Project Runway Recap: The Top 7 Unleash the Floodgates

Seriously, dudes, Project Runway isn't supposed to make me cry. Over and over.

This week's episode opens with Valerie whine whine whining. She thought she would go home, not that she wanted to go home, but she's sorry Ivy went home, because ivy is her BFF and on and on. Ivy may have been way more toxic, but really? Valerie is the most self-deluded. And she dresses like a Peanuts character. Which, actually, might be a mitigating factor.

After two wins in a row, even Gretchen can admit that Mondo is her big competition. Well, duh. Although I don't think you're quite as much competition for him, honey.

When we hit the workroom the designers find pictures from their childhood up on each of their big huge HP touchscreens. Including Michael C. as a little boy in his underwear, which I actually could have done without.

And this week's commercial is for HP. Meaning, it's the "HP Challenge." The Executive Director of HP Global Marketing gets 15 seconds, not even minutes, of fame to introduce the challenge. It's a repeat of last year's opportunity to create a textile design that will be created overnight and used for the challenge's design.

This year he challenge came with a little more explicit instruction: The textile design must evoke something very personal. Design itself can be anything, but the textile must have some inspiration or story.

And it has to be the main element of the design, although they'll  get to spend $100 at Mood for supplemental fabric.

So, what did we learn this about their childhoods while they were designing textiles?

Well, it sounds like Michael C. had a homophobic mother. That picture of him in his underwear? Well, right before he had been spinning around and around in a skirt to see it twirl, and when his mom caught him she made him take it off. And then took a picture of him. Did anyone else find that story creepy? 

That Christopher has a future in commercials

That April's the "dark one," and that must be why she always designs in black. Her textile is about her parents' divorce.

And finally, we learn that Mondo's life is a bit like the character of Paul in the musicalA Chorus Line. Coming from a traditional Latino family, Mondo did come out to his mother when he was only 17, but basically she told him not to tell his dad, and not to tell anyone else either. And he really didn't. Not only that, but he's designing a textile filled with plus signs. Because he's been HIV positive for 10 years. And hasn't told anyone.

Well, until now on national TV.

And the timing? What with the recent losses the LGBT community has suffered, particularly among young gay men who have taken their own lives in the face of bullying and continued stigma. I was a mess watching Mondo put it out there. And for once I hoped it would do some good to have a reality TV show pushing their contestants into doing a "confessional."

From there they went to Mood, where Swatch was nowhere to be seen. But if you were thinking the emotional level would be dialed down ... think again. Because back at the workroom, Tim let them know some special guests would be showing up, and with that he sent in the moms!! One and two at a time.

First moms in? Valerie's and Mondo's! Then Michael's mom came with his son, which made him a blubbery mess.

And then there was a pause, to build dramatic tension of course, and to provide a moment for Gretchen to share that she doubted her mom could come because she has to stay home and take care of Gretchen's step-dad, and they don't have money, so she could never afford to get a caretaker, so she could come. And how she missed her mom and felt bereft watching everyone else's show up. And OK, I actually liked Gretchen. And of course her mom showed up ... seriously, how could she not?

Christopher was the only one whose partner showed up instead of his mom. Which made me wonder why, but that question went unanswered.

Tim gave all the designers the rest of the day off, and they got to spend time with their dear ones. And Mondo thought about telling his mom about his HIV status, but couldn't do it. He couldn't "cause her pain at that moment." I was thinking this episode was obviously going to conclude with Mondo finally telling his parents everything. And truth be told, I was feeling uncomfortable thinking I was going to witness that intimate moment. I know, that's what reality TV is about. But i'm in denial about Project Runway being a reality TV show. I think of it as a talent show.

Moving on: The next morning, the designers received their fabric. All of which, I must confess, looked a little underwhelming. And I wasn't the only one who thought so. Andy himself felt "off his game and uninspired by his fabric."

Tim visited and gave his patented sage advice:

- Like telling April she needs to "step away from her emotions and analyze her work as adesigner".

- Like telling Michael that what he's working on is "beautifully done and needs to fit exquisitely."

- Like telling Christopher he's "over-designing a pant." [In case you care, Gretchen says Christopher's vision gets a C+.]

- Like telling Valerie it looks like she's working on an "ice-skating outfit" and that she better not create a "PuPu platter of too many construction methods."

And meanwhile, Mondo still won't talk about the meaning of the plus signs on his fabric.  

This is also the episode where some of the designers admit that maybe Michael C. isn't actually the Fashion AntiChrist 

For example, Andy admits that "Michael C. has grown on me." That's so sweet. No really, how nice of you, Andy.

Of course, ever since Mondo and Michael C. worked on a challenge together, Mondo loves Michael C. He loves him because "He's not afraid to grow. Others are not that humble." Gee Mondo, ya think? 

And the one thing I'm thinking while seeing all their looks coming together? Wow, we're down to the final seven. And this is supposed to be a highly personal challenge. And they got to design their own fabric. And yet, the looks being pulled together seem ... generic. Like off-the-rack mall clothing. Certainly the kind of clothing I can afford and wear, but not exactly "fashion," as the judges like to implore for.

So, let's go on to the runway and see how it really came together:

Heidi comes out (in an old lady dress for slutty old ladies, I should mention) and is joined by MK, ninagarcia, and this week's guest judge: Rachel Roy. (She's a designer ... I'm clearly not plugged into the design world, I'll just say that.)

Let's go (And as always, click on the designer's name to see their outfit):


1. April 

I'm not feeling it, April, I admit. And I'm  not sure what the judges really liked, except that it wasn't quite as boring and off-the-rack as most of the other. This was yet another black outfit, this time a black one-shouldered dress with raggy tutu skirt and Palmoa Picasso shaped heart pattern down the one sleeve and under the bodice. The thing is, you couldn't really see much of her textile; it was hidden underneath this weird structural black bodice. I didn't even see the family "tree" motif along the sleeve until they pointed it out during the post-runway discussion. Color me underwhelmed.


2. Andy:

Andy's model comes out in black shorts and combat boots. And his textile was used to create a sleeveless top with  grey and black circular pattern. The only unexpected thing about the outfit is these black panels down the side of the top ... looks sort of like a sewn-in holster. It's unexpectedly bad and pointless. It's totally Forever 21. But at least he knows it. He's not proud of the outfit, nor should he be.


3. Mondo 

Evoking his American Sportswear design, Mondo's outfit featured hot pink pants, with his plus-sign textile and a very high waist. Paired with a black jacket  with striking graphic-patterned lining that could be seen when the jacket was removed and backless graphic-print halter top. This was very striking, but also very close to a companion piece for previous looks he has done before. And his high-waist pants were a little too high-waisted. Still, despite a few flaws, Mondo was the only one who brought any actual personal stamp to the proceedings, and the only one who made you sit up and say, "Wow."


4. Valerie 

Oh dear, this was dreadful. Pairing a boring black top with sheer inset and black side panels covering boobs with a blue and black tiered skirt that looked slovenly and unflattering. This was really as obvious a send-her-home outfit as the weird palm tree frond dress Sarah created back int he early weeks of this competition. [Spoiler alert.]


5. Gretchen

This may be my favorite Gretchen outfit yet, but only because it isn't actually ugly and unflattering. That being said, yes, it was nice but really simple. Another off-the-rack outfit we've seen before. The high-waist black pants had a high wait just a teeny bit too high, making the model's hips look pretty expansive. There was some random suede piping around waist and down the butt, creating a yoke pattern ... which I didn't get at all. It was accompanied by a simple, sleeveless tank top with a ruffled neckline. The print was sort of mod-looking, featuring these fanned out peacock-feather-looking things. Unfortunately, she placed these prints right on each boob, making it look like an eye with big eyelashes on each nipple. Or maybe that's just me.


6. Michael C. 

Michael showed an over-designed, overly architectural strapless top with yellow thick piping and a black-and-gray skirt. I guess the top was sort of supposed to look like a deconstructed men's shirt and tie, although I didn't get that until, again, the judges were talking about it. Instead, I got that this was another boring and simple outfit. Inoffensive, but hardly innovative. 


7. Christopher

OMG, if any outfit illustrated that this episode was full of nice clothing, not fashion, it was this one. Blue wide-leg, flat-front pants and a simple off-the-shoulder patterned blouse, featuring his blue and gray textile. Did you see I said "simple"? 'Cause this was really, really simple. Totally Ann Taylor. The only atypical feature of the outfit was the exposed zipper down the butt. Atypical isn't always interesting, however, especially given the propensity of this bunch to feature exposed zippers. Snoozzzzzzzzzzzzzzze.


With only seven left, they talked to all the designers, and Heidi said there were "lots of conflicting opinions."


Gretchen: Heidi likes the print and silhouette and even likes the inexplicable yoke. MK likes the pants, but thinks the print has issues. He liked that she tried something different. ninagarcia was disappointed. It's "fine," but not "wow." Rachel wrote down one word: "Almost." Ouch. Clearly not going to win, but also seems clear she won't go home.


Michael: Turns out his textile featured a teeny tiny "evil eye" because he comes from a crooked, secretive family. Um. Ookay. MK thought the print was not a wow, but he could have "designed into it," whatever that means. MK doesn't like that it looks like wearing a man's tie. But Heidi likes the shirt and tie motif. She does, however, think that he went too matchy-matchy with the yellow pumps that match the yellow piping. ninagarcia felt Michael could have helped outfit with better styling. The judges continue to praise Michael's workmanship, which is ironic, given how lacking the other designers have said he is.


Christopher: It's like Christopher hasn't watched the show, given how often water themes have turned out to be dangerous for designers. They always go too literal, which doesn't earn them kudos. Perhaps luckily for him, Rachel doesn't even see water in the print, but thinks the whole outfit looks like an afterthought. ninagarcia echoes my complaint that these are fine clothes but not fashion. And she goes out of her way to say that that comment could apply to plenty of the others. Heidi wrote down "Nice, safe, boring," pointing out that hey, it's a show about design. MK offers similar feedback: "This is what you might sell, but not what you walk down the runway." And clarifying that runway fashion doesn't have to feature a "warrior woman with thigh-high boots and a whip." Darn.


Andy: Rachel likes the print, but finds the outfit itself to be odd, confusing and upsetting. And not sexy. I agree the outfit was sad ... but upsetting??? I wouldn't go quite that far, jeez. ninagarcia says she felt sad, and she was disappointed because he's usually interesting. MK likes the print, but he sees a face pattern in how the print is laid out, which means that now I see it, too. Heidi also has a really strong reaction, calling it "unwearable."


April: MK understood the friction and pulling that the theme of divorce lent to her pattern and design, and says it's actually a consistent theme in her best work. He likes the bodice and likes idea of print, but the skirt looks like scraps of fabric tacked on. ninagarcia also thinks it's a charming print, and she loves silhouette. Rachel says that this print was her favorite, and she actually liked the way April used it ... hiding and showing it sparingly. It was also Heidi's favorite print. But as she says: Pouffiness isn't flattering.


Valerie: The judges who were there all season think Valerie's skirt is just too much like the napkin dress she already did for the Party Store Challenge. MK says it looks like she just smushed the fabric on, and that there were too many layered fabrics. [Perhaps a PuPu Platter of fabric?] Nothing appealing about it. ninagarcia thinks it reads "heavy." Rachel, having not seen it before, likes the napkin effect, but agrees that the fabric is poorly attached and too much going on.


Mondo: Well, here we go. As each designer has described the inspiration for their textile design, we know they're saving Mondo for last. At first he simply says that it's very personal to him, and very symbolic of who he is. ninagarcia says: "I wish I knew what the story was," because the overall effect is "terrific." This is "Fashion," and she loves the way he mixes prints and colors. MK notes that it has joy and is very sharp. Rachel loves the pant and its fit. But she's concerned about the inspiration. To her, the fabric is perfect, and no one's life is perfect. Ironic, eh? Heidi thinks it's "great" and "makes a statement."


So, finally, Mondo indeed reveals his HIV+ status. It's an emotional moment, as you'd expect. For him, for the other designers and even for the judges.


As for Mondo? He "feels free and good." And with that: "Maybe I'll start being nicer." Aw. Seriously.  He got me again. Damn, I guess finally Lifetime is using their Lifetime Movie legacy to bring the bawling to Project Runway. Tell me it isn't just me!


On to the judge's discussion of who should win and who will get the auf:


Rachel thinks Andy's was the worst, and that he just "fell apart." Well, people, MK is here to tell you that "Fashion is not for sissies," and you can't fall apart because you got to see your mommy. (OK, he didn't put it quite like that, but that's what he meant.)

MK thinks Valerie's was the worst because there was nothing interesting about it, and echoes Tim's warning: It looks like a bad ice-skating outfit. Rachel thinks that at least there was somedesign to it and some manipulation of the fabrics. (I see her point ... it was ugly, but she tried something. Those folks who made plain pants and a plain blouse? Really worse.)

Christopher = boring.

Michael's was an odd mix, and though Heidi liked it, it was too "old fashioned."

So, it's clear that the three best, according to the judges, were Gretchen, April, and Mondo. But it's equally clear that Gretchen didn't do enough. Oddly enough, MK thinks she is, hands down, the best stylist ... despite her over-reliance on thigh-high beige boots.

So, it's between April and Mondo for the win. And they spend some time talking about his inspiration. And how he took something difficult in his life and make it unexpectedly joyous. His difficulties propel him, instead of holding him back. 

And with that lead in, I guess it's no surprise that Mondo is the winner!!! That's three in a row. And I'm thinking we may never see the reveal of his "dark secret" to the people who matter most: His family.

April, Gretchen, Michael, and Christopher are all in.

Andy and Valerie are left in the bottom two.

Valerie, not surprisingly, gets the auf. Back in the workroom, she gives the big speech. Concluding with "I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow."

OK, not really, but she went a bit Dorothy on all the designers.

We're in the Top 6 now, and Mondo has got the momentum. Can anyone beat him?

Elisa Camahort Page 
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