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

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October 16, 2015 at 12:52 AM EDT

“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?

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