In its ten seasons on the air, Project Runway has settled comfortably into its own little clothes. Tim will grimace, Heidi will quip, and Nina well stare icily. One contestant will be kooky, another indignant, and several of them talented but irritable. So it’s no surprise that, like a reunited '80s band, the show has figured out when to play its greatest hits. The unconventional materials challenge is always a winner, pitting meager resources against wavering skills and unrelenting fashion scorn.
This week’s challenge is an echo of Season Four’s Hershey’s Store raid. Tim Gunn leads the fashion field trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar, the gummy equivalent of Barney’s, and instructs the team that they have $250 and 30 minutes to choose materials for their outfit. Dylan Lauren, the illustrious and sugar-mad daughter of Ralph Lauren, meets them at the door like a trimmer, blander, Willy Wonka, and chides them against eating the merchandise. Instead of a chocolate factory, the designers rummage through the “state of the art sweets emporium” of expensive gummies. If this episode was on stage, it would be entitled “What Has Katy Perry Wrought?” or “Candyland Attacks!” or simply, “Diabetes: A Musical.”
These contestants know their stuff, though. Very few of them lunge for fabric from t-shirts or pillows, opting instead to raid the candy Lego, color-coded jellybeans, and various gelatinous twisty things that no doubt dye your tongue a deep purple. Back in the workroom, everyone gets to work gluing, weaving, and smashing. These are not forgiving materials. The major difficulties of turning gumballs into couture include stickiness, failure to be sticky enough, heaviness, and, you know, being made out of something that’s supposed to melt.
Despite these minor catastrophes, Tim’s assessment is generally positive. Kooan, the be-afroed Japanese wonder who seems sure to become an emoji face, makes a pleading face until Tim moves on in bewilderment. Raul’s sour belt constructed blouse looks like a belly shirt from Ann Taylor, and Tim heartily approves. The trick is to make the candy look both like fabric and like something odd, like an optical illusion of sorts. Elena’s licorice and twist-ties vest does the job right, a convincing enough garment that George Michael himself might rip it right off the dress form. Buffi’s sour belt weaving gets high marks, as does Sonjia’s shark gummy collar.
But it would be no fun if everyone does well, and this time the wrath of Tim falls squarely on Andrea. She describes her look initially as “Victorian candy bar clerk gone wild,” but I would go with “Limited Too unexpectedly explodes” or “rejected from Le Sport Sac.” The candy buttons that she uses to construct the front make the whole thing into a walking colorblindness test. It’s so bad that Tim has to draw in a deep breath before expelling all his criticism. Choice descriptors include “underwhelming,” “sloppy,” and “craft project.” Andrea weeps, but finally decides to keep the majority of the project, adding an unseemly and bizarre striped bustle to the back. The overall styling made the outfit into a costume mullet: mad scientist in front, Old West hooker in the back.”
And yet, as the best of Runway do, all Andrea had to do was wait for someone to mess up their garment worse than she does. Lantie, whose efforts failed to impress the judges last week, remains a few murdered umbrellas short of an idea. Elena runs to the stand-by paramedics after dripping hot glue on her bare leg, an injury that Christopher regards as self-imposed. “Why are you wearing hoochie shorts to work?” he wonders, justly. Kooan’s cotton candy material shrivels into a delicious, useless lump when exposed to air, and ditto to Buffy’s bird nest fascinator (I don’t even know.) The models, who have mostly been looking bored and sneaking parts of the garments, are all outfitted in muslin dripping with jujubes. Dev’s instructions for his girl are severe: “You can’t move or touch anyone.”
Incredibly, Andrea’s garment passes the runway tests, and even Kooan’s outfit, which is certainly something M.I.A. will be purchasing for her next awards show appearance, falls into the middle category. Alicia, who barely comes out of the woodwork the whole time, constructs a Tarzan outfit from jellybeans. But Kors and Co. are saving their praise and opprobrium for the truly resplendent and atrocious.
Sonia, deservedly, falls into the winner’s circle with her meticulously made aquatic dress. Dylan Lauren, who the judges all looked on with indulgence and a pinch of disdain, confessed that Sonjia had found her weak spot—turquoise. Nina calls it a “Judy Jetson/mermaid costume,” and means it in a nice way. Despite his failure to pronounce “homage,” Gunnar’s patterned Twizzler dress was a hit. But the winner of the day was Ven’s delicate rock candy dress, which won the coveted Heidi compliment. “I would wear that,” she says.
But, oh, were the missteps juicy. Buffi’s painstaking weaving efforts came to naught thanks to a paper pink explosion of a skirt, and enough accessories to blind a horse. It was as if Michael Kors had been waiting for such a moment his whole life. “There’s a difference between fun and insane,” he lectures. Later, in deliberation, is impression of the dress is a five year old saying “OK candy funny.”
Lantie’s umbrella material dress, which is exactly as awful as it sounds, has Nina giving her the most lukewarm of compliments. “At least it’s not atrocious,” she offers. But it definitely is. Elena’s Pina Colada-flavored Twizzlers covered dress (why do those exist?) sheds little pieces of candy even as the model is turning around. Heidi says it reminds her of her children’s noodle art. “Rigatoni Mad Max,” Michael Kors dismisses. And indeed, the garment does look like Lady Gaga as melting Wicked Witch of the West.
Buffi and Lantie end up in the bottom, but it’s clear that Lantie’s complaints about the time restrictions offended the judges more than Buffi’s Pepto-Bismol aesthetic. She goes home, and leaves Buffi to accessorize another day.
- Chris on Andrea’s dress: “I’d play Twister on her”
- Next week: The re-return of Kenley!
- Chris, also, at the counter of Dylan’s: “How much is a chocolate boyfriend?”
- Lantie’s goodbye was so awkward thanks to the constant response “Don’t worry about it” to such phrases as “Goodbye” and “We’ll miss you.”