After each episode of Project Runway's seventh season, a gaggle of Slatesters gather to dish about the show. This week the challenge was to create an unconventional look from hardware materials, along with an accessory to complement and enhance the look. Jay Nicolas Sario was the winner; Jesse LeNoir was sent home.
June Thomas: Well, we got the challenge we had been wanting, something with unconventional materials that really pushed the designers to be creative ... but I can't say that I enjoyed it. Perhaps because I feel cheated about the elimination.
David Plotz: That was a travesty. I don't see how they could possibly allow Emilio to continue after that obscenity of a bikini . Nina obviously saved him, but why?
Hanna Rosin: Well unfortunately you can't kick people out for mild dishonesty or unpleasantness. If Emilio had only said: Well, I had this idea, and it didn't quite come together, so I rigged up this Valley of the Dolls slutsuit—in other words, if Emilio had been Anthony—we would have forgiven him. But instead he pretended that he had planned it that way all along.
What I found most unappealing about him is that he is one of those fashion snobs who insists on "sophistication."
DP: I was so moved by Anthony's corny, but totally apt, remark about Emilio's horror: "One thing that never goes out of style is making a woman look like a lady." This is why Anthony will be going home in the next two weeks, but it is a wonderfully humane sentiment, and it did capture the fundamental vileness of Emilio's look, which is that it was prurient trickery, trying to disguise its incompetence and lack of innovation with pure sluttiness. And that's why he should have gone.
HR: David, one nice thing about this season is how Anthony always comes through (as a personality, not as a designer). He walks that edge of being a gay mama's boy front-pew Georgia cliché, but then he always tips back into the genuine.
JT: I didn't feel like the judges were playing fair this week. Although I never expected Jesse to get very far, he has surprised me in the last few weeks by turning out some genuinely creative looks. Jesse's outfit had an interesting shape and a couple of nice touches. Emilio's ensemble was indecent. I couldn't bring myself to examine it too closely for fear of seeing the model's lady bits. Jesse was sent home because the judges didn't like that his clothes looked like hardware, but Emilio's washers and bolts? What were they but hardware? (And what was Emilio's accessory? As far as I could tell, other than a bolt on a string around her wrist, there was nothing to Emilio's look but a skimpy swimsuit.)
HR: But, June, other than that belted lady noir look from the kid challenge, what memorable thing has Jesse produced? He was one of the buzzed-about contestants before this season started, the Thurston Howell of the bunch. And he pretty much faded into the background. I do have the sense that Emilio—despite this hardware breakdown—is the more evolved designer.
JT: I've not been a fan of Jesse's—he was often unlikable. His pre-series buzz was that he didn't really belong—he was someone who wanted to be on a reality show rather than someone who wanted to be in fashion. Other than the Madeleine dress for the kids challenge and a couple of things that you saw only if you slowed down the super-fast runway shows, he was definitely middle of the pack. You're right that Emilio has a much better chance of being a real designer. All that said, I still think that Emilio should not be on the show after what he sent down the runway tonight. We know that contestants get booted from Project Runway for one bad garment. And that was a very bad garment.
DP: As always, the unusual materials challenge brought out the best in the best designers. Amy could easily have been a fourth finalist with her dignified sandpaper dress . (If Mila's skill is color blocking, whatever that is, Amy's is clearly building texture with layering—sedimentary dresses.) Jay's trash bags were gorgeous. Maya's necklace was the coolest thing I've ever seen. And even Jonathan and Ben made their copper beautiful.
JT: Jay's garbage-bags-to-leather trick was all the more miraculous because, as Heidi said, we've seen it tried before. In Season 5, Stella almost went home early because she couldn't work magic on trash bags. Jay did, though, and I loved seeing him make the fit work. (And what a sound bite his model provided when she told him, "If you need me to Crisco, I will.") Tonight, Jay solved a problem, and Emilio most certainly did not.
HR: Fashion-wise, I thought this was the highlight for this season. Jay's faux-leather outfit was amazing. Mila's kicky skirt was awesome. And I'll eat my hat if they don't start selling key necklaces on the streets of midtown Manhattan this summer.
JT: Tonight I was glad I didn't have to choose a winner: I loved all the top three designs, and I agree that Amy's sandpaper-and-grommets creation was gorgeous. She has a gift for finding subtly beautiful color combinations. (She does seem incapable of designing a garment with an even hem, however.) I also liked Maya's look—and I hate that she didn't get any perceptible reward for her fabulous accessory, a part of the challenge that was important enough that they put a jewelry designer on the judging panel ... until it didn't suit the storyline, and they forget all about it. Mila's dress felt costumey to me—at least in the bodice—and it was obvious that it was made of hardware store materials, but the skirt had fabulous movement. Her accessory was a joke, though. That wasn't a cuff. That was a tag stuck around her model's wrist.
HR: So disagree about the cuff. What a witty idea, to turn a mini metal sign into a bracelet. The key necklace was more beautiful, but the cuff showed a rare flash of humor.
JT: I admit that the color scheme was right. I guess I'm feeling a bit burned by the whole accessory challenge. We didn't even see most of the designers' accessories. What was Jay's? His braided belt?
DP: I have been watching American Idol for the past couple of weeks, and one striking difference between the two shows—which are in some ways very similar in their respect for virtuosity and hard work—is how obviously intelligent (in a verbal, smarty-pants way) the Project Runway contestants are. We heard so much witty cross talk this week—Anthony's quip, Emilio and Jonathan's riff on everyone being in the bottom 10, Jonathan and Amy joking about copper. PR contestants would make great dinner party guests, in part, I suppose, because so much of fashion is being able to tell a story about fashion.
HR: That's a great observation, David. I think it also has to do with the kinds of people who go into fashion and the kinds who become singers. Fashion people tend to have spent their adolescence as outsiders and oddballs—gay boy in an oversized family hiding in the closet sketching; girl who spends too much time alone in her room making collages. Singers, meanwhile, are the opposite types—showy, center of attention, popular, or at least desperate-to-be-popular types.
DP: You guys have not taken my question! Why did Nina save Emilio? What did she see there?
JT: I think Hanna is right that Emilio has done more in previous weeks (though not in the last two or three) to show that he has what it takes to make it in fashion. It cannot have been anything in tonight's design. Yes, the styling was bold, but that's because it was a smoke screen.
DP: If by "have what it takes to make it in fashion" you mean saying vicious things about fellow competitors, bragging unjustifiably about his own talent, and brazenly lying, I guess you're right.
HR: I also think Nina was seeing something there. Jesse pulled the oldest trick in the Project Runway book—throw out the word futuristic to explain away the Tin Man. Emilio's was indecent—and he was indecently humorless and dishonest about it—but it does take some kind of eye to combine aluminum washers with hot pink string.
But before I come close to defending Emilio, I want to remind us all that he described that look as "strong and sexy." That was really his final crime. Barbie and the Valley of the Dolls are many things, but strong and sexy are not among them.