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'Project Runway' recap: Living under 'a black cloud'

August 12, 2011 |  8:49 am

SiltwalkerHas the joy gone out of the production studios of "Project Runway"? You'd think putting Heidi Klum on stilts to announce the challenge -- the designers will be paired to create an outfit for a stiltwalker -- would be full of fun. And while Klum walks with the practiced gait of someone who's been to Supermodel Stiltwalking School, the wacky nature of the challenge failed to stop one contestant from weeping regularly through the episode.

That was Fallene, the whimsical designer from Denver. "I feel like I have a black cloud over me," she joked to Tim Gunn as she worked underneath the voluminous black tulle skirt her partner Bryce had made. It's not just you, Fallene.

For the challenge, the designers were paired in what seemed an almost mean constellation of partnerships. Except Klum had pulled their names out of a bag at random (or did she?)

The pairings for 'Project Runway' Episode 3:

Bert and Viktor, who had been clashing before this episode. Things only get worse.

Anthony Ryan and Laura, who are both likable and are doing good work. 

Josh and Julie, who go together about as well as Krystle Carrington and Laura from "Little House on the Prairie." Josh complains about her and to her. “Do you need to poke me?” he asks her in the workroom.

Danielle and Cecilia, who have both been running on a low, quiet gear. They go for chiffon, a beautiful, difficult fabric that is really easy to mutilate.

Anya and Olivier, who are both frontrunners. “You’re kind of a dream team,” Tim Gunn tells them.

Kimberly and Becky, who have strong points of view that don’t mesh. Kimberly about Becky: “She stares a lot. She just stares.” Cut to: Becky staring.

Bryce and Fallene, who were both in trouble last week.

The designers get $500 at Mood (those stilts require a lot of fabric) and just one day to make their outfits. They'll be watching them walk down the runway at the show's first outdoor runway show ever, which they make a big deal about, but is really a bust. It's gray and fog obscures the skyline in the background. The passers-by, coralled behind barricades, have no idea who the designers are, because this was shot before the show aired. Only Kim Kardashian's presence on the judging panel brought them to life.

How it went, after the jump.

“Bert is a know-it-all, he’s just really obnoxious” Viktor complains. The two are trying to design something Victorian... or is it Elizabethan? Viktor's mixing up his royals. Bert snipes, “Viktor needs to do a little bit of book reading.” Their design, a kind of regal bodice with a long shiny skirt, uses a patterned fabric everyone hates (that's Bert's fault) and is sort of a dull unsuccessful mess. They end up in the bottom three.

Anya and Olivier work well together, and when they talk about their unstructured/structured garment it sounds interesting, but in the end it's just kind of there. The pair are the only two sent off the runway for the "safe" round.

Bryce and Fallene set out to make a big skirt and a fitted bodice. There is a lot of discussion about how to cut the pieces for the bodice, and Bryce explains to Fallene that she has to cut on the grain, and then makes her feel bad that she didn't go to school to study fashion. If only Fallene would shout that being self-taught is way harder than enrolling in school, or that if he knows how to cut the pieces, he should just cut the darn things and she'll work on something else. But no, Fallene cries. The pieces are wrong. Bryce "saves" her by making a spandex black tank top and she whips out a cool little hat, the only thing about their work the judges like. Because the big tulle pouf is about as successful as Bryce's blue napkin skirt. And it's the same shape. Bottom three for Bryce and Fallene.

Kimberly and Becky seem to have a strong dislike for each other, but they both can tailor clothes: Becky does a jacket, Kimberly does these tailored pants that must be a thousand feet long to cover the stilts. The judges like the outfit very much and they're in the top three. The only negative comment: Nina doesn't like the exaggerated drama of Becky's big collar, which Kimberly had also questioned. Kimberly seems ready to do something really impressive really soon.

Danielle and Cecilia have some communication stumbles, mostly due to different working styles, but aesthetically they meld well. They absolutely succeed in their chiffon selection, although it could have been a disaster, making a big-sleeved aqua top and flowing beige pants. They also end up in the top three.

Anthony Ryan and Laura work well together. They create a flowing red garment with feathery caps on the shoulders. “These shoulder pads are very on trend for fall,” Gunn praises them. Anthony Ryan's hope to build a hoop skirt washes out, and he shifts gears without freaking out, maybe because of Laura's influence. They land in the top three. When the judges ask him who should get the greatest credit for their design, he hands it to Laura.

Josh and Julie's "romantic matador stiltwalker" looks sort of awesomely crazy, with black and white zigzag pants and a tiny red top. Josh, who was just as ill-advisedly bossy as Bryce, has made sure the top is bedazzled to death. The judges don't see the awesome, they just see crazy. “She’s got these tiny arms and these really long legs,” Nina complains. But isn't that the point? These ladies are on stilts. Shouldn't the designers play with the strange proportion, rather than mask it?

Every pair of designers who ended up in the bottom, which includes Josh and Julie, tried to use the exaggerated height of the stilts dramatically. Every pair who did well made a garment that could fit a person of normal height. This, in fact, is the praise Michael Kors gave the winning garment, the red outfit by Anthony Ryan and Laura.

Remember Season 4's Chris March? Remember Season 6's wedding dress redo? Remember Season 5's drag queen challenge? Don't make every outfit so safe it looks like it came off the Macy's sale rack. Have some fun. Play a little, "Project Runway."

This week's winner is Laura, who will have immunity next week. And to what seems to be her relief, Fallene is out.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: The winning stiltwalker design. Credit: Lifetime