Project Runway: Let Heidi Klum Be Your Reward


Welcome to the past. Or is it the future? Either way, they’re both sparkly.

Today, the top Project Runway finalists will display their collections at Bryant Park for the judges and 1,000 industry gawkers (including yours truly; check back here later for an appropriately cryptic report). But in Episode 5 of the show, which aired Thursday night, there were still 12 contestants–and in their perfectly captured snow globe of reality, it was a blustery fall in New York, and the cotton was high. Nine of them had yet to be eliminated, and a lucky three had yet to know the exhilaration of Fashion Week… that they would experience today.

I suspect that this is far less complicated than I’m making it out to be. Anyway, Episode 5 proves both righteous and a train wreck.

We open on an early morning assault–Anthony giddily smacking Jay over and over with a King James Version, hooting, “It’s time for Bible study!” And this week, we learn, the contestants will be praying to the idol of Heidi Klum, for not only will the supermodel be judging their runway looks as usual, but she is also, literally, their prize; their challenge is to design a look to be worn by Klum on the cover of Marie Claire magazine. (This is also a reward for judge Nina Garcia, fashion director of Marie Claire, who can kick up her feet and snooze at the next editorial brainstorming session.) A cover shot is a dramatic prize, though, and one of the biggest in Runway history; as Tim Gunn is quick to point out, past cover frocks included Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.

This is, potentially, a career-defining accomplishment – so big, in fact, that the winner will not receive the usual immunity for the next challenge. Marie Claire editor in chief Joanna Coles warns them to consider photo cropping, placement of cover lines, and newsstand appeal, a.k.a. boring things journalists ponder that clearly earn no retention with the designers, judging from their glazed-over expressions.

The exciting opportunity creates an inversely boring workroom. Everyone hums along noiselessly aside from rockabilly man-child Seth Aaron, who starts crooning in falsetto to himself as Jay and Anthony irritably ask him to stop; Seth Aaron then starts clacking his jaw and snapping like a West Side Story extra (Sharks vs. Jerk?). Some more ragging is done on Mila, the only remaining woman in her 40’s; her boasting and weirdo Super Bowl Shuffle victory dance has, somehow, annoyed people. (“She comes out as very cocky when all she’s doing is color-blocking in every challenge,” Emilio rags, no pun intended.)

Janeane, in a rare moment of clarity (in that it is not obstructed by bitter Portland tears), evaluates her unraveling bolero collar and says, “I have a hunch that Anna and I completely missed the mark on this one.” Anna frantically tries to reconstruct her short-shorts, blissfully unaware of this dig. Serene Ben, usually edited into the woodwork, pulls bright neons into a layered shift and says, “This could be my moment. Yeah, I’m happy,” with all the enthusiasm of Gandhi at a McDonald’s.

On the runway, the surprise is Anthony’s gown; after Tim Gunn’s concern that the one-shoulder ruffle detailing would look like a “gimmick” (and costume-like theatrics being the judges’ main concern with him), he knocks out a beautiful teal down with tasteful ruffles and a very flattering silhouette. Ben’s neon yellow, cobalt, and brown Judy Jetson dress translates much better than expected–it’s actually invigorating, despite his description of it as “a modern interpretation of Madame Butterfly.” It’s too sporty for a kimono; maybe M. Butterfly? Jesse’s basket-weave silver-blue slip dress is tasteful and sexy, and Mila’s predictably color-blocked shift puckers with a dull, muted tan scheme. Two designers, Jonathan and Emilio, apparently take Heidi’s catchphrase “auf Wiedersehen” literally and design in a German beer girl aesthetic, Jonathan with huge Maid Marion sleeves and Emilio with silk jersey corseting with ombrè lacing.

And Janeane and Anna, the prophesied doomed twosome? Yeah, their looks swing and miss. Anna’s gauzy tank, shorts, and vest look conservative and dull, and Janeane’s “seashell-inspired” dress is a flimsy hodgepodge of too many seams and a blinding silver swing skirt.

The judges love Ben’s modern dress; Michael Kors says, “I think this cuts through the noise” of the newsstand. Kors also crows over Anthony’s gown, exclaiming, “The costume drama is over; you’ve entered modern times!” as Anthony cheers in relief. When Coles and Garcia suggest that Emilio make modifications to his lingerie-like dress, including cutting off the straps, Emilio pulls a pair of scissors from his pocket and does just that, right there on the runway.

Coles, a very barbed judge, has harsh words for the lowest-placing three. She derides Janeane’s ocean-influenced look as “maybe a polluted sea with plastic bottles.” Yow. She also likens Anna’s bland separates to “three ingredients in a dish that would leave you slightly nauseous.” Mila, mostly, gets off with a ponderous frown.

Anthony, for his vibrant one-shouldered party dress, is the winner of the challenge; his look will appear on Klum on the April issue of Marie Claire. He screams so much that Klum and Coles join him in the hysterics, and it’s a really great, ebullient moment. Janeane and Anna fall into the bottom two–Anna for the second time, and is sent packing. Auf Wiedersehen.


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