Well how about that? This wasn’t just a good episode of Project Runway. It was an excellent one. Full of tension and high emotions, creativity and problem-solving, with laughter, tears, and even a little bit of blood-letting. What more could you ask for out of your reality television episodes? We were pretty much enthralled through the whole thing.
The “Tim goes to visit the designers at home” segments had, like pretty much every other aspect of the show in the Lifetime years, gotten very stale and rote; seemingly concerned more with sight-seeing, meeting family members and eating meals than anything to do with fashion. Christian didn’t just bring a new sense of energy to these segments; he was much more direct in his criticisms and suggestions, much more challenging and confrontational with the designers than Tim was allowed to be. And while it’s possible Christian’s critiques informed how the rest of the episode was produced and structured, it was nice to see that his advice was solid and much of it came up again when the judges had the chance to assess the designers’ work.
We LOVED the new twist of having the designers meet with Nina at her Elle office so that she could more or less give them a homework assignment. Again, this may all have been fairly coordinated throughout the production, but Nina’s critiques were on-point for each designer and she basically gave them all the same brief: step outside your comfort zone. The twist was that she assigned them specific designs to execute rather than leaving it up to them.
After that, the show stepped back and let the designers be designers; struggling to create and problem-solve while dealing with their own self-doubt and the looming time crunch. We had no problem with any of this. Hester’s accident provided the one moment of extreme drama, but we’re glad to see she wasn’t too seriously injured, even if we did watch that whole scene with the volume down, through our fingers.
We’re going to wait until the finale to assess the final collections, but for now, we have some general thoughts about each designer.
Okay, here’s the thing about Hester, who has been the subject of some confusion and anger from the viewership. Yes, she has gotten over-praised in the past. Such is the way of reality competitions. Part of the reason why she so captivates the judges is that she’s a total-package designer. She walks the walk and talks the talk. She’s got a highly distinct look and it plays out in her personal style as well as her fashion design. Think Betsey Johnson, Carolina Herrera or Diane Von Furstenberg. Fashion likes characters. Fashion likes brands. Fashion loves a female designer who owns her look.
But it also has to be said that her mid-nineties Clueless style is trending back into fashion now that it’s nearly a quarter-century old. We think she needs to do more to push this aesthetic in a modern direction, but the judges are right to respond well to it, knowing that it’s where fashion is heading.
We agreed with Garo that in some ways, it really wasn’t fair of Nina to single him out for the most difficult look to complete. But Nina has always noted his high technical skill, which suggests to us that she did this on purpose. She knew he could get a highly technical garment done in one day. She needed to make it hard for him by assigning him the kind of garment he’d never make on his own. The results were predictably not good, but since he made it through to the finals, it doesn’t matter if the challenge was a bit unfair. His collection … does not look fresh.
If Sebastian wins this – and it seems pretty clear it’ll be down to him and Hester for the judges’ affection – it will be partly because of a charm offensive that just now started coming across as rather cleverly calculated. He started off the season by telling the judges he was a janitor and then waited until the very end of it to casually drop the reveal that he was a ballet dancer. They were practically fanning themselves at the incredible potential of that backstory. Which isn’t to say his jaw-dropping talent won’t be the main reason for any potential win. As we said, Hester’s got a total-package thing going on, plus the upward-trending nature of her aesthetic at the moment. Sebastian has a ton of personal charm, stunning craftsmanship and technical skill, a fabulous back story (not just the ballet, but the inspiration of the baskets and the hiring of is father to do the leatherwork), and some gorgeously chic and dramatic designs. If it’s a showdown between him and Hester, we’re really looking forward to comparing the results.
It was really difficult to watch Bishme crumble under the pressure of the competition and the stress of his sister’s illness. We give Christian a lot of credit for trying until the very last second to buck him up and get him to not give up. When he interrupted filming to walk off set, as hard as that was to watch and as bad as we felt for him, it was a pretty strong signal that he shouldn’t be here. Not because he’s not a good designer. Not because he doesn’t deserve the chance. But because his head wasn’t in the game and it was literally not good for him to be there. As Elaine said, it’s hard to root for someone who’s given up. We’re sure he would have wanted to stay and compete for the grand prize, but we feel like his emotional state wasn’t strong enough to handle it.
Yes, the hoodie is terrible. The other pieces, while not as high-fashion and runway-ready as the show would prefer, are still strong, stylish and highly salable pieces. We were sorry to see him go and we hope he gets the chance to come back for an All-Stars season or something. A sweet guy and a talented designer. You know it’s a good season of Project Runway when the eliminations are actually painful to watch.
[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/Bravo]