'Project Runway' Recap: Backless to the Future

R. Eric Thomas
Photo credit: Bravo

From ELLE

In the second episode of the new Project Runway, we’re talking about the future, baby! You know: flying cars, phasers set to stunning, and, apparently, the xenomorph from Aliens but made into fashion. It’s a lot, but the word on the street is that we’re all headed toward the future, whether we want to or not, so we might as well look good while we do it.

When the design-testants enter the workroom, it looks like a mix between Rainforest Cafe and Mars 2112. (Only real ones will remember Mars 2112, New York’s strangest alien-themed restaurant.) There’s fog creeping across the floor, there’s models in moss-covered boxes, there’s gills and tentacles, and I’m freaking out honestly.

Turns out this is a pop-up installation by A. Human, the body mod fashion line. Creator Simon Huck tells the design-testants that the models are all wearing A. Human body mod prosthetics, and Karlie informs them that they’ll be working in teams of three to create a mini-collection that highlights the body modification and imagines fashion five minutes in the future. This is exciting, but I thought Back to the Future II already settled the question of what people will be wearing in the years to come. One Marty McFly tech vest, please!

Garo, Hester, and Nadine are assigned a shoulder horns mod-very Maleficent. Afa, Sebastian, and Tessa (last week’s winner) get a ridged neck piece that looks like a Queen Elizabeth ruff but made of skin. Lela, Venny, and Bishe get what is called a back scaffold, which apparently means “what if a xenomorph was attacking you from behind." Kovid, Renee, and Frankie get a chest piece designed by Chrissy Teigen that looks like feather made of skin across the breast. And Sonia, Rakan, and Jamall get a yellow necklace that is lit from within and was once worn by Kim Kardashian.

The teams start to confab around the models who have to sit there, blankly staring and blinking while wearing glowing orbs applied to their neck or whatnot. Truly wild.

The challenge

Christian Siriano shows up in the workroom and blithely decimates everyone. He sees Hester’s choice of a massive amount of blue tulle, which he dubs “bridesmaid tulle,” and he’s over it. He encourages Team Shoulder Horns to add something, anything else. When they do, they’re over $100 over at Mood. Guess what goes back? Not the tulle, honey! Here comes the bride!

Back in the workroom, Frankie is taking the lead on Team Chest Feathers and, frankly, I’m vexed. Frankie had a big meltdown last week and barely survived elimination so this seems like a great opportunity to learn from Kovid and particularly Renee, the runner-up from last week. To quote Meryl Streep in the movie Doubt, “I have such doubts.”

On day two, Christian worries that Kovid on Team Chest Feathers and all of Team Back Scaffold are sliding into costume-y looks that skew too old. And this tulle on Team Shoulder Horns! He’s still hearing the wedding march and he’s standing up to let the whole church know he objects. Somehow this finally gets through to Hester, who abandons the tulle and presses her teammates to give them some of the fabric they chose for their designs. For some reason Tessa, who is not on the team, is trying to play peacemaker. It doesn’t work well. Nadine is not having it, but eventually offers to use less of the fabric for a cape so that Hester can make pants. Who amongst us has not had to make the same sacrifice?

A few minutes later, Christian strides over to Hester, points at some tulle and strips of a blue fabric draped across the model’s bodice, and straight up demands, “Is this staying?” Hester’s like “Yes…? No…? Maybe…?” Christian’s like “Get it together, thanks.” Now Hester reverts back to the tulle to compensate and Nadine is salty about losing the blue fabric, which she could have used.

Meanwhile, across town, Kovid has to do a major fix on the sizing of his design and he’s crying at a sewing machine. Again, who amongst us?

The runway

Uh, it’s the day of the show, y’all, and Kovid’s model has no bottom, but his teammate Frankie is spending time recutting her model’s skirt. This is like an O. Henry story; I’m stressed.

Team Back Scaffold is first and they definitely serve, sending a trio of backless formal pieces down the runway, to accentuate the modification piece. After all the tulle drama, Team Shoulder Horns’ mini-collection is not super memorable, unfortunately.

Team Necklace is sort of confusing. They are trying to highlight a yellow neck prosthetic with gauzy slips the color of Bermuda sand. It’s not really cohesive and the models look washed out, in my pajama-clad opinion. Also, Rakan sends his model down the runway in a coat that looks like a cinched puffy comforter wrapped around her shoulders, which is exactly what I’m wearing. Fashion!

Team Neck Ruffles also sticks to whites and off-whites, but fares much better, accentuating the collar-like prosthetic. Sebastian’s dress is particularly impressive, affixing white fabric ruffles to a sheer dress. The ruffles move really well; the construction is fantastic.

Renee, Frankie, and Kovid of Team Chest Feathers each critiques their own look in voiceover, lamenting the messiness. They know and we know and they know that we know.

The judgement

Team Neck Ruffles takes the win while Team Chest Feathers, as expected, receives the lowest scores.

Elaine and Brandon love that Tessa took charge, but they don’t super love her design. Their big highlight is a cloth handbag, but the bag was actually made by Sebastian. Nina goes wild for Afa’s design-particularly the pants, which are incredibly well-tailored. Karlie and Brandon are obsessed with the foot covers Afa has created for his model’s shoes. And everyone goes gaga for Sebastian’s design. He really emerged as a great team member, designer, and editor in this challenge.

Meanwhile, the judges want to know who is responsible for the travesty of Team Chest Feathers. Renee volunteers that Frankie came up with a concept of a wealthy woman who needs a party dress and has her stylist go out and pull some options. I forgot to mention this earlier, because it made me sad the first time I heard it and continues to make me sad. “It just spiraled out of control,” Renee admits.

Brandon starts: “Fire the stylist.” The clothes feel old and the construction is messy. Nina is flabbergasted that they didn’t take advantage of the creative possibilities of this futuristic challenge. She’s, frankly, bored by the party dress conceit. Same, boss. Same.

Elaine thinks Renee’s bolero jacket, cut open to show off the chest wings, is constricting her model. Nina says she’s clipped her wings. Poetic!

Nina only gets about a sentence into Kovid’s critique when he starts to cry. She’s like, “Please. Don’t.” The bottom line is that he’s disappointed in himself. I mean, same, but we can’t go around crying at work, honey. At least that’s what the note from HR said to me.

Now Frankie. Elaine is confused. Frankie was saved from elimination last week when the judges sent home Cavanaugh for her all-black basic look and this week she serves up…an all-black basic look. Frankie’s answer, basically, is that she was so nervous of overextending herself that she undercompensated.

In the private critique, the judges don’t hold back. Renee’s design is a cheap Halloween store costume, Kovid has made a cheap bridesmaid dress, and Brandon says that Frankie has a problem understanding the female form.

The winner of the challenge is Sebastian, whose skill set blew the judges away.

The bottom two comes down to Kovid and Frankie after Renee is saved, presumably because this week seems more like a fluke than an indication of her skill. In the end, they send Frankie home. Kovid seems legitimately stunned; he comes back into the designers’ lounge looking positively shellshocked. We have really run the gamut of emotions with Kovid in these first two episodes. Frankie is more restrained than last week; there’s no tears as she says she’s looking forward to going home, getting back to her sewing machine, and seeing what’s waiting in her future.

Who I’m rooting for this week

Sebastian! What a surprise! Also Tessa again, and Afa. That whole team was full of powerhouses.

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