The Lord & Taylor challenge causes meltdowns.

By Stephan Lee
Updated August 31, 2012 at 05:30 AM EDT
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Quick poll: Are you Team Chiffonies or Team Joan of Arc?

A boys vs. girls dynamic has arisen at this point in the season. Ven didn’t win back any points he lost last week by making a big generalization: “Men are usually stronger designers, while women are a little more practical.” Sonjia put it another way: “I think men design clothes that they want women to wear. Women design clothes that women actually really want to wear.”

In other words, the girls see the boys as creating overly romantic, hyper-feminine looks, while the girls have a harder edge to their aesthetics. “It’s like the guys are more feminine than the girls are,” Sonjia noted. DUH, this is Project Runway — we’d be surprised if it were any other way. Based on their personal styles, I’m not sure most women want to look exactly like any of the designers who are still left. Speaking of which, have you noticed that Elena has basically given herself a receding hairline in an effort to highlight/isolate her bangs?

The challenge not only tested which camp was more in tune with the female consumer, but also which can handle the stress of the workroom better. The designers were tasked with creating a dress that will be sold in Lord & Taylor stores as part of a 10-piece line made up of designs by one designer from each season of Project Runway. The winning dress would have to be easily reproduced and stylish without being alienating to a Lord & Taylor customer.

Gunnar immediately took to this challenge because his target clientele happens to be older, affluent women. He made it clear to us many times that he LOVES LORD & TAYLOR. Guaranteed way to secure yourself more screen time? Sing the praises of a sponsor.

The female designers were generally more apprehensive about the challenge and worried about what they wouldn’t be able to do: Elena thought she had to give up details, seams, textures, and generally making her model look like a samurai; Melissa had to temper her penchant for leather and studs; and Alicia, once again, felt the need to go against her true nature and make something pretty.

Sonjia, though, had a total breakdown, and it mostly stemmed from the residual trauma of having been in the bottom last week. She dripped tears all over her model as she struggled to get her into the dress moments before the runway. Tim had some helpful aphorisms handy: “Fake it on the runway,” and “Channel your inner winner.”

NEXT: Bizarre judging decisions abound…

I knew the judges and I were out of sync this week the moment I saw Heidi strut onto the runway in an Atlantic City Barbie pink sequined dress.



Sonjia had good reason to be relieved to be in the safe group. Sure, the construction was flawed, but the bigger problem, I thought, was Sonjia’s failure to consider the challenge. The puffed-out waist didn’t seem to fall in line with the challenge.


One-way monkey, indeed. I enjoyed the other designers’ chorus of insults concerning Ven’s played-out flower/fanning technique — and come on, it’s time to hang it up for a few challenges. It’s getting absurd. With this particular dress, the detail got lost in the black, and the material from the top looked like it came from a sliced up Batman costume. This could easily have fallen into the bottom group, although Ven — surprise, surprise — was absolutely confident.


Once again I disagreed with the judges — only this time, because I thought Dmitry’s dress belonged in the top. The silvery material sparkled, and the seams were interesting but not overly avante garde. A perfect balance for this challenge, unlike a couple of the four top looks. This could have been a winner.

NEXT: What’s the most sellable look?



This looks like something Fabio would wear himself (and it definitely would have been an improvement over the maternity pants he wore to the runway). Nina liked how versatile the dress was — but isn’t any rather plain black dress versatile? I agreed with Michael about the bad zipper. It created an unnecessarily stark line down the back.


This dress turned out way better than Melissa was expecting. The brocade fabric worked out well and formed a dramatic neckline. I’m glad Michael called out the excessive asymmetry of the hem because the asymmetry has been out-of-control this season. He also called her look the toughest to sell — isn’t that going against the founding principles of this challenge (and this nation)?


Speaking of hard sells, Elena’s dress looked like a rumpled gardening glove, and I hated the sewer sludge color. Elena was floored to hear that she was in the top group and immediately burst into tears. Michael said she finally found a “balance of art and commerce.” I don’t see it, but Lord & Taylor president Bonnie Brooks can’t be wrong.

Chris — WINNER

I found it odd that Chris thought he was taking a risk by repeating a technique he’s used twice before. Still, the double-layered shredding is quite lovely. However, I don’t think it should have won. It’s very elegant, but something about the t-shirt and skirt look felt very 90s to me, and as Nina said, the gown “wouldn’t work on many people,” which might not make it sellable.

NEXT: I guess the decision was just too hard…



I don’t see why Alicia frets so much about challenges that don’t cater to her tastes if she’s just going to do whatever she wants anyway. But actually, I thought this was a cool, interesting look, even with the weird gladiator skirt. Heidi took issue with Alicia’s claim that she can’t make a feminine dress.


I understand the problems the judges had with Gunnar’s dress. Even when he was sketching his look, I thought it looked too much like the cap-shouldered black dress from one of the past seasons. It was derivative, sure, but it was also well constructed and completely on-brand. I definitely wouldn’t have put it in a top group, but it didn’t belong at the very bottom, either.

I expected Gunnar to say, “Thanks for another heart attack” when he left the runway. What a cop-out!

I call B.S. on the decision not to send anyone home. It wouldn’t have been a travesty to send Ven or Sonjia home for their lackluster dresses. However, this elimination-less runway wasn’t nearly as bad as in season 8 when four designers went on to the finale even though Anya and Kimberly — especially Kimberly — performed poorly.

Did Chris deserve the win? Is Dmitry getting overlooked by the judges? Were you totally bored by Chris and Ven’s go-to techniques? Should someone have gone home?

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