After multiple episodes in a row based entirely around gimmicks and sponsorship tie-ins, this week’s (Sept. 25) episode of “Project Runway” is a breath of fresh air. Yes, it is a Marie Claire challenge, but Marie Claire is one of the shows longest running sponsors and plays a lot better than the Red Robin such-and-such runway show.
Challenging the remaining contestants to find a person off the street and convince them to me made over is one of the more interesting challenges of the season. It also allows the designers to show their personal style and taste with minimal interference for the first time since they were chosen for the show in episode 1.
This type of challenge has been done before on the show, with the designers finding random people in New York and taking pictures as their muse, but the twist that the muse has to also agree to go back to the studio as a client heightens the original concept and adds an entertaining aspect to the sketching portion. Watching the group wander around Washington Square Park getting rejected over and over is a succinct and hilarious summation of the New York attitude.
The other important detail about this challenge is that the designers have two days to complete their garments for one of the few times this season. Besides the blatant sponsorship deals, the shortening of challenge timelines is the most obvious sign of budget cuts this year. The overall quality of runway shows is better the more time available to complete a look and it feels like the producers realized that halfway through the season and altered the guidelines accordingly for the back half of the season.
With Sandhya gone, the show has to find another angle to hit for drama besides her issues making enemies with the other cast members and they found it in multiple designers who have to start over completely after Tim’s visit to the workroom and one who makes it to the runway only by the grace of Tim.
It isn’t fair of the designers to be hard on Char after they already agreed to allowing her to fix the zipper problem on her jumpsuit. It looks like the only agree in the first place because they assume Char will go home due to her poorly done design, but then to turn around and snark about an option they opted for comes off as catty and unnecessary.
Michelle Monaghan’s guest judging skills straddle the line between being a bland actress coming on and simply saying what they would or wouldn’t wear and a designer who can be more incisive in their critiques. She pinpoints some design details that the other judges do not comment on and contributes to the panel in a way not every guest actress does.
Korina’s win puts her firmly in the top half of designers left in the competition and is at the point where she is comfortable in her aesthetic and the pace of the workdays. Of all the designers left in the competition she is the most likely to coast through to fashion week.
Alexander going home was a long time coming before his poor performance in this challenge and therefore the right choice by the judges tonight. His output never rose to the promise of his early designs and with most of the weak designers cut was an easy target to go home.
Even with Char and Alexander’s major missteps design-wise the runway was a strong enough showing that when next week they revert back to a sponsor-based challenge hopefully the designs will remain as competent. More importantly, hopefully the show learns its lesson in regards to the challenge time and expands every challenge to two days from here on out.