The 15 designers bark up the oft-neglected tree of pet-store fashion
Project Runway 9
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

Welcome back to Project Runway! This week, the 15 remaining design-uhs would get to “unleash their creativity,” teased the goddess Heidi from her perch in runway heaven. But what could that mean? Joshua McKinley searched the depths of his accessory-cluttered soul to crack the code with one of the most impressive rapid-fire word associations in reality TV history. “Unleash. Leash. Fetish. S&M?”

I probably would have liked that better. Instead, the contestants received a whopping $300 budget to wee-wee away at a discount pet store by collecting materials for an “UNCONVENTIONAL CHALLENGE.” Expectations were high. The dog bed Bert wanted to grab — against Tim Gunn’s advice — was even higher.

Right off the bat, Josh Christensen said, “I’m not trying to win this challenge; I’m just trying to get by,” and it was at this point that we all knew he would be eliminated. But I have to hand it to Bert — who had immunity from his week 1 win — for showing the least amount of effort and interest in a Project Runway challenge I have ever seen in my life. That guy just didn’t care at all! He attempted to explain in a confessional that “the costume-y thing” wasn’t his strength, then straight-up admitted “I just don’t wanna do it.” He proceeded to read a book, miss his dog, and make a boring black dress with a boob-tutu.

Let’s hear it for the side-eyes!

Anthony and Bryce made no attempt to mask their disdain for Bert on the runway.

NEXT: Is it classy or is it assy? (Carpe diem, okay? You looked hot in it.) Tim reminded the design-uhs that in unconventional challenges, the judges do not respond well to materials that are already fabric. You want to weave dog bags together or pretend kibbles are beads? By all means. But do not attempt to turn a pet umbrella into a top. That’s cheating. “So, my plan is birdseed,” announced Anthony Ryan, who had the right idea. Viktor was not on board. “This is not fashion. This is, like, trashin’.” Silly winter-hat-wearer, we haven’t gotten to the dumpster-dive week yet. Be patient.

We heard from many contestants about their childhoods, which kind of threw everything off because as soon as people talk about their past hardships, you assume they’re going home. But of course, we’re only in episode 2. Joshua “grew up in the theater,” which explained everything. Fallene’s parents encouraged the kids to draw on the walls. Olivier, who left home as a teenager, has lived in so many countries and is culturally the tops. It sounds like Laura Kathleen may have had the most difficult upbringing of all. “I was raised in an upper class family,” she bragged. “I’ve been shopping at Neiman’s since I was in single digits.”

Fortunately for the judges, Laura recognized right away that the dog cone collar she wanted so desperately to be a skirt was more assy than classy. She astutely modified her look last-minute with a 100 percent Pure Cardboard bottom instead. Thank you Neiman’s! (I think I’m just going to start saying that after every sentence about Laura.)

NEXT: Tim Gunn cannot stop saying ‘wee-wee pads’ Knock knock! Someone was HUGELY enthusiastic about what had been going on here. Tim’s visit held some solid advice in store for our design-uhs, but let’s be honest, it was basically all about peeing. Thanks to Bryce, Viktor, and Danielle all using the same material, Tim could not stop saying “wee-wee pads.” Nor should he ever, for the record. I loved how he endorsed Viktor’s purple-dyed Depends dress: “You never have to get up from your bar stool.” Oh, and you probably shouldn’t anyway because that thing is like 10 inches long.

Things spiraled out of control from there. Bert wandered around yelling “SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE LESS IS MORE,” which I believe translates in English to “I don’t like working.” Laura had to deal with that bare ass. Joshua went to town with aquarium rocks and a sea of glue. Julie Tierney psyched herself out so hard she became existential about it (“I don’t really know what’s up my alley anymore.”), even though I thought her dog-food-bags dress had a great shape and looked pretty cool from a distance and from behind. Anya was not even close to having a garment done, even on runway morning. “People must be like, does she not know what she’s doing?” she surmised. Yep, pretty much, but this was a fly-under-the-radar episode for Anya. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a few of those before her incompetence arc truly heats up.

NEXT: Another look at the best and worst designs I had two favorite parts of the runway show: Anthony’s model letting out a huge sigh at the top of the stairs, and Cecilia marveling that her model “looked so chic and expensive” right after her listed materials on-screen were “dog collars, hamster bedding.”

Let’s look at the winning and losing designs.

Olivier, the winner of the challenge (click to enlarge):

Outfits like these always highlight the vast difference between Smart Fashion People like Nina and Michael and plain old fat ugly cave troll Viewers Like Me. I found Olivier’s dog-bed top highly unflattering and the skirt just okay if not a little too beastly. (Beware of deadly hamsters and their feed.) I’m sure it’s objectively fashionable; I just can’t get into it. Oh well, that happens. I do appreciate the ombre in the skirt and the plastic band belt that gave the look a modern touch. Nina and Michael were just gaga over it. “It would be very editorial and something we would photograph in a minute,” said Neensters.

Anthony Ryan:

This was my favorite design, if I were judging on the look and how the person took advantage of the challenge. (If it were just about the look, I’d have gone with Kimberly‘s architectural aquarium-holding top or Anya‘s dog-leash top. I guess I wanna be on top. Oh wrong show.) I loved how Anthony turned seeds into beads and would happily wear this anyplace where birds are not. If not for the issue of length, said Nina, this dress would have been perfect.


Guest judge Stacy Bendet of alice + olivia had been waiting for someone to use colorful aquarium pieces, and I’m with her. Was this the least wacky UNCONVENTIONAL CHALLENGE or what? Joshua’s girl may have been an over-accessorized Sea Vixen Barbie, but if you can’t take a look and instantly name a doll after it, what is the point of being on Project Runway? Anyway, Michael and Nina appreciated the circle skirt, and I just now realized that through Sea Vixen Barbie’s lovely reptile cage lining, you can see her junk.

NEXT: The unwanted pet parade


Fallene’s last words before the runway show were “At least I tried to make it crazy.” But girl! You didn’t. It seemed like everyone else’s expectations of Fallene dragged her down so far that she could only present this mediocre “autumnal harvest festival” skirt, boring top, and unnecessary belt. “You’ve gotta have, like, candy-corn teeth to wear that dress,” said Michael. Ooh, I want candy-corn teeth. Stacy wished Fallene had fashioned something out of kitten toys, and Fallene was like, “I knowwwww. I’m sorry.” It was a little frustrating that Fallene made no attempt to defend herself, but maybe she had just been putting on a brave face throughout the challenge and did fully agree that her look was lame. Even so: Stand up for yourself! Nina Garcia will eventually eat you if you don’t.

I love this classic Nina Garcia criticism progression: “What bothers me most is the colors. [Pause.] It looks a little dated. [Pause.] It looks bad.” Nina is the ultimate bump, set, spike of reality TV.


We have seen a lot of “ugly napkin clothes” over the years, but this might have been the worst tissue dress of ’em all, said Michael Kors, who’d been “sitting in this chair for a lot of time.” (A lot of time!) Bryce’s wee-wee pad experiment might not have gone so wrong if the pieces he used weren’t so ENORMOUS and if his model hadn’t been trying to hide her identity out of embarrassment. Oh, and if not for that sad rabbit bedding “shirt.” “Who is this girl?” asked Heidi. “I don’t know,” said Bryce. That’s a big problem.

Oh, and Nina thought this “hanky in a wind tunnel” (according to Laura) looked like a member of the Blue Man Group. Breaking: Nina Garcia does not know what a member of the Blue Man Group looks like.

Josh Christensen:

Here was that forbidden pet umbrella, and it was simply too much “normal material” for an UNCONVENTIONAL CHALLENGE. Michael pointed out that the top made the model look like she was nursing triplets, which is funny but also kind of horrible when he does this because it makes everyone watching at home look down and wonder “Do I look fat?” But whatever, that’s the point of Project Runway, and the answer is yes — compared to models, you do look fat. Such is life. Anyway, Stacy summed this look up perfectly as “1990s bar scene.” Indeed. In fact, EW has confirmed exclusively that this girl just stepped off the set of Can’t Hardly Wait.

Only Nina threw Josh a bone. “It’s not…………..terrible.” she spit out. Nina!

It was getting hot, and Michael was about to go through manopause, so they went ahead and brought the designers back in. “It’s like a standoff for who’s the most boring,” said the Kors. In the end, it was Josh Christensen. Fallene got a scolding, but Josh got the deadly “We question whether we want to see more from you.”

I’d have at least wanted to see more arm-melding moments of support like this one between Josh and Joshua. “We kind of just hit it off right from the get-go,” Joshua had said.

Power up!

Total sidenote: If you were even somewhat intrigued by Olivier’s model’s “frozen eyebrows” look (agggggh!) and enjoy bizarre Scandanavian electropop, you may like iamamiwhoami’s YouTube channel. My favorite of their songs is “T”. That one is probably NSFW, but nudity can be very fashion forward sometimes. Anyway, their videos are all creepy/beautiful/amazing, and it’s Friday, so whatever.

Did the right person go home?

See you next week, design-uhs!

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

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