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Episode 12: The Trouble With Avant-Garde

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Welcome to Week Twelve of Project Runway. This is the episode where the producers tell us who will get to show collections at Fashion Week. It's also the episode where we pretend that all of the top nine designers didn't already show collections or decoy collections at Fashion Week.

The challenge this week is to not get bogged down in product endorsements—er—make that to create an avant-garde look inspired L'Oreal Paris's new limited edition Electric Fantasy line of makes-ups and by the OHEKA Castle in Long Island. We find the term "castle" interesting, because we weren't aware that Long Island had a history of aristocracy. This former estate/military school/retreat for sanitation workers is now a hotel and wedding venue. It's Long Island's version of Downton Abbey.

Every time Project Runway has an avant-garde challenge, the designers are initially really excited—they think it means they can do anything. But then they get to the workroom and have no clue what actually makes a garment avant-garde. This happens again on this episode, and it's crystallized after Tim Gunn comes into the workroom and trashes many of the pieces for being too costumey. Note to future Runway designers: The definition of avant-garde is not "ugly and weird."


Joining judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia is our guest judge for the week, co-founder of fashion site myfdb.com, actress Zoe Saldana. We're not usually a fan of actresses judging, but Zoe is sharp and her feedback is really insightful—although she does seem a bit fixated on the designs' breast coverage. Thank goodness the designers didn't know the Avatar star was going to be their guest judge. One of them might have decided it would be avant-garde to make their garment and their model blue.


Our winner this week, is Dmitri, with another expertly tailored suit. We don't love this as much as some of Dmitri's non-winning designs. The Joan Crawford shoulders make his model look a bit like a box. And we agree with the judges who didn't like its free floating collar. Zoe says it looks very Chippendales' dancer, but we thought it looked more Hanna Barbera. Either way, we're just happy that the witty and talented Professor Snape is moving on to Fashion Week.


In second place is Melissa, who once again proves she doesn't just do black, with a long black and white patterned skirt, complete with train, a slit and orange lining. She pairs it with a black and orange top and an aqua leather vest—which shockingly has yet another high collar. All the judges except for Heidi love it, so she too will be making a Fashion Week collection.


This week, Christopher is safe in the middle. But after four wins, he would have really had to mess up to not get to make a Fashion Week collection. His Gothic feathered, corseted, beaded, funereal dress looked somewhat Black Swan-esque, with the exception of the overly padded hips—no ballerina would ever look that wide.


Fabio is in our bottom two. Three of the judges are crazy about his outfit's burgundy flippable coat, although Nina only likes it once he turns it upside-down. We're thinking that in past seasons, a lot of other Project Runway designers should have tried turning their clothes upside-down too. It might have helped. Like Melissa, Fabio gets to move on to Fashion Week, despite Heidi disliking his outfit.


Unfortunately, this week Sonjia gets "aufed." While we weren't crazy about her Jolly Green Giant's wife goes to an award show gown, which Michael Kors thinks looks more "Nancy Kerrigan went through a banquet hall," she did have to create it after accidentally leaving the majority of her fabric at Mood. The judges say they don't think she has a fashion point of view, which makes us ask, "Then why did you give her three wins this season?"

According to the previews, next week we learn that only three of the four designers will get to actually show their collections at Fashion Week. We're betting on Melissa landing in the top three. Remember it's Lifetime, they're going to have at least one woman.

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