Welcome to the beginning of the end of this season of Project Runway. Last week, the remaining five designers faced their last challenge: Design a look inspired by something at the Getty Center. This challenge seemed to be a formality, for Althea made the cut, despite a subpar dress, while Gordana did not. Christopher and Gordana were sent home, leaving Althea, Carol Hannah, and Irina as the three finalists.
Tonight’s episode dispenses with the usual morning-after scenes at the apartment. Instead, we go straight to the runway. Heidi congratulates the three finalists and tells them the rules. They will have several months to design twelve outfits for Fashion Week on a budget of $9000. Tim joins Heidi on the runway to tell the women that he’s proud of them and to wish them luck.
As the women prepare to leave L.A., Althea reminds us that Irina had accused her of stealing her sweater idea. Althea assures us she won’t forget that. Irina believes the other two are intimidated by her and vows to not just bring the big guns, but a tank.
Ten weeks later, Tim visits Carol Hannah in Huntington, NY. She tells us that she’d moved there from Charleston, SC. Carol Hannah tells Tim that she visited Duke University during her journey from Charleston and was inspired by the campus. She shows Tim her collection, beginning with a lavender “fairy-tale inspired” piece. Tim likes it, but advises her not to add a spangly belt to it. He warns that her doing so would make the outfit look like a figure skater’s costume. He hates the cape she has with an evening gown and tells her that it looks “matronly.” He studies a tank and pants ensemble, and Carol Hannah explains that she has been trying to make other things besides dresses, like separates.
Carol then introduces Tim to her parents, who’d flown up to visit her. Her mother is cooking a Southern dinner and asks Tim to help make the biscuits. He puts an apron over his suit and rolls out biscuit dough. Carol Hannah reminisces about helping her grandmother make doll clothes and shows pictures of herself as a gangly kid with glasses and braces. She believes fashion changes the way you see yourself. Her father mentions her determination. Carol Hannah admits she is a self-taught designer who never went to design school and that she learned a lot on her own.
Four-and-half weeks before Fashion Week, Tim visits Irina in Manhattan and finds she has a yappy white dog named Princess. Irina explains that Tim’s opinion means a lot to her. She is confident in her collection and wants to make something personal. Irina was inspired by Coney Island where she used to hang out as a kid and wants to thank New York for being so good to her and her family. She tells us – again – that her parents are immigrants.
While showing Tim her collection, Irina explains that she wants to put Coney Island t-shirts under her clothes. Tim likes the idea, as he considers it a risky move. He is also impressed by her hand-knit pieces. “To me, elegance is always in,” she tells him. Unfortunately, Tim is less impressed by the fur she shows him, and she explains she needs to clean it first. Tim advises Irina to make her clothes look easy and natural, as opposed to “forced.” She’s disappointed that his reaction isn’t as positive as she’d hoped.
Irina invites Tim to meet her family at a restaurant for lunch. The family includes her parents and a sister named Julia. Irina mentions that her mother is very supportive of her. Tim assures the family that Irina is already a winner, regardless of Fashion Week’s outcome, and I tend to think he’s right. Being on both Project Runway and Fashion Week will give Irina tremendous publicity, so unless she lays a massive egg at Fashion Week, her career should get a sizable boost, even if she doesn’t win the big prize. Irina explains her father is not so sure about her choice of career. Winning at Fashion Week would prove to him that she can be a successful fashion designer.
Four weeks before Fashion Week, Tim visits Althea in her hometown, Dayton, Ohio. She stayed there so she could have the support of her friends and family, but she feels she’s in a bit of a secluded bubble as far as the fashion world goes. Consequently, she’s looking forward to Tim’s input. While showing Tim her collection, Althea tells him she binged on science fiction movies after getting home and was inspired by the women in the movies. Tim loves one of her sweaters, but finds one of her coats too costumey. He tells Althea that she has a lot of strong pieces but that she needs to edit and have a clear idea of her vision.
Afterwards, Althea takes Tim to her parents’ house for lunch. While there, Tim meets her boyfriend, Stewart. Althea talks about how she wanted to be an artist when she was a child. She started off drawing people, and then started concentrating on drawing their clothes. Her mother says when Althea was in fifth grade, she asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Ever since then, she’s been making clothes for herself and her friends.
Ten days before Fashion Week, Tim calls Irina with bad news: Many of the Coney Island images she wants to use are copyrighted, which means she can’t use them. Irina is understandably upset, as this doesn’t leave her a lot of time to make the needed changes.
Five days before Fashion Week, Althea arrives in New York and checks in at the Hyatt Regency, where she will stay during Fashion Week. Irina joins her, and they talk a bit. As the hours pass, they start to wonder where Carol Hannah is. Tim comes in and gives them the bad news: Carol Hannah is ill with a contagious stomach virus and won’t be joining them that day. He lightens the mood by pointing out the bottle of champagne that Heidi has sent them. The three raise their glasses to Fashion Week and Carol Hannah’s recovery. Althea confesses to having mixed feelings about Carol Hannah’s illness: On the one hand, it’s a shame that she’s ill, on the other hand her stomach virus could impair her ability to compete effectively.