It's team challenge time! And it does not go how you'd expect!
These poor designers. If there’s anything worse than a swimwear challenge, it’s a team challenge. And the poor season 15 designers get these back to back.
Of course, we were all expecting the claws and cattiness to come out, but much to my surprise, these groups work together well. So well, in fact, that the losing team refuses to name people to send home and most of them call out their own names. It’s been a lot time since I cried during a Project Runway episode, but the teamwork and sense of camaraderie definitely got me tonight. Bravo, season 15 designers.
But, that doesn’t mean they’re super thrilled to hear the news when Tim Gunn tells them that this week’s challenge — the Mary Kay challenge — is a group challenge. They’ll be split up into two teams of six to create four looks in a mini collection. AND they will be pitching these collections to three mystery investors. Each investor has $1,000 to split between the teams for their purchases at Mood.
As last week’s winner, Rik gets to choose his first teammate, and he goes with Alex, his roomie. They continue on that roomie theme and snatch up Roberi and Cornelius as well. They round out their team with Mah-Jing and Nathalia.
On the other side, Brik — who was selected via button bag — kicks off his team with Tasha, who chooses Laurence, who chooses Erin, who chooses Dexter; and then Jenni is the last designer standing and goes to their team.
The two groups begin to work on their collection concepts, and it’s immediately clear Alex’s team is the organized one and Brik’s is the chaotic one. But sometimes chaos leads to creativity, and they do have quite a few freethinkers on the latter team, which they dub “Team Button Bag”
When the teams come out for pitches, they see their investors are familiar faces: Nina, Zac, and Heidi. Alex, who appointed himself as spokesperson of “Team Unity” since he has experience pitching, tells them they’re creating a collection to empower businesswomen. When Nina asks what they’ll do to set it apart from that already saturated market, Alex says they’ll focus on “details.”
Dexter is up for the other group. He says they want to think about the same kind of young, professional woman, but their woman is in the tech industry; she is fashion-forward with a higher income. They talk about harem pants, an oversized coat, and a flirty dress. In the end, that idea wins over the investors. Team Button Bag gets $2,200, and Team Unity gets $800, plus a warning not to be too one-note.
At Mood, Team Unity decides to add a bit more color so they don’t bore the judges, but they still lean on a lot of black and gray tones, much to Mah-Jing’s dismay. He’s feeling like an outsider for much of this challenge because Alex, Roberi, Rik, and Cornelius are roommates and Nathalia is friends with Cornelius, so that leaves him on the outs. But after he calls them out in a jokey way for not pronouncing his name right, things are smooth sailing.
Which is about the same for the re-christened “Team Bouton” — they are making jokes, helping each other out. Honestly, y’all, I’m confused about what show we’re watching at this point.
Tim comes in for critiques and gives pretty expected notes to Team Unity: He wants them to think through the somber palette and to work on turning it from dull to outstanding. Team Bouton has a little more work to do: Tim thinks a few of the looks don’t feel cohesive, so they start over completely with one look and jazz up a couple others. By the time models come around for fitting that night, they literally just have half-naked women to show for it.
But if you thought stress and time constraints would start to bring out the worst in these people, you thought wrong. Somehow they all are still friendly and helpful. The next morning is a mad house with Team Bouton flying around the room and shouting out things Dexter can do for the various looks; he takes it all in stride and I’m loving it. Maybe the designers read my interview with Junior winner Maya and took her advice on how to work together?!
NEXT: Get your tissues ready
Thanks to all that teamwork, everyone gets their models dressed in the nick of time and out onto the runway. Heidi introduces them to Sabrina Carpenter, the latest in a string of beautiful, young guest judges. (I can’t hate, though, because I listen to her song “Smoke and Fire” on repeat way too often.)
After the two collections go down the catwalk, Heidi announces that House of Bouton is the winning team. Team Unity is shocked and devastated, but they’ll have to wait to hear why their collection lost because they’re going last.
When Heidi asks about the House of Bouton collection, the persistent theme running through is how integrated everyone was to each piece. Heidi loves how wisely they spent their money and how much attention they paid to detail. Nina thinks the color palette of black and yellow is “a little bumblebee,” but she’s still a fan. Zac says the jersey dress is a low point in the collection, but everything else saved it. Overall, they’re impressed with how fashion-forward the collection is.
When Heidi asks who should be the winner, Laurence says Erin, and Erin says Dexter; she goes on to applaud him for the great presentation and being a good leader throughout — and Dexter starts crying, and I start crying. It’s a sweet moment. Tasha agrees that Dexter should win and Jenni and Brik say Laurence. Laurence looks like she’s crying. I can’t handle the cuteness of this team.
This is a tough loss. Team Unity‘s collection isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just not as strong as House of Bouton’s. Heidi even acknowledges that — she tells them that what they were able to do with $800 was impressive, but they did a little too much: They over-designed their pieces. Zac explains it as great imagination but not enough impact. The killer through most of the pieces is the metallic print, especially in Alex’s dress, which is all metallic print. Nina wishes they had pitched a different collection — instead of providing them officewear, they gave them street eveningwear.
By this time, most of the designers are already crying. And instead of throwing anyone under the bus, they stick to how much they worked together. When Heidi asks who should go home, my faith in humanity is restored. Rik does say Alex because of the dress, but Roberi starts crying and says, “I’ll go home.” Nathalia and Cornelius do the same and I’m CRYING AGAIN. I take back everything bad I said about Cornelius. Mah-Jing hems and haws but eventually says Alex, who’s basically telling him to say his name. Alex says his own name, noting how he failed on the pitch and failed his team. Heidi says how respectable it is that he’s taking responsibility.
I typically hate the challenges when they don’t send people home — but here I was yelling at my TV for Heidi to say no one was out. Sadly, this wasn’t one of those challenges.
Winner: Dexter, who starts me crying again
It’s looks like a wake in the backroom when Alex enters. Roberi is literally sobbing in the corner. For a minute I think Tim is going to use his save — which apparently is still a thing — but instead he sends Alex packing. But not before Alex can tell Tim a little story: Alex applied for season 4 and got as far as meeting Tim Gunn. Tim told him he needed more schooling, so Alex went back to school and got his bachelor and masters degrees and launched his own business venture. Tim quite literally changed his life, he says.
Oh my gosh. I have to stop writing now, or else I’m going to make myself cry again thinking about this episode. Am I just a big crybaby or did this episode touch you guys, too? Tell me what you thought of the episode below or find me on Twitter @realdalener.
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