The final four designers go to Rome for inspiration and begin their Fashion Week collections.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? The idea behind it, of course, is that great works take time. How fitting then that Project Runway would take its designers—designers who have been tasked with designing an entire collection in five weeks—to that great city.

Jokes aside, traveling to Rome was a good opportunity for the designers to find great inspiration (poor Amanda would have only had the Nashville library). Yes, it was one giant commercial for Best Western, but it was still fun to watch. The final four have a great rapport and watching them sip champagne and dine on Italian food with Mr. Gunn was entertaining—albeit a tease for the actual finale.

The hour-and-a-half format that Project Runway has adopted always feels like a bit of a stretch, but none more so than with filler episodes like this one. A three-hour finale would have been preferable, but let’s all do our best Emily and be happy with what we got. And what we got is Tim Gunn hula dancing. (Please, Runway recap readers, I beg of you: Gif this.)

After the gang took their Tumi suitcases, visited famous Roman landmarks, and purchased (or not) fabric at Valli (how adorable was “Grazie, Valli!”?), Tim made like a Bachelor and called on all the designers in hometown visits. First stop: Hawai’i.

Kini rightly guessed everyone would think he would have about three complete collections done in the three weeks that he’d been given so far. But the speedy seamster had a design block, and his garage workroom isn’t as far along as he’d like. Tim gives his go-to encouraging advice and then gets to the important part: A (giant) family luau with hula dancing. Yes, Hula. Dancing. (Why have you not gif-ed this already?)

NEXT: Meet the (other) families

Next stop: Detroit. Tim meets with Char’s father, stepmother, and stepfather. We get her backstory—and as sad as it is, how have we not heard this before? (Did this come up during week one? July 24 was a long time ago.) We also learned that she used to be a hairstylist but left her clientele to pursue fashion. Her collection is a bit all over the place, but her Italian fabric helps to hold it all together.

Also all over the place: Amanda in Nashville. She’s blending the Art Deco details she saw in Rome with her ’60s and ’70s vibe, plus Bohemian and mod. She’s a “whirling dervish,” but it seems to work. We meet her husband, Will, and the cat on her porch steps trying to steal Swatch’s thunder.

When the final four were discussing designing in Rome, Sean mentioned not having a studio. Luckily, he found a teeny tiny basement in Williamsburg (which probably cost $1,800/month, so I hope for his sake that PR is footing the bill). We also learned: His parents Skype him side-by-side just like Raj’s, he grew up on a farm, and New Zealand didn’t have modern cameras in the ’90s. (Seriously, he is 25—why does that picture look like it’s his great grandpa’s?)

Sean’s collection has a very detailed background: the rise and fall of Caesar as told through ready-to-wear and fringe. Tim pauses in silence before breaking the news that there are two separate collections. It’s painfully clear, but sometimes it takes an outsider to help you see things like that. And Sean takes the news well.

A week later they all meet back in Parsons, where they have model fittings and Mary Kay makeup consultations. Again, this episode dragged on unnecessarily to fill up the hour and a half, so we got detailed discussions about what makeup colors each designer will use: Sean a zombie look, Kini the black eye look, Char summery, and Amanda wearable glam.

They are leisurely getting their collections together and commenting how “easy” it is, when Tim comes in and drops the other shoe: The judges want a preview. The designers have three hours to pull together three looks to walk down the trial runway.

NEXT: No, really this is the last runway before the final runway

Sean cut the tailored pieces, and we’re left with black, orange, white, and fringe. It’s definitely a personal taste issue here—it’s not my favorite, but I can see that aesthetically and technically, they are great looks. Heidi thinks it feels fun and fresh; Zac thinks it’s “exciting” and that the styling shouldn’t be changed (really? slicked back hair?); Nina says not to be locked into the fringe trend—which might or might not be a problem for him.

Char sends three very different looks down the runway, but they’re all youthful and wearable. Heidi says they don’t feel like a cohesive collection; Nina hates Char’s high-waisted skirt and top; Zac loves the jumper. But her biggest issue is with styling—the models need to exude the fun and charm that Char herself has.

It’s no secret what Amanda is into: prints and patterns, Boho, and color-blocking. She used all of these elements—in addition to custom-designed jewelry—and came up with a collection that’s very her, but also very runway. The judges love it and know that it will be coveted. “I see a lot of girls wanting these clothes,” Heidi says (while I raise my hand at home).

Throughout the season, Kini has produced some elegant, tasteful looks. These looks don’t have the same vibe—they are too stiff and old lady-esque. And the styling—old lady purses, slicked-down hair, and bangles—isn’t doing him any favors. Heidi says, “As soon as we leave this runway, you have to hit the ground running.” That’s not a good thing to hear when they have essentially 24 hours until Fashion Week. He mentioned having extra pieces, so he can most likely “make it work.” Tim, the judges, and the other designers have faith in Kini—but Kini doesn’t have faith in Kini and he starts to break down. It’s heartbreaking.

And fade to black…

After last week, it was clear Kini was the frontrunner, but now it’s anyone’s game. Until next week, Runway fans.

Best Sean Kelly quotes of the night:

“I think Char should go and buy a lotto ticket after this show because she has a lot of good luck.”

“Nina is not the dictator of fashion, and she can’t tell me what to do.”

Best Tim Gunn line of the night:

“This looks like she was attacked by a bunch of birds.”

Follow me on Twitter: @realdalener

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.

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