The 14 designers partner up to reach ridiculous new heights; Kim Kardashian guest-judges

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 12, 2011 at 05:30 AM EDT
Richard McLaren/Lifetime

This week’s Project Runway featured both stilts and Kim Kardashian, and I am so sorry to report that this was the extent of the interplay between those two freaky, damn near inexplicable elements of society. The 14 designers had to partner up (ugh!) to create eye-catching, imaginative, and truly larger-than-life designs…for stilts models! STILTS MODELS. This is apparently a thing. “There’s a reason why I’m this tall right now,” said Heidi Klum on stilts.

Stilts models.

Stilts models cannot be contained by the traditional boundaries of walls and ceilings, so this week’s fashion show took place outside — in front of a live audience and the press — for the first time ever. It ended up being just as much an awkward dance party as a regular runway show, as the stilts models had to use rather creative arm movements to maintain balance. It was kind of cool in that the movements were mostly fluid, but on the other vastly out-of-proportion hand, it was also like…Why are you dancing? Fun stuff.

The designers only had ONE DAY to pull this off, which was ridiculous. But $500 and a first trip to Mood ain’t bad. I’ve really missed the store’s mascot, Swatch, and I’m not even that into dogs.

Let’s go through the partnerships one by one, omitting “totally lucked out” Anya and Olivier, who swathed some crazy-looking fabric around a stilts model, admitted that neither of them felt it was their best work, and were promptly pronounced safe after about a minute of combined screen time.

NEXT: Another look at the best and worst designs First, the best!

Laura (CHALLENGE WINNER) and Anthony Ryan:

Theirs was a great partnership. I was glad Laura explained to plain old fat ugly cave troll viewers like me (POFUCTVLM) why the stilts challenge — and the idea that the designs should aspire to Paris-level runway shows and consider “what is real and what isn’t” — was so exciting from the designers’ point of view. “It’s kind of like our fashion illustrations get to come to life,” she said. (I’m not kidding; I really hadn’t understood how the challenge could possibly be fun/worthwhile until then. Oh, and update: I still kind of don’t get it. I’m dumb!)

At first I was disappointed that Anthony and Laura had to abandon their hoop skirt/cage structure that would have made their stilts model look “almost like an Alabama plantation girl,” according to Laura. Despite Anthony’s best mathematical efforts they had to go flat and flowy, but the wind more than made up for that loss. Kim Kardassssssian raved about the cute little black belt, and earlier Tim Gunn had trilled “These shoulder pads are very on trend for fall.”

Anthony Ryan graciously bestowed the individual win on Laura, but not before Nina sent him off with a scary warning to “please try to be original when you design.” She’s considered all three of his designs “too referential,” which I don’t remember too well, but then again, it’s not like we get to see and hear all of the judges’ critiques during the telecast.

NEXT: Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and Her 1960s Housewife Hair Danielle and Cecilia:

Whoa, what’s wrong with that girl’s foot? AND HER HAIR. Danielle and Cecilia eventually worked through their mutual suspicion of the other’s work ethic and craftsmanship (“Lady, I know how to make pants,” Cecilia had to snarl at one point) and pulled together a cohesive design with the trickiest fabric. Their chiffon look was all about movement, and I think the billowing sleeves helped even out the arm/leg proportions that Tim Gunn had worried about during his visit. Leave it to Heidi to sum up Danielle and Cecilia’s success: “They both know how to sew.”

Kimberly and Becky:

Sorry about this terrible screengrab. You can see the rest of Kimberly’s pants better at the top of the page. Becky and Kimberly had never talked before they started working together, but they heroically managed to exchange certain key words and figure out that one of them did jackets and the other did pants. The judges marveled that the two pieces looked so cohesive, but the gist of their critiques seemed to me like another “You both know how to sew.”

I could give or take the half-collar, one-shoulder thing, but am now sure that if Becky makes another jacket in black or a darker pattern, I will totally love it. I would wear the hell out of those pants. In fact, my inseam is so insanely long that I might not even have to hem ’em. Oh no! I am suddenly overcome with the urge to wear clown pants to the office tomorrow.

NEXT: ‘This insane, very tacky matador…’

Julie and Joshua:

Wow, Josh really can’t stand Julie, huh? Most of the pained exchanged that took place across the vast divide between “Rocky Mountain Woman” (quoth Michael Kors) and Planet Bedazzle ended with either a sassy, condescending lesson about something that should have been toooooooooootally obvious (“Julie, anything in life can be pleated”) or threatening to playfully attack her on the sly. Julie was oblivious to Josh’s distaste the whole time. I sort of envy her; that seems like a pleasant way to get through life.

Their concept for the stilts walker was “romantic matador,” which the judges scoffed at — but I actually think two different people could have somehow made “romantic matador work.” Maybe not on stilts, though. (“Maybe not on stilts, though,” is actually a pretty good way to sum up this entire episode.) I gotta admit I kind of like these crazy Beetlejuice pants, though it’s a bit sad that they — along with a bunch of other details that annoyed neo-minimalist Heidi — overpowered that bullfighter jacket that Julie spent all of her time on.

NEXT: The two most tragic stilts models Bert and Viktor:

Viktor and Bert kept arguing about who was acting more like a child, even though any outsider could have told them it was a very obvious draw. When they were together, Bert kept busy by schooling Viktor on the difference between Victorian and Elizabethan, and Viktor kept busy by finding new yet similar reasons to run away. “It’s kind of difficult to make sense of somebody who’s crazy,” Viktor said, and that is so true, but at the same time, everyone’s a little bit crazy and I didn’t think Viktor was willing to even attempt to collaborate with his partner at any time.

Kim Kardashian came through with an impressive film reference when she said the terrible golden drapes reminded her of The Sound of Music. (Sadly she continued: “Like, Marie Antoinette days.”) Michael summed up Bert and Viktor’s look pretty well: “Everything bad in the house, on your body.” Off with their heads!

Bryce and Fallene:

Considering that all Bryce and Fallene had on runway morning was a “great voluminous tutu,” the fact that their model and her stilts were fully clothed was a big win for them. But overall it was a disaster. Kim Kardashian said she could have wrapped a tie around a pajama tank top and made this outfit in 15 minutes, and considering how this enterprising force has turned her own 15 minutes into a thriving years-long reality TV career, we have no choice but to believe her. Except for the outfit’s saving grace — Fallene’s colorful headpiece — Michael Kors thought this “Black Swan/Bob Fosse combo” was utterly charmless.

Bryce knew he and Fallene had a huge target on their backs, having underperformed the week before. Right away, he was unresponsive to her ideas (hell to the no on a bright turquoise waistband) but the strain in their partnership was really more about Fallene’s lack of training. She couldn’t manage to line up the fabric correctly or cut it on the grain in order to create a polka-dot bodice for their deranged Gothic ballerina look, and they were nowhere near on the same page re: what “on the grain” even meant. “I just got out of school so it’s fresh in my head,” explained Bryce to his partner, and then delivered [cue knife sounds like on chef shows!] the ultimate fashion-design bitch slap. “Did you ever go to school?”

Fallene hadn’t. And someone had to be auf’ed for this “none done” monstrosity. “I think both of us should go home,” offered Bryce, before quickly modifying that to “I think I should be able to stay.”

The final two were Fallene and Viktor, the latter for having “thrown Bert under the bus” more than anything else. So it’s goodbye to Fallene. She might not have been able to hack it in the workroom, but I still like her pre-season portfolio and past designs the best.

Did the right person go home?

Got a question for Fallene? Leave it in the comments, and check back later today for our Q&A.

‘Til next week, on-the-grainers. Stand tall! Maybe not on stilts, though.

Annie on Twitter

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