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'Project Runway' recap: Avant-what?

September 2, 2011 |  8:16 am


The designers are partnered with art students ages 11 to 17 from the Harlem School of the Arts. These are talented painters and their partnership with the designers is supposed to inspire an avant-garde look. But not all the designers are inspired by the young people and their gifts.

"I"m never having kids," Josh M. whines. "Oh my lord of the rings."

I think he means "Lord of the Flies."

Unless he's talking about Josh C.'s outfit, which starts out a faithful rendition of a wolf painting, fake fur included, and then after losing the fake fur winds up looking like some lusty barmaid from Middle-Earth.

Snarkiness and poor choices aside, this is the episode where the contestants are humanized by tragedy. Bert lets the workroom know he's widowed -- he lost his partner to AIDS, and had some bad years after, and the other contestants start warming to him. "I secretly like Bert's outfit," Viktor says. Josh M. tells us that his mother died of cancer, and then he paints her initials on his neoprene faux tree-trunk skirt.

For avant-garde, the designs are oddly tepid. Promising Olivier, who tells us at Mood, "I have selected quite a lot of chiffon," seems to be crashing: His asymmetrical bodice has some good detail, but he barely manages to turn it into a dress. A black dress from Becky gets green boxes attached to the shoulder. Laura's design is peach and pretty, but is it avant-garde or prom?

The judges this time include Zana Roberts Rossi instead of Nina Garcia and guest judge Kenneth Cole; they send some of the more interesting designs off the runway, neither top nor bottom. Bryce's orange straitjacket top with long navy skirt: safe. Anya's patterned, slit-open bubble skirt with feather-edged halter: safe. 

Then there's Bert. His high-waisted pillow fight on crack stays on the runway. Backstage, the other designers can't figure out if he's going to be in the top or bottom (it's the bottom). Josh M.'s artificial-meets-nature orange-textured top with tree-trunk-like skirt gets demerits for its wild styling, and it doesn't come out on top.

Anthony Ryan's pretty long nude dress with paint-stroke-inspired appliques wins the avant-garde challenge, never mind that it's not particularly avant-garde. That's OK. It's hard not to like Anthony Ryan.

The loser's outfit, as the judges described it. Michael Kors: "A Victorian cocktail waitress in Las Vegas." Heidi Klum: "First thing I was thinking: I'm going to be a hooker for Halloween!" That means Josh C., for the second time this season, is out.


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Previously on 'Project Runway'...

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: From left to right, designs by Anthony Ryan, Bert and Josh C. Credit: MyLifetimeTV