On the runway, Heidi tells our eight remaining designers that for this challenge they are to create an avant-garde look that is inspired by their model's hair. She adds that this is an opportunity to push themselves as designers and "create something artistic and conceptual."
Back in the workroom, I inform the designers that, owing to the ambitiousness of this challenge, they will be working in teams of two. I determine who is teamed with whom by drawing their names out of our velvet bag. The teams have 30 minutes to determine whose model's hairstyle will be the inspiration for the design. Then we're off to MOOD with a budget of $300.
There are two days for this challenge. On the morning of Day Two, I had to make the most anxiety-provoking announcement of my entire Project Runway career: "Designers, you will be responsible for a second look, one that is a ready-to-wear complement to your avant-garde look." Gulp. Why was I such a wreck? Because, each team had so much work remaining on their single look, how were they going to handle this second aspect of the challenge? As I wrote last week regarding Christian: If looks could kill, then the designers' collective stares at me would surely have dealt fatal blows. In any case, we needed to return to MOOD to shop for the materials for this new look, for which each team was given an additional $50. Owing to our time constraints, only one member of each team was required to go.
The always-wonderful ever-patient Nathaniel Hawkins, lead stylist for TRESemmé, was the creative force for the models' avant-garde hairstyles and worked with the designers to determine the ready-to-wear hairstyles.
The legendary Italian designer Alberta Ferretti is our distinguished guest designer. She served to buoy the spirits of a group of very grumpy designers!
Christian wins! As the leader of Team Christian and Chris, Christian was awarded the win -- and immunity in the next challenge -- for the team's jaw-droppingly stunning work. Their avant-garde creation was as close to true couture as any design that's been created on the show. It was constructed of 45(!) yards of organza cut into countless layers of circles, and Marcia wore it with nothing shy of grandness. A four-foot high "wing" projected from her shoulder, also covered with layers and layers of organza. All of this was in a gorgeous color of cafe-au-lait. Even Nina was visibly swooning! Their ready-to-wear look included a beautiful sleeveless top with an exuberantly ruffled placket in the same color, paired with a rather lackluster pencil skirt with the most peculiar darts at the hips. C'est la vie. The ho-hum skirt didn't matter. Team Christian championed! And I'll add that this was a case of two heads -- and four hands -- being vastly better than one, because Christian and Chris had a truly synergistic collaboration. Bravo, guys! Or should I say, "Fierce!"
Kit is OUT. As leader of Team Kit and Ricky, Kit was singled out as the member of the team who should own responsibility for the outcome of the team's concept and execution. Indeed, it was her concept and, additionally, she had Ricky infantilized throughout the entire process. Her concept was "nesting," owing to the bird's nest hairstyle of her model, Marie. Frankly, the only nest-like aspect to her avant-garde design that I could discern was the circular shape of the skirt, but that's a stretch. I was struck by how much the corset top, voluminous Southern-belle skirt, and apron overlay made me think of a poor man's Marie Antoinette dressed for her le petit hameau. It screamed "student work!" And the ready-to-wear look was like a poor man's Laura Ashley dress: a sleeveless mini-dress that looked like it was made for that same madame's maid. So, that was the theme: poor. Kit, we'll miss you.
Victorya and Jillian were Team Victorya, but there was conflict over who would lead, with neither designer wanting to play second fiddle. Although I respect Victorya's leadership position, it was clear that the lion's share of conceptual thinking belonged to Jillian. Her Vivienne Westwood-like trench epitomized the self-described theme: rebellion. Executed in a midnight fabric, it was lined in a red tartan. The coat was drop-dead stunning and impeccably executed. However, I was dubious about the jodhpurs and ruffle-smocked top executed by Victorya, but the judges loved it (chacon a son gout).
Back to leadership, please remember that the ready-to-wear look was not even given full consideration, let alone execution, until THE MORNING OF THE JUDGING! I was a white-knuckled wreck and had to keep repeating to myself about the two of them: "I can't want you to succeed more than you do...." In the end, succeed they did. The judges didn't have a clue about the almost-no-show of the ready-to-wear look. They loved the sweet asymmetrical midnight dress with tartan piping, thankfully. This was a big "Whew!" Congratulations, ladies!
Rami and Sweet P were Team Rami, and it was clear from the onset that Rami would lead. In fact, Rami's voice was the only voice he would listen to. For the avant-garde look, the team ended up with a Rami design -- a gown with a corset and a long, flowing train -- and a Rami execution, with the exception of Sweet P playing sous-chef and making those homely pants. So, the judges were presented with some stunning Grecian draping (surprise!). Was the look avant-garde? I didn't see it. It certainly didn't surprise me. It was the same Rami look that I'd seen before. But the pants were, indeed, unexpected and begged the question: "Why?" And if they were necessary, why not use a fabric that was more in keeping with the rest of the look -- something lighter, perhaps?
And when it came to the ready-to-wear look, Rami was happy to unshackle Sweet P and tell her to conceive and execute on her own. She did. And her ready-to-wear look -- a ruched/pleated mini-dress in stunning shades of gray and with a wide satin waistband -- was far more pleasing to the eyes than his avant-garde creation. Thankfully, they emerged from this challenge unscathed by the judges, but not without some bruises from each other.