How many challenges can we have in a single episode of Project Runway? If they cram more parameters and requirements in, does it make the results better, or does it just make a fantastical meltdown more likely? Will the judges care, as long as the clothes are fierce? Apparently the show’s producers set out to answer those very questions on Thursday’s episode, and the results were as mixed as the challenge was.

Not only did our designers have to work with partners, but they had to create two cohesive looks, base them on different neighborhoods in New York, and also endure a visit from Mister Clean professional shill L’Oreal makeup artist Collier Strong. Some of the designers did ok, others did much worse, and I’m betting that I wasn’t the only viewer that ended the episode feeling underwhelmed.

Let’s start with the positives: as every week goes by, it gets harder and harder to guess who might go home in any given week, and that’s when the show really gets interesting. That your favorite designer might go home for a relatively minor misstep makes the show all the more engaging, and it certainly makes me pay closer attention during judging.

It also means that things like designer pairings matter a lot more than they do in the beginning of the season. The team leaders were picking randomly from Tim Gunn’s Magic Bag o’ Choosing, and then they picked their partners and, afterward, the neighborhood in New York City that would inspire their outfits. Anthony and Maya chose Chinatown, Emilio and Seth Aaron went with Harlem, Amy and Jonathan visited the Upper East Side, and Jay, who was stuck with Mila, designed based on the East Village.

No one got too literal with their inspiration, which has been a nice surprise with this set of designers – if the Anthony and Maya had made a red dress or outfit of any kind, my head was going to explode. In fact, some of the outfits might have been aided by slightly more obvious references, although I’m afraid that even putting that sentiment into words dooms us to a lifetime of Nehru-collared, shiny, bamboo-patterned Chinatown outfits.

Before we talk about those who could have done things differently, let’s address those who were moderately successful. Our top groups were Emilio and Seth Aaron and Anthony and Maya, and really, the competition between their sets of outfits wasn’t even close. Anthony and Maya didn’t get along particularly well but managed to make a totally serviceable cocktail dress with an asymmetrical embellishment inspired by crepe paper streamers, and a somewhat less serviceable jacket and miniskirt that had totally non sequitur red accents that were terrible. I wouldn’t have worn either outfit, but they weren’t bad, per se. Also, they included just the right number of cultural reference points without turning their outfits into costumes.

They really weren’t any match, however, for Emilio and Seth Aaron’s Harlem-inspired outfits. Emilio did the night look, which was a slightly boring evening gown that was saved by its zippered slit and peeking yellow lining, and Seth Aaron was in charge of a denim getup for day. I normally don’t support an all-denim look, but Seth Aaron has done such interesting structural things with jackets this season that I’ll forgive the faux pas. Also, the look appeared to be genuinely Harlem-inspired, despite the fact that it was on the whitest white girl in the history of whiteness.

Apparently our judges (sans Michael Kors, sadly), had trouble deciding who of the two should be the winner, so Emilio and Seth Aaron ultimately got to share the honor, a ProjRun first. Both of their outfits had their flaws in nearly equal amounts, so awarding the win to both of them seemed like the most fair way to take care of things. Personally, I think that Seth Aaron should have won just for wearing hot pink skinny jeans on a trip to Harlem.

Now, to the unpleasantness of the bottom two groups (and it was particularly unpleasant this week). Jay and Mila were charged with creating what should have been two interesting, edgy, downtown looks based on the East Village, but Mila just made another black and white outfit, and Jay was so focused on how much he abhors Mila’s existence that he forgot to make a tank top that wouldn’t make a girl’s boobs totally fall out.

Mila’s jacket coordinated with her skirt in color only (they were completely different styles, which all the judges failed to mention), but a bold choice saved the outfit – she paired her mini with bright red tights. It’s important to realize that that’s a styling choice, not a design element. Mila certainly didn’t construct them herself, but it was apparently enough to distract everyone from the fact that she has no idea how to design with color. In this post’s comments, Mila claims to have constructed the tights herself and know how to design with color. Take that for what it’s worth, since we haven’t confirmed that it’s actually Mila. Either way, the tights saved the outfit and I’d like to see her work with more color.

In a state of equal trainwreckery, Amy and Jonathan somehow went to the Upper East Side, home to lots of ornate buildings and beautifully clothed women, and ended up making some kind of orange dreamsicle-colored tunic thingy and a cocktail dress that included every design technique that Jonathan knows how to do, even if they didn’t look right together at all. I actually had high hopes for the cocktail dress – when it was a flesh-colored sheath with a pleated bib, it looked totally appropriate and on-trend, based on what was on the Spring/Summer 2010 runways. After he got done splicing and dicing every inch, however, it just looked like Edward Scissorhands had had his way with it.

Jay of the horrible tank top and Amy of the horrible tunic were the bottom two and sadly, Amy had to go. I think she’s a good designer with good ideas, but I agree with the judges’ decision. She has made some beautiful outfits, but also a few that have been totally of the rails (hello, clown pants and the hair bowl dress), and Jay has been more consistently on-target and has won two challenges. I’m sorry to see Amy go, but eventually they all must.

Next week look like a lot of pattern – anyone know what the challenge is going to be? With any luck, it’ll be another visit with Diane Von Furstenberg.

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Loquita

    Once again, you hit the nail on the proverbial head, Amanda. I will miss Amy – I thought that she was one of the nicest designers on PR this season, and certainly talented – but her work was very hit and miss throughout. Seth Aaron is clearly picking up steam, though I am afraid that he might turn out to be Jeffrey Sebelia junior if he is not careful (not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily – after all, JS won a few seasons ago – but the point is to carve out a completely unique niche for oneself). I personally would LOVE to see the designers make some gorgeous clothing for women who aren’t models again!

  • HandbagReport

    LOL@ “In a state of equal trainwreckery”. I was bored with Anthony & Maya’s design but at least it didn’t scream Chinatown. Mila is a one-trick pony but still makes well tailored pieces. Seth Aaron went a little overboard with his denim look but he definitely deserved to win. I look forward to next week’s recap!

  • Beth S.

    Mila seems like a great woman and a great designer, but I. Am. Bored.

  • Mila

    FYI, there was absolutely no hosiery at our disposal, so I made the decision the morning of the runway to MAKE the red tights in an effort to connect the two looks, which otherwise were disjointed due to a mutual lack of communication between jay and I, and lack of leadership from Jay). I hustled my butt off in order to make it happen…I think I managed to make the tights in about 12 minutes.

    Another note, I do know how to design with color. It just so happens I choose to use less of it than most of my competitors on the show. It doesn’t make me less of a designer.

    • Morgan

      hahaha OK Mila!

      • FWIW, Mila’s explanation of how she found this post makes sense, so it very well may be her. I would assume that most of the designers on the show have Google Alerts set up for their names, or something similar.

    • I stand corrected – I got the impression from the episode and what we saw being made that they were an accessory. If that’s not the case, I have no problem copping to that, but that’s all that those of us out here in the peanut gallery have to go on. It may not include all the details or be totally accurate to your experience, but it’s the version of “reality” that the producer’s have created for us to consume.

      As far as black and white go, the combination is actually one of my personal favorites, but I’d like to see more range on the show. And that’s all that my recaps are – one girl’s opinion.

      Also, if you’d like to “set the record straight” on anything else that’s been shown, feel free to contact me at amanda (at) purseblog (dot) com. As long as we can confirm that it’s really you, we’d be happy to run it.

    • yacine

      i’ll like to buy some of Mila clothes but it seems impossible to find them… specially the one durring the final fasion show. if anyone know where i can purchase them please let me .

      thank you.

      • Ivarsannija

        if you are interested in Milla clothes, then write me – I have  jeans jacket from Milla..I can sell it to you

  • 19yearslater

    I like Emilio again. His attitude toward the Jay/Mila pairing was hilarious and I’m glad he and Seth Aaron won together. I’ll miss Amy but her look wasn’t the best. I’m sick of Mila and the black and white jackets. I don’t want to know what the look will be before I see it. Also, is acting allowed on here, “Mila”?

  • Mila

    No acting…just wanted to clarify the line, “Mila certainly didn’t construct them herself”, as if you guys know the “facts” of what really goes on on that show. The title of the blog has my name in it, so it comes up like a red flag…otherwise I wouldn’t have read it.

  • mochababe73

    I enjoyed three out of the four groups. The UES group just did not get the Upper East Side. One thing to remember aobout that part of New York is POLISH. Those women are impeccably dressed, polished, and styled within an inch of their lives.

  • natalie78

    The opinions voiced in this blog are just that…opinions. Mila, if it is actually you posting here, you won’t make is far in the fashion world if the opinion of one blogger gets you worked up. But, I am sure you know that already.

    Onward to other things…I think this season and last season were pretty boring compared to previous seasons. I think the move to Lifetime messed with the show dynamic somehow.

  • Windy

    I guess I am in the minority here. I am not bored with the season and look forward to seeing it each week. Also, I think I have a special interest this season because I graduated from the same university that Anthony graduated from – albeit many years earlier. I took some fashion classes there, as well. I think he is so funny! Anyway, I find the shows interesting year in and year out (imho)! I, too, will miss Amy. She thinks outside of the box, so to speak. I also love her detail work, even if it is not the norm.

  • dela

    Anthony and Maya looks didn’t really work for me. We assume that taking things not too literally is a bigger challenge, in fact, the opposite is probably true. Dior chartreuse dress (on Nicole Kidman) is my all time favorite Oscar dress and, yet, we are never in doubt about what inspired that dress. Not many people can do what John Galliano does. Galliano’s couture shows are often very literal interpretations, but still seem so fresh.
    I don’t know what to think of the remaining designers. Seth Aaron is very skilled but I am not too sure about his taste level. Anthony might not be as talented as some of the other designers but he responds the best to the criticism and that’s why he is still in the competition. I would buy Mila’s clothes because they are so polished yet retain the edge (the fact that gets lost in the black-and-white conversation).

  • Lee

    I like Amy, she seems sweet…but I was over her designs. I think she lost me with those HIDEOUS clown pants.

    but I lovvvve Anthony! I got to meet him last week when he was signing copies of the new Marie Claire (featuring his winning dress on Ms. Heidi!) He’s so funny, so real. I thought he and Mila made a good team.


  • Rachel

    Emilio and Seth Aaron were SOOO cute together!! I really thought Amy was the stand out designer in the beginning, but she went downhill fast. They were dead on about her getting to caught up in her concepts and she just really over-thought everything. I’m a little disappointed that there’s no stand-out and really consistent designer this year! Last season, Irina was in a whole other league than the others and I miss someone like that. I’m going to watch tonight’s episode right now! (fb)

  • Rosanna

    I’m actually a little sad to see Amy go; I would have preferred Jonathan. I did not like his dress at all and I feel that Amy is a better designer.

    While I like Anthony’s personality, I don’t really like his designs all that much. My favorite is probably Jay and I’m hoping that he wins. (fb)

  • Ann

    I’m loving this season again, I’m DVR-ing it just to be sure I won’t miss an episode!
    I think Seth Aaron has a great chance of winning this time. (fb)

  • M

    hey amanda, long time purseblog reader but i just realized that you recap project runway episodes

    i am somewhat looking forward to what you have to say about this week’s episode, the one w/ vivienne tam and the intrusive HP touch something.

    i seriously tweeted like repeatedly to get my anger out about michael kors, im afraid he lost one customer here

    yeah, go team jonothan

  • Elyse

    Team Anthony! Even though I know he isn’t going to win I just adore him. (fb)

  • Jocelyn


    Tag for Linea Pelle (fb)

  • Joy

    i guess she really doesnt like mila :/