It's time for the beloved/dreaded Unconventional Challenge!

By Dalene Rovenstine
August 14, 2015 at 12:19 AM EDT
Barbara Nitke/Lifetime
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  • Bravo
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It’s here! It’s here! Heidi’s favorite challenge! America’s favorite challenge! The dreaded-by-designers, loved-by-fans Unconventional Challenge! This year it’s sponsored by Hallmark, and while I’m sure it’s difficult to design with paper, I wasn’t incredibly excited about this medium for season 14’s Unconventional episode. True there were all different kinds of paper, but it was still ALL paper. That’s not quite the same as designers being able to pull items from a grocery store, a candy store, or a Saturn hybrid. But, regardless, as the Hallmark director of branding tells us, their cards are “pieces of art,” so I’m sure that’s why this challenge was chosen—not because Hallmark wanted to be a sponsor…

The designers get two minutes to raid the store for whatever they can put into their bags. (I feel bad for whoever had to clean up that ransacked store after the PR crew left.) Most of the designers grabbed things so quickly, they’re not even sure what they have. So back in the workroom, they all sort cards and share and trade. Blake says it’s great that they’re already like a family. Edmond says none of the designers have realized they’re in a competition yet. Somehow I agree with both.

With cards sorted, the designers take their muslin (Is Merline still calling it “Muslim”?) and get to work. Kelly says her mother owns a craft store, so she’s got this in the bag; she’s using lightweight paper from an envelope inside to create a textured fringe skirt. Candice is also using the inside of an envelope to create a silver metallic bodycon. Edmond is so secretive about his work that he won’t even tell the producer coaxing his talking head. He finally agrees to spill when she convinces him that no one will hear his interview before the challenge. He says that he wants “to do something that makes a woman feel special, that reflects a special day, like uniqueness, like the cards.” This either means he has no idea what he’s doing or that he doesn’t trust the producer to keep his secret.

This adorable little of family of designers is working away, all happy together until Swapnil can’t understand Blake mumbling something. When Swapnil asks, “What?” Blake responds, “I don’t know how to speak Indian, so I can’t say it.” NO. No no no no no no. The whole room — rightfully — loses it and yells at Blake for being an idiot. I would give Blake the benefit of the doubt that it was a really bad attempt at a joke, but he doesn’t apologize (or it was edited out if he did). Hopefully he cleans up his act quickly or else Project Runway could have a Big Brother 15 situation on its hands.

When Tim comes to do his critiques, there are a lot of half-naked dress forms in the room. The designers instead have to explain their visions: Swapnil is doing Alice in Wonderland on acid. Hanmaio is doing a dress that just looks like cards and envelopes pasted onto it. And Amanda has a black lace-looking top with an awesome skirt, but Tim says it’s going to be too much work for her to get done in time. That’s his message to all the designers: “There’s a lot of ambition in the room, but people need to think of the economy of time.”

So Amanda scraps her skirt, David re-sets his whole vision, and Blake starts to just douse his look in glitter. Meanwhile, Edmond has kept his look secret essentially the whole time. When he puts his giant white paper skirt onto the dress form, he gets wows from around the room. (Were the designers provided reams of paper like that, or was there an oversized card I somehow missed? Or was that muslin? It was beautiful, but I was a little confused about where it came from.)

The clock strikes midnight and a lot of unfinished designs are left in the workroom. In the morning — with only two hours to get their models prepped — way too many designers are finishing up their looks. But just like every episode ever, the designers are somehow able to get done in time for the runway.

NEXT: Paper dolls

Swapnil, David, Blake, Amanda, Kelly, and Edmond are called to receive runway critiques from the judges (along with guest judge Ashley Tisdale), but in a weird twist it’s actually four high looks and two low.

**Special note: I don’t usually discuss the middle of the pack looks, but I just want to say how surprised I was with how Hanmaio’s look turned out. It was actually very cool.**

As Blake‘s model walked down the runway, I wrote “junior high glitter prom.” So imagine my surprise when every single judge liked it. However, when I thought about it more, it’s essentially what Heidi loves to wear: short, tight, and sparkly. It’s certainly not my taste, but I can agree that the construction was impeccable.

Kelly‘s gold fringe skirt was paired with a hooded crop top she made using a custom pattern. Ashley says she would wear it, and Zac raves about it, but Heidi thinks the two pieces together are a bit much. Nina agrees: She wants the look to be more sophisticated — which basically is Nina insulting Ashley Tisdale’s style.

Amanda pulled an ornate wedding card apart, painted it black, and put it against a patterned background to create a very cool top. However, she completely flaked on the skirt and made something that was compared to both a cleaning instrument and a piñata. And that is never good.

Edmond also went with bridal cards, but he used them as complete inspiration for his look. He cut out the back of the cards’ Hallmark Signature logo (I’m sure the company loved that extra product placement!) to create a bodice and then that giant white paper (which I’m still confused about) for a full skirt. To top it off, he made a bouquet out of envelopes as well.

I wasn’t sure what “Alice on Acid” would look like, but I love it. Swapnil used a variety of black and white cards to create a preppy button-up top, and then he pieced together all the flowers from cards to create an explosive skirt. Zac says that he’s a wonderful builder of textile and dimension.

Poor, poor David. He was lost in his first look; Tim hated it, so David scrapped it. His second look was a muslin zip-up hoodie, painted gray, with 3-D “Hot Damn” emblazoned all over one side. It looks very cool, but he didn’t fulfill the rules of the Unconventional Challenge (and neither did Ashley, but she skated by with her immunity).

Winner: Edmond

Out: David

David seemed like he had a lot of potential, so it’s sad to see him go so early. Do you agree with Amanda — that a lot of the “safe” designs looked like they “came out of a trashbin”? Also, why was there so much genital talk in this episode? With Merline’s manatee penis and Gabrielle’s vagina dress, it was a bit much… but most surprising: It didn’t come from Nina!

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Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.
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  • 12/01/04
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