The textile challenge was one of my favorite episodes in Season Eight. I almost cried during the emotional reunions with family members (and someone’s mom almost didn’t show up!), and then again when Mondo revealed he was HIV-positive on the runway.
So. Much. Raw Emotion.
Realizing the power of that episode, Project Runway tried to invoke it last night: Friends, lovers and relatives showed up and the designers were encouraged to tap into something culturally meaningful in their fabric designs. They even brought back Mondo! (And Anya?)
While it had all the right ingredients, the soufflé just didn’t rise—a feeling perfectly captured when the designers and their loved ones sat around a dark apartment drinking out of pink Solo cups.
Yes, the drama rang hollow, but some of the designs were kinda nice—right? Let’s focus on that.
I was always rather good at those magic-eye puzzles as a kid, so I was frustrated when I couldn’t really see the penises and fallopian tubes that Fabio insisted were in his pattern. Either way, the pattern was fine—but I give him the most props for convincing Tilda Swinton to make a guest appearance.
Ven (Bottom 2)
We were so close to getting rid of Ven this week, weren’t we? His midway critique session with Tim was rightfully horrendous, but the line “homage to a menstrual cycle” is the type of comment that will hopefully haunt him for decades: Every time he places red and white together, I imagine him staring at it and silently asking, “Does this remind me of a tampon?”
Ven decides to scrap his original design. Great! But he’s left with the only other sewing technique that his hands are capable of doing: layering. After it came down the runway, everyone was so frustrated by Ven repeating his one trick that Heidi called in Tim to get the deets. (And we got the bonus of hearing Tim say “Maxi Pad.”)
Truthfully, I thought this ill-fitting disaster—”a Hawaiian flight-attendant outfit” as Heidi called it—was going to send the not-laughing Buddha packing. But something (definitely not his engaging solo interviews) kept Ven afloat. Perhaps it’s so we can finally see if he can do something different?
Melissa (Top 3)
Can we give Melissa a prize for creating a textile that doesn’t look like something a three year-old made? Seriously. I know the judges would never fully explain how much they loathed all the ill-conceived patterns (it might tick off HP), but I’m going to applaud Melissa for making a pattern that looked good when used for an entire dress.
This is what happens when you force a garden-variety white person to design something base on his culture in, like, an hour: Awkward ladybugs!
Yes, the textile was terribly designed (the judges even commended Christopher for covering it up as much as possible) and the prom-ready silhouette was uninspired. Somehow, though, it didn’t suck enough to land him at the bottom of the bottom.
A bullied past is likely to have more influence than the corner of Eastern Europe, Guyana or Ireland your grandparents came from. So props to Gunnar for coming up with the one story that actually resonated (even if it did smell like he was trying to ride Mondo’s heartstrings-tugging coattails a bit).
But I have an important question: Are we allowed to beat up on a designer who made a lousy jacket inspired by bullying? Gunnar’s textile was actually interesting in its raw form—the execution, though, was another story. And the skirt was a complete throwaway.
While sticks and stone may break some bones, these words will never hurt Gunnar, who seemed to know instinctively that this was his week to leave. He seemed at peace. Smiling. Chipper. It was very un-Gunnar. And oddly heartwarming.
Sonjia (Top 2)
Since Project Runway has been repeating this challenge for years, the similarities are really starting to show. Specifically, these pants—and any other pattern pant—will always look like the one made by Mondo two seasons ago.
But here, there was no emotional connection, just a very literal interpretation: red, white and blue (because she’s American) and also some black (because apparently Sonjia is black).
Just because you give a designer fancy touch-screen technology (courtesy of HP!) doesn’t mean she’ll use it for good. Any cultural references are lost on this look, as Elena was a v-neck-and-drawstring away from a terrible pair of medical scrubs. But at least she managed to turn them into this almost wearable jacket.
Dmitry (Winner, Queerty Fave)
“About fucking time.” That’s what Dmitry said after his first win of the season, and who could blame him? After a string of good dresses that landed him in the top three, apparently all he needed to do was design an intriguing pattern and pair it with an impeccably tailored jacket (with levitating fabric and intricate cutouts, of course).
Seriously though, about fucking time.
Jason Sweeten is a contributing writer for Queerty. His cultural fabric would hopefully not involve the Texas flag, but it probably would.