Project Runway Recap: S14 E09

Beware: there’s a rant ahead. 

The Challenge: Hoooo, boy. How many times – in this episode and in dozens more – have we heard Tim or the judges say that this is a design competition, a runway fashion competition, not a seamstress contest, in order to steer the contestants away from making the most basic garments possible? A score? A hundred? A million?

Someone please explain to me how, after all that insistence that this show is about DESIGN, there could be a challenge that so blatantly rewards the least creative designer. The designers were tasked with creating a look to be reproduced and sold by JustFab. (Apparently, JustFab sells clothing, and not just the tacky accessories that appear on this show? Who knew.) I know these challenges have been done before, but this one felt particularly hypocritical, with the JustFab guest judge praising only the garments that she’s seen a million times before, because she already knows they can sell, while the regular judges pretend this is still about design, except when they arbitrarily decide it isn’t. No wonder the judges couldn’t agree on a top or bottom three – the constraints of the challenge were completely contradictory. The judges couldn’t figure out how to keep pretending that design skills matter, when the items most likely to sell on JustFab are the most basic items.

And this isn’t to say that fashion shouldn’t consider the consumer and what works for them. Of COURSE a good designer knows what their client wants, how to dress their body, etc. But keeping the customer in mind is one thing, and designing for a least-common-denominator website that openly admits their desire for the cheapest, most simplistic, easiest-to-reproduce garments WHILE PROCLAIMING OUT LOUD THAT THIS IS A DESIGN COMPETITION is quite another. Here’s a thought: have the designers create things with a specific client in mind, and then announce after the runway show that the winner’s look will be sold by JustFab. That way, the website can dumb down the design to something cheap enough to reproduce, and we can all still watch a runway show that is actually about design.

I can’t pick a top three or bottom three either. Because if I pick the winner as the person who most closely followed the challenge, I’d be rewarding a total lack of originality, creativity, and design skills. And if I picked the most interesting design as the win, that wouldn’t really fit the constraints of the challenge. So I’m opting out of my usual top/bottom assessment. Because a challenge like this has no place in a so-called design competition.

Guest Judges: Ciara, and that JustFab lady who creamed her pants over all the most boring items on the runway.


Photo: Lifetime

Ashley’s JustFab-forced “category” was Girl Next Door. Don’t worry, all the other categories (Bombshell, Trendsetter, Modern Classic, and Femme Nouveau) were just vague enough so that the designers could still make basically whatever they wanted – as long as it was cheap enough to be reproduced. To me, this looked about as cheap as can be. The top and skirt are an American Apparel-looking knock-off of every twinset Taylor Swift has worn this year. And I had to laugh at Ashley’s assertion that her jacket looks like leather – it read as “plastic” to me.

Actually, Ashley bothered me all episode, starting with her questionable belief that a girl next door wouldn’t wear a motorcycle jacket. Is it 1955 already? She doesn’t make much more than A-line dresses and circle skirts, and she was vocal in her desire to make something as basic as possible. Again, I’m running into the problem where I can’t critique her for wanting to be basic, because only something basic can win this challenge. Sigh.


Photo: Lifetime

Candice was pretty obnoxious in this episode too, insisting that her win last week “humbled” her while still shit-talking her competitors. She also dramatized the hell out of the fact that she got to choose each designer’s style category – sorry, Candice, but you actually do not, as you claimed, have the fate of the designers in your hands. As for the clothes: I wanted to rip the tacked-on addition off that skirt. And I still don’t understand what that lapel/scarf/collar/vertical belt is. If she’s a trendsetter, I’m going to have to stay away from trends for awhile.


Photo: Lifetime

Yes, this fit the constraints of the challenge, in that we all know it can sell, because it’s already been sold a million times before. Though I’m not exactly sure where a B-cup or higher is supposed to fit in this thing, since the bustline came out ABOVE the model’s tits. More than anything else, this dress makes me realize that Project Runway has been on television for ten years. And Heidi’s personal style, which was never particularly high fashion or design-oriented, hasn’t grown up over the years. She’s still as in love with extraordinarily basic tight, short dresses as she ever was, but after a decade, it is so exhausting. As was Zac’s proclamation that “it might not be my favorite design, but for this challenge, it’s gold,” which basically proves my point that the show is flat-out lying about being a design competition.


Photo: Lifetime

I think the horizontal stripes should have been vertical or diagonal – it’s REALLY tough to wear that stripe on your thighs, especially just ONE thigh, because it makes your legs look uneven. And I’d gladly throw those shoes in the nearest trash can. But I thought this was trend-setting, as per Kelly’s category, and I can absolutely envision the 20-year-old who would wear this. While I don’t disagree with the “you murdered Cookie Monster” comment regarding the vest, I don’t actually think it’s a bad thing. I’ve certainly used similar comments before, but this particular Muppet pelt felt funky and youthful to me. But I knew Nina would hate it, because she does get a little pearl-clutchy when it comes to things that women who still buy fashion magazines (read: mostly not young women) would never wear. Which makes sense for a Marie Claire editor, but it can get frustrating when Nina refuses to see the value in things that non-Marie Claire readers would wear. And I knew Zac would hate it, because he’s so fussy that, as Tom and Lorenzo like to say, he’s always dressed up like it’s his bar mitzvah.


Photo: Lifetime

I couldn’t tell this from TV or photos, but apparently, you could see the model’s pasties through Laurie’s top AGAIN. Girl, you cannot make that mistake in two consecutive challenges. That is just plain stupid. Even though this was a clear bottom-of-the-barrel entry, I have to laugh at the judges for eliminating Laurie for her lack of innovation, while awarding Edmond the win for his … lack of innovation.


Photo: Lifetime

Construction-wise, this was a real mess. I have stubbornly, slowly grown to appreciate Merline’s insanely creative mind. And I just can’t hate someone who looks at how little time she has left and says out loud, “I don’t trust you, clock.”  That shit was really funny to me. But Merline always bites off more than she can chew, and this time, I think she choked on it. And while this definitely contained way more design than anything else on the runway, it still felt like a half-finished Prabal Gurung dress to me. Though in Merline’s defense, that JustFab lady sounded nuts when she said that Merline making this dress for the Femme Nouveau category would “not be honest and true to our members.” What does that even mean?


Photo: Lifetime

Someone please explain to me why the model was wearing a potato sack over this gown. And while you’re at it, defend Heidi’s statement that a real person could wear this gown with flip flops. IT HAS A TRAIN. Or at least a pool of fabric that you’d trip all over in flip flops. And even if it didn’t, you can only wear leopard-print gowns with flip flops in South Beach, which barely even counts as the real world.

Judges’ Winner: Edmond
Diva’s Winner: Anyone at Lifetime who had the courage to say, “uh, are we sure we want to talk about how this is a design competition in an episode where we’re vocal about the fact that we’re giving the win to the most simplistic design?” And then was probably fired as a result.
Judges’ Loser: Laurie
Diva’s Loser: Project Runway.

© Democracy Diva, 2015.
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4 responses to Project Runway Recap: S14 E09

  1. Lewis

    Despite the completely weird and arbitrary judging criteria this episode, I’m glad the show found a way to send Laurie home and leave us with the ideal top six for this season (bar Edmond, whose basic designs are so vastly overpraised that it genuinely upsets me). I’m curious to find out who produced which collection at NYFW.

    • democracydiva – Author

      I haven’t looked at the NYFW collections yet, but yes, I do agree it was more than time for Laurie to go. And I am definitely with you on Edmond, who doesn’t deserve half the praise he gets.

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