and interesting. The kinetic qualities of the design would animate well. The color story’s too muted, though.




Bad ’70s sci-fi cosplay. She’s lucky a bunch of guys did much worse.




Apparently, Lela thinks there’s an Ann Taylor Loft videogame out there.




Horrifying. Terrible fabrics, weird concept, bad design.




Again, there appears to be some confusion regarding video game characters needing a good interview suit for their office jobs or something.




This is bad, but we honestly wouldn’t have called it the worst thing up there. We think Rakan was let go because he’d been on the bottom too many times and because he seemed pretty stubborn about what the competition was asking him to do.



Garo Sparo

We were split on this one. Lorenzo agreed with the judges that this was worthy of a top spot but Tom thinks it looks like a dated cliched and is starting to wonder if Garo can do anything that doesn’t look a little stale.




We were both in agreement that this should have been the winner. A beautiful, understated design that told a story and sold a character. We think the “understated” part is what prevented her from snagging the win.




Because the judges were clearly looking for something loud and costume-y, despite their protestations otherwise. This is fine. It’s bold and colorful and tells a story just like Tessa’s. It strikes us as cliched as Garo’s, if not more so. But the problem with challenges like these is that the judges aren’t really qualified to assess the results because you’re asking a bunch of fashion people to weigh in on a topic that doesn’t touch their working lives in any way. We can’t think of four less likely judges for this challenge than Nina, Karlie, Brandon and Elaine.

More on that in today’s podcast!




[Photo Credit: Karolina Wojtasik/Bravo]

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