Project Runway Review: This is for the Birds

The six remaining designers arrived in the design room to Tim Gunn, L’Oreal Paris Consulting Make-up Artist Collier Strong, and four wild birds that were to serve as the inspiration for the designers’ creation of a high fashion look.  The winning design would be featured in a L’Oreal Paris advertorial in Marie Claire magazine.  Collier went on to explain that the birds were to inspire the designers to create a look that would complement L’Oreal Paris’s 2011 Limited Edition color collection “Colors Take Flight.”  The colors were inspired by the cockatoo, which inspired a soft, romantic color pallet; the owl, which inspired a rich feel; the Amazon parrot, which exemplifies a bright, bold and playful spirit; and the raven, which commands the dramatic look. Giving them more incentive, Tim announced the winner would also receive a $20,000 cash prize from L’Oreal Paris. However, to the make the challenge even more challenging, Tim placed the designers in pairs: Anya and Laura who would be inspired by Phoenix, the raven; Joshua and Bert who would be inspired by Sweetie, the Amazon parrot; and Viktor and Kimberly who would be inspired by Fortune, the cockatoo.  Lastly, the teams were not working in pairs but were actually competing against one another in a head-to-head challenge.

Bert’s initial sub-challenge was that he hates green.  Kimberly used a bird-inspired theme for her avant-garde challenge, so she was faced with the sub-challenge of not being repetitive. While at Mood, Joshua went for the obvious and purchased feathers and the bright-colored green fabrics.  After they returned from Mood and began the initial outlines of their designs on their mannequins, Tim arrived to the design room to announce the fourth part to their challenge, which was to design a second, high-fashion look inspired by their bird.  Given 30 minutes to sketch, they would return to Mood with an additional $300 to shop.  Everyone seemed to be overwhelmed with the idea of creating a second dress, but this is where the wheat is separated from the chaff.  If they can’t create two looks in one day, how are they going to create a whole collection for Fashion Week, or showcase their own line?  Designers don’t make a classic, household name for themselves by creating one outfit.  Brilliant designers leave consumers with the overwhelming challenge of not knowing which garment to choose.

Like a canary being attacked by a cat, Kimberly seemed to be unraveling and coming apart at the seams.  First, she challenged herself to work with a different type of fabric.  Then, a cockroach in the work room scared her.  Next, she found a stain on her fabric.  Later, in the sewing room, she sewed through her finger with the sewing machine.  She finally took solace in the ladies’ room and broke down.  Laura and Anya went to check on her.  Apparently, the emotional toll of losing her mother, step-father, and other close family members frayed her.  Back in the design room, Joshua quietly asked Anya if he could borrow some fabric.  She gave him a soft-shoe answer, but quietly turned him down since the competition was getting stiffer and small details could make or break a design.  Ironically, last week Joshua was one of the designers who gave her fabric when she lost her money, but this week, Anya is unwilling to reciprocate.  Anya also had to bear in mind that the other designers have the longevity and years of sewing experience on their side.  She needed to keep every trick and advantage she could muster.  Meanwhile, as Tim Gunn went through the design room checking on the designers, Joshua and Laura opted to ditch their first design by the time he made it to them.  When Tim arrived to Kimberly, she had virtually shut down.  Tim even gave her a hug and a pep talk, and he told her to close her eyes “and feel.” After her model arrived and told her the gown was a bit too revealing and starting to look vulgar, Kimberly threw the dress on her work table…on top of her hot glue gun.  By the time she’d realized her mistake, the gun had burned a hole in the dress, and thus she had to create an entirely new dress in less than 3 hours.  When it rains, it pours.  If catastrophes are a must, at least they all came at once instead of sporadically throughout the duration of the entire competition.

The next morning, the day of the runway show, Tim Gunn announced to the designers that only one of their two looks would walk the runway, and it’s up to the designers which looked they wanted to showcase.  As Tim highlighted, in the real world, most designers must edit.  Thankfully by this time the sun had come out and Kim had finished her 3-hour gown and was left with the good problem of not knowing which design to choose.  Willing to take a risk, she sent down the 3-hour, one-shoulder gown, which Viktor said was very similar to his.  Anya ran into a finishing challenge – getting her model in and out of the design.  Anya had to undo the dress and sew the model back into it.

Calvin Klein Collection Women’s Creative Director Francisco Costa joined Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and Heidi Klum on the judging panel.  Heidi praised Anya for her design.  She and Michael said they noticed the raven and was pleased it wasn’t literal.  Laura impressed Nina, but the fitted pant and the feathers were too literal and disappointed her; therefore, Laura earned the lower score.  Bert turned the runway into a confessional and announced that he didn’t like the bird nor was this the best look he’s ever produced.  The judges agreed.  Joshua, on the other hand, sold the feathers, the color, and the chain on his orange, draped cocktail dress.  Michael didn’t like the feathers, but Joshua still earned the higher score over Bert.  Michael loved the cut of Kim’s 3-hour dress although not necessarily the pearls.  Francisco liked the leather belt.  Nina didn’t like the pageantry of Kim’s dress, and she preferred Viktor’s model’s make-up over Kim’s, but she still loved the cut and interpretation of Kim’s gown.  Michael didn’t like the literality of Viktor’s dress.  Channeling last week’s winner, Anya, and Phoenix by which she was inspired, Kimberly rose from the ashes and had the higher score over Viktor.  However, like last week, Anya was the winner of the challenge.  Joshua, Kimberly, and Viktor were in, which left Bert and Laura in the bottom two.  Since Bert couldn’t even sell himself on his own garment, Laura remained in the competition.


Season 9, Episode 11: “This is for the Birds” (originally aired October 6, 2011)

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