The designers present mostly underwhelming looks for a team challenge 

By Breia Brissey
Updated September 07, 2012 at 05:20 AM EDT
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

What’s that sound you hear? Oh, it’s just the collective groan in the workroom because the designers just learned it’s time for another TEAM CHALLENGE! And for competitors with larger-than-life egos, teams challenges always rank somewhere between terrible and heinous for the Runway hopefuls. This drama-fueled episode was no exception. I mean, Elena and her attitude are both still in the competition. (I’m hereby starting a petition to eliminate at least one of the two.)

But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s sew tie up a few loose ends: Your regular recapper extraordinaire, Stephan Lee, is away on a much-deserved vacation. So you’re stuck with me! Advance apologies for my non-existent fashion expertise, and for the lack of photos of all the designs. But let’s take a page from Tim Gunn’s book and make it work! Meaning: Let’s let CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Kors and fashion director for Marie Claire magazine Nina Garcia handle the stinkfaces.

After last week’s Lord and Taylor designer meltdown—followed by a non-elimination—the stakes were high. Chris, obviously riding the high of his immunity win, was upset that no one went home. In the previous sentence, no one = Gunnar. The animosity between Chris and Gunnar pretty much guaranteed that they would be working on the same team. And the same foreshadowing gods gave us this gem from Alicia: “I’ve been on the bottom twice already, so I just need to do something really, really dope.” You do that, Alicia.

Up Next: Having fun fund-raising!

Now on to the challenge. Tim Gunn and the ominous bag of names split the designers into three teams of three. Team one—which Sonjia affectionately dubbed “drama f—ing central”—consisted of Chris, Sonjia, and Gunnar. Next up was Dmitry, Elena “walking depression” Slivnyak, and Alicia for team two. And Fabio, Melissa, and Ven rounded out team three. Tim then gave the designers a budget of zero dollars and a bunch of arts and crafts. Say what now? Part one of the challenge was to create items to sell and raise funds for their fabric budget.

Off the designers went creating a slew of T-shirts and accessories that no real New Yorker would ever buy. (Seriously. We ignore street vendors like its our job.) Some of the items were pretty cute, but Sonjia articulated it best with “these are the most homeless looking T-shirts I’ve ever seen!” Yet each team managed to raise enough money for part two of the challenge: Create two cohesive looks for fall, one must include outerwear.

Surprisingly enough, team Chris/Sonjia/Gunnar managed to work the best together. Gunnar calling Sonjia’s hunter green jacket a Legends of Zelda vest, was pretty much the worst (and funniest) offense. Meanwhile, Dmitry, Elena, and Alicia were at each other’s throats because Elena is a total bitch. My words, not Dmitry’s, who just called her a witch and then requested silver bullets and a wooden stake to ward her off. And finally Ven, Fabio, and Melissa were working seamlessly together to create the most boring look in the history of the series. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. But I almost fell asleep just looking at those drab pink and grey colors. Big-time yawn.

Fashion designer Anna Sui was on hand as a guest judge. She really didn’t have anything constructive to say to our designers, but rather stressed the importance of teamwork. Teamwork is the best work, guys. This lesson has been brought to you by the letter T. Here’s what Heidi and Co. had to say about the looks for the night.


Chris, Gunnar, and Sonjia

Budget = $684

As Heidi stressed, these looks were the clear winners of the bunch. Anchored by Sonjia’s hunter green, tailored jacket, this was the only look that was cohesive and interesting. Chris created a camel-hair coat, which turned out to be well worth the effort and time. (How could Elena call it an “ugly-ass snuggie?” Sidenote: they should totally have a snuggie challenge.) Gunnar rounded out the look with two super-sleek, modern dresses, one of them a paneled jersey, leather ensemble that the judges loved. Together, their work looked expensive and well-made—a double threat in this competition. And surely I’m not the only one still coveting Sonjia’s jacket. Sonjia, you are the winner of this challenge. Congrats to Gunnar and Chris who are also safe.

Up Next: The worst of the rest…


Ven, Melissa, and Fabio

Budget = $800.48

With the most money to spend, it’s like this team had to work hard to make it look so poor, not to mention boring. They sent down Fabio’s grey mohair coat, with an ill-fitted pink top; an unfortunately cut pair of pants; and a skirt that looked like it belonged to a schoolgirl in the 1800s. Melissa was the standout of this group and managed to create an awesome white leather jacket with some nice clutches, but it was too little too late for a lackluster collection. I’d say the palette for these looks was akin to a mixture of strawberry and chocolate Dippin’ Dots. And while Dippin’ Dots are a perfect treat for a hot day, they are probably not the best way to impress on the runway. Anyway, their pink and grey combos were just sad and depressing. And continuing his reputation as an asshole, Ven blamed the overall blahness and his lack of construction on his partners. It was bad, but enough to keep all three safe in the competition.

Alicia, Elena, and Dmitry

Budget = $500

This team was plagued from the beginning with the kiss of death (A.K.A. Elena). She’s clearly a pain to work with when it comes to team challenges, and partnering her with Dmitry again was bound to be a s–t show. In the midst of all this drama, Alicia was just sort of existing. In fact, it was pretty similar to what she’s done throughout the entire competition. And since the group couldn’t work together as a team, it was no surprise that their looks didn’t work either. Dmitry took over the ensemble with a structured, black cutout dress. And just for kicks, he threw in a fringed shawl that didn’t belong with the outfit. Nina said it looked like an “old lady” shawl. The second look was split between Elena and Alicia. Elena managed a voluminous coat that Michael said looked like it was “sewn with her feet.” And Alicia turned out a blasé shirt and pair of pants—basically another snoozefest.

In spite of Dmitry and Elena’s inability to work with one another, it came down to the fact that Alicia didn’t do enough work when compared with her fellow competitors. So auf wiedersehen, Alicia. I’m sorry, but you are out. “I’m so disappointed,” said no one. (Except probably Alicia.) She had really been skating on thin ice for a few weeks.

But now it’s your turn. Where you underwhelmed by the designers’ fall looks? Are you sad to see Alicia go? Are you as annoyed by Elena as I am? And finally, shouldn’t Chris get an extra week of immunity for comparing Dmitry and Elena to Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle? I think we all know the answer to that is a resounding yes. Sound off in the comments.

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