I'd like to make a little wager, Project Runway fans. I'd bet a hefty sum of money that if you've watched every episode so far this season, and then only looked at the final garments, no names attached, from tonights' episode, that you could tell who designed each one. Asymmetrical kimono? Anya! Solid block of color? Bryce! Classic standard gown? Laura Kathleen! Richly colored separates with a structured top and well-fit high-waisted skirt? Kimberly! Basic dress that's just kind of bland? Bert! Asymmetrical structured top in a neutral color? Olivier!
Yes, we're at the point in the competition where we've gotten to know everyone's aesthetics, and this year's contestants in particular seem to be specific about their design sense.
We're also at a point in the competition where every designer has won one challenge, except for Bryce, who has won none. Oh, Bryce! The immediate declaration of this information meant that either Bryce was going to pull himself up by his bootstraps this episode, or he was getting the final nail hammered in on his coffin.
This week's challenge was intended to strike horror into the hearts of our Nine, as Heidi chirped her ominous "hello!" and immediately brought out... dudes. No, not menswear! The only menswear challenge I remember was in Season 3, and everyone did poorly. I seem to remember Jack Mackenroth winning simply because the man was dressed and it fit. "It" being the simple dress pant and pin-striped dress shirt.
No, menswear is a dirty word. But it turns out, they wouldn't be designing for men! No, they were designing for these men's significant others, under their direction. Cue the other PR dirty word: real women. Real women are not size 2 models who could also pass for stick insects and/or lamp posts. Real women are hence hard to design for, and everyone knew it. (To be fair, real men are also hard to design for: Anya picked her guy because he was the slimmest of the bunch!)
Olivier in particular had a hilariously frustrating time designing for a new body type. More specifically, his model had an ample chest. "Her breasts, are like, ginormous?" an innocent Olivier asked the husband. And then Olivier spent the rest of the episode worrying about boobs - probably more than he ever had in his entire life. "Those boobs, to me, are trouble," he fretted. At Mood, he trepidatiously asked everyone in the store what double Ds were, and somehow only the lady at the register was able to tell him. (Is this really not common knowledge about knockers?) And finally, Olivier summed his experience all up in one fell swoop: "I don't like women to have boobs." Oh, Olivier.
Most other men in the workroom weren't agreeing with him, though - Bert's client in particular. Anthony claimed that the first thing he noticed about his future wife was her bazoombas, and then proceeded to tell Bert and everyone in the workroom what he liked to do with them. The self-proclaimed Boobie Monster wanted to show off his wife's impressive cleavage, and Bert, not wanting to play it safe, good-naturedly took the plunge - right to the neckline.
There were few other boobular issues though, and most everyone else designed around body type with ease. It was eerie, too, to see how well some of these people were matched. Laura Kathleen's model Rebecca walked in, and it was like seeing a Laura Kathleen from the future come back to have a chat with her past self - and she wanted to look like Barbie! (Watch out, though. I hear Laura burns those.) Anya's model, Kaylene, was an artist who wanted something interesting and creative to wear to her gallery openings - perfect! And Viktor was so in tune with his couple that the skirt he made, before even meeting Victoria, was exactly like the one she was sporting when she showed up. Between that, and the fact that Viktor wore the same ensemble to judging as George, they were like a trio matched in fashion heaven! (Insert poorly-conceived Viktor/Victoria joke here.)
Others weren't so lucky. Josh McKinley was faced with Charlene, who liked "simple." Apparently Joshua has two definitions of the word "simple," because after she gave some yes/no feedback to his questions, it dawned on him: "OH, you mean SIIIIIMPLE." Complete with a hand gesture I didn't understand. But Josh worked it out, and created a - yes, simple, yet elegant "lbd" - little black dress - that didn't bore or underwhelm. That took a lot of talent, to make all the right design choices and dodge the obstacles of doing too much of your client's taste or too much of your own taste. (No bedazzling!)
Anthony Ryan did the rather compassionate thing, by agreeing to make a dress for Caitlin that was reminiscent of a favorite that Bryan had lost in an airport previously. Bryan and Caitlin were super sweet, and I appreciated that Anthony Ryan was on board with the sentimentality - even if it didn't quite pay off for him in the end.
Speaking of sentimentality, Bryce had a lovely couple in Janine and Jovan - but they were so lovely that it just made Bryce think of his boyfriend back home and get all emotional. He, too, had to step out of his box with the color pink. According to Bryce, pink just isn't his thing. Which, if I recall correctly, there was a point where he said orange wasn't his thing either. Bryce... what is your thing?
I would be remiss as well without mentioning Olivier again, this time without all the associated boob talk. Olivier, oh, Olivier. Jeff and Suzanne (she of ginormous bosom) gave Olivier a lot of input, and although they always relented, encouraging him, it was still overwhelming to the dear, sweet, grandpa-sweater wearing young man. Although, Olivier's reactions were hilarious. Everything he said was technically kind of bitchy, but also certifiably lol-worthy when it was said with the droopy-eyed poker face that made you wonder if Olivier was also a little bit medicated during this challenge. "The two of them together just confuse me," he said of his (very nice but) demanding clients. "I just want some quietness sometimes." (Other bon mots offered by Olivier in the episode: "We were left with all these fat people... and fat is fine, but not... when I'm making clothes." Oh, Olivier! Your sleepy brand of bitchiness is extremely amusing to me. Keep it up!
But here's what I wonder about challenges like these: do the clients get some sort of briefing on their interactions with the designers? Are they told to be lenient around the contestants' needs to make something for the competition, or are they told to behave as a real client would and excise creative input in a result that under other circumstances would be theirs? Because I feel like if I were a client on Project Runway I would just say yes to everything the designer offered me as long as it looked like it would be reasonably flattering on me.
Although I suppose if you asked the clients what their strategy was, they'd probably say something along those lines. And honestly, most everything this weak was reasonably flattering - there were just little fit issues and design issues here and there.
Bryce created a basic little dress out of his dyed pink fabric at the last minute, and in an effort to spice it up a bit added half a dozen little details that weren't terribly necessary. The pockets on that dress are okay in theory (I love a good dress pocket!) but Michael Kors was right, they really were perfectly shaped to carry a beer bottle. (Or a lambchop, I guess.) The fit on Bryce's dress was sloppy, too, which wasn't surprising considering he'd thrown it together at the last minute.
Anthony Ryan, in his attempt to revive the memory of Caitlin's beloved lost dress, completely lost the ability to style it in a way that was fresh and visually interesting. Malin Ackerman said it was reminiscent of her high school cheerleading uniform, and I can't say I disagree. Maybe if AR had used a different fabric - something with a subtle pattern on it, perhaps - to make it less basic? It seemed he knew the dress wasn't up to his standard, though, wishing he'd put more of himself into it.
And... Bert. Oh, Bert. Bert worked surprisingly well with his clients, and, in the end, created a cute little dress. But... that's just it. It was "fine," according to Malin Ackerman and Michael Kors. Nothing terribly special about it. The silhouette was dull, and while the fabric was a good choice, nothing was done with it in terms of construction to make it worth a second look. Bert seems to be on borrowed time here, and unless he wows us next week, I daresay Mr. Keeter's card may be up.
Laura Kathleen, Kimberly, and Olivier skated through in the middle ground, and Olivier lived to see a week where he doesn't have to worry about boobs anymore. Praise be!
The top this week belonged to Anya, Joshua, and Viktor, all of whom created sophisticated and interesting looks that represented the clients well, but still spoke to the individual designer's sensibilities.
Anya was praised for doing a successful "culture clash" with her bold but classy reinterpretation of a kimono dress. I have to say, that's one thing I love about Anya: she brings a rather global viewpoint to her sartorial aesthetic, and isn't afraid to draw influence from the traditional garb of other cultures. It's cool, and something Project Runway is often lacking - the only other contestant who comes to mind is Korto Momolu from Season 5. And even though Nina Garcia hated that one sleeve, she still got behind Anya's point of view.
Actually, while we're on the subject of my favorite Ms. Garcia, I appreciated that Nina framed a lot of her critique in how the designers dealt with the women's bodies - from a positive standpoint. She questioned why Anya covered up one of Kaylene's best traits, and complimented Josh McKinley for accentuating Charlene's "beautiful waist." It was lovely to see Nina Garcia, a fashion maven, in touch with the wearability for an "everyday woman," and to embrace the fact that most women, unlike models, can't just wear anything - they have to wear what looks good for their individual body type.
Joshua was also in the top, redeeming himself from his emotional dervish last week. He managed to understand simple, and yet still push Charlene out of her comfort zone a little bit. The lace detailing on that dress was adorable yet classy, and the deep-V back managed to be both flirtatious yet understated. And those shoes he chose! 100% amazing all around. I'd wear that ensemble in a heartbeat, and you could tell his model felt like a million bucks. She just lit right up, and for that, Josh really did deserve this win.
But Viktor worked magic with his design as well, even though he didn't have to overcome a difference in taste. Because he and his clients were on the same page from the beginning, he was able to make an adorably charming outfit that was polished and put-together, head-to-toe. Turns out his original design was long-sleeve, though, and Victoria asked for a shorter sleeve instead - prompting Michael to say that was a key decision, and a good reason to always listen to your customer. But Michael, Suzanne wanted a poofy bell sleeve. I think better advice is to always listen to good taste.
In the end, Josh took the win and Bryce got the boot - and we're down to a collection of designers who've all won at least one challenge. There's no immunity from here on out though, so anybody could go home next week. And it's another team challenge! Oh dear. Bert and Josh are still here, and Viktor didn't work well with Bert either, so chances are it's going to be another disaster in the making. I can't wait!