Despite the inspiration of gold-medal-winner Apolo Ohno, nearly all of our sports-challenged designers run off the track

By Missy Schwartz
Updated August 07, 2008 at 05:04 PM EDT
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Project Runway

S5 E4
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Well, lookee what we have here. A room full of fashion people who don’t know their javelins from their shot puts, their shuttlecocks from their Ping-Pong balls. Stella even called guest judge Apolo Ohno a ”speed racer.” Way to go, Stella. You just likened a five-time Olympic medalist to a turd of a Wachowski brothers movie that is the biggest flop of the summer.

So last night’s Project Runway kicked off with another field trip, this time to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame museum at the Armory in Washington Heights, where the designers seemed completely out of their element. The challenge was to design an outfit for the American Olympic team to wear during the opening ceremony. (But not really.) No one was as stumped as Daniel, who’s never watched an Olympic opening ceremony. (Really, Daniel? Not even when Björk performed four years ago? For shame!) While everyone scurried off to seek inspiration at the Armory museum, Daniel wandered around, seemingly in search of the bright red button marked: Push here, panicked fashion designer who does not like the smell of gyms.

At Mood, it seemed as though Terri and Keith were gonna rumble when the boy from Salt Lake City nabbed the fabric she’d selected for herself. But other than Terri telling the cameras in the confessional booth that ”a sister gotta keep one eye open,” nothing much came of it, which makes me wonder if, like many of you wondered here last week, the producers are just trying to force a villain out of Keith when there’s really nothing all that nasty about him. We didn’t hear much else from him for the rest of the night, and in the end, the dustup didn’t keep Super Seamstress Terri from whipping up a sharp, impeccably constructed ensemble comprised of trousers, a top, a vest, and (whew!) a jacket in no time at all. (Someone call the Department of Labor to investigate that sweatshop under her desk.) Michael Kors loved her creation, dubbing it worthy of Lauren Hutton and proclaiming, ”Hurray for sportswear!”

Now, I’ve made a point so far to ignore all the predictably annoying utterances from Suede and Blayne, but Mr. Orange explaining that the Olympic sport of tanning ”only goes to the bronze medal” was pretty funny. Still, whatever points he won with that witticism, he quickly lost when he told Tim Gunn that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band meant nothing to him. Then, he bragged that his only Beatles point of reference was a musical production of Across the Universe with other singers. Welcome to the Age of the CliffsNotes of Culture. Brace yourselves. (”Oh, God — youth.”)

NEXT: Head-to-toe overkill

Joe seemed the most confident last night, twice proclaiming, ”Let the fashion games begin.” Like Heidi, I thought his bicolored zipper was clever. But that’s about it. His ensemble was appropriately sporty, but not the least bit chic or fashion forward. The way the light hit it on TV reminded me of Tyvek. And I don’t care what Tim and Michael say — I just can’t ever get behind a skort. They’re always a bad, butt-and-tummy-disaster-waiting-to-happen, and Joe’s simply didn’t work, what with the mismatched skirt-to-short ratio. Also, can’t say I’m a big fan of him pitching a hissy fit about Daniel taking over his sewing machine, then complaining that there was ”too much drama because there are too many queens.” Get a grip, Joe.

Stella did her usual routine last night, first calling herself ”a true cavegirl,” then going straight for the black fabric, and finally pointing out that ”there’s a lot of bikers in this country who watch the Olympics.” Love your logic, lady. While Korto gave us a snippet of her rather remarkable escape from war-torn Liberia in 1990, Jerrell busted out the ka-ka-ka-krazy. For starters, there was the Robin Hood-joins-the-Army hat that he wore to judging. But who could pay attention to his nutty headwear next to that study in sartorial schizophrenia that he sent down the runway? From the polka-dotted hat, to the pink blouse, to the necktie, to the pinstriped pencil skirt, to the leggings, the look didn’t just scream, dressed in the dark; it screamed, dressed in the dark after you’ve forgotten to take your meds. Even the poor model looked embarrassed, standing up there cloaked in head-to-toe overkill. And who wouldn’t look for the runway ejector seat when Michael’s in front of you, laughing his ass off at the meshuggeneh-ness of it all?

As for Jennifer…………………What’s that? Oh, sorry, I fell asleep at the keyboard the second I started thinking about her gold-and-white skirt and prim black jacket. There’s something about the poor gal that makes me reluctant to go too hard on her, but she completely missed the mark on this challenge, unveiling yet another design that was (eeek!) matronly. She escaped the heave-ho last week, but as Nina so wisely pointed out, her inability to separate her own aesthetic from the demands of the challenge proved too great to ignore this time. (Oh, and I’m convinced that someone told her when she was 12 that surrealism was a synonym for demure, and she never bothered to look it up for herself.)

NEXT: The Republic of Cocktail Land

Giving her the boot was the right choice, even if Daniel’s blue-but-on-the-runway-it-looked-purple party frock was almost as many miles away from the center of the bull’s-eye. Twice Kors had the best lines regarding Daniel’s misfire: ”She’s from the Republic of Cocktail Land?” and ”If the sport is drinking, it’s a good design.” Poor Daniel got it all wrong this week, and judging from those tears he was spilling, he knew it. I could go on for another 900 words about all the other designers who ”heard this week’s challenge in another language.” (Hey there, Kelli. Good thing you had immunity, huh, Kenley?) But let’s get to the winner. When Korto’s garment came down the runway, I actually wrote on my notepad: ”boring + white.” Sure, it was well made, and there’s something to be said for simplicity, but what was Olympic about it? You can’t tell me that long, skinny, white linen pants are going to flatter a 4-foot-8-inch gymnast with killer thigh muscles.

Maybe that’s why I found this challenge so silly: More than most, it so clearly existed in a Project Runwayvoid. No Olympian is ever going to wear these things. At least with last season’s WWE and (hilarious) Tiki Barber challenges, there was a conceit that the clothing would actually end up on an actual person.

What did you think? Was Korto the rightful winner? Was it me or did it seem like Terri had a crush on Ohno? And what do you think about Bravo revealing the challenges and judges to us ahead of time this season?

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