On ''Project Runway,'' when the designers are challenged to create jet-setter outfits, using themselves as muses and models, most crash and burn

By Mark Harris
Updated August 31, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT
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On this week’s Project Runway, the seven remaining designers were asked to create an outfit for a ”hip international jet-setter.”

When Kayne heard the phrase ”hip international jet-setter,” the first person he thought of was Tara Reid.

When Michael heard the phrase ”hip international jet-setter,” the first person he thought of was Paris Hilton.

Before I continue, on behalf of every single person who has ever worked in entertainment journalism or the silicone-implant industry, I would like to apologize to God for our role in destroying hipness, internationalism, and jet-setting. Because if this is what it’s come to, why go on?

Thankfully, Kayne and Michael turned to other inspirations when they heard the challenge’s twist (they were designing for themselves), with results that almost got Michael his third win and almost got Kayne booted. As is often the case on Project Runway, what started out as a gimmicky challenge ended up as an illuminating glimpse into the souls of the designers involved. And some of the designers revealed a little more than they should have.

Take Vincent. Please, please, please, somebody take Vincent. I’ll spring for the butterfly net. When he heard the phrase ”hip international jet-setter,” here’s what he came up with: Baggy black pants. Baggy black pullover. (At least he didn’t say, ”It gets me off,” or ”It gets me hot.”) Now, in fairness to Vincent, he was onto something: Go to any airport, and you will see the outfit he designed many times in the vicinity of actual jets. (Often, it will be translated into the language of sweatpants, but it will still be recognizable.) And those clothes can express many things about the person who is wearing them: ”I hate this airport.” ”I hate my body.” ”I am protesting the small size and large expense of my coach seat by wearing clothes that make me look like a Goth hospital orderly.” ”I wish I was there already.” And finally, ”I wish I was dead.” But fashion it ain’t, as Michael Kors and Nina Garcia both had to remind the momentarily startled guest judge, Francisco Costa, a Calvin Klein creative director.

Who else exposed himself too much? Kayne. Not literally (although this episode did serve up some man boobs, not to mention the retina-scorching experience of Vincent in his underwear) but spiritually, with a giant KAYNE belt buckle, black pants, and a black shirt with a lurid blue, purple, and white flame crawling up the back and over the shoulder. Nina Garcia called it ”suspended in time, and the time is Elvis,” which I guess is true, if Elvis had been an aging male prostitute shopping out of the 1987 International Male catalogue.

This gigolonious assault on taste almost cost Kayne the game — which brings us to Angela. You knew she was in trouble early, when her sketch was…a round, empty head. Which I guess explains the outfit: shiny-wrinkly brown linen midlength pants with a big flower growing out of each butt cheek and some ominous indeterminate mass of wrinklage in the, uh, between-cheek area; a cherry-cough-drop-colored top with wrinkled-underpants-waistband shoulder straps; and a belt that looked like eight belts got in a fight that ended in an eight-way tie. It was pretty much summed up by the truly shocked expression on Francisco Costa’s face (clothes like this just do not happen to people who work for Calvin Klein) and by the remark of apparently famous and unarguably terrifying guest judge Catherine Malandrino: ”You air just coh-ming from anozzair weeehrld.” And returning to it. Back to the farm Angela goes; let’s hope the rosette harvest is bountiful this year. [Read Kate Sullivan’s interview with Angela]

Jeffrey won. There’s no easy way to say it. Swallowing hard once again, I will admit that his Aerosmith-on-a-budget outfit was the best of a bad bunch — it was flashy but coherent, looked (as Heidi noted) pricier than the $75 in materials it cost, and showed a little more imagination than the gentlemanly Michael’s okay-but-not-great second-place seersucker cargo pants with extra bungee-cord attachments. (Michael, a onetime model, walked it so authoritatively that he pretty much scared the judges out of saying what I bet they were thinking, which was ”That looks a little silly.”) I’m beginning to fear that the Neck of Darkness may be a candidate for the final three, especially if this week’s rare rap on the knuckles for Uli, whose eyesore of a ’70s maxidress looked like she put on a blindfold and robbed a fabric store, portends trouble for her.

In the twist that ended this week’s show, the remaining finalists were flown to Paris (although Angela got thrown back on the luggage carousel about 12 seconds later). And there they’ll apparently stay for at least another week. Which leads to all kinds of questions: Will Laura use the change of scene to get over her aversion to color? (This week’s dress was pretty, but if she could trade Kayne a little class for a little trash, both designers would benefit.) Will some weird French Jerry Lewis-like cult emerge in which Vincent is heralded as a genius? And will the world’s most romantic city be able to teach Jeffrey anything about how to treat women more politely?

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