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'Project Runway' recap: The (custom-made) fabric of their lives

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I am sad, Runway friends. Not sad like Jonathan’s dress (whatever — we’ll get to that) or like my hair when I’m on deadline, but genuinely aggrieved. I knew this day could come. That I’d eventually have to say goodbye to the most lovable contestant since Chris March. Bid adieu to someone capable of turning a sentence as banal as “I’m gonna go see about some dyed fabrics” into LOL hilarity. Give a fond farewell to a guy so charming that he remains on my top fave list even when he speaks in the third person. Of course I knew it could all come to an end. Yet still I feel blue.

Bummer, man.

I did love this week’s challenge, though. As a print-obsessed clothes horse myself (Marimekko, you complete me!), I totally dug the idea that the designers got to create their own fabric with some handy help from the snazzy technology of some company or another. (What brand sponsored this episode again? It was far too subtle a mention for me to pick up.) And at last, we got a two-day challenge! No more excuses for unfinished hems, puckering seams, and all-around suckitudinous suckery, gang!

And there really was no sartorial hideousness for the ages last night. Which is terrific… but also, I admit, slightly disappointing. What provides a better serotonin boost than a major eff-up on this show? I still laugh thinking about the menswear challenge from the Runway of yore.

In any case, once the magical, fabric-producing elves delivered the designers’ custom-made textiles on day 2, the contestants all had plenty to say about each other’s creations. Anthony compared Mila’s rainbow stripes to Legos, and Mila deemed Emilio’s graffiti “one of the worst in the room.” Tim Gunn appeared to concur. All Gunn Power could see in Emilio’s busy-like-triple-coupon-day-at-Walmart “ES♥SA” monogram print was “SA” (for Seth Aaron) and “ES” (for Emilio Sosa). Oh, a call back to last week’s winning pair-up! Confusing! And all Emilio could do in response to our beloved Gunn was dismiss him. “Okay, great, Tim,” he said, oozing the type of scorn that would make a Mean Girl rage with jealously (and therefore write nasty things about you in the bathroom during lunch.) “I do not listen to Tim, whether he likes it or not.” Well alright then.

It just so happens that I was confused by the exact same SA/ES issue. But my real problem with Emilio’s pattern was the lack of creativity. It was so blatantly derivative of any number of top-tier designers who slap their logo/initials/name on whatever product they’re selling. I admit I’m biased. I’ve never been a fan of monogram prints. Maybe I’m still getting over all the Esprit- and Benetton-emblazoned sweatshirts everyone (including me) wore in the ’80s, but it just doesn’t interest me to give corporations free advertising via the duds I pay for with my hard-earned moolah. And isn’t it just a wee bit presumptuous of Emilio to create an homage-to-himself pattern at this stage, before he’s a known entity? Ah, but there’s no stopping a ravenous ego. It must be fed!

And fed it was, come runway time. To my great surprise, The Holy Trinity, plus Vivienne Tam (she whose butterfly prints surely make Mariah Carey swoon), are actually fans of derivative patterns! Silly me for thinking that the judges who just last week chastised Maya for being too referential to other designers would do anything but fawn over Emilio’s graffiti-meets-1940s look (um… huh?). I am eager to read Gunn’s blog to discover what he has to say about this decision, but for now, color me puzzled. That voluminous black jacket was cool and the dress hugged the model’s curves like a Porsche racing around a hairpin turn. But was it wowza? Not in my opinion. Emilio won anyway. And celebrated with an endless stream of annoying triumphant fist-pumps.

This, by the by, marks Emilio’s third win, which means he’s got a very good shot at being a Bryant Park finalist for reelz. If that’s not a sobering thought, then perhaps none of us is drunk enough.

As for the other top two, Maya triumphed over her initial designer’s-block and whipped up a perfectly snazzy little number that combined an electric-shockwave print with just the right textural, sculptural flair. Her print was the judges’ favorite. Seth Aaron, meanwhile, put out another terrifically SA design, impeccably tailored and full of his pop-art punk sensibility. (But who would wear it? I dunno.) Did he not win because the pants were a little loosey goosey on the thighs? ‘Cause other than that, I saw no reason why the dude should not have walked off with the prize instead of Mr. Frowny Pants.

Oh, yes: Jay earned a ticket to the middle ground safety zone with his jacket-and-shorts ensemble that was cool, save for that neon-green, lizard-zebra (lizbra?) print that kinda creeped me out and triggered Michael Kors’ Metamucil face.

Anyway.

Mila and her Tee-Pee Hideaway for Mexican Serapes, Pride Flags, and Your Mom on the Patio in 1972 earned Our Lady of Severe Bangs a spot among the bottom dwellers — and rightly so. There was just no point to her maxi dress. If she’d replaced that inexplicable sea of boring whiteness with more of the custom rainbow fabric — on the bias or even with the stripes running perpendicular to those on the bottom — she would have produced a dress that was (Randy Jackson hyperbole alert!) a bazillion times more visually stimulating. Poor Brandeis couldn’t even walk in it. And that jacket? Nice lining, but horrible fit and too much black. Point. Less. But not offensive enough to make the bottom two.

No, the Circle of Hell was reserved for Jonathan and Anthony this week. And you know what? I happen to like Jonathan’s print. It had a chic softness to it that contrasted with the rest of the gang’s comparatively loud prints. Didn’t love that nutty backwards jacket, but the dress was pretty, dammit. Kudos for him for standing up for himself when Nina said the look was “sad” and Kors likened the dress to a “dirty tablecloth.” But a fat lot of good it did the poor guy — other than awakening Kors’ Fire-Breathing Beast Within. “Oh, look at that!” he snarled as Jonathan helped Cerri back into the mini-coat. “Your husband helps you back into your straight jacket. Awww…that’s not a good thing. Sweetie!” Good gawd! I’m all for a little fun bitchiness from the judges, but this attack was just pure condescending nastiness. And the way the other judges chimed in with mmmwaaa-hahaha laughter? Totally uncalled for. Just really mean.

Yet for all that hideous beastliness — I mean, did you see Nina’s face when she barked, “It looked poooooooor!”? — it wasn’t Jonathan, but our dear Southern Belle who got the ax. Emilio wins and Anthony’s out. That’s some bat-s— judging, right there. Now, I can’t sit here and deny that Anthony hasn’t made a number of dresses similar to last night’s. Nor can I argue that he’s the visionary of this season. And I realize that there are challenges where someone just has to go. But I can say I thought his print and the detailing on the bodice were just lovely. And more than anything, Anthony is just a great freakin’ person to welcome into our homes every Thursday night. Without him around to lighten the air with his monologues about Beyoncé, Oprah, and his uncle Leroy, and telling Jay he looks like a “gay Christmas present,” the rest of the season, I fear, will be oh so very… well, dull. And how splendid would it have been to see our guy go head-to-head with this “opinionated celebrity” who’s gonna be on next week?

Of course, Anthony would probably not stand for all this doom and gloom. Just look at his final moments on the show. Instead of moping, he smiled. Instead of crying, he laughed. And without fail, he left us with more than a few delicious sound bites to savor:

“Life has taught us that you don’t have to have the crown to be the queen.”

“Don’t cry for Anthony, honey. Matter of fact, toss back one for me.”

What a way to go out with your head held high. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some shots to toss back. I am nothing if not obedient.

What did you think of this week’s print-it-to-win-it episode? Were you friend or foe to Emilio’s graffiti monogram? Should SA have taken the win? Were you thrown off by his Sidekick phone call home — even though there were no tears? Are you mourning the auf’ing of our Southern Belle? Have you figured out the big twist of next week’s episode? And did anyone else notice that Heidi rocked not one, but two ginormous necklaces this week?

Be sure to check back here on PopWatch (the new home of my Runway recaps!) later today for my exit interview with Anthony.