The contestants design for Nina Garcia, fashion director of 'Hell' magazine

By Annie Barrett
Updated August 19, 2011 at 06:02 AM EDT
Project Runway Nina
Credit: Lifetime

“Oh, s—,” Bryce muttered upon hearing of this week’s challenge. He pretty much spoke for everyone. The contestants had to design a day-to-night look for the endlessly inflexible judge/queen/dragon lady Nina Garcia. Finally, a chance to be fashion-forward!

But first, a few ground rules. “I like classic with an edge,” cooed Maleficent to her loyal subjects from the forbidden mountain. “Tailored, streamlined silhouettes. I do not like voluminous clothes. I do not like pleats. I do not like loud, colorful patterns.” If only she had been specific.

Research was key here. The designers foisted their paws upon that newfangled HP Touchscreen Whatever to look at old photos of Nina Garcia. Surely they could come up with something as genius as a jacket emblazoned with giant X-rays of combs.

Nina floated in before the designers even went shopping at Mood to consult with them and strike their original visions dead. Nina was nothing if not succinct, warning Joshua he needed “a plan B,” alerting Bryce “I hate cowl,” and assuring Danielle, “I like this idea better” — immediately after restructuring Danielle’s idea for her. Nina likes her own opinion. What are the chances?

Side note: Was anyone else totally faked out by this moment of faux-foreshadowing? After this I was sure Bert would be going home.

The frowny face is a nice touch.

NEXT: How do you solve a problem like Cecilia? A much better question: What is to be done about the droopy, negative, possibly narcoleptic Cecilia? I think Cecilia’s bad attitude and general approach to everything can be best summed up by the blank look she served Nina after Nina told Cecilia her jacket “feels a little Dynasty.” I imagined 10 or more existential questions flying through Cecilia’s brain — ranging from the weak (“Should I just walk away from this nightmare right now?”) to the most intense (“What is Dynasty?”) She admitted outright at the end of the episode that she wouldn’t mind not being there anymore.

Anthony Ryan and Becky picked up the same black-and-white printed fabric at Mood, and while it wasn’t entirely clear who’d seen it first, the way Becky avoided eye contact with Nina when telling her “I’m not sure” explained it all. Too bad we can’t ask Swatch the Mood dog for the truth. I mean, we could.

Anthony bitched about the fabric for awhile to Joshua, but ultimately had a pretty good attitude about it and used it to motivate himself. The fabric twinsies were both announced safe in the end, but I much preferred Becky’s dress with (what I assume would be) flattering diagonal lines and a teeny bit of yellow piping to Anthony’s separates.

Tim Gunn showed up two hours before the runway show to find an empty workroom. Where was everyone? With Andre? Nope, in the sewing room. Freakin’ out. But the real victim was poor Tim. “You have a ton of work to do! I’m really alarmed! I’m sweating through my suit!” I found the lack of a zoom-in on Tim Gunn’s fantasy pit stains here disappointing.

Time for a heaping helping of what might be considered cheating. Cecilia, who hated her own dress so much she couldn’t stand to look at it another second, helped Julie pull together her coat dress — with glue — at the last minute. “IS THAT GLUE?” trilled Tim from the sweatlands. “Yikes.” Meanwhile, Laura saw Anya struggling to finish her jumpsuit and couldn’t let her good friend’s “vision not happen,” so she started cutting fabric and might have even sewed it on, too. Viktor was furious, but somehow refrained from calling Anya out on the runway after they both landed in the top three.

One more random shot of a model in her bra and panties, and it was time for the runway show.

NEXT: Another look at the best and worst designs KIMBERLY, the winner of the challenge:

Following orders will take you far. Nina had specifically requested some of Kimberly’s pants, and Nina Garcia gets what she wants. But the real stunner of the outfit, the judges all agreed, was the statement gold top. Joanna Coles went on and on about how a shirt like that was transformative and how if you wore it, “all sorts of things might happen to you and you’d be willing to seize them.” This is why I love Joanna Coles — even though what she’s saying is kind of ridiculous, she said it with such life-affirming authority and I know exactly what she means. This is why I love clothes, too! I’m not as gaga about this particular gold top as Joanna and Nina were. I think some slight structural tweaks could make it much more flattering — and life experience-inspiring! yes! lookin’ and feelin’ great! — but I was glad to share in their euphoria. Fashion editors: They’re just like us.


Viktor’s little black dress — which was actually separates — was classic Nina: understated, sophisticated, maybe a little boring but above all else EXPENSIVE. It’s not necessarily my style since I guess I’m pretty tacky (90 minutes of Nina bleating about what’s right and wrong will do that to a goofy pattern monster like myself), but I get why Nina loved it. “You couldn’t put any accessory onto this dress,” she raved, thus solidifying the vast difference between our two points of view.


Michael Kors’ comment about Anya’s rushed-dye-job jumpsuit stuck with me the most. “This is not something you’ve ever worn in this chair,” the encyclopedia of Nina Garcia’s on-camera outfits told her. “But I think you would.” I think she would, too, and for that reason alone I thought “maybe Anya should have won” before remembering that, oh yeah, it kind of would have been Laura’s win too because Anya doesn’t quite know how to sew. The producers are continuing to not make a big deal about this until it will suddenly be a VERY BIG DEAL.

Jumpsuits. They’re kind of everywhere, right? I can’t believe how much I like this look, to be honest. But would I actually wear it? It’s a jumpsuit. Am I allowed to wear a jumpsuit? (Don’t care.) Where do I even buy a jumpsuit? I must find out.

(The incredibly lame train of thought above reminds me of a sticker on a garment that recently made me die inside: “I’m a playsuit!”)

NEXT: The dregs Feelin’ good? Well, stop. The theme of the bottom three looks was SADNESS.


“That makes me think your model’s depressed. It makes me think you might be depressed too, especially after this particular episode. Honestly, I’d think she was ill.” —probable psych major Joanna Coles


Joanna: “If Nina wore this dress by Cecilia, I would have her committed.”

Nina: “It looked overall sad.”


Michael Kors: “She should have a Kleenex in her pocket while she’s cleaning. It looks sad.”

Eliminated designer Julie Tierney foreshadowed her demise early on in the episode, first by choosing to do a “coat dress, because I like them” and then by admitting “the judges are always giving me a second chance, and I think I’m running out of chances.”

The real star of this show wasn’t even Nina. Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, is probably my favorite Project Runway recurring guest judge of all time. She’s so blunt. So British. Everything she says is BRUTAL. I love it. The best part of her brutality was the way she not so subtly kept lording her power over Nina. “If Nina came to the office wearing [Julie’s ‘droat’],” Joanna suggested, “I’d think she was asking to be fired.”

Which was your favorite look this week? Mine was without a doubt Joshua’s salmon and gray geometric cutout dress. “The front is shocking; the back is gorgeous,” he said, reading my mind. I guess the color would have been a little out-there for Nina, but we can’t all be fashion directors who “lead teams.” Josh’s dress was my golden goose of the episode. Don’t care how, I want it now.

I’m pretty excited for next week’s episode, featuring a potentially deadly track race and a heated rage fest between Joshua and Becky involving him bellowing “IF YOU’RE TIRED, TAKE A NAP.” Silly, how is she supposed to fall asleep if you’re yelling?

Look for my interview with Julie later today (Update: Here it is!), and kindly join me in wearing your loudest patterns over the weekend just to piss Nina off.

Oh, and vote for the Best ‘Runway’ Stinkface of the Night over at PopWatch.

See you next week!

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