by Todd O'Dowd
Welcome back everybody. It’s week 2 of Project Runway, and it’s time for… wait for it… the unconventional materials challenge!
As Heidi mentioned before the runway, the unconventional materials challenge is one of her favorites, and for good reason: every good reality TV contest has at least one challenge that is a signature part of the show that everyone – contestants, audiences, and show producers alike – looks forward to as it’s the challenge that helps define the show and its core values (other examples of this include Restaurant Wars on Top Chef or Snatch Game on RuPaul’s Drag Race).
And aside from being the very first challenge in PR history, the unconventional materials challenges often push the designers out of the comfort zone, show which ones are here to compete, and often have memorable outfits that come as a result of the unusual methods for garment construction. Some famous examples include Austin Scarlett’s legendary corn husk dress from the first episode of Season 1, Laura Bennett’s chic white dress made from recycled packing peanuts bags in Season 3, Leanne Marshall’s Mugler-ific cocktail dress and Korto Momolu’s gorgeous woven coat from Season 5 (both of which were made from automobile parts), and Chris March’s Sprouse-inspired cocktail dress in Season 4 from candy paraphernalia.
So let’s get ready for the stickiest challenge in the show’s history! On to the bullet points!
* In fact, this week’s challenge was a callback to the Season 4 unconventional materials challenge, where the crew raided the Hershey’s store in Times Square. This time, they were taken to Dylan’s Candy Bar, owned by Dylan Lauren (daughter to Ralph Lauren) and given $500 to make a look. I know this is an upscale candy store but that’s an awful lot of money for a challenge that’s supposed to stretch the contestants’ collective imaginations.
* One thing that shocked me was that so many designers grabbed fabric and clothing items for the store. Yes, some of it was used as foundations to apply the candy to, but come on! I was disappointed.
* Surprisingly, there were a lot of good work room critiques for everyone. And how refreshing was it to see someone get a bad critique from Tim and turn it around. Mind you, the look Andrea finally came up with was still a mess but it wasn’t a complete disaster (though one commentator at last night’s l’étoile Project Runway Viewing Party at moto-i said it best: “She’s shitting fabric!”).
* While everyone’s personalities were pretty tame this episode due to the difficulty of this challenge, there were a few precious lambs who decided to be annoying. Gunnar continues to make people want to rip their ears off lest they hear his annoying voice, and Elena burns herself with a glue gun calling for oversized histrionics.
* Runway Time: And the judges look good for the most part. Michael Kors wears his standard black ensemble and Heidi looks like she’s wearing pajamas, but Dylan looks fetching in a purple Ralph Lauren Maxi Dress, and Nina is rocking the hell out of a Balmain blazer.
* As for the looks (viewable at Lifetime’s site), I was surprised that Nathan’s look (which elicited gasps from a few viewers last night) didn’t make it for the exuberant (if heavy) skirt. And while i mentally docked points off for using t-shirt material for the bodice, Dmitry’s beaded skirt and corset of gum balls was striking and had movement to it that most of the outfits lacked.
* As for the top three looks: Ven deservedly won for his brilliant use of crushed rock candy and black licorice ropes to evoke the look of a stained glass window. But attention must be paid to Sonjia for her smart use of the candy (in particular the blue gummi sharks) to give her garment texture and dimension without too much weight (though I agree that the fascinator was a bit much).
* As for the other top three look, while I can understand why Gunnar’s look was so well received (the checkerboard pattern made with licorice of opposing colors and attached in opposing directions is striking), the peplum made it feel heavy right across the hip and the bodice is doing weird things right around the neck. And while the monochromatic nature of the dress was an issue that put her in the bottom three, I appreciated the way Elena used the licorice in her dress to accentuate the stiffness of the silhouette and shoulders for a dramatic touch. Though I will confess I chuckled as their dresses were falling apart in front of the judges’ eyes.
* As for the bottom two, Buffi and Lantie were both deserving of the Auf Wiedersehen this week, Buffi redeemed herself in my eyes with the attempt at the woven bodice (that was poorly fitted), even though the paper skirt was a wrong-headed idea compounded by over-accesorizing. But Lantie’s dress was made with just cheap fabric and repurposed clothing with candy glued onto it. Yes, all of the dresses were to some degree or other but in this case she just gave up and sent something horrendous down the runway. It was her time to go.
* And now… RAUL WATCH! The cameras spent only a brief about of time with Mr. Osorio, but he did manage to get praise from Tim Gunn (who couldn’t believe it was made of candy and not fabric), and that’s always a good thing. As for his look, while it was striking with its use of color, I wasn’t completely convinced about the bare stomach. That said the back of the dress was truly eye-catching. Good enough to get him through another week of fashion boot camp!
Be sure to tune in next week to cheer on #TeamRaul, or better yet, join me and the rest of the l’étoile crew at our weekly viewing party at moto-i on Thursdays. Screenings begin at 8 pm, but get there early to nab a choice seat. Click HERE for a tweet roundup for #teamraul in LOL/OMG! and HERE for last week’s recap.