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Project Runway 9, Episode 11 – A Challenge That’s for the Birds

Last week on Project Runway, the designers had to make two outfits that 1) were inspired by the 1970′s and 2) could be sold on Piperlime.com. Anya lost her money envelope and thus had to borrow money and fabric from her fellows. She won the challenge anyway. The guest judge, Olivia Palermos, fell in love with Bert’s white dress and decided to sell it along with Anya’s winning jumpsuit. Anthony was sent home.

Next morning, Laura talks about how she misses Anthony. Viktor tells us that he see Josh as his chief competition, but adds that Josh has trouble editing. Then it’s off to the runway, where Heidi tells them they will have to “spread their wings” and “elevate their looks.” The designers guess they will be making something for skydivers. Um, we’ve already had “the ridiculously small niche challenge,” back when they had to make outfits for stilt-walkers.

The designers go back to the workroom, where Tim will “fill them in on the details.” He’s there, all right, but so is Collier Strong, the make-up artist from L’Oreal Paris, plus four birds: an owl, a raven, a cockatoo, and an Amazon parrot. It turns out that L’Oreal is putting out a make-up line inspired by the aforementioned birds, which means there really is some eye-shadow called “Raven,” which I predict will be a hit in Baltimore, at least during the football season.

Tim and Collier then explain the challenge: Make a runway look inspired by one of the birds. The look will also incorporate the relevant make-up. The winner will get both an editorial in Marie Claire magazine and 20 grand from L’Oreal Paris. The designers will have two days to work on the challenge.

To the designers’ dismay, Tim then tells them that this will be a team challenge. He then announces the teams: Anya and Laura, Josh and Bert, Viktor and Kimberly. He then assigns each team a bird: Anya and Laura get the raven, Josh and Bert are assigned the parrot, and Viktor and Kimberly get the cockatoo. Tim then informs the teams that they will not be working together after all. Instead they will be competing against each other head to head. One teammate will be given the high score, while the other will get the low score.

While the designers sketch, Bert tells us that he’s not happy having to use the parrot. He doesn’t find the bird particularly inspiring, and he thinks green and yellow look cheap. Uh-oh, now’s not the time to decide to blow off a challenge! Kimberly points out that she had used a bird-inspired look in an earlier challenge, so she will have to come up with something that won’t strike the judges as repetitive.

At Mood, Kimberly picks out nude chiffon, which isn’t something she normally uses. Anya realizes she will have to work outside her comfort zone. As a raven is solid black, her usual prints won’t fly. (Sorry.) She tells us she’s not used to working with just solids. Josh decides to buy some feathers. Viktor is also buying feathers, since he wants to make a gown with an airy look. Laura decides to make pants and a tailored jacket.

No sooner have the designers begun work on their designs then Tim comes in to announce a twist: They have to design a second look. As they begin to sketch, Anya decides she’s make something more structured than her usual. At Mood, Josh asks Tim if it’s okay if he uses fabric that’s a different color from the parrot. Tim answers that it doesn’t matter. Laura picks out some velvet ribbons.

Back at the workroom, everybody’s worried about time. Laura vows to show off her tailoring skills, which she believes to be superior to Anya’s. Kimberly knows that Viktor has the advantage when it comes to construction– and she’s intimidated by that fact. Bert thinks the differences between himself and Josh will work to advantage, since they aren’t likely to copy each other.

The next day, Kimberly jokes about calling in sick. At the workroom, Laura is almost finished her first look. Josh studies his first look, a striped green and yellow monstrosity, and decides he hates it. Kimberly is struggling with her look, as she’s using fabrics she’s not accustomed to. (Why will designers do that to themselves? I understand the desire to not look like a one-trick pony, but completely new techniques and materials should be saved for Fashion Week.) She then spots a cockroach and vaults onto a table, freaking out. (I thought women only did that in cartoons, not real life.) Anya grabs a shoe from the accessory wall and bashes the offending insect.

Collier comes by for the make-up consultations. Naturally, everybody is using the eye-shadow associated with their assigned bird. Bert, who’s 57, comments that he thinks the others have adjusted to him by now. Roach-phobic Kimberly is the next oldest at 35, so there’s definitely a generation gap here. Viktor and Laura also comment that it’s easier to get along with Bert these days.

Kimberly, who is already feeling the time crunch, then discovers stains on her dress and has to stop to scrub them out. Josh decides to make an orange dress for his second look. Kimberly’s bad day continues, as she’s working in the sewing room– and sews her finger. Ouch! She flees to the lady’s room to cry. Laura and Anya follow her there, to try and comfort her. She later DR’s about how her mother died when she was 17. She later lost her stepfather and her brother and has been on her own a lot. She’s had to fight to get where she is today.

Josh decides to scrap his first dress. He asks Anya if he can borrow material for her, and she refuses. He’d thought about making something structured, but without the right fabric, that’s not an option. He decides to make a circle skirt.

Tim comes in to make his rounds, commenting about how quiet it is. He advises Laura to ditch one of her looks and tells Anya that one of her arm holes is bigger than the other. He likes Josh’s orange dress, but not the circle skirt, which he dismisses as “static and crafty.” He then checks in with Bert, whose looks don’t strike him as high fashion. Viktor’s dresses are well-made but colorless, and Tim thinks they look bridal.

Then Tim stops by Kimberly. He warns her that her second look is costumey, but he also senses her lack of confidence. She tells him about her bad day and fears she won’t be able to pull herself out of it. He advises her to stop thinking and consider how the look feels to her. He hugs her and tells her he has confidence in her abilities. As he leaves, he says he sees potential in everybody.

Then the models come in for their fitting. During this, Kimberly discovers she has burnt a hole in one dress with a hot glue gun. She has to make a whole new dress in three hours. She comments that she’ll have to “pull an Anya.”

The following morning is the day of the runway show, so the designers get back to work. Kimberly’s newest dress is a one-shouldered gown and Viktor thinks he copied her. I doubt that. Kimberly had to whip up something within three hours, and she certainly wasn’t going to be able to make separates or a jacket in that time. Plus, the cockatoo that’s supposed to be their inspiration is white. That sort of limits Kimberly’s color options.

Tim comes in to give his usual spiel about hair, make-up, and using the accessory wall thoughtfully. He also announces yet another twist: Only one outfit will be shown. The designers are relieved to hear this, since it means they can now concentrate on the outfit they think is better. Laura quickly picks the outfit she’ll use, while Josh, Anya and Bert wax indecisive. Anya is particularly torn, as she likes her first look, but believes her second one would impress the judges more since it’s different from anything else she’s made. After hair and make-up, Anya finds her black dress is too tight for the model to get on, so she rips some seams, and then sew them back up after the model has put the dress on. Josh declares that something needs to be said if someone’s making clothes that people have to be cut out of.

Then it’s off to the runway, where the guest judge is Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein. The head-to-head competition works like this: The rivals’ models will first walk the runway separately, like usual, and then walk it together. First up is Team Cockatoo. Viktor made a draped one-shouldered Grecian dress decorated with yellow and white organza feathers. Kimberly also made a one-shouldered white gown, but hers has a big slit up the side and a diagonal slit down the front. She added a jeweled trim on the front.

Next up is Team Amazon Parrot. Bert made a gown with a silver-grey, snakeskin bodice, a matching belt with a large grey buckle, and a long grey slit skirt. As the model strides down the runway, she reveals an underskirt made of gauzy yellow and green material. Josh made a draped, one-shouldered orange mini-dress decorated with a pink and yellow corsage.

Last up is Team Raven. Anya made a structured sleeveless black mini-dress with small “wings” flaring out over the shoulders. The skirt is short in front, but longer in the back, possibly evoking the raven’s tail. Laura made skinny, wrinkled black leggings and a snug black jacket with a plunging neckline. The collar around the neckline is decorated with dark purple feathers, making the outfit perfect for a Baltimore Ravens game.

As there are only six designers left, nobody is immediately safe and they all have to face the judges, who start with Anya. She tells them she wanted to do something solid inspired by the raven. Heidi loves Anya’s dress; she sees the inspiration, but doesn’t think it’s costumey or over the top. Michael also likes the fact that Anya didn’t go too literal. The dress is flattering. Nina calls the dress her favorite of all of Anya’s looks. She praises Anya for moving away from her comfort zone. Francisco likes the cut of the dress and considers it urban and goth.

Nina’s also impressed by Laura’s outfit, as it’s very dramatic. But the feathers and leggings are too literal. Heidi finds it too familiar and literal. The leggings are wrinkled. Michael likes the fact that Laura tried to make something edgier than her usual, but he thinks the look verges on costume. He does like Laura’s styling. Francisco likes the jacket. Anya got the high score, while Laura got the low score.

Bert tells the judges that he found more inspiration in the parrot’s talons than in any other aspect of the bird. He admits that it’s not his best look. Michael says it’s well-made, but lacks the exuberance a parrot should have. Francisco dislikes the shape, as it’s not new or interesting. Nina goes so far as to call the silhouette “generic.” She’s disappointed in Bert, although she knows color isn’t his strong suit. Heidi likes the idea behind the pop of color, but thinks the execution was lacking.

Josh wanted to show his skill at draping. Michael loves the draping and the cut of the dress, but hates the corsage. He considers it yet another example of Josh’s difficulties with editing or restraining himself. Nina also likes the draping and praises Josh for his embrace of minimalism. The dress looks modern. Francisco likes the fact that Josh made a suitably exuberant garment without becoming too literal. Michael thinks Bert hated the challenge, and Bert responds that he hated the bird. Heidi asks Josh if he thinks editing helped him, and he says it did. Josh got the high score, while Bert got the low score.

Kimberly wanted to do something soft and romantic for a change. Michael thinks the cut is fabulous, but he dislikes the trim. Francisco would have preferred something younger but he’s impressed that she’d made it in three hours. He also likes the mix of materials Kimberly used. Nina thinks it’s too reminiscent of a beauty pageant gown, but is still very seductive.

Viktor admits that he took a literal approach, but he wanted to have fun with the challenge. Francisco loves the colors and how Viktor did the feathers. Michael also appreciates the work Viktor did, but thinks the feathers make it too literal. Nina thinks there are too many feathers and that, ironically, they weigh the dress down. Kimberly got the high score, while Viktor got the low score.

The judges then have their chat. Anya made a cool outfit and chose great fabric. Josh’s garment boasted a great cut and color. It’s also easy to wear. Kimberly’s dress was also beautifully cut. Viktor’s dress was beautifully made, but too literal with all those feathers. Bert obviously struggled with the challenge and produced a somber dress. Laura, like Viktor, took too literal an approach.

Then the judges announce their decision. Anya is the winner. Josh, Kimberly, and Viktor are all in, leaving Laura and Bert in the bottom two. Laura is in, which means Bert is out. He’d just made one trip too many to the bottom. He DR’s that he will go back to Los Angeles and get back into design. I think Bert saw Project Runway as a test for himself. It had taken him years to recover from the depression and alcoholism that had derailed him for most of the 90′s. He likely felt the need to see if he still had the “right stuff” to be a designer.

Afterwards, Anya takes part in the editorial shoot she’d won. After that, is a half-hour aftershow wittily called After the Runway that’s hosted by Zanna Roberts Rassi in which she talks to the designers. Laura, for some reason, is absent, but Laura Bennet from Season 3 is on hand during the second half. She and Josh get into it over his behavior. Josh denies bullying people– even after being shown clips of him doing just that. He also complains about being broke.

Only after that do we see the previews for next week. It’s the last challenge before Fashion Week.

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