The designers create avant-garde looks in teams of two

By Dalene Rovenstine
January 05, 2017 at 10:02 PM EST
Barbara Nitke
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The only thing stranger than seeing a fencing duel on the runway is learning one of the fencers is Tim Gunn. It’s a stretch to tie this theme into the group avant-garde challenge, but who cares? We got to see Tim Gunn fencing on a runway with Olympian Tim Morehouse.

Tim x2 introduce the challenge, what they’re calling En Garde Avant Garde: Working in pairs, the designers must use $300 to create an avant-garde look inspired by fencing. And out of the button bag come our five teams:

Hawwaa and A’kai
Cartier and Izzy
Allie and Chelsea
Chris and Rene
Molly and Tyler

Immediately, Hawwaa and A’kai have issues. They’re both confused about what avant-garde is and don’t feel comfortable working together. A’kai in his rambly way is very concerned about how their look will turn out.

“It could look like a roach that got ran over by a car that fell in the sewer that a horse ate and the horse pooped it out and then it fell on a mannequin,” he tells the camera. “That’s how bad it could possibly be.”

I’ve never in all my years of watching Project Runway heard a better description of a look that doesn’t even exist yet. But once they get to work, it was clear A’kai had reason to worry. They’re both existing in a constant state of confusion, but instead of discussing it together, Hawwaa calls out orders and A’kai hides behind his mannequin.

When Tim comes around for critiques, he tells them he likes the idea they’re working with but they need to build the drama. You’d think that would calm the two, but it doesn’t.

For the most part, Tim has positive critiques for the remaining four pairs but generally tells people to amp it up and increase the drama (except for Tieler and Molly — I don’t think they could create more drama if they tried).

So, things should be going pretty great in this workroom. And they are for most people. But Hawwaa and A’kai are still floundering. When the models come for fittings, A’kai overhears Hawwaa complaining about him to their model. And after the models leave, A’kai tells Hawwaa her top “looks like toilet paper rolls.” Dramaaa.

Hawwaa leaves the room and A’kai calls a private meeting with Tim. Tim tells him to stay calm and finish his bottom and let Hawwaa worry about the top. (I honestly teared up a little when I saw how supportive Tim was being. Just me?) They both probably need a hug and a nap, but there’s no time for that in Project Runway Junior!

Speaking of them being juniors, it’s like they’re trying to make us all feel old this season. Chris doesn’t know who Frida Kahlo is — although he thinks she might be the “lady with the fruit on her head” — and Molly only knows of David Bowie’s name because he just died. Kids these days!

Anyway, the day of the runway, Hawwaa and A’kai have another little spat. I’ll just quote Tieler here: “I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s juicy.” Hawwaa ends up crying over her sewing machine and A’kai says he doesn’t mind throwing her under the bus on the runway if necessary to save himself.

NEXT: Don’t do that, A’kai!

As the avant-garde looks start to walk the runway, Aya leans over and whispers, “This is going to be a hard day” to her fellow judges. And she’s right — all the looks are great. Tim declares it the best avant-garde challenge in the history of Project Runway. (I mean, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but okay.)

Hannah tells Cartier and Izzy that they are safe, which means the remaining four are the top and bottom looks.

Lifetime

Allie and Chelsea explain that their inspiration was fencing in the future, like a “fencing gladiator” Chelsea explains. They worked collaboratively on the top and the pants. Aya loves it — she says it’s a great peek into their imagination. Kelly is proud of them and how they mixed textures. Hannah loves the all black, and Christian says he can’t wait to step into fencing studios in the future.

When Hawwaa explains her and A’kai’s looks, saying they were inspired by medieval armor and the blood shown on fencing garments, the judges are wowed by the story…but not so much the look. Christian says the construction problems are bad, but the story is beautiful. However, most of the critique is spent discussing teamwork, not the design. Aya asks how they worked together and after a squabble on stage breaks out, she cuts them off: “I think we get it.” Kelly warns them that if they want to work in fashion, they have to learn to work together.

Chris and Rene’s design was a mix of inspiration from the fencing attire and Terracotta soldiers. Rene did the bodysuit while Chris did the coat. Kelly is obsessed with the outerwear but thinks the jumpsuit looks “flat” next to it. Christian says the bodysuit isn’t where fashion is going; he says it feels dated and not avant-garde. Hannah just reads the whole look as “costume.”

Last up is Molly and Tieler, who clearly understand avant-garde. With an inspiration of a power suit, they created an amazing avant-garde coat and pant set. “If this look is the result of your very first collaboration,” Aya tells them, “you guys should be designing together as a team for life.” Christian says this look should be in a museum in the future. So it’s no surprise (again) that Hannah announces…

Winner: Molly and Tieler

Out: A’kai.

But wait! Tim Gunn is back with good news. He thinks A’kai is too talented to let go, so he uses his save on week 3. Yes, it may be early, but I don’t mind. A’kai is a fun kid who I want to see more from. And if last season showed anything, it’s that Tim Gunn doesn’t like people going home because of bad group challenges.

What did you think of this week’s Project Runway Junior episode?

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