Project Runway Season 8 Episode 12 Recap

We’re going to do things a little bit differently this week. Instead of the usual play-by-play recap, I’m going to give a brief recap and then focus primarily on the designers, their designs, and the decisions of the judges.

This is mostly because everything else that happened in this episode is so bloody annoyingly contrived by the producers that I find it nauseating to even think about recapping it, much less in an interesting way. Michael wonders ‘how he got here’ and is ‘pushing hard’ to get his spot. Gretchen used the ‘last drop of gas in her tank’ to get here and feels that ‘fashion week is the essence of why [she is] a designer’. April is really really ‘proud of herself’ and thinks it would be cool if she won since she is so young and has no experience. Andy thinks ‘it’s a crash course in finding out who you are’ and ‘its not a hobby.’ Mondo feels his personal journey is more important than the design…blah blah blah. I got so tired of all the ‘empathize with me’ yak that I just about yak-ed myself. Let just get to the fashion already!

The challenge for this episode was to draw inspiration from a NYC landmark for a design of their choice. They had a $500.00 budget and the better part of 2 days to complete it.

Although it is never really explained or emphasized, the Producers have apparently decided to formalize the whole ‘we can’t decide so we’re going to let you all go make collections and then crush your dreams after you have gotten so close’ process of the last few seasons. Seriously, come on. In Season 3, they sent all four remaining designers to fashion week. In season 4 they had Rami and Chris March compete for the final spot, in Season 5 they made all 4 designers create wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses as a final challenge to see who would go forward as the final 3, in season 6 they miraculously managed to choose a final 3 for once and then in Season 7 they did it again, asking Mila and Jay to compete for the final slot. Its one thing to do it the way they did in Seasons 3 and 4, where you didn’t see it coming. It’s a whole other thing to basically make it procedure that the competitors will face another elimination after they have already produced collections. It’s BORING. Its also boring listening to the designers talk about how badly they want to show at Fashion Week, when we know that the eliminated designers all the way back as far as Casanova got to show decoy collections. It really reduces the drama and tension when the eliminated designers get such a ‘prize.’

Anyway, moving on.

The designers are given some time to go and visit their landmarks before heading to Mood and Michael chooses the Statue of Liberty. April and Mondo choose the Brooklyn Bridge, but for different reasons. Andy chooses Central Park and Gretchen chooses the Lower East Side (which I don’t really understand as a ‘landmark’ but whatevs.)

There is minimal workroom drama. Gretchen babbles about the other designers as per usual. Mondo takes a nap. Mike C makes 2 dresses. Andy is designing for a Chinese Prostitute. Tim comes through and Gretchen gets all teary-eyed. Mike C starts working on a third piece and Andy and Gretchen speculate that he is either an idiot savante or just an idiot. April and Gretchen feel like they NEED to make it to Fashion week. Mondo observes that Gretchen is really really tired and her design shows it.

The guest judge for this challenge is Christian Siriano, winner of Season 4. Overall I am completely underwhelmed by all of the looks and I can’t believe that they each spent 500.00. In previous challenges, with less money almost all of these designers have produced work that looks way more expensive. If it is actually expensive and looks cheap, there is a problem. Judging is predictably confusing and the designers are also asked to name who they would take with them to fashion week and this leads to lots of tears both on the runway and in the lounge.

On to the fashion…


Inspired by NYC Garment: Michael C’s dress comes out first – its pretty, flowy and drapey, but seems very simple to me. Christian is unimpressed that he doesn’t’ know what the fabric is, but overall the judges praised this garment to the ends of the earth, even though it really wasn’t that exciting. It was pretty, but it was safe and shapeless and, yet again, didn’t show us anything new. I don’t think it was the bottom of the pack, but then again, no garment really stood out for me this challenge.


Michael C Portfolio


Over the Season: Even though I have been rooting for Michael C to make it to Fashion Week so he can stick it to the contestants who were so rude to him, I have to admit that his portfolio isn’t as sharp as some of the other designers. He is a dress man through and through and only made pants during the active-wear challenge. Although he made pretty, wearable pieces and he has won challenges, I don’t see an overall vision coming through. I see someone responding to each challenge but not someone who has a specific creative through-line that is visible throughout his work over the season. One advantage he has over some of the other designers is his use of color. Whether it always worked for him or not, he had one of the most diverse and colorful palettes of the season.


Inspired by NYC Garment: Gretchen’s look is totally strange. The skirt looks kind of home-ec-y with the leopard print and lace, the top is forgettable and the jacket looks like it is simultaneously trying too hard to be ‘funky’ and under-done. The judges are clearly unimpressed and Gretchen starts to crack on the runway when she is called out for making a bunch of sad, random garments that bear no relationship to her usual aesthetic. Christian calls her looks ‘off-the-rack.’


Gretchen Jones Portfolio


Over the Season: in my memory I thought Gretchen fared better overall in the season than she really did. She started out very strong with the judges, in the top or winning challenges and they loved her styling. I remember her saying something about raising the bar and now that I think about it, I think that what she did was raise the bar for herself too early. What goes up… etc. The unfortunate result is that she felt pressured to keep delivering top or winning garments week after week and instead exhausted herself while slowly slumping into mediocrity, repetition, and confusion about her aesthetic. From the team challenge onwards her work has been in steady decline in both creativity and in praise from the judges. The bonus for Gretchen is that no one else is doing what she is doing in the group. She is the only ‘bohemian, earthy’ designer and therefore she doesn’t have much competition in what she does. TLo posit that the drama between her and Mike C is what kept both of them in the game this long. Until I see next week’s episode, I won’t be convinced of that. So far, the eliminated designers all make sense to me (except for April) and their decoy collections only prove that they weren’t good enough to compete in the top 3.


Inspired by NYC Garment: Andy’s dress is nice, but not particularly memorable. The matte/shine effect is cool but not anything I haven’t already seen before – and not just from him. The judges were sort of alternately weeee! and meh about his dress this episode. I can see why. Although it was cool, there was nothing particularly fresh about it. It was predictable. It didn’t tell me anything new about Andy the designer and it didn’t make me curious about what kind of collection he would create. The judges also feel he has overdone his ‘warrior woman’ character over the season.


Andy South Portfolio


Over the Season: Looking at his portfolio over the season he has shown a real range – everything from pants and blouses, a bathing suit, shorts and sweatshirts to dresses and high-impact and exciting stuff. Andy has yo-yo’d from top to bottom seemingly each week so his collection could be a bit of a gamble. But we know the judges love someone who takes risks, even if they fail sometimes. I find myself a bit underwhelmed by his total portfolio. Although I really like a few pieces, there are so many misses for me that it doesn’t come out as strong as I expected it to.


Inspired by NYC Garment: April’s looks very April and I feel like it is really similar to a few other garments she has shown already… albeit with a bit of color added to it. The judges really had a problem with this look, although most of their problem with it seems to be that it is repetitive of things she has already done this season. I think they are overly harsh with her because even though its true – they have been praising her for it for the last 5 episodes. Looking only at this garment, in comparison with the others I don’t think she deserved the Auf.


April Johnston Portfolio


Over the Season: Looking at her body of work over the season, I can see immediately where the judges had concerns about the repetitive nature of her work. There is a lot of black, a lot of gauzy tops and tight bottoms and asymmetrical necklines/sleeves. In particular, the designs for the last 5 or 6 challenges have a lot of things in common. On the other hand, she has shown dresses, pants, tops, jackets and was in the top quite consistently since about mid-season. If the judges like her work on a week-to-week basis, then doesn’t that suggest she has the chops to pull a great collection out for Fashion Week?


Inspired by NYC Garment: Mondo’s dress is cute but my first reaction is that it looks a little matronly with the point in the neckline and the retro hair only helps that effect. Mkors and Nina praise Mondo for staying true to himself even without the use of color, but for the first time in a long time, I agree with Heidi. I expected more from him for the last challenge. It was intricately put together, but somehow still not a WOW garment. And it felt too reminiscent of things he has done before, especially the houndstooth and the black and white.


Mondo Guerra Portfolio


Over the Season: Of course Mondo would fare well. I don’t think any viewer out there would doubt he was going to make it to Fashion Week. He has won numerous challenges and been in the top or safe for every challenge except one. He has shown a diverse range of garments- pants, skirts, jackets, dresses, sweatshirts and even a bathing suit. His is one of the most exciting portfolios, both for color and for uniqueness of designs. Whether designing his own print or finding and combining others, he has a unique creative vision that usually goes over well with the judges. In addition he likes to take risks so his work often overshadows others simply because he is not afraid to do something a little wild, and most other designers play it safe.

In the end, I am disappointed that the judges chose to send April home. I think based on both the design for this challenge and the overall portfolios that Gretchen should have gone. Its unfortunate for her that her design voice got lost somewhere along the way, and I don’t think any viewer can ever really understand how difficult it would be to pump out unique and interesting design on a daily basis. I sympathize with her but the fact is that her designs and point of view were getting less and less focused and the other designer’s were getting stronger, even Michael C. It remains to be seen who will be eliminated after they send the designer’s home to work on their collections. Perhaps both Gretchen and Mike C will surprise us!