Do 'affordable' and 'high fashion' belong together?

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Week after week the Project Runway judges have opinions about designs that are the exact opposite of 99 percent of fans (or at least 99 percent of fans who comment in these recaps). So after roughly three seasons and nine weeks of that, it’s nice to see some of that same opposition within the judges’ panel itself. If you missed it the 10 times Heidi said it, the judges just could not agree this week.

Just what was this highly debated runway? A JustFab challenge.

I’ve said it multiple times this season: JustFab (and its accessories wall) doesn’t scream “runway.” And the company’s own fashion director, Yuchin Mao, backs me up on this. She says that JustFab designs clothing that looks high fashion but is actually affordable. Aside from Kelly and maybe Ashley, I don’t think any of these designers want to have a clothing line that people associate with “affordable.” But nevertheless, they all seem very excited by this challenge.

They learn from Tim and Yuchin that they’re going to be assigned a style persona. (Bonus points to anyone who can tell me what the school theme had to do with anything.) The designers will then have $100 to design a look for that persona; and the winning look will be made and sold on JustFab. Most of the designers gasp at the $100 budget, but not Kelly. “My whole life is a budget,” she says while wearing a neon windbreaker. I kind of love her now?

As last week’s winner, Candice gets to pick her style persona first. She goes with Trendsetter. Then — twist: She gets to pick everyone else’s style personas as well. I was half-expecting the mean Candice from a few episodes back to return and put people with their opposite style out of spite. But I was happy to see she was actually very thoughtful with her choices:

Ashley — Girl Next Door

Swapnil — Bombshell

Kelly — Trendsetter

Laurie — Modern Classic

Merline — Femme Nouveau

Edmond — Bombshell

After sketching, the designers head to Mood (second week in a row!) and try to wisely spend their money. The trick for all of them is finding fabric that looks nicer than its price tag. Edmond thinks this means buying old lady fabric; and Ashley thinks it means buying hospital-gown print. Plus, both Ashley and Swapnil buy the wrong kinds of zippers. I’m blaming the fact that they’re not used to shopping in Mood — because they all fared better than this in the junkyard!

But it’s not until they’re back in the workroom under the eyes of Tim Gunn that they see some of these mistakes. His critiques this week are many: Merline has the idea to design a skirt over a dress, which is a kind of layering that’s new to me — and Tim. On top of that, Tim warns her to watch it with the white fabric because every stitch and seam she makes will be visible on the runway. But Tim’s biggest concern (aside from textile choices) is innovation. He tells Swapnil, Laurie, and Edmond that they’re doing silhouettes we’ve seen before. That’s the opposite of Kelly’s problem, though. She’s doing a contrasting jumpsuit-ish thing with a furry vest over the top. She says she knows it’s out there, but Tim stops her — he just gets it. Kelly seems like a strange designer for Tim to “get,” but I can see how he values her creativity and innovation more than the designers *cough* *cough* Swapnil *cough* *cough* who just try to skate by.

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Before Tim leaves the workroom, he tells the designers that there is one more sponsor component to the challenge. Each designer must create a label for their look using the Brother garment printer. Theirs logo will also be printed on T-shirts that each designer will wear for the runway show.

The logos take the designers about two seconds — which is good, so they can keep concentrating on their main looks. And at the eleventh hour, Laurie decides she needs more fabric to create a different top. Candice gives her some spare black organza. With it, Laurie creates ANOTHER sheer top. Surely she has a plan…right??

Nope. The morning of the runway, as the model is wearing a regular black bra, she asks Laurie if the judges will care that her ENTIRE bra is showing. Laurie’s response? “Oh, I didn’t think of that.” Sigh.

NEXT: A whole lot of looks that are not JustFab


Let’s just get this out of the way: Kelly‘s label is called Rack Addik. Heidi says it’s funny that the logo is “on her rack.” Heidi! We can’t take you anywhere. But after she gets that joke out of the way, Heidi has nothing but love for Kelly’s eclectic look. Guest judge Ciara also likes it, but Nina, Zac, and JustFab’s Yuchin hate it. Zac thinks she killed Cookie Monster, and Yuchin thinks it’s too junior for her company’s Trendsetter audience. It bothers Nina so much that it makes her want Kelly sent home this week — which seems like a very sudden turn on Kelly.


There are often designs that judges praise and I’m just perplexed by. Candice‘s Trendsetter runway look is one of them. I think I can speak for all women here: The LAST thing we want is an additional layer on a skirt to make our hips look even bigger! And that’s not even factoring in the clunky scarf/lapel issue going on up top. Ciara is the only one who backs me up, though. The rest of the judges are all fans of the skirt (seriously, what!?), and Heidi says she loves when designers create new silhouettes.


I’m not exactly sure what “Femme Nouveau” is, and I guess Merline isn’t either because Yuchin says her look missed the mark on hitting the style persona. Heidi and Nina think the look missed ALL the other marks — they just hate it. But Zac sticks up for Merline; he says the concept is good but not the final product. Because Tim was right: They can see every little mistake she made in construction.


Ashley designs pieces that most women would love to wear, which is why it was perfect that she got the Girl Next Door persona. Heidi, Yuchin, and Ciara are fans. Heidi is the biggest cheerleader for it, but Nina says it looks too much like a cheerleader. Zac is also hating on it, but then they ask Ashley’s model to take off the jacket. When they see the top is more flirty than they expected, Nina gets mad that Ashley didn’t mention that when they were ripping her apart. I think there’s no winning with Nina today.

NEXT: And the contested winner is…


Edmond‘s original design was made with old lady material, so at the last minute he switched it to a red bandage dress. I’m sure many of you liked this, and it’s fine. But there’s absolutely nothing special about it — Bombshell or not. And this is the one and only time I will probably agree with Zac Posen, but he says this look is already out there, which is why it’s not that impressive. In fact, he calls it a “miss.” However, Yuchin says Edmond nailed the persona, and Ciara wants to wear it. (Okay, now I’m starting to see why Heidi called out the fact that they couldn’t agree so many times. It’s a bit ridiculous at this point.)


Oh, Laurie. She had the Modern Classic woman, but this looks more like a woman who doesn’t know how to dress appropriately for the office. The pencil skirt is basic, and the top is (yet again) a disaster for her. Because she didn’t think about how she was making the top backless, Laurie had to use (visible) pasties again. On the runway, Laurie throws the model under the bus; she says the model was supposed to wear a strapless bra with a clear back. All the judges laugh at the idea that this even exists. Ciara is kind, though, and tells her she would wear the look.


Swapnil had an interesting idea with a leopard print gown with an open back for his Bombshell look. But between buying the wrong zipper and getting the idea that he needed an overcoat, somewhere his plans went awry. He used a necklace (from the JustFab accessory wall I’m sure!) to cover up some of his bad stitching, but Nina says the result looks like a “butt flap.” Most of the judges are fans of the dress generally — except for Zac, who says it’s just missing a stripper pole — but the coat is categorically hated. If only Swapnil had listened to Tim when he told him it was a bad idea, he might have been the winner. Instead…

Winner: Edmond

Out: Laurie

It was definitely Laurie’s time, so no complaints from me here, but I was campaigning for another Ashley win. Do you agree or do we have another “no one can agree” situation like the judges?

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Project Runway

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

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