Finally, there is some rest for the wicked on Project Runway. This season has been as wham-bam as any, with one-day challenges the norm and the designs often running unrealized as a result; then again, as we all know, Michelangelo’s David was carved over a long lunch break (hold the prosciutto), so the extremely short time frame has been of little concern to the judges. “Harder, better, faster, stronger!” thunders Heidi Klum off-camera, probably, though this gets cut every week in favor of extended L’oreal Paris product placements.
This week’s challenge is, mercy of mercies, a two-day challenge. And yet, it takes all of ten minutes to realize what fresh catastrophes are looming.
Runway has traditionally been dominated by female finalists, including last season’s all-XX crop, but this time around, only two ladies remain: Mila and Maya, the black-bob twins. They thrill to this week’s challenge, which print-heavy designer Vivienne Tam announces is to design unique fabric for an accompanying look; drawing off HP touch-screen computers of some fancy-schmancy new breed (the model of which is hammered home repeatedly, murderously throughout the season), the contestants create their textile patterns, which are digitally printed and reproduced that night.
Seth Aaron, as usual, goes ’70s pop with a bright, Warholian tiled face print. Maya splashes thick red streaks across a black background, and adds some orange. Anthony and Jay favor neon starbursts of purple and green, respectively. Emilio scrawls his initials in graffiti-print on a teal background; it could not be a bigger rip-off of the Stephen Sprouse Louis Vuitton collection if he went to Chinatown and bought it off Mott Street.
Jonathan uses a “subtractive” method of painting, which seems to mean that he plays with the eraser tool. Neat; we all did that in the fifth grade to erase the surreptitious dirty drawings. Mila goes for an astonishingly boring, juvenile Fruit Stripe pattern of simple, wide Technicolor stripes on white — it looks tacky, regressively ’70s in a way Seth Aaron easily avoids, and is truly just a waste of a very cool, rare Runway opportunity. Naturally, everyone has a bad word for her Crayola prison bars; “There’s just a lot of things wrong,” says Jay, and Anthony concurs: “I don’t want to wear Legos, I want to play with them.”
And Anthony does play; he remains the sole joyous spirit in the tense workroom, quick with a soliloquy that, he claims, is unintentionally funny. But it’s hard to believe he doesn’t know his own comedic timing when he rhapsodizes, “You know, I blame Beyoncè for everything that goes wrong in my life. It’s something about her song that will make you think that you’re a size four, that you can conquer the world, and that you are all-powerful. Do you think Beyoncè has a song for the people who can’t find jobs, or the interview that you didn’t do so well in?”
These moments are especially necessary when Mila’s off hawkishly deriding all others for their “questionable” taste, as she does twice in this episode (about recent winners Emilio and Anthony). Tim Gunn provides the week’s funniest moment in his ritual inspection as he bends over Emilio’s graffiti print, frowning at the inscrutable letters. “It’s my initials,” says Emilio petulantly. “E-S-O-S-A.” But Tim reads this as a bromance code for Emilio’s favorite collaborator, Seth Aaron, the co-winner of last week’s challenge, and reads it as “S-A and E-S.” A Freudian slip? They would certainly raise very well-tailored children.
On the runway, the judges go for the jugular; not only do they appraise the fashion but, more than once, criticize the designers’ personalities. Guest judge Vivienne Tam wisely stays out of the bloodshed, but Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are extra persnickety; they dislike Anthony’s sweetheart-neckline cocktail cut juxtaposed against his architectural print, and Nina coldly dismisses his typically chatty reasoning. “Always an explanation,” she barks, though his verbosity is exactly why she (and everyone watching) have loved him for the entire season. Low blow.
Michael Kors says arty-pants Jonathan’s “subtractive” fabric looks like “a dirty tablecloth with food on it,” which is certainly needless; it’s a bit Macy’s and drab, but nowhere near that terrible. Jonathan replies that the comparison is “preposterous,” which inspires a whole slew of hysterical, affronted Kors-isms.
The panel loves Seth Aaron’s mod, vaguely equestrian blazer with smart trousers, and enjoys Emilio’s triangular neckline over his LV-ripoff print (though do not mention the obvious derivation). Somehow, they don’t rake Mila’s stiff, ill-fitting, hideously ugly multicolor sack; she should have gone home a long time ago.
But she doesn’t. And the travesty just continues when Emilio is named the winner; Kors celebrates his “unique” look, and heads slam into tables all across America. The bottom two comes down to two past challenge winners, Jonathan and Anthony, and irrepressible, pageant-sculptural Anthony, shockingly, is sent home. He handles the upset graciously; at least he has a Marie Claire cover look on his resumè now (this month’s issue, in fact), and certainly a bright future as a television personality.
“I think life has taught us that you don’t have to have the crown to be the queen,” he says in parting. True that, good sir.