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Project Runway 5, Episode 9 – What's Your Sign?


Last week, on Project Runway, Diane von Furstenberg issued a challenge: Design a look for her fall collection. Leanne won, and Stella was sent home. The next morning, Terri tells us that she does not miss Stella. While some of the guys discuss their dreams, Kenley tells us that she feels confident. Hmm, looks like it might be Kenley’s turn to get the “cocky edit,” which means she will either do very well or very poorly this week.

At the runway, Leanne is offered the usual choice: her own model or somebody else’s. Leanne, as usual, opts to keep her model, so Stella’s model, Kendall, is sent packing. Yet another reason I think this bit is a waste of time is that we don’t generally don’t see enough of the models to care about them one way or the other. As I think I’m doing well just remembering a given model’s name, I certainly don’t care who stays or who goes.

Heidi then tells the designers that she would like to introduce them to some “special guests”– who turn out to be the previously eliminated designers, from Jerry up through Stella. Each of these designers will be paired with somebody still in the competition, and each team will have to design an avant-garde look. How much do you want to bet that there’s going to be somebody who doesn’t really know what “avant-garde” means? A similar challenge had tripped up Kit from last season, and she’d been at least a solid performer until then.

For the record, avant-garde is French for “advance guard” or “vanguard,” a small group of soldiers that explore the terrain and plot a course for the rest of the army to follow. In the arts, an avant-garde piece is an experimental work that inspires other artists. In clothing design, an avant-garde work is one that uses a technique or look that hasn’t been seen before.

In the workroom, Tim “fills them in on the details.” Specifically, he tells the designers that each team will be creating a look inspired by one member’s astrological sign. Furthermore, he will be assigning the teams. As he does so, he announces what everybody’s sign is. Korto (Aquarius) is teamed with Kelli (Cancer). Kenley (Aquarius) is teamed with Wesley (Scorpio). Joe (Aries) is teamed with Daniel (Sagittarius). Leanne (Libra) gets Emily (Scorpio). Blayne (Libra) gets Stella (Scorpio). Terri (Sagittarius) is paired with Keith (Leo), much to her dismay. She tells us that she does not want Keith. Jerrell (Sagittarius) is teamed with Jennifer (Taurus). Suede (Sagittarius) gets Jerry (Libra).

The teams have two days to concoct something, and they also have dossiers describing given astrological signs, which mention both personality traits and colors associated with the sign. They also have a budget of $250.00. The teams are then given thirty minutes to discuss their plans – beginning now. Blayne is delighted to find that Libra’s colors are pink and aqua, as that gives him an excuse to use his beloved neon. Leanne wisely decides that she doesn’t want to do anything too literal, like somehow incorporating a set of scales, as that would probably look more costume-y than avant-garde. Blayne, by contrast, thinks using scales would be a great idea. Terri and Keith get into an argument about materials. She’s using fake fur, and Keith fears the result will look like a lion costume.

Suede and Jerry opt to do Libra as they don’t want to do anything animal-like, and Sagittarius is generally depicted as a centaur. Terri is unimpressed with Keith’s skill level and is therefore unsure what to do with him. He, for his part, asks her to be gentle as he’s still hurting from his loss of two weeks ago. Oh, grow up already. You’re 26, Keith, so try acting your age. Terri comments that he can count the pins on the floor. Shelve the attitude, lady, and figure out a more useful way for Keith to participate.

Joe wants to do Aries. He and Daniel have some mottled red and cream fabric. Kenley wants to do an exaggerated silhouette. While that might fit the avant-garde half of the challenge, I’m less certain how an exaggerated silhouette fits with either Aquarius or Scorpio. Leanne and Emily find Kenley both loud and annoying.

Tim stops in and first visits Blayne and Stella, who are doing Libra. Blayne has an idea of incorporating the scales into Libra by deliberately making a lopsided, unbalanced garment. There are also going to be leather straps, so Stella will have something to do. Tim warns them to have a cohesive design. Jerrell and Jennifer are doing Sagittarius. They want to do something reminiscent of armor, as Sagittarius is the Archer. Tim questions their fabric choice, as he thinks it looks like it’s made from “a schoolmarm’s old winter coat.”

Leanne and Emily are doing Scorpio. Their dress will include a rigid exterior that will be reminiscent of a scorpion’s exoskeleton. Tim likes the idea. He is less impressed by Kenley and Wesley’s efforts and warns them that it looks like a costume. Specifically, it looks like Glinda the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz. You’d think being told that a supposedly avant-garde outfit actually looks like something from a movie that’s roughly 70 years old would be a large warning — but Kenley foolishly dismisses it.

Terri and Keith are doing something inspired by Leo, and Tim can see they aren’t getting on at all. He tells Terri she needs to use Keith more. Keith suggests the outfit needs more drama, and Terri sneers that’s the most feedback she’s gotten from him. They then start squabbling in front of Tim. Grow up, guys.

On the second day, the designers get notes from Heidi. They will need to have everything finished in time for a party at the American Museum of Natural History’s planetarium that evening, where they will be meeting some special guests. There will also be a double elimination later. Cue the panic, as everybody had thought they would have until midnight to finish. Instead, they have to be ready by 8:00 p.m. Terri brushes aside Keith’s offers of help, and he eventually wanders off, commenting “Have fun defending your outfit, mane and all. I did not design for the Lion King.”

Tim tells them there will be no immunity for this challenge or for any of the subsequent challenges. Anybody who’s seen this show should probably have seen that coming. Project Runway typically stops granting immunity at the halfway point, and as we’re down to eight contestants, that’s where we are. Kenley thinks her outfit is the only avant-garde look. I think she may be delusional.

The models come in to get dressed for the party. Korto and some others literally pin the models into their unfinished outfits. Then it’s off to the planetarium for the party and show.

The “special guests” at the party turn out to be designers from previous seasons: Robert and Jay from Season 1, Daniel V. and Kara from Season 2, Alison from Season 3, and Christian and Carmen from Season 4. These designers have the privilege of choosing the winner. They also take the time to critique the outfits. Christian tells Terri that he does not like her fur collar. Heidi wonders out loud where Kenley’s model’s boobs are. Alison, however, loves Leanne and Emily’s Scorpio design. Robert also likes Terri and Keith’s Leo look. Keith tells us that Terri isn’t even talking to him and the design isn’t his at all, so he feels disconnected.

Jay immediately guesses Korto and Kelli’s sign. He can see Scorpio in Leanne and Emily’s sign and praises them for not getting too literal. Heidi dislikes Blayne and Stella’s outfit, and Blayne retorts that she needs to think outside the box. Daniel V. likes Jerrell and Jennifer’s garment, while Kara likes Joe and Daniel’s.

The next day, Terri is upset that Christian had disliked her fur collar and decides to remove it. Um, too late. Christian and his peers have already chosen the winner, so the best Terri can hope for is avoiding elimination. She also decides to add more color. Keith decides upon a nap. Kenley fixes her outfit’s bustier to compensate for her model’s being flat-chested. The models come in — and this time, nobody ends up getting pinned into their outfit. Tim wakes up Keith. Then it’s off to the runway, and today’s guest judge is Francisco Costa, the Women’s Creative Director from Calvin Klein.

Blayne and Stella send down a cream bodysuit covered with leather straps belted around the model willy-nilly. Blayne’s desire for an “unbalanced” look resulted in rolls of pink and aqua fabric being attached to one side of the garment, while the other half is bare. Kenley and Wesley’s model is wearing a floral patterned bell skirt and a purple plaid shirt with massive sculpted shoulders. There is also a black leather bustier. It definitely has an exaggerated silhouette, but I don’t see anything suggestive of astrological signs.

Terri and Keith send down a long gold skirt. The top is a gold bodice with fake fur down the sides and shiny, poofy, oversized red shoulder pieces. It’s as ugly as it sounds. Korto and Kelli send down a flowing blue skirt that is supposed to make people think of air and water. (Aquarius is the Water-Bearer and it’s an Air sign.) The top consists of interwoven purple bands.

Joe knows that Aries is a Fire sign, so he wanted a dress that looked fiery and “erupting.” Consequently, he and Daniel made a red ruffled skirt and a gold bodice. Jerrell and Jennifer send down a long, checkered skirt with ridges cut and sewn into into it to resemble plate armor. There is also a sleeveless gold top. Jerrell included an arrow headdress — which works better than it has any business doing. The jacket is blue, green, and black with gold sleeves.

Leanne and Emily send down a black and red dress. The black parts are made of some kind of rigid material that flare out from the dress. Some of the black material almost forms a cowl and has a small veil attached to it. Suede and Jerry send down a blue and purple pantsuit. It’s attractive, but I have pants a lot like the ones they made, so I strongly doubt that their outfit will be considered all that avant-garde. They did attach “scales” made of light blue fabric to the top that almost act like a cape, but I’m not sure if that’s avant-garde or kitschy.

Heidi then calls Korto’s team, Jerrell’s team, Leanne’s team, and Joe’s team. One of these teams will be the winner and they can all leave the runway. The other four teams had the lowest scores and have to stay to face the music. Blayne explains that he wanted to play with the concepts of “weight” and “scale.” Nina thinks the result looks “haphazard,” while Heidi thinks it’s ugly. Michael says the outfit looks like it’s “pooping fabric.”

Terri’s outfit looks like a costume and has “no strength.” The judges also think that the outfit makes the model look like “a voodoo priestress from hell.” When Terri starts complaining about her problems with Keith, Michael retorts that she will never have a serious career unless she learns to collaborate. Uh, oh — Terri’s already 39. If she hasn’t learned to play nicely with others by now, odds are she won’t.

The judges don’t think Kenley’s outfit looks like anything from the Zodiac. She retorts she was inspired by Aquarius’ personality traits. Nina thinks that she just did what she wanted to do. Kenley argues that her design is avant-garde. Michael tells her that it’s not and that the bottom part is like Dolce and Gabbana. Kenley retorts she doesn’t look at other people’s collections. The hell?! How can you know what’s going on in the fashion industry if you don’t look at other people’s work? How can you know what’s avant-garde and what isn’t if you don’t compare and contrast different designers’ work? How can you understand the artistic history behind fashion if you don’t study top designers’ fashions?

Suede tells the judges that he was inspired by the idea of scale, but the judges think his efforts don’t look avant-garde. Francisco thinks he and Jerry should have played with proportion. Michael comments the challenge wasn’t to “design something for a department store.”

Then the judges dismiss the losing designers so they can continue discussing, or, in some cases, bashing their work. They all hated Blayne’s garment, which they consider a “disaster” and “a joke.” It was “ridiculous.” Kenley’s attitude bothers the judges at least as much as her look does, for she’s “stubborn” and “defensive,” while her outfit has nothing to do with the Zodiac. The judges hate Terri’s outfit and think it looks “cheap,” which bodes very badly for Terri. If a judge thinks something looks cheap, that designer is often on their way out. The judges also question Terri’s ability to work with others. (A legitimate question, as she’d also had problems working with Suede in the Lipstick Jungle challenge.) Suede’s outfit is boring and looks like something from a department store. The judges also mock his habit of speaking in the third person. (It took them this long to do that?!)

The judges then call the designers back in to announce the winner: Jerrell. Leanne, Korto, Joe, and Kenley are all in. Suede, Blayne, and Terri are in the bottom three. Heidi tells them that the judges question Terri’s taste level. (In her defense, I’d say the problem is that she was operating outside her comfort zone. Terri makes nice, commercial, attractive clothing. She does sportswear and casual wear and does them very well. She tried to make something edgier and experimental and fell on her face. Her taste level is probably fine; she just doesn’t do avant-garde.) Blayne’s outfit was a joke, while Suede’s outfit was safe and boring.

The judges quickly throw out Blayne, who is shocked and baffled to be sent home. I’d say it’s past time. These competition shows always have somebody like Blayne, who last less because of their own ability, and more because there’s always someone else who did even worse. Suede is in, so Terri is out. She’s also surprised, probably because this is her first time on the bottom. Unfortunately for Terri, the game has reached the stage in which a competitor’s first visit to the bottom is likely to be their last. With her and Blayne gone, there are now only six designers left, which means three more will be eliminated before the finals. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for people.

The previews for next week mention “special ladies.” Jerrell comments that Kenley only makes 50′s-style dresses.


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