Always respect the figure
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Happy sweet 16, Project Runway!

To mark the milestone achievement, the show is celebrating with fancy Pilot pens and models who are reflective of real life. And it’s about time (for the models—literally no one cares about pens this much, Project Runway).

Sixteen designers gather in a…garage?…where a luxury bus pulls in. Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum step off it and meet the new designers…

Claire and Shawn (27; Grand Ledge, Michigan) are not new to the reality TV game, or so the internet tells me. They have different design aesthetics but pull inspiration from one another. And each is totally fine if the other twin wins. Totally fine with it!

Deyonté (36; Lynwood, Washington) is missing the birth of his son to be on this season. Like the twins, he designs luxury sportswear (which really seems like an oxymoron?).

Margarita (30; San Juan, Puerto Rico) cries in her first confessional just thinking about what it means to be on the show. She has an aesthetic that’s like her name: fun and bright.

Samantha (36; Minneapolis) is excited about designing for plus-size models, and that’s about all we know now!

Kentaro (38; Los Angeles) got into fashion because he “kind of liked it” and was no longer able to play classical piano after developing tendinitis. He uses classical piano as an inspiration, as well as his Japanese culture. (Fun fact: Tim Gunn also studied classical piano.)

Amy (46; Los Angeles) is a fashion design teacher, so she doesn’t think this will be hard. And now I’m just waiting for the moment she regrets those words.

Batani (32; Inglewood, California) wants to design “styles that last forever.” But shouldn’t that be what every designer wants to do?

Kenya (37; Atlanta) says, “I’m going to make these dresses and I’m coming to murder you guys…in a nice way.” Despite that odd intro, she seems very kind and lovely.

Ayana (27; Salt Lake City) is Muslim and wants to show the world that you can be covered and still be fashion-forward.

Kudzanai (32; Atlanta) doesn’t even get to talk this episode, if my notes are to be believed. I think he designs menswear??

Aaron (23; Brooklyn) is this season’s youngest designer. Like Kudzanai, he’s also a menswear designer, and he’s all about androgynous looks that blend femininity and masculinity. And he doesn’t believe in rules in fashion because…#millennials.

Brandon (24; San Francisco) has only ever designed menswear. He’s excited for the challenge of Project Runway — which does not seem like best environment to suddenly learn an entirely new skill, but what do I know?

Sentell (33; New York) was a dancer for 12 years and then was told by an oracle that he should go to design school. So he did. And he also designs menswear.

ChaCha (24; Taipei, Taiwan) is a character. Apparently “ChaCha” is just a nickname, and he proudly tells the camera it means “annoying bird.” He designs cute, fun, happy clothes. Oh my.

Michael (25; Oakland, California) is a person who is apparently on this show.

After introductions, Tim and Heidi tell the models to come off the bus — the shock and surprise instantly registers on the designers’ faces. Some are thrilled and others are not. (Brandon’s face is the wide-eyed emoji come to life.)

The models range from size 2 to 22, and the designers will be matched with a different model each week. If you’ve watched even one episode of this show, you know that designers often struggle with challenges…even on size 2 models. Many of these designers haven’t made clothing for women outside of the “standard” size — or even for women at all!

So what I’m saying is, designers (**cough** Brandon **cough**), I understand this momentary freak-out, but complaining about this beyond week 1 is not going to be cool. Signed, your friendly Project Runway recapper. (Recap continued on page 2)

Tim and Heidi tell the designers this week’s challenge: Each designer should create a red carpet look that embodies his or her personal design style. After getting paired up with their models, the designers get a few minutes to measure, a few minutes to sketch, and 30 minutes at Mood with $300.

When they get back to the workroom, we’re introduced to this year’s accessory wall sponsor: J.C. Penney. You know, exactly the name you think of when you think of fashion…if you are my grandma from South Dakota.

Once the designers get to work, they chat about what they’re working on. ChaCha sticks his foot in his mouth when he calls his model “fat.” If this were Big Brother, the editors would have added a literal record scratch sound here. The other designers stumble over each other to give him other words to use: curvy, full-figured, etc. As Ayana says, the words really don’t matter as long as “plus-size model is not seen as a problem-size model.” Amen, Ayana!

Tim comes later in the afternoon to give his critiques. There are too many people for anyone to get substantial advice (on camera at least), but here are the highlights: ChaCha says he’s designing something for Ariana Grande or Miley Cyrus and Tim literally has no words; Shawn says “indeed” over and over and Margarita does a spot-on impression of it; and Deyonté gets the Tim seal of approval for a large-scale print, which we all know he usually hates.

The next morning, the designers get their models’ hair and makeup done in the Avon salon. (I mean, seriously, did my grandma do all the sponsorship booking this year?!) Time doesn’t seem to be an issue with any of these designers — which may be a first on the first week? — and they make it down to the runway to meet Heidi.

Heidi introduces the season 16 designers to the vet judges, Nina and Zac, and the guest judge, Olivia Munn (star of the upcoming LEGO Ninjago Movie). She then tells them about the winner’s prize package, which includes a lifetime supply of Pilot pens. You read that correctly — a LIFETIME SUPPLY OF PENS. Every designer’s dream.

After the looks walk the runway, Heidi announces that Batani, Deyonté, ChaCha, Shawn, Keny, and Brandon have the highest and lowest looks for the week. Everyone else goes backstage to breathe sighs of relief.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Kenya designed a flawless white gown for a ladylike lady to wear to the Oscars. Heidi can’t believe Kenya was ambitious enough to do a mermaid dress in one day, but she highly approves! The bustier is a bit deflated because she didn’t pick a stiff enough fabric, but that’s a small quibble. Zac says it’s not only red carpet — it’s chic and “white hot.” And Olivia says she loves the pockets because she’s awkward on red carpets (likely story).

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Shawn is so confident about her look; she says in a confessional that it’s a “winning look.” So naturally she’s taken aback when Heidi says it’s awful. Zac says it borders on club kid and “hookery.” Nina invokes Carolina Herrera, saying you can’t be best dressed if you’re not really wearing any clothes. She pulls no punches: “It’s like a C celebrity who doesn’t have a good stylist.” Indeed.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

ChaCha says his girl is going to the VMAs and he wanted to show her sexiness even though “she’s a big girl.” This does not win him points with the judges. Heidi doesn’t even know what to say, but eventually lands on, “It kind of looks like a scrunchie.” Zac says he understands ChaCha’s “My Little Pony zone,” but he’s not feeling it. Nina says he didn’t respect his model’s figure, and that could be the kiss of death this season.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Deyonté wanted his girl to be bold and colorful on her way down the Cannes red carpet. Nina says it looks like he made this look with love and passion; she even says it looks hand-painted. Zac says he gets Michelle Obama vibes, which basically makes Deyonté squeal with excitement. Olivia isn’t a huge fan of the pattern, but Heidi is. And we know that’s what matters!

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Brandon was either going to be a womenswear prodigy or the first person out the door. Luckily for him, he’s the former. He imagined his girl on the Billboard Music Awards carpet; Olivia says she presented at the Billboards this year and wished she had this to wear. Nina says she’s strong, fabulous, and sassy. Zac says it’s sophisticated just enough to be red carpet worthy. And with permission from Heidi, Brandon full-on smiles from their critiques.

Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Batani has one of the coolest personal styles this season, but her dress is a mess. She completely camouflaged her model’s figure and Nina does not have patience for that. Nina compares Batani to Brandon, saying she didn’t respect the figure of her model like he did. Zac says the outfit Batani is wearing is red carpet, but her model’s look is not. Heidi asks her if the lace down the back is hiding something and she swears it’s not, but on inspection later, Heidi sees there’s a hole underneath. Batani, word of advice: Never lie to Heidi Klum.

Winner: Deyonté, who is probably feeling less bad about missing his child’s birth

Out: ChaCha, who says, “I regret the ruffles” on his way out the door.

ChaCha, we barely knew you, but we will never forget the Beanie Baby-adorned jackets you wore.

What are you guys thinking of the season so far? Who are your favorites? I’d love to hear your thoughts below or you can find me on Twitter @realdalener.

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

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

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