We are coming up on the end of Project Runway, as we simultaneously get closer to seeing the final looks of the designers. Well, those of us who have managed to remain spoiler free, that is. This season, things are running a little differently, as we get an additional runway competition between Chris and Rami to decide whose final collection will actually make it to Bryant Park, and that’s where we are tonight.

All the designers have left their shared abode in New York city and gone back to…well, in most cases they stayed in the Big Apple, actually. Only Rami returned home, to Los Angeles, so Tim’s home visits are probably much easier on him this year then in years past. He starts with a visit to Christian. Rather to Christian’s closet, which apparently he is back inside (see what I did there?).  Seriously, the guy is working and sleeping in a space is about the size of a good walk-in closet. This is proven by the fact that his "bed" doesn’t fit inside and instead leans against a wall outside his door. Each evening he pushes it down and crawls into the space for the night. It makes me feel bad for complaining about having run out of room on the bookshelves that line my walls.  At least I can keep a decent sized bed and maintain floor space!

Christian describes his look as "romantic" and "goth", but it’s also got that amplified whimsy we’ve come to expect from him. This is evidenced as he holds up a coat and another piece that is layers upon layers of what looks like fluffy organza. Tim steps back and asks what the volume of the skirt does beneath the coat and Christian corrects him. It’s not a skirt, it’s a "neck piece". Of course it is! The most distressing thing we see is – I kid thee not – feather pants. I mean, full out, skinny cut pants, completely covered in cream feathers. Tim points out that they are a bit costumey. Meanwhile, I am thinking they could add a third act to Cats, where the felines hunt for dinner and sing about how hard is is to come across birds in a city junkyard. "Costumey" is just not a strong enough adjective for what these pants are. Yet, all the same, Tim doesn’t want Christian to pull them from his collection, and so I can only imagine he sees something in them that I can’t fathom from their place on the hanger. He tells him to carefully edit and leaves him to his musings.

Next up, Tim goes to see Jillian. We find out that like Michael Kors and Donna Karan, she’s from Long Island. I had always figured her as from Connecticut. All the same, we learn that once upon a time, her mom went to a psychic who told her that she would have 3 children and 1 of them would be famous. Apparently, Jillian is that child – at least in her own estimation. As she says, "Everyone thinks they are going to be the next big thing, but I will be". He work space is much more sizable than Christian’s – I suppose Ralph Lauren pays well. She explains that she enjoyed the museum challenge so much that she took her collection in the same direction, studying 15th century armor and the like. Her work does have a very exactingly tailored sort of precision to it, while maintaining a frank femininity that is somewhat startling. Tim points out that her palette is a bit worrisome, describing it as "a cloudy day – I’m not getting it", but has little else in the way of advice for her. We’ll have to wait to see if she pops any color surprises in there.

Tim heads out to L.A. to visit with Rami, and we get a little more background about the draping obsessed designer. For example, his mother was Miss Jordan and passed away when he was 5. He enjoyed fashion most of his life, but hid it from his family because it didn’t seem masculine enough. However, one day his brother grabbed his sketchbook from him and ran to show their father and step mother and ever since then Rami has enjoyed their full support. He takes Tim to his storefront / studio – which is impressive in itself – to show him a collection that is not what I expected. There are no rows of Grecian dresses. Rather, Rami explains that he was inspired by Joan of Arc and finding a feminine way to showcase detailed construction. A lot of what he describes is similar to Jillian’s ideas honestly – if a more literal interpretation thereof. But there is something truly impressive about the coats he’s made, and a dress that the camera flies over catches my attention. It didn’t get enough screen time, but the jeweled tones of golden, buttery yellow and rich, Asian inspired cut to red satins was intriguing and I hope to see it on the runway. Tim frowns that he is missing the softness we’d come to expect from Rami, commenting that the coat weighs about as much as chain-mail, before he’s off again.

Back in New York, Time visits Chris, who describes his collection at 95% fashion and 5% costume. I think it’s a good note to try for, allowing him to indulge in what he loves while accomplishing something with a greater point of view. Then we find out that it isn’t some exotic faux fur he’s trimmed his pieces in. It’s human hair. Tim tries to suppress his urge to vomit at the thought of wearing human hair on his lapels. That doesn’t bother me, after all, most of Hollywood has someone else’s hair sewn or glued onto their scalp. No, I get caught in the idea of brushing my sleeves. And would I have to flat iron them? Do they get frizzy in humid weather? It’s starting to sound like too much work! But, for better or worse, (and Tim’s monkey-stink analogy points out the worse) it’s dramatic and eye catching. It’s also very dark and gothic and because of the hair, makes me imagine the entire scene set to the music of Sweeney Todd. Chris takes Tim to a friend’s house, which he aptly describes as a "baroque rococo nightmare" that was built over 30 years. It just adds to the aura of spectacle that seems to surround Chris at all times, which is probably why we love him so.

The visits complete, all the designers regroup in New York for the final showdown between Chris and Rami. They are brought to the new workroom, which prophetically only has 3 tables. Additionally, Chris and Rami are only given 3 hours for fitting, hair and make-up on their models – though they are each allowed to draft Jillian (with Rami) and Christian (with Chris) for help. We get a quick montage of hair being teased or slicked back for phony tails and skin being air brushed into perfection before it’s time for the last runway competition.

Rami: It probably is heavy. And Nina could very well be right, that it is over worked with too many details. But my, I do love the coat with it’s deep jeweled color and uneven, curling lapel. I love the coat so much, that I can’t even notice the dress beneath it – a simple black draped whatever – LOOK at the sleeves on that coat! Look at how the hem swings! I can’t help myself. The cocktail dress is alluring, especially for being strapless – a style I typically hate for the sheer complication of the foundation garments that must be worn in order to look decent. But Rami manages to make it look soft while maintaining an edgy optical illusion within the gathering and drape of the patterned fabric – a feat he accomplishes without looking horribly dated, no less. His final look is a very dramatic and glittering black gown that is eye catching and should have been his piece in the final challenge. It’s intriguing, has depth and movement that is unexpected as each little detail and ruffle shimmers as the model walks. The circular design on the hips is, as Michael Kors points out, unflattering – but Nina is equally right that it is a fantasy dress. It’s piece to tell the story of a collection and to inspire other parts of it – not act as a foundation for it. The big issue is that there was not a single Grecian gown, meaning he went well beyond his comfort zone. And he did so beautifully.

Chris: It’s romantic and dark but also has elements of classic and creepy. Which means it’s really hard to pin down. There is great movement, because human hair really flows in a unique way. It’s also got shimmer – from layers of black safety pins, no less. But, to borrow of phrase from Tim – there is a lot of look going on. Velvet and hair and pins and lace all combine in the first look. It manages to not look fussy – a trick Christian couldn’t pull off in the prom dress competition – but I am not sure it looks wearable in any sense. There is so much there that I don’t see how it translates into something that can exist outside of the runway. The second is a gorgeous drop waisted gown that starts with a sublime black beaded lace top over a nude halter. The skirt is entirely hair, but I would see it working for retail as a handkerchief hem in velvet. But is it really new or innovative without the hair? Lastly, we get a long column of black velvet with an oversize wrap across the shoulders, which is the signature splash of size related drama Chris so loves. However, the model has obvious trouble walking in the constrictive dress and in the end it seems a little too Morticia – especially once the wrap is taken off. Again, its a question of once the dramatic element is removed, what is the foundation – fashion forward or fashion rehash?

In the end, no matter how much I loved Chris’s flare, his sense of style and heightened theatrics, I have to totally support the judges decision: Rami is the winner and will be the one to show in the final 3 at Bryant Park.  Of course, Chris showed as well, and so did Sweet Pea -all to try and help keep the secret of the final 3 a little longer. But the grand prize can only go to Rami, Jillian or Christian. We only got a quick peek at each collection, but which are you most looking forward to? And who do you think will take the final prize? It’s the first year that I have not had a clear favorite, but so far I am most intrigued by Rami’s use of color and structure – I can’t wait to see the final showing!

Posted by:Jessica Paff