The remaining 11 designers embark on an overnight camping trip, from which they must use their experiences in nature to inspire a runway look.

By Jacqueline Andriakos
Updated August 23, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT
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Project Runway
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Four words: Tim. Gunn. Camouflage. Suit.

Our style mentor and Heidi are dressed for the outdoors (for Heidi Klum “outdoorsy” means a button down, leather belt, tailored slacks, and an updo). But like Tim says, this is about as outdoorsy as he gets.

Claiming that the designers have been trapped in the concrete jungle long enough, their friends at Resource Water are sending the remaining 11 contestants on a camping trip. Some designers are a bit more excited than others. Kenye comments that people mistake him for an outdoorsman, but the southern diva is NOT dealing with bugs OR sleeping in a tent. I can’t say I would ever mistake Ken for the camping type in the first place. But after his huffy distaste for where this challenge is headed, I’m mildly hoping for an Elaine Hendrix Parent Trap camping scene type of moment.

Oh, wait! It’s a “GLAM-ping” trip, or an upscale, sophisticated form of camping trip, for Project Runway. With 30 minutes to pack their bags, designers prep at the hotel and are off to survive the treacherous wilderness. O.K., they have fancy tents, real beds, and a beautiful meal. But it would be pretty funny to see a Project Runway-meets-Naked and Afraid reality TV hybrid.

Seona Skwara, head of activation for Resource Natural Spring Water (I’M SORRY, GUYS. I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THIS PRODUCT PLACEMENT), rattles off a lovely scripted bit about the deliciousness of Resource water and how nature inspires us to be our best. But this product placement is giving designers a pretty wild day of outdoorsy fun, with a night of activities including rafting, marshmallow roasting, and zip-lining.

With one day to complete the challenge, designers must use their experiences in nature to inspire a new look for the runway.

Seeing the designers bonding in the woods is surprisingly endearing. From Justin teaching the group sign language swear words around the campfire to Ken’s hilarious blood-curdling scream while zip-lining, the episode is beginning to feel like a giant white flag of truce. Alexandria, however, is not spending her time relaxing in a hammock with her other female contestants. Feeling discouraged and unconfident after being grouped in the bottom with her failing trio in the previous challenge, the blonde uses her time in nature to think critically about her next move.

A couple hours later, the socializing dies down and the sketching picks up. A once-pessimistic Ken realizes there may be a tolerable side of a glamping trip and feels the cleansing affect of nature. Will that cleanse him of his bitterness? We will have to wait and see.

Jeremy’s “me time” is filled with thoughts of his husband, and he writes his dearly beloved a letter that he will use for inspiration for his garment. Alexandria, who has embraced the camping “challenge” with a bandana and camo pants, found the fuel and optimism she needed to confront another Runway challenge head-on.

After fortuitously finding a lovely feast with white linen table clothes at their glampsite, the glampers (sorry, I’m done) enjoy a relaxing meal together, wrapping up their overnight escape and preparing to dive back into the competition.

NEXT: A drama-free workroom!

Ken spots an army green wool that reminds him of the woods. Karen grabs white fabrics, alluding to the tents, and Bradon snags a whole bunch of colored chiffon in the hopes that he can make something out of it.

It’s Justin who runs a more unconventional idea by Tim. By using the stringy remnants from a hot glue gun, Justin plans to attempt handcrafted lacework. This could either be impressively out-of-the-box, or turn into a mess of gluey spiderwebs.

Back in the workroom, Ken is already running his mouth. “I’m glad we didn’t wake up to like, a bear at the campfire,” he jokes. “Or a tiger,” says Alexander. “Alexandria is still here!” I see your attempt at a zinger, but that was a little bit of a reach there, Ken.

Jeremy is all words at his station as well, but at least they’re enamored ones. The lovestruck designer has plans for a white evening gown with the text from his love letter written directly onto the fabric. Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve.

Alexandria keeps to herself in the workroom in an effort to silence any potential for drama. But her design is an intriguing one, a modern twist on the traditional long john-style camping frock.

Tim pops into a very quiet workroom for consultations, beginning with Justin’s glue gun-laced dress. The pieces of hardened glue strings are shaping up to be interesting texturized additions to his gown, and make a nice reference to the motion of the creek. Tim is pleased that he is pushing himself out of the middle ground and hopefully into the top of the competition. A concern could be the immobility of the plastic-y texture of the glue. Will this be difficult to work with when adding it to his dress?

Every designer seems to have found a very personal inspiration from the glamping trip. Alexander describes the design of his gown as “ombréd bark,” and Bradon has used an embroidery technique to mimic the colors of moss. But Tim isn’t convinced that the colored pencil-looking stitches will wow the judges, despite the tedious efforts behind the effect:

Although Ken is using a very mossy fabric himself, the zigzagging attachments on the bodice remind me of a coiled cobra snake marking its territory on the front of his dress. Alexandria is pairing an inventive denim jacket with a drop-crotch pant, and Helen has an intricately layered sand-colored gown shaping up on her mannequin. Her technique reminds me of Christopher Palu’s (season 10) repeatedly used pleating trick that won him the Lord & Taylor challenge. But regardless of the design déja vu, the effect is impressive.

At this point, I’m genuinely excited and intrigued by this challenge and the design-focused episode we have had thus far. Individual designers’ skills and weaknesses seem to be taking shape throughout the workroom. Miranda’s gown is decorated with origami fabric petals, Kate is adding a stencil-like black piece to the collar of her dress, and the back of Alexandria’s denim jacket looks modern with angular shapes and cutouts. It’s almost unpredictable as to who will be the top and bottom based on the cryptic and short on-screen glimpses of workroom progress.

The most runway suspense comes from Bradon’s style brain freeze. The talented designer has coasted along among the top contestants throughout the competition, but may have finally hit a fashion roadblock with this challenge. His chiffon dress looks like a rainbow nightgown with a bib, a weak alternative to sending his model down the runway naked.

NEXT: Rescued from the woods

The runway is 10 minutes away, but Justin’s gown, as feared, looks like it was worn while hunting around in a spiderweb-filled attic. The glue gun pieces are not very pliable, leaving random patches of the heaps of glue attached randomly around the dress. But Karen’s dress doesn’t look awe-worthy either. The simple gown has a questionable yellow ombré dye job, that looks as if it were mistakenly dipped into a dirty toilet.

The runway show hasn’t truly begun, but Heidi has already stolen the show with that hilarious “I love roasted marshmallows” lip-licking gesture. Donning a sparkly, feathered, one-shoulder cocktail dress and sleek ponytail, the Runway queen certainly puts the glam in glamping, and looks about as non-outdoorsy as supermodels come.

Also styled with a sleek updo and black ensemble is this week’s guest judge, Girls star with the perfect teeth, Allison Williams. Let’s start the show…

LOWEST SCORES

Karen

The big hair, big makeup styling makes Karen’s model look trashy. Heidi mentions that the leather neck and shoulder detail has been done over and over. The ill-fitting safari gown is paired with cowboy, fringed booties, making Nina question whether or not the dress really fits any occasion. And no judge questions the awkward yellow dye job?

Ken

“B-O-R-I-N-G,” spells Nina. Yikes. The ’80s hair and make up don’t match the heavy wool sheath dress, but Ken claims he was attempting to portray Mother Nature herself. The layering on the chest adds distracting and unnecessary weight to the bust area, which Allison admits most women would prefer to avoid. And on a catty note, did anyone else catch that little flash of glee and subtle smirk from Alexandria during Ken’s roast?

Justin

Words from the judges include “frothy,” “Halloween,” and “foaming vagina.” Despite the negative remarks, Zac admits that he appreciates the attempt at creativity. And he also likes the color, which he describes as very modern. Unfortunately, the overall garment resembles a witch costume dipped into a bubble bath.

HIGHEST SCORES

Jeremy

“Read it to us!” Heidi exclaims when she learns that the dress features the transcribed love letter. Allison Williams adores the delicate button detailing up the sides, while Zac comments on the well-executed fit. Jeremy’s “loved up” emotions during this challenge projected right onto the judging panel, because they all fell in love with his gown and concept as well.

Alexander

“The fit is absolutely ridiculous,” says Heidi — but in a good way! Ms. Klum isn’t sold on the leather train, but Allison loves everything about the dress. Zac, on the other hand, finds the gown to be simple and not as wow-worthy. But at least the ladies of panel jump in to back up Alexander’s design, praising him for the nuances of the dress, including his hand-painted details and leather trim.

Alexandria – CHALLENGE WINNER

Her modern take on a denim jacket turned a classic closet staple into a luxurious and editorial piece. The back detail was executed to perfection, according to Nina, and even Zac is turned onto a style he typically hates: “Heidi, you know that I have an issue with poopy pants,” he warns, “They totally were sold to me on the runway. I love them!” Her artistic and risky take on a sporty look not only snagged the squeaky blonde a top three spot, but also a challenge win!

Now let’s discuss this ending:

The bottom two comes down to Justin and Karen, one with a foaming Halloween costume, and the other with a belted bed sheet of a maxi dress. I was shocked to hear the judges select Karen to remain in the competition, leaving a choked up Justin eliminated on the runway. The back room was full of tears, as the designers were brokenhearted saying goodbye to their sweet and genuine friend. And who else was choked up? Tim Gunn. The emotional mentor had a big announcement for the group: He is using his Tim Gunn rescue.

I’m thrilled to see Justin earn another opportunity to prove himself in the competition, and I genuinely think that this horrendous gown was an anomaly for the designer. I’m also ecstatic that we had a very design-driven episode!

Do you think Karen should have received the boot instead of Justin? Is anyone surprised by the Tim Gunn rescue? Discuss!

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