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'Project Runway': You don't have to have the crown to be the queen

March 25, 2010 | 11:01 pm

Proje5054 Such conflicting emotions! Here I was, all excited about Thursday night's runway challenge, something fresh and new for the designers and our eyes (albeit with some awkward product placement), yet the hands-down most entertaining contestant of the season was sent home. I'll hide the result under the cut, but if you can't guess who I'm talking about, then you obviously haven't been following this season. 

Heidi Klum promised the contestants that the challenge would be more than "just choosing a fabric," which actually meant that they'd be — ta da! — designing their own fabrics using the HP TouchSmart All-in-One blah-blah. Yes, the episode was kind of secretly a computer commercial, but that's OK. It was different!  The challenge appeared harder than it seemed at first. After all, what you see on a computer screen would translate quite differently to a bolt of fabric, as Mila Hermanovski would learn as her "giant drips of paint" design sort of ended up looking like Fruit Stripes gum. Emilio Sosa was thoughtful and also took a risk by branding his design by creating a graffiti pattern out of his initials. Meanwhile, Jonathan Peter's bubble design was so sheer that it appeared invisible on the printout, but it translated a bit better on actual fabric, which the contestants were delighted to receive. "I love you and I don't even know you yet!" Anthony exclaimed when he saw his bolt (it was a great episode for Anthony lovers, who I think includes everyone). 

Tim Gunn wasn't sure about Emilio's textile at first, saying, "I have to recalibrate my thinking," which made Emilio touchy, saying in response later on, "OK, great Tim," which I thought wouldn't bode well for him — crossing Tim rarely pays off. However, Emilio did right to listen to his gut.  His logo pattern reminded me a bit of the Louis Vuitton graffiti design from several seasons ago, and the light blue, black and white popped on his dress, which was made more sophisticated by a gorgeous, retro-looking black jacket he layered on top of it. The judges unanimously adored it, including guest judge Vivienne Tam, who claimed she would wear it. Michael Kors praised Emilio on creating a pattern that would work in different sizes, patterns, colors, what have you, and Emilio was given the win for his efforts.

Another pattern that was maybe a little cartoonish on its own but worked extremely well in its design was Seth Aaron Henderson's Pop art design, which he used in a very sharp jacket that he paired with a high-collared shirt, tie and punky yet polished pants. I think of all the designs of the evening that's the one I would have most loved to try on, even if I couldn't pull it off. The judges complimented Seth Aaron on the quality of his work and that he's always true to his point of view.

The judges also liked Maya Luz's red-and-black-patterned dress, but while I liked the pattern, I thought the work on the dress was a bit of a mess. However, it was definitely better than Jonathan or Mila's creations.  Mila's dress did resemble a teepee/gay flag/serape (take your pick from the judges' critiques) but moreover looked uncomfortable, especially thanks to the model stiffly walking it down the runway due to the narrow long skirt. The judges had out-and-out scorn, however, for Jonathan's design. His fabric ended up looking wan, but the capper was the strange jacket that Michael referred to as a "disco straitjacket." The judges called the outfit a "dirty tablecloth," "preposterous," "a full-on catastrophe," and Nina Garcia found the skirt’s kick-pleat "beyond upsetting," which I thought was amusingly hyperbolic. Jonathan was understandably upset, especially since it seemed like Michael was out-and-out mocking him, but I don't think he helped his cause at all by asking whether it's so wrong to make sad clothes.

You'd think that with all this scorn heaped upon Jonathan that he'd be the designer eliminated, but, sadly, it was Anthony. I don't think Anthony failed per se in his design, but I think the judges felt he simply didn't measure up, aside from the Marie Claire challenge, to the other designers — he didn't seem to have a lot more to offer other than relatively simple looks. I suppose I should have seen it coming, since the episode was so full of Anthony quips and quotes (and, uh, a Members Only jacket?).  It was clear he was loved by the judges and the designers, and he had a sunny personality on the way out. Hopefully we'll see him again later this season, or perhaps in a Beyonce video?

— Claire Zulkey

Photo: Seth Aaron Henderson, right, with Tim Gunn. Photo credit: Lifetime.

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