Timothy Westbrook steals the premiere with his questionable "sustainability" philosophies. Plus: a new twist that means more Tim Gunn

By Stephan Lee
Updated July 19, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT

Project Runway

S12 E1
  • TV Show

As we open this season of Project Runway on a quiet airfield, we’re treated to a barrage of predictable first-episode-of-a-reality-competition posturing from the new crop of designers, the usual “People will love me or hate me,” “It’s not my fault if people are intimidated by me,” “I’m definitely going to rub people the wrong way,” “I’m not a team player,” etc. By now, we all know what this translates to: “I’M INCREDIBLY INSECURE!!!!” Also, don’t you want people to vote for you for fan favorite? Well, it turns out Project Runway fans like to reward bitchiness, because…

Heidi and Tim gathered the 15 designers on the landing strip to tell them that Kate from season 11 would be returning, back by popular demand! A lot of the others are unhappy about this turn of events because Kate is a “total bitch.” Another development: A sign language interpreter will be on hand because one of the contestants, Justin LeBlanc, is deaf. (I’m really excited about this interpreter. I hope she becomes an integral part of the season, like Marlee Matlin’s interpreter Jack Jason, who was the indisputable breakout star of Celebrity Apprentice). Justin explained that some people think he’s foreign because of the way he talks, but I thought he was foreign because of his Angela’s Ashes wardrobe.

Suddenly, the drone of planes sounded overhead, and skydivers rained from the sky. Timothy exclaimed, “Look, toy soldiers! No, they’re puppies! Oh, they’re people!” It felt like a desperate attempt to come across cute, and it kind of worked. One of the parachutes swiped a jumpy Heidi in the face. I thought maybe the contestants would have to design a dress while strapped to a plane — ANTM probably already did it — but instead, they were tasked with fashioning an outfit using the grass-stained parachutes as part of this season’s Unconventional Materials challenge. I’m sorry, but that’s not unconventional enough for me. What happened to making a corset out of dog biscuits? Parachutes are made of undesirable fabric, but they’re still fabric-y.

But it posed a daunting enough task to intimidate tatted bad-ass Helen, who claimed she could deal with blood and s— and snakes and feces, but parachutes freak her out. As they sprinted toward the color parachute of their desires, Timothy full-on body-slammed Kate to the ground, or at least that’s what it looked like. Is the sweet little-boy act really an act? Time will tell.

NEXT: Timothy brings an inconvenient truth …

Once they wiped the blood and dirt from their bodies, the designers took their parachutes to the work room, and we got a bit more of their backstories. Bradon used to be a dancer, but he quit, as he put it, “Because I’m old.” Alexandria, who’s turning out to be one of the most obnoxious contestants so far, is the daughter of stage parents and believes she’s the best thing ever to happen to the world since the advent of cronuts. Jeremy has two adorable children and the strongest accent I’ve ever heard. Miranda and Timothy know each other from the notorious Milwaukee fashion community and look like they could be brother and sister (they both have this skeletal, Tim Burton-esque bone structure and coloring); Timothy was super-excited to see Miranda, but Miranda threw an impressive amount of shade back at him. “We don’t click — I think he has an ego,” she said.

Tim Gunn entered the room to announce that this year’s accessory wall would be sponsored by Belk — really, Belk??!! — and explained a convoluted twist involving GoBank that no one could possibly be excited about. Apparently each designer will be budgeting his/her own money for the entire season using their GoBank accounts. Seriously, how will this add to our enjoyment of the show? Are we at home supposed to create spreadsheets to track whether Kahindo or Bradon’s been better about rationing money? It feels very Oregon Trail, only you’re spending dollars on tulle and sequins instead of oxen and bullets. Product placement gone terribly wrong.

Friction began to brew early in the work room. Sandro gave Alexandria a mini-lecture about the value of humility, which was like Amanda Bynes giving Chris Brown a lesson on sensible tweeting. Justin uttered what I’m sure will be the wisest words of the whole season: “If they get on my nerves, all I have to do is turn this off,” he said, gesturing to his hearing aid.

Now on to Timothy’s madness. “I identify as a sustainability-focused fiber artist,” he proclaimed. I’d typically find his misguided views/practices annoying, but really, I find him extremely entertaining. He doesn’t believe in electricity or aerosol products and prefers using dead stock and anything over 20 years old, yet he had no qualms about releasing toxic fumes in the air by taking a torch to the synthetic fibers of his parachute. I loved the look on the makeup people’s faces when he barred the use of makeup or hair product, but it couldn’t match the look on his model Nastasia’s face, which fell in horror.

Then Timothy put on his choreographer hat and had Nastasia rehearse an elegant version of popping and locking to perform on the runway. Here are some samples of Timothy’s directions to his model: “Hey, can you channel the Virgin Mary with that kind of demure sadness?” “I want you to think of awkwardly sniffing your armpit.” He also demonstrated some ridiculous move he wanted her to do, which involved bursting forward into a breaststroke in the air. I tried doing it just now, and I gave myself whiplash. Tim Gunn walked in on the scene and asked, “What are you doing???” Nastasia had the line of the night with: “Do you think I should just walk normally?” Timothy’s answer: “No.”

Before the runway, the people who looked as though they were in the most trouble were Sandro, because his look was bottomless and hideous, and Miranda, because she broke a cardinal rule of Project Runway and brazenly ignored the challenge rules.

NEXT: Miranda gets an F…

Showtime! The lovely Kate Bosworth was on hand to guest-judge. Heidi announced yet another twist this season — the Tim Gunn Rescue — which I fully support because it requires more Tim Gunn, which is always a good thing. Tim will be back on the runway, and if he disagrees with the judges strongly enough, he can use one save to rescue a designer from elimination. Another twist: This season, there will be “blind” judging — the judges won’t know who designed what look until the top and bottom groups are decided. What do you think of that? Do you think it’s sometimes crucial to know whose point of view a look is coming from in order to judge it correctly?

I’m going to spare you all from getting overloaded by too many of my terrible screen grabs by skipping all the “safe” looks. Just a couple of highlights: I thought Karen’s ill-fitting muumuu belonged in the bottom, Helen’s frock was a decorative trash bag, and when I saw Jeremy’s look, I wrote, “Just boring enough for Nina to fall in love with.” Now for the best and worst:



Despite being as perplexed by a standard sewing machine as Queen Elizabeth would be by Snapchat, Sue turned in an exceptionally well-constructed dress. Heidi complimented the color progression, and Zac repeatedly called it “very exciting.”

Bradon – WINNER

As I imagined it was for many folks watching at home, Bradon’s was instantly my favorite look of the night. Clearly, he put a lot of thought into the look without letting his story get too convoluted (see: Sandro, Timothy). Zac appreciated the billowy movement of the train; Nina loved the fragility of the straps up top contrasted with the drama of the bottom. An easy winner, and the model totally sold it.



In an interesting move, Miranda’s dress got downgraded from the top group to the bottom after the judges learned only 15 percent of her fabric came from the parachute. Tim said, “The teacher in me would give her an F.” It was a good call for the judges to put her in the bottom because you can’t reward the outright flouting of the rules. It was also a good call not to eliminate her, because she has some interesting tricks up her sleeve, methinks.

NEXT: The worst of three fashion evils…


Okay, I’m surprised the model smiled through the whole trip down the runway because this look was offensively bad. Holy Russian flapper prostitute! Seriously, the model would have grounds to sue Sandro for … something, I don’t know what. I love how Sandro blamed his model’s vagina for “dropping” instead of his own horrible body sleeve/dress for riding up. Heidi was dismayed by Sandro’s taste level, which appears to be nonexistent, yet the judges saw enough quality of construction (i.e., the producers find Sandro entertaining) to keep him around.


Props to Nastasia for straight-up not doing Timothy’s choreography as planned. She could have broken her neck since she didn’t have the proper footwear, although she did perform a spectacularly half-assed overhead arm hoop. Timothy told the story behind his dress, which involved the bombing of Hiroshima — that actually made total sense, since the dress was a disaster of epic proportions. Zac couldn’t think of insults fast enough. Nina did a horrible job faking interest in Timothy’s sustainability “cause.” Thanks, Zac, for pointing out Timothy’s contradiction in depriving his model of shoes yet wearing bedazzled heels himself. Timothy is a fascinating myriad of contradictions.


Even given Sandro’s sartorial vomit and Timothy’s manmade disaster, Angela really was the right choice to leave. She brought nothing interesting or remotely ambitious to this sad little raincoat. As it often is with Runway, hideous trumps boring any day!

What do you think of the twists this season? And Timothy: hilarious, infuriating, or neither?

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