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Project Runway 9, Episode 11 – Who Will Go to Fashion Week

Last week on Project Runway, the designers faced the final challenge to see who would go on to Fashion Week. They visited Governor’s Island for inspiration. Laura was sent home while the other four were told to make collections and bring them back to New York.

On the runway, Heidi begins by congratulating the four finalists. She then spells out the rules: Everybody will make a collection, but only three will go on to Fashion Week. They will have a budget of $9,000.00 towards a ten-piece collection. They will have five weeks to make said collection.

WHAT?!?!

Five measly weeks?! In earlier seasons, the designers used to get several months to put their collections together. Those months gave the designers time to process everything they’d learned during the earlier competitions, polish existing techniques, learn new ones, and experiment. The experiments weren’t always successful, as witness Season 4′s Chris March and his use of human hair, but they were often interesting.

A five-week prep time just about kills all of that. Five weeks means that the designers will have to crank out two outfits a week. They won’t have time to play around or experiment. In the interest of getting everything done on time, at least some of them will retreat to their comfort zones, so they can make things they know they can make quickly. A short prep time like this also greatly increases the chances of rush jobs.

The designers go back to Atlas to pack up. Anya confides to Kimberly that she didn’t unpack everything because she didn’t expect to stay very long. She’d assumed her inexperience would make her an early casualty. Both she and Kimberly are amazed that they’ve made it this far. All of the designers are excited to be going home and working on their collections.

Three weeks later, Tim starts visiting the designers at their homes. He starts with Kimberly, who lives in White Plains, Maryland. He admires her home and studio. Kimberly tells Tim that she’d grown up in Brooklyn and is thus using Brooklyn– both the Brooklyn of her childhood and the current one– as her inspiration. She’s urban and wants her collection to reflect that. Said collection includes a leather jackets and a lot of brightly-colored clothes. Tim calls the collection “very Kimberly.” He encourages her to take risks and “wow” the judges.

Kimberly then introduces Tim to her sister, her sister’s family, and two close friends. Kimberly’s niece, a toddler, has been going around the house saying, “Tim Gunn. Work.” Kimberly tells us that her sister and friends have been very supportive. She also talks about her late mother, who she believes is the source of her fashion sense. She wants to make her mother proud. Kimberly also notes that if she won, she would be the first Africa-American winner in Project Runway history. (She’s right. The only other minority winner was Season 2′s Chloe Dao, who is of Vietnamese ancestry. Blacks like Mychael Knight of Season 3 and Korto Momolu of Season 5 have made the finals, but have yet to win.)

Then it’s off to Trinidad to see Anya. She takes Tim on a boat ride, and tells how excited she is to show him where she comes from. She then takes him home to meet her two brothers, who are her biggest fans. The brothers tell Tim that when Anya was in pageants, people used to talk about how beautiful she was. Now they talk about how talented she is. Anya had a third brother, who had died at 18. She feels the need to live life fully, since he didn’t get to. She’s named her clothing line after him, Pilar.

Anya then takes Tim to her studio, where she’s hung up pictures of Tobago, which she visited shortly after getting back home. She will use it as her inspiration. Unfortunately, she hasn’t done anything beyond pick out some lovely fabrics as she’s apparently been afflicted with the designer’s equivalent of writer’s block. Oh, not good. Anya’s muse picked a rotten time to desert her. Tim reminds her that she can’t have anybody help her construct the clothes. He advises her to use muslin to play around with shapes and jump-start her creativity.

Tim then heads back to New York to look in on Viktor, who had gone to Guadalajara to honor the anniversary of his brother’s death. This makes it unanimous: all four of the finalists have buried at least one close relative. Viktor’s collection is inspired by Guadalajara. Tim is impressed by the fact that Viktor has a clear vision — but less impressed with some of the pieces, which he doesn’t get. Tim admires a jacket, but dislikes a dress. He warns Viktor not to overthink.

Viktor then introduces Tim to his lover, David. They had met at a bar and were immediately attracted to each other. Tim asks David his opinion of the collection, since he’d also gone to Guadalajara. Viktor tells us that he’s the youngest of seven children, and that his parents had come from Mexico. They’d moved to New York when they were in their 30′s. Viktor feels like he’s getting a chance to fulfill the American Dream.

Finally, Tim visits Josh in Queens, and meets his sister… McKenzie. Oh, the poor woman. She’s spent her life being known as McKenzie McKinley. She talks about how Josh had been into track and field when he was younger– and he’d been good. He had been offered running scholarships, but chose to come to New York to pursue a career as a fashion designer instead.

Then Josh shows Tim his collection, confessing that it’s not as complete as he’d have liked it to be. Tim… hates it. Josh has chosen lots and lots of gaudy fabrics, including candy-colored solids and hideous prints. Tim thinks everything is on the edge of looking cheap and that Josh is depending on gimmickry. One textile make Tim want to cry– and Josh declares he’d planned to use it as a major focus. By the time Tim’s done, Josh is left with only two usable pieces.

So far, Viktor and Kimberly are doing fine, but Josh and Anya have major problems. Anya’s muse took a powder and Josh’s muse has been giving him horrible advice.

As Fashion Week draws near, the designers check into the Hudson Hotel, where they will be staying in a penthouse. Tim stops by to offer a champagne toast. Tonight the designers get to relax, but Tim will take them to their new workroom the next day.

The following morning, Tim does just that, and the designers organize their collections. As usual, they snipe about each other’s work. Anya doesn’t like Kimberly’s colors. Viktor doesn’t think Anya did anything different. Kimberly thinks Viktor’s pieces are too showy. And so forth.

Tim then tells the designers they need to pick out three pieces to show the judges. The models won’t be able to come in for their fitting until the next day. Tim then makes his rounds and starts with Viktor, who shows off a jacket. Viktor is completely confident in his work.

Josh has indeed altered his collection and mercifully ditched the day-glo colors. (I like color, but I’d rather not look like a human popsicle, and I suspect most adults would agree with me.) Tim doesn’t see cohesion in the three pieces Josh has chosen for the judges, which worries Josh.

Anya’s looks disappoint Tim, as he thinks she’s retreated to her comfort zone of maxi-dresses. He warns her the judges might not want to see the rest of her collection. Anya, devastated, confides that she knew what Tim was going to say. She feels like she let herself down, but there’s no time to do anything else. Josh notes that this is the first time that she’s not confident. Anya tells us, that during the first part of the competition, she didn’t worry about other people’s opinions. After going home, though, she’s seen how excited her friends and family are for her, and she fears letting them down. For the first time, she’s feeling the weight of other people’s expectations.

The next day, everybody gets dressed up for their final show before Fashion Week. Josh puts on one of his mother’s pins. Anya decides not to waste time on looks that won’t work. Viktor’s basically finished, but the other three are not. Tim stops by to tell the designers they’re right to be nervous. He then makes them feel worse by telling them only three will go on. He then sends in the models. After the usual hair and make-up montage, it’s off to the runway.

At the runway, the designers learn there’s no guest judge. It’s just Heidi, Nina, and Michael. Viktor is up first. His first look is a strapless leather purple and black mini-dress. His second look consists of separates: white pants with pink and purple print, a black top decorated with glass pieces, and a black jacket. His third look is a gray dress with a long train topped by a dazzling white jacket.

Anya’s up next. Her first look is a sleeveless brown print mini-dress. Her second look appears to be an attempt to show the judges something new: her first swimsuit. It’s a basic black one-piece, and it’s accompanied by a flowing, sleeveless, beige cover-up. Her final piece is a sleeveless, one-shouldered gold gown that suggests (strongly) her draping needs work.

Next up is Kimberly. Her first look is a pair of royal blue pants and a one-shouldered striped top. Her second look is a sleeveless royal blue top paired with a magenta skirt. Her last look is a glittery sleeveless black gown.

Josh is last. His first look consists of pink pants, a two-toned black and gray jacket with a belt, and a multi-colored print shirt. His second look is a sleeveless little black dress with a funny tab under the breasts. His final look… is strange. It starts with a red plastic yoke connecting to draped black fabric. Said fabric combines a gown with leggings.

The judges start with Anya, who wanted to represent herself as a Caribbean designer. There’s something to that, as she would appeal to both natives of the region and vacationers. Nina loves Anya’s first dress, which combines her Caribbean roots with elements from her last black dress. Heidi dislikes both the swimsuit, which she deems unflattering, and its cover-up, which is “drab” and “sad.” She and Michael also dislike the gown, and Michael goes so far as to say that it looks tortured. Michael does like Anya’s tropical vibe, but thinks her styling needs work. Nina tells Anya that her point of view makes her stand out and that she needs to embrace what makes her different.

The judges move on to Kimberly, who wanted to show her Brooklyn roots. She also wanted to make clothes that could be worn at different times of the day. The outfit with the royal blue pants would work as a daytime outfit, for instance, while the black dress would be evening wear. Michael can see Kimberly’s point of view in her clothes, and he appreciates the fact that she’s able to make sexy clothes without showing a lot of skin. Unfortunately, neither he nor Nina like the styling or the accessories used. He especially dislikes the fact that she paired royal blue shoes with the royal blue pants. (Agreed. I’d have picked a shoes of a neutral color.) Heidi hates the “bubble-butt” magenta skirt. Kimberly claims she made an ivory jacket, but it was too big for any of the models. Heidi’s afraid Kimberly could be eliminated simply for selecting the wrong clothes.

Viktor talks about the dead brother who’d inspired his work. He wanted to use prints. Michael likes his tailoring and use of prints, but again docks points for his accessories. Michael prefers the gray dress without the jacket, as he thinks the white jacket overwhelms it. He does like the jacket, but he thinks it would go better with black pants and a black shirt. Nina likes the top of the first dress, and discovers that the black leather bands decorating the skirt are detachable. The judges think the leather zipper skirt is too tricky. Viktor’s collection needs some editing.

Josh wanted to play with cuts and show off his draping skills. Heidi likes a lot of the pieces, but thinks the belt on the first dress looks like it belongs on a car seat. The buckle also looks cheap. Michael likes the jacket, even with the belt, and he also likes the second look. The third outfit looks fine from the front, but is way too low in the back. Nina thinks Josh did the best job of styling — and he has had problems in the past with that.

The judges then dismiss the designers to have their chat. Viktor’s pieces showed his usual impeccable tailoring, but his styling left something to be desired. Josh’s third look was hideous. Anya made only one good outfit, and Kimberly made a horrible skirt. All four designers are good, but all four have issues. Michael thinks the women choked this time around.

When the judges call everybody back in, Heidi tells them that they will have to “bring themselves to the next level.” Right, Heidi. You try making ten outfits in five weeks. In any case, all four designers are going to Fashion Week.

Next week: Fashion Week!

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