Project Runway Recap: S9 E11

This week, the final six faced off in a challenge for the birds.
The Challenge
: Using a bird – yes, an actual live bird – as an inspiration, create one look – actually, create two looks! JKLOLZ, actually just one look –  in a head-to-head competition against another designer. Each pair of designers are inspired by the same bird; in each pair, one designer will be in the top 3, and one in the bottom 3. Winner gets $20,000, so even if you’ve skated through the competition because of the help other designers have given you, it’s totally kosher to fuck them over when 20 grand is at stake. Right?

Guest Judge: Francisco Costa, Women’s Creative Director of Calvin Klein Collection.

ANYA (Winner!)

The Good: This was a big step away from Anya’s one-note tribal/island aesthetic that she’s been married to since the start of the competition. And this was exactly the challenge to show the judges that you can create something outside of your wheelhouse, that you have versatility and creativity and all those other -itys that turn a seamstress into a designer. When it came down to the wire, Anya chose to send the more challenging, less expected dress down the runway, and that was a brave and brilliant move. I thought that the way she sculpted and draped this dress was great, because it was clearly inspired by the bird without being so literal as to have feathers hanging off it.

The Bad: First off, the skirt in the back is a full-on nightmare. You KNOW that bottom part is not supposed to be sticking out like that, which makes me worry that this whole garment is moments away from collapsing. But more importantly, this looked uncannily similar to Viktor’s look from Episode 4, the design-for-Nina challenge. See for yourself:

Viktor's dress from Episode 4

You can’t pretend that Anya’s look isn’t suspiciously similar to Viktor’s Nina dress. Hers is just an over-designed, poorly constructed knockoff of Viktor’s look. Except that Viktor’s actually functioned as a garment, and Anya’s look needed to be cut off the model after the runway show. And let’s focus on that for a moment: that you’re allowed to send a garment down the runway that can’t actually function as clothing. Not everything needs to be wearable in the informal sense of the word, i.e., over-the-top and avant garde might not be wearable, but it’s still something we like to see designers do. However, everything does need to be LITERALLY wearable, in that YOU NEED TO NOT CUT YOUR MODELS OUT OF GARMENTS. If you can’t sew in a goddamn zipper, there’s no room for you in this competition, no matter how beautiful you are.

The Ugly: At first, I respected Anya for refusing to give Josh extra fabric, since it is a little too late in the game for such niceties. Then I remembered the shocking amount of help she’s been given by her designers – they’ve sewn parts of garments for her, they’ve given her money and fabric and advice and other things that they were stupid to offer in the first place. I understand not going out of your way to offer something to another designer, but if you’re still in the competition solely because of the help your competitors’ gave you, you have a duty to shut the fuck up and hand over your fabric.

BERT (Out)

The Good: The bodice was perfectly constructed, and the pop of colors as the skirt billowed out had a beautiful effect during the runway show.

The Bad: It’s about as ordinary as ordinary gets. It’s aesthetically pleasing, but you could see on the runway that the bodice didn’t fit the model’s bust at all. Furthermore, to use so little color when your inspiration is a colorful bird was a stubborn mistake. It’s as if Bert felt he knew better than the judges – that he was talented enough to get away with a gray evening gown with a hint of bird-inspiration, instead of stretching himself to utilize the brilliant colors in a way that was more central to the design. But we all know that the name of this game is Don’t Bore Nina, and this was just too dull an entry to keep Bert in the competition.


The Good: On the runway, this moved beautifully, so beautifully that I was actually stunned by Josh’s heretofore relatively unseen draping skills. The gold strap was sexy – maybe a little trashy for some tastes, but I’m from Jersey, so I have a much higher tolerance for trash than the average person. And this orange was all over the runways during New York Fashion Week; it’s as trendy as the Wonder Woman cuff bracelet he styled her with. And the judges were right that it was still a decidedly Joshua look, but much more restrained than his previous work.

The Bad: Once the model stood still, the front of this dress looked like a potato sack. The back still looks nice, if a little wonky on the bottom, but from the front, it’s got no shape whatsoever. It looks completely lifeless. And though the feather-flower thing didn’t bother me nearly as much as the judges, it certainly didn’t help the look.


The Good: Bitch pulled out a interesting, sexy, and challenge-appropriate gown in three hours, which is beyond impressive. She unseated Viktor from his throne of front-runner, another very impressive achievement. She understood how to reference a bird without being too literal, and the cut-out in the middle is super-trendy and very nicely done. The layer of blush pink in the skirt is something I didn’t notice on the runway, but it looks beautiful in photos and was a smart addition, bringing the look to a slightly less bridal place.

The Bad: The construction issues are pretty blatant – nothing attaches to the waistband in a way that looks particularly well-executed. I know that’s a mark of only having three hours, but I don’t grade on a curve, dear readers. Whether you’ve got $11.50 or three hours to make a dress, I’m going to criticize every damn unfinished hemline, because I am an equal opportunity bitch (or a democratic diva, if you will).

LAURA (Bottom 3)

The Good: Like Anya and Joshua, Laura tried to show a different side of her aesthetic and made a pretty cool jacket in the process. I believe it was made of silk organza, and it takes some skill to make such an airy-fairy fabric look structured and badass. I know most people hated that feathered neckline, but I thought it was fine, if a little literal.

The Bad: Those pants. The photos don’t show you quite how awful they were, but they were awful. Shiny and tight, wrinkled and tacky, two-toned and trashy and just all-around terrible.

VIKTOR (Bottom 3)

The Good: The decision to sort of dust the white gown in that soft orange-yellow color was a good one – in theory.

The Bad: We all know Viktor is capable of better work than this. The feathers were too much, too literal, and too obvious. He’s a smart enough designer to come up with a much more subtle way of doing a bird-inspired piece – but he didn’t. And a sheer dress tacked over a mini-skirt or booty shorts is one of my least favorite red carpet trends in recent memory. And construction-wise, this dress (with its puckering seams and unfinished hemlines) can’t hold a candle to Viktor’s previous work. It’s as if he saw Kimberly freaking out in the work room and decided he didn’t need to put in too much effort to snag a spot in the top three, and that disappointed me.

Judges’ Top 3: Anya (winner!), Josh Eyebrows, Kimberly
Diva’s Top 3: Kimberly, Josh Eyebrows, Anya
Judges’ Bottom 3: Viktor, Laura, Bert (out)
Diva’s Bottom 3: Viktor, Laura, Bert

Need more Runway? Check out all our season nine recaps here!

All photos courtesy of Lifetime via New York Magazine.

© Democracy Diva, 2011.
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