Now's no time to choke. Unfortunately, multiple designers dropped the ball previewing their final collections.

By Stephan Lee
Updated October 21, 2011 at 05:30 AM EDT

Project Runway

S9 E13
  • TV Show

The penultimate episode of a Project Runway season, in which Tim Gunn visits the designers at work in their natural habitats, always reminds me of The Bachelor/Bachelorette hometown visits: You see the human side of the contestants, and it makes it that much more awkward to reject them later. Tonight, the visits left me colder than they usually do — they were oddly brief and impersonal — and the designs that came out of them were markedly disappointing…but more on that later.

First, Tim treks to White Plains, Md., to visit Kimberly. I love the rapport these two have had all season. Kimberly teases her design aesthetic for Tim: Her theme is the “transformed urban girl,” reflecting post-gentrification Brooklyn while maintaining a raw, gritty edge. Her color palette is extremely bright and saturated, with some shiny metallic textiles thrown in, and she plans on accessorizing with humongous bracelets and earrings. Tim says, “This is so you.”

Next, Tim flies all the way to Trinidad to meet Anya. Anya lives in an idyllic tropical setting complete with hammocks and open-air bungalows. She describes to Tim how the ocean keeps the rhythm of her life, but all is not well in paradise. Anya shows Tim the photographs on her inspiration wall — they really just look like color printouts of desktop photos that come preloaded onto any computer, or pictures from a Sandals Resort brochure. It seems the slow-paced island lifestyle really got to Anya. She’s accomplished basically nothing but shopping for fabrics so far. Anya’s always been a come-from-behind type of competitor, but she hasn’t even DRAWN a shape yet. Seriously, what’s she been doing? I imagine her sitting down to sketch, but instead of drawing designs, she starts scribbling random words like “Clothes. They are things people wear. They prevent us from being naked. I like clothes. Anya.” Anya’s island has a Smoke Monster living on it, and its name is Procrastination. Draw the damn shapes, Anya!

Lastly, Tim makes two stops in his own hometown New York City to meet Viktor and Joshua. Viktor has “urban coast” in mind as the theme for his collection, and he uses as inspiration a snapshot he took of the beach in Guadalajara while back in Mexico for his brother’s “death anniversary.” (Each designer seems to have a really sad death in the family story.) Tim is pleased by what he sees of Viktor’s collection, particularly a gorgeous white motorcycle jacket with pearls cascading down the sleeves. My first thought when seeing the jacket: “Josh will want that!” (Not to put on a model, but to wear himself.) My favorite moment of the episode: Tim telling Viktor to knock the judges’ “EFFING” socks off. Then Viktor introduces Tim to his boyfriend, David. You know when you meet someone’s boyfriend, and he isn’t at all what you pictured? That’s what happened to me when we met David.

Given Viktor’s snooty personality, I pictured his boyfriend as the type of guy who sports an asymmetrical haircut and wears skinny jeans and scarves year-round. Instead, David turned out to be a sweet, down-to-earth ginger who dresses like a country-club valet. Aww, I think I like Viktor more now!

Meanwhile, across town, Tim met Josh for a Real Housewives-style lunch in a completely empty restaurant (Elmo, which is just one block from me!), where we meet Josh’s pretty, stylish sister. We also see photos from Josh’s track and field days — he looked much better (and younger) when he didn’t shellack his hair with product. Then we venture out to Josh’s very twentysomething apartment in Queens, where he shows Tim his progress. Josh wipes away flop sweat as Tim scrutinizes the fabrics. He calls one particular print the homeliest textile he’s ever seen — I mean, not even Josh’s frumptacular nemesis Becky would wear it — and says it makes him want to weep. Ouch! But Tim’s totally right. The print literally has the word “joker” on it, in addition to some Olde English quill calligraphy. The other fabrics are no better. Tim labels some of them “sherberty,” and yes, it does feel like we’ve walked into a box of Flintstones Push Ups. There are no words, however, for Josh’s idea to incorporate lenticular material into his designs. Lenticular prints make that fun zip-zip sound when you run your fingernails over them, but they have no place in fashion, unless you’re costuming an Austin Powers movie.

NEXT: Each of the designers will preview three looks from their final collections in order to move on to Fashion Week. Heidi says only three designers will make it through…

When the final four designers reconvene in New York, they hug and air kiss — Josh wipes away a tear as he imagines a new chapter of his autobiography being written (side note: his bookshelf vest is back!) — but it’s not long before they start judging each other’s looks. Not surprisingly, Josh has an orgasmic reaction to Viktor’s white jacket. Anya has a very sitcom-y exchange with Kimberly, where she kind of insults Kimberly’s look but changes her story when Kimberly doesn’t hear her the first time.

ANYA: Wow, that’s some color.


ANYA: I like that pink.

If only “color” and “pink” rhymed.

Josh notes that Anya is quieter than usual. Typically, when Anya appears less than confident, we know there’s some clever editing afoot because she always manages to turn out something workable in the end. But now, Anya really seems to be cracking. Earlier in the competition, she felt cloistered and had zero expectations for herself because of her lack of sewing ability. Now that she’s so close to the end, she has more to lose.

Let me just start the runway portion of tonight’s broadcast by expressing how floored I am by the poor quality of the designs at this point in the competition. I’m equally surprised by the judges’ relatively easy hand during the critiques. I’ve been a lot less critical of this season’s talent than the Twitterverse has been. (I still think this year has been more interesting and entertaining than the Los Angeles season that went to Mean-a Irina). But wow. This final four runway show has to rank among the worst ever, especially if Joshua’s looks were the judges’ favorite.


The jacket’s immaculately tailored and has a futuristic vibe, but I wasn’t a fan of the pink pants and print top combo. Plus, despite the judges’ love for Josh’s accessorizing, I thought the racquetball goggles made the model look like a lab assistant from space. Heidi liked everything about the outfit except for the cheap-looking seat belt on the jacket. Michael liked the belt but thought it’d look better with another dress.

This look, with its catsuit-and-dress combination, brought a tear to Josh’s eye. He called it “organic,” but it struck me as awkward and impractical. Michael loved it from the front but hated it from the back:

Yes, the the peekaboo slit in the back does look unfinished, but I wasn’t a fan of the top of the dress from any angle. Its hard to get past that rubbery plastic material.

Josh’s other look was his neoprene version of a little black dress. Heidi called it “sexy” and interesting. Michael liked the dress but got hung up on the modesty tab below the boobs. “Modesty tab” is a funny term for that little strip of fabric, since it actually makes the dress look trashier, somehow. Nina gives Josh the highest praise, calling him “a very good designer” and saying that she’s so impressed. Josh is the first to make it to Fashion Week, but I really don’t see it. The clothes seem ungainly and not quite high fashion, and it seems like Josh has yet to receive the message about cheap-looking fabrics.

NEXT: Get ready for the worst styling you’ve ever seen.


I can’t understand why the judges weren’t harsher on this look. She looks like Ana Gasteyer from Gemini’s Twin, the SNL spoof of Destiny’s Child. The entire ensemble is incredibly dated and hard to look at. And, as Michael pointed out, matching those cobalt pants with cobalt shoes was a terrible styling decision, although I don’t think it makes the model look clubfooted. Not sure Michael knows what clubfoot is, exactly.

If that big bag were a lunchbox, she’d be a fourth grader from the ’80s who’d dressed herself for the first time. Very Angelica Pickles trying to look “growed up.” Heidi hates the bubble-butt poof on the magenta skirt, but really, the whole thing is a train wreck.

The judges weren’t nearly critical enough of Kimberly’s mini-collection. Even the final sparkly black gown looks cheap, and the more colorful looks were garish and oh-so-low-rent. Kimberly’s three girls, who’ve all looked beautiful before, look like bottom-of-the-barrel models chosen to pose for a SexyHair ad.

NEXT: I love Lifetime commercials. Will you buy a T-shirt from Jennifer Aniston?


It’s no surprise that Viktor, who seems to value bitchiness over any other virtue, loves that his model looks like a “mean girl” in this outfit. She does look hot, though minus the indoor sunglasses. Nina loves the print of the fabric but thinks it can do without the leather strips on the skirt, which zip right off. Unfortunately, Heidi, ever the rule-enforcer, decrees that the leather must stay on for Fashion Week. Edit, edit, edit!

“You can’t go wrong with a tuxedo with glass,” said Viktor. In this case, I kind of agree! Something about this ensemble works, even though it shouldn’t. With this look, Viktor pumped up the volume since last week’s challenge without sacrificing taste. I agree with Heidi — the mirrored top is fabulous.

I get Michael’s point that the jacket and dress don’t really go together, but I’m sort of feeling the counter-intuitive combo. This is a girl who went to a fancy cocktail party and borrowed her (gay-comma-very) boyfriend’s jacket when it got chilly afterwards while waiting for him to finish having sex with the waiter. This outfit has a story! Kudos to Viktor for trying to create a showpiece as opposed to an “aesthetically normal” look.

“Oooh, they look like bubbles!” Call me Suze Orman, cuz I’m salivating for that damn jacket. Viktor’s jacket, which is made out of sex, religion, and Lady Gaga, attracted Heidi like a sparkly piece of tinsel attracts a magpie. Josh probably thinks it’d look better on him. (My friend Devin pointed out that the black tank Heidi’s wearing in the above photo is a Mondo creation).

NEXT: Is Anya the second coming of Wretchen?


Wow, a retro, earth-toned dress that’s super-boring. Is anyone else reminded of Gretchen? The best Anya could even bring herself to say about it is that it’s “quite nice,” which is true but not good enough at this point. Of course Nina likes it; after all, she’s the one who propelled Gretchen to her season-destroying win.

I imagine this is what a Meryl Streep character wears to the beach before she gets her groove back. There’s no design here, and it’s the definition of matronly. Anya should have put a big dollop of sunscreen on that model’s nose to complete the look, but you can’t find that on the Piperlime Wall. This doesn’t look like a planned design; it looks like a last resort after a different outfit failed last minute. Sorry, Anya, even though I’m a fan of yours, this bathing suit is indefensible.

WHY??!! This gown is so Egyptian-slavegirl-spends-a-day-as-Egyptian-princess. It looks as though Anya tried to meld her old tropical sensibility with the new structural skills she learned throughout the course of the show and failed miserably. Michael calls the dress “tortured” and notes that the satin exposes all of the construction flaws. Bert, Anya needs your assistance!

The moment of truth. Who will get to compete at Lincoln Center for the Project Runway title? Josh gets the first call-out, which Viktor deserved. But Viktor gets called next, and then it’s between Kimberly and Anya. Heidi announces that Kimberly gets to move on to Fashion Week — but even before she announced that Anya would be going as well, I knew there had to be four designers going forward. The smile on Nina’s face during Anya’s critique was too big, and as we all know, Nina calls the shots.

Even though Josh had major hateitude about it, I agree with him that someone should have gone home. It wasn’t as if all four mini-collections were so great that it would have been a hard decision to eliminate somebody. Kimberly’s three outfits were so horribly designed and styled that sending her home should have been easy. It compromises the integrity of the competition to show such a soft hand. As Josh said, Project Runway isn’t “fuddy-duddy” — although his gestures as he was saying that were.

Also, isn’t five weeks a ridiculously short amount of time for the designers to create final collections? I seem to remember they had much longer than that — anywhere from three to five months — in past seasons. In any case, the collections generally looked uninspired and haphazardly made. Maybe they should be given more time to show what they can really do. And while Heidi has kept her critiques as sharp as they were before, I can’t help but think Nina’s and Michael’s have dropped off since the move to Lifetime.

Are you happy that all four designers will be competing at Fashion Week, or should someone have gone home? Were the judges especially soft tonight? Did you think Viktor’s white jacket was “everything”? Also, if you caught After the Runway, sound off on it below, too. My takeaways: I’ll be sure to steer clear of Anya’s sex tape on Google, and I’m not a fan of Anthony Ryan’s punk-ish makeover.

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