An avant-garde challenge with 3-D prints amps up the runway.


“Is this butter?” —Kelly from the Deli

You have to love a person who realizes they’re dipping pretzels in butter — not cream cheese — and just keeps right on eating it without shame. But that’s just Kelly: unapologetic about what she likes. And because of that, she’s worked her way into all of our hearts.

When the season first started, I was a little concerned about her style, both personal and professional; I wasn’t sure how she would fare with avant-garde and high-fashion challenges, especially because she’s self-taught. But she keeps proving me — and the judges — wrong. And this week was no different.

Standing next to the Queensboro Bridge, Tim tells the designers they will be 1) doing a two-day, avant-garde challenge, 2) using Manhattan’s East Side bridges as inspiration, and 3) be given the opportunity to make 3-D textiles (a first on Project Runway).

Kelly gets to choose her bridge because she won last week — and she obviously goes with the Brooklyn Bridge (because Brooklyn). Candice and Merline are given the Queensboro Bridge; and Edmond and Ashley are given the Manhattan Bridge. They all head to their respective bridges (allegedly), where they can sketch and get help from a 3-D modeling expert.

It’s hard to tell who is the most excited about this challenge: Candice is full of inspiration because her father works on bridges. Merline is ecstatic because, well, I’ll just let her tell you: “I love 3-D! I see things in 3-D when I walk!” Which, frankly, has me very confused about what she thinks the rest of us see ..and does she only see 3-D when she’s walking!? Anyway, Kelly is also pumped because she’s never really done avant-garde, and she decides to go extremely literal with her design and make a bridge dress. This will be interesting.

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After sketching and Mood shopping, the designers are off. Ashley wants to create an edgy look with a cigarette pant, and she’s chosen what Tim Gunn calls a “rich-looking palette” — which is an immense improvement from her last few fabric selections. Edmond has a vision, but per usual, he can’t really describe it.

But that doesn’t stop Tim from getting it. When the mentor comes for a check-in, he tells Edmond that the look has the potential to be a “knockout.” With the 3-D designs fresh out of the printer, Ashley tells Tim she’s having a hard time incorporating hers (which look like bones/egg slicers). He likes what she’s doing with the polka-dot fabric, though, so she has a little more confidence moving forward. Tim has serious issues with Merline’s construction, but he has a “positive response” to her concept. But Tim’s the most impressed with Candice’s 3-D designs. She was the most thoughtful about what she created and had more intentional purpose in how to strategically use them than the other designers.

The two days go by quickly — for the most part, the designers don’t major issues, but they’re definitely feeling the pressure. As Merline says: “I see why celebrities are on drugs. This pressure would kill you.” Okay then.

NEXT: Wonder if Merline sees this runway in 3-D?

The designers are greeted at the runway by Mel B, who is guest judge this week and also Heidi’s co-judge on America’s Got Talent. (Full disclosure: I’m a huge Mel B fan, so I was very happy to see her.) After the models walk the runway, Heidi tells the designers they all thought it was a fantastic runway show. Critiques were basically all positive — which is how it should be when we’re down to the final six — and it’s getting harder and harder for the judges to pick who should go. Let’s have a look…


Edmond knows how to craft a look that perfectly suits a woman’s body. And he does that here. Heidi wants to wear his dress and thinks it’s the perfect balance of sex appeal and class. Mel B wants to fight Heidi for it. Zac says it is smart, even though Edmond’s use of 3-D print wasn’t, and Nina says it’s not as avant-garde as she would have hoped for.


Now, this is not a dress any of us would probably wear, but Kelly nailed the avant-garde challenge. Mel B wasn’t even sure she liked it at first, but then she realizes it’s the biggest risk to walk the runway. Nina is happy with the innovation and the suspension that Kelly played with. Heidi loves the silhouette but wishes Kelly had used the 3-D printing a bit more. (I think if she had used it more, they would have said she’d used it too much.)


It’s never good to be compared to past contestants; even if your design is good, the judges won’t see it as unique. And that’s part of the problem with Merline‘s dress. Her silhouette is too similar to Kini’s umbrella dress from last season. As much as the judges like the look, they wish she had pushed it more. Nina says it’s not avant-garde, although Zac does say that he thinks Merline’s use of 3-D printing was the most sophisticated.


At the last minute, Ashley decided to add a cape to her edgy two-piece look. Nina thinks it’s “fantastic” and “out there.” They all agree that the underpiece is sexy and the cape helps take it to another level. No one can agree what her 3-D designs actually look like (that thing you buzz your hair with? doves?), and they’re split on the application. Nina doesn’t like it, but Heidi is into it.


Hands down, Candice has the best use of the 3-D appliques. Unlike the other designers, she created multiple designs and used them to enhance the contours of her dress. But as Nina points out: There’s a very definite Spanish motif in the styling, hair, corset, etc. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it doesn’t exactly scream “Queensboro Bridge” — and it definitely isn’t avant-garde. However, Mel B doesn’t care; she says it’s her favorite on the runway, which later led to Candice getting a secondary win: Mel B will wear her dress at a future event. But the real winner is…

Winner: Kelly “I don’t even have a 2-D printer” Dempsey

Out: Merline

True to form Merline went out doing a happy dance, and she knows she’ll be fine because “hashtag five.” This means we’re down to four — and that has me wondering: Does the Tim Gunn Save still exist?

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Project Runway

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

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