Project Runway, Week 5: The Rag Trade Meets the Local Rag

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 18 2009 10:42 AM

Project Runway, Week 5: The Rag Trade Meets the Local Rag

Praise Prada, finally a slightly unconventional challenge. The contestants schlepped out to a Los Angeles Times printing facility so they could gather materials to "create a design using newspapers as fabric." (Doesn't the LAT deliver anymore?) Unfortunately, as has so often been the case this season, the assignment was maddeningly vague.

Irina won for a stunning trench coat with a faux fur collar and sleeves made from crumpled newsprint . Johnny was eliminated for a lazy, last-ditch effort that looked like a less-chic version of Lisa Simpson's shift dress.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 


Number of times Tim Gunn said, "Make it work!": One.

Number of crying contestants: One. Johnny bawled through his valedictory video.

Was Logan shown sans shirt? We barely glimpsed Logan, much less his bare chest.

This Week's Drama
During Tim's visit to the workroom, the magnificent mentor told Johnny (accurately) that his dress looked "like a craft project gone awry. It looks like a bunch of kindergartners did it." Johnny immediately consigned the dress to the recycling bin but later told his model that his first attempt had been ruined in a freak ironing accident, a lie he repeated several times, including on the runway, where another flight of fancy led him to describe his original creation as Dior-like. An eye roll from Nicolas led to an excruciating confrontation on the runway. When Tim bade Johnny a chilly farewell, he was clearly infuriated, telling the other designers, "I'm incredulous at that utterly preposterous spewing of fiction."

The Judges
Put out an orange alert: Where is Michael Kors? The top American designer was AWOL for the fourth consecutive week, and Nina Garcia sent in a sub for the second time in a row. It's hard to know whether these key judges' absence was caused by distance (their working lives are in New York, 3,000 miles from the runway) or contractual issues (Lifetime and Bravo were locked in a legal battle while this series was being filmed), but it's a problem. The rotating cast of judges has robbed the show of consistency. This week's panel consisted of designer Tommy Hilfiger, Marie Claire senior editor Zoe Glasser, and guest judge Eva Longoria Parker, who was classy and constructive. The rotating cast of characters must make it difficult for the designers to get a sense of what the judges are looking for.

Judging is always subjective, but some of this week's rankings seemed downright random. Gordana had a fully fleshed-out design concept: to use "unconventional fabric to make a conventional look." Instead of rewarding her vision, the judges dinged her for making a wearable dress that Heidi claimed to find boring. The fact that the garment was flawlessly constructed, had an interesting color story, and had no muslin infrastructure counted for naught, and Gordana ended up in the bottom three. Meanwhile, Althea's dress , which used a repeated image to create an architectural feel, was wildly overpraised. It had an appealing silhouette, but it was poorly fitted in the bodice, and muslin peeked out from under the hem. Despite her creativity and superior sewing skills, 45-year-old Gordana has twice been up for elimination . Is it crazy to blame ageism for her low scores?

The Results
Garment of the week:
Christopher's full, feathered skirt flowed beautifully--and offered a dramatic contrast to the stiff, armorlike bodice. While most of the models minced rather than strutted down the runway to protect the fragile fabric, his strode confidently.

Should Irina have won? I was hoping for a tie with Christopher, but Irina deserved her victory. The coat had that certain je ne sais quoi . As Tommy Hilfiger gushed, it was "Coco Chanel meets St. Laurent meets Givenchy in the '60s and '70s."

Should Johnny have been eliminated? Without a doubt. Still, it's fun to wonder if Tim would have intervened if Nicolas had instead received Heidi's Kuss of death.

Bold prediction for who'll be auf'd next: Nicolas. The longer he stays, the more imminent his departure becomes.

Previous Project Runway Recaps: Week 1 , Week 3 , Week 4

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