Barbara Nitke

It's team-challenge time again -- and the designers aren't quite as nice this go-around

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November 04, 2016 at 12:40 AM EDT

After one of the best group challenges we’ve ever seen on Project Runway, the season’s second attempt brought us crashing back to Earth. These are fashion designers, after all: They can be an opinionated, catty bunch, and that was on full display in tonight’s “Project Pop Up.” And it all started with a button bag…

Tim Gunn comes onto the runway with the Sally Beauty guy and the dreaded button bag. He explains to the designers they’ll be doing a Project Runway/Sally Beauty pop-up color shop, where the public will be voting on their designs. The winning looks will contribute to 20 percent of the judges’ scores. Pulling names from the bag, Tim divides the designers into three groups of three assigned to Sally Beauty color palettes:

Red Violet: Erin, Dexter, and Cornelius

Nude-Neutral: Jenny, Nathalia, and Mah-Jing

Hues of Blue: Roberi, Rik, and Laurence

Each group has 30 minutes to sketch designs for a three-piece collection. Dexter wants to do punk on Team Red; his BFF Erin is all over this and they just take off with ideas, leaving Cornelius staring at them like the outsider he is. Roberi takes charge of Team Blue, but Laurence and Rik are in agreement with his emotional, textured, geometric aesthetic. And poor Mah-Jing once again feels like the odd one out; Team Neutral is all about jackets in nude colors with burnt-orange accents.

Cornelius tells Erin and Dexter he thinks their ideas might be too much, but there’s no time for that: Tim is there to take them to Mood. Each group is given $600 to buy their fabrics. Mood shopping goes smooth-ish, but things start falling apart in the workroom. Mah-Jing notices Jenni and Nathalia are having “secret” meetings and excluding him from decisions. It’s a regular high school in there.

Tim comes in to do his critiques, which quells the disputes a little bit. When he stops by Team Blue, Roberi explains their girl is a “strange” person. Tim tells them they should stick with the word “different” — which he could get on board with, but he thinks their current pieces are a little underwhelming. He wants more design, so they step it up and adjust their looks, even though Roberi doesn’t want to go “sexy.”

Team Red is feeling good, but Tim knows that isn’t true. “You know I’m always nervous, Tim,” Cornelius says. He goes on to explain he thinks it’s a bit too much red, but Tim likes the designs and the nod to punk. Erin’s oversize coat doesn’t have a look underneath it and Cornelius makes the suggestion to move his skirt to that look and create a new one for himself. Tim says it’s “smashing” and they all group hug. (Don’t worry — that won’t last long.)

Next, Tim walks over to Team Nude, who he says look like they’re preparing for a death sentence. And that’s kind of what he delivers: He thinks their looks are too basic. “It’s not chic and cool — it’s just blah.” It’s not exactly what a designer wants to hear.

Although all three groups have substantial work to do, you couldn’t tell by Team Red’s actions. Erin designs a pleated skirt everyone agrees will go with Cornelius’ look, but then Erin and Dexter go eat Oreos and play while Cornelius works. (To be fair: I think Erin and Dexter just have very different work styles than Cornelius, rather than just doing nothing, but bravo to the editors for making it look like all they did was snack while Cornelius sewed his heart out.)

NEXT: Window display

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