Project Runway must have gotten a two-for-one-special with Finding Neverland. We go back to Neverland for the challenge inspiration this week. If I were a Junior designer I’d be a little upset: The adults got to go to the show. The kids just got to go into a room with a fake stage. But nearly all of the kids had already seen the show anyway. (Seriously, who are these kids? How are they so versed in Broadway musicals when most of them don’t live in NYC?)
Hannah comes out on the fake stage and introduces Laura Michelle Kelly, the female lead of Finding Neverland. Zach yells out, “Do you play the mother? We love the scene where you die.” Thanks for the spoiler, Zach.
Once the designers get over their excitement for Laura Michelle and the show, they learn that the challenge is to design a red carpet look fit for a Broadway opening night. And the catch? It’s a team challenge. The button bag determines that Maya and Peytie; Bridget and Jaxson; Zach and Samantha; and Zachary and Matt will be working together in teams.
In the workroom, Tim has a few more details about the challenge: They will be getting their fabrics from Mini Mood instead of real Mood, oh, and they only have five hours. This seems a little insane to me — this would be hard for experienced designers, let alone new designers! But Tim has a little bit of magic up his sleeve. He’s bringing in reinforcements in the form of past Runway contestants. The kids absolutely lose their minds. This is seriously Beatles-level insanity.
I would say this must be great for the former contestants’ egos, but then Zach (who quickly is becoming the best with sound bites) says, “Oh, these are old people!” Hopefully he means “old” as in from past seasons not “old” as in OLD.
Tim assigns the past designers to each team: Samantha Black, from season 11, will be working with Zach and Samantha. Amanda Valentine, from seasons 11 and 13, will be helping Zachary and Matt. Fabio Costa, from season 10, will help Maya and Peytie. And Sonjia Williams, from season 10, is with Bridget and Jaxson.
With their adult help, the kids start working together on designs while also finding fabric in Mini Mood. Samantha wants to do a suit, and Zach thinks they can tie in his aesthetic with a cape. Matt and Zachary — probably the most ill-matched pair — are going to create a red dress with cutouts under the bustline. They want sexy but refined, and I am scared. Maya and Peytie come up with the concept of a boy-shorts romper with a sheer organza skirt over the top. Jaxson and Bridget are having the most difficult time coming together; they can’t decide on fabric colors.
But overall it’s so nice to see again how great these kids work together on team challenges. Usually when Tim comes for critiques during team challenges, he often has to use the time to play mediator. But that’s not the case here: He can really focus on the designs, which may or may not be good for the designers.
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Tim’s “dubious” about Samantha and Zach’s jumpsuit. He thinks it’s a little too boring if you take away the cape, so they push it up a notch. As for Matt and Zachary, Tim doesn’t give them very specific feedback. He’s clearly not a fan but just tells them to execute it carefully. Clearly he’s in a “let them figure this out for themselves” mood because he gives Maya and Peytie the silent treatment next. Maya realizes on her own that the white fabric needs to go, so they head back to Mini Mood.
The worst critique is Jaxson and Bridget’s; Tim isn’t a fan of their colors, and with only four looks on the runway, he tells them, these designers have nowhere to hide. Bridget is clearly holding back tears, but Tim doesn’t hold back his critique — and the designers do end up benefiting from it. After a mini-breakdown in Mini Mood, Bridget pulls it together (with more tough love from Sonjia), and they find a new fabric and silhouette they love.
Things go smoothly until the next day when the designers fit their models for the runway. Amanda realizes the model’s waist is shorter than they accounted for, so Matt and Zachary’s design doesn’t fit her quite right, but they own it and send her down the runway looking as best as possible.
NEXT: Bye adult designers, nice seeing you
The adult designers disappear before the runway — it wouldn’t have been fair, but I wish they had stuck around to guest judge. The designers get plenty of critiques from the usual four, though. Here’s what they had to say:
When Maya and Peytie scrapped the white organza and went with the reverse side of the fabric of the bodysuit, it completely changed the look. As Christian says: From the back, it’s a gown, but when she turns, it’s like, “Oh, let’s have a party!” He also appreciates the creativity they used in creating a belt with an arm cuff. Aya says that she could see any girl from Taylor Swift’s squad wearing it — which is probably the highest compliment you could give these two young girls.
Although Matt and Zachary worked well together, it didn’t show in their look. In the workroom, Bridget said that Matt brought down Zachary’s design aesthetic, and the judges agree. Hannah says the gown isn’t flattering and it’s overdesigned. Kelly says the chiffon draping they added made the model look as if she had a tail. Christian tells them they should have made it a short gown so they could work on details more. The guys had too big of a plan for a five-hour challenge.
How Bridget and Jaxson were able to create not one, not two, but three looks in five hours AND to have the third one turn out so well is a complete mystery. Maybe Sonjia really did bring magic with her? The judges are in awe of it: Hannah loves the slit. Christian says the silhouette is great, although he could do without the slit. Aya also loves the silhouette, and Kelly raves about the fabric. With all the trouble they had, the pair ended up making a really great team.
Kelly says the pantsuit and printed cape that Samantha and Zach made felt “modern medieval magic.” Meanwhile, Christian says it feels like modern old Hollywood, even though there’s nothing old Hollywood about the look. Aya says it’s something for a modern girl. The critique is all over the place but definitely positive.
Then Aya compliments the whole group on the innovation from this runway, but there can be only one… wait, two winners…
Winners: Maya and Peytie
Matt, like the designers who left before him, only talks about how hard it’s going to be to leave the friends he’s made when he exits. And it’s only sealing my love for Project Runway Junior more: These kids really are just excited for the opportunity to work with creative equals — it’s why they do well in group challenges, and it’s why they are so helpful to one another. For them, it’s really not about the win; it’s about being on the show at all. And I’m loving watching it.
What about you guys? Are you at the same Project Runway Junior level of love as I am? Were you happy with tonight’s winners and loser? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter @realdalener.