Welcome to Season 12 of Project Runway, a thirteen-week save haven for the 2% of reality TV fans not currently watching Aaryn The Wretched Racist set back society fifty years at a time over on Big Brother. Between this and America’s Got Talent, Heidi Klum fans are having the best week ever. Conversely, Seal is probably not watching much TV.
Lifetime promises this season will be “more dramatic than EVER,” which translates to “it will be mildly entertaining and you occasionally might want to rewind.” But just in case things tread near dreadfully boring, they’ve rigged drama into the season by designing a fan “vote” to bring back Season 11 Megabitch Kate.
This season’s contestants are notably cartoonish, to the point where each strongly resembles a Disney villain. One looks like Yzma. One looks like Cruella. One poor soul looks like Milo from Atlantis. Another misguided designer wore gigantic bird feather earrings as a secret ode to The Lion King.
Amid the furor of airplanes (get it? They’re on a runway), Tim Gunn’s mesmerizing, glowing face appears, followed by Mel B’s BFF Heidi Klum, dressed today as a cashier from The Foot Locker.
This year’s crop includes a former model turned art school graduate, rivaling Milwaukee designers who secretly can’t stand each other, a Broadway costumer who’s not fond of Mary Poppins, and a Russian who refers to himself as “dark” and could feasibly pass for a retired porn star. Just as we’re getting acquainted with a deaf contestant’s sign language interpreter who can never and will never compare to Marlee Matlin’s awesome tiny dude from The Celebrity Apprentice, a bunch of crazed people begin falling from the sky, delivering with them the material for the season’s first challenge: parachutes. And because this is reality TV, at least one contestant has a bizarre, inexplicable phobia of them. “I am completely terrified of working with parachute material,” says Ken. “I can deal with bugs and like, blood, and snakes, and s**t, but parachutes?!” complains Helen. (Season 13: dresses made out of blood. Yes.)
Strategies on constructing the nylon parachutes into something fashionable range from slicing to trimming to draping to undoing seams that shouldn’t be undone, and as expected, some contestants work efficiently while others are helpless and terrible – though perhaps none more than dreadlocked Sue Waller, who decides to make a gown featuring 600 pleats despite the fact she doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine. “You should know how to do this,” says Alexander. Meanwhile, “sustainable artist” Timothy prefers not to use electricity at all, so as to promote “Zero Impact Art,” a form of design similar to recycling, except it’s meant to protect unicorns from extinction. Expect a horn-boobed dress from him. You heard it here first. For now, he’s busy using a cigarette lighter (and thus, electricity) to burn his (plastic) fabric. He thinks it’s creating texture but it’s probably just creating smoke.
Or not! Tim Gunn is highly impressed by Timothy’s texture! As the models come in for the first fitting, Tim dives into an absurd charade, creating what he claims is an avant garde runway performance piece that involves – literally – the Virgin Mary sniffing her own armpits. Remember that whole life-imitates-art thing? Suddenly, Timothy gets so caught up in teaching his model how to properly look oppressed that he ends up oppressing her – first by hogging her time with over-rehearsing a thirty second runway walk, then by demanding that she wear no makeup or hair product. The horror!
All showered after work, with feathered hair and glowing cheeks, host Heidi Klum appears on the (actual) runway to introduce the prizes: fashion spread in Marie Claire, $100,000 fabric allowance, a styling contract with Belk,
a photoshoot with renowned photographer Gilles Bensimon, and perhaps the most fashionable prize of all: a year’s supply of bottled water. (No, seriously.) She is joined by the judges: fresh-faced Zac Posen, lemon-faced Nina Garcia, and embarrassed-that-the-world-saw-her-in-Movie–43-faced Kate Bosworth.
A few rules changes: this season, all runway shows will be anonymous – meaning the judges will not know whose garment they are evaluating. Also new is Tim Gunn’s Save: while Tim is not an official judge, if he disagrees with the judges’ elimination at any point, he has the power to veto their decision and send the eliminated contestant back into the competition. This can only happen once.
As is customary, the runway show is a mixed bag: some stunning gowns and pencil skirts are sprinkled in amid a gaggle of what can only be described as colorful garbage bags. When the dust settles, Heidi invites Timothy, Miranda, Sandro, Sue, Bradon and Angela to stay behind – all others are safe.
The judges are uniformly in favor of two looks: Sue’s sporty couture gown, and Bradon’s flowy string dress. They are particularly complimentary of Sue’s pleating work, citing its difficulty and clever placement. Miranda’s silhouette also strikes a good note with the judges, though they sour on it once they learned she only used 15% of her parachute. Not surprisingly, Sandro‘s gaudy, horrendous presentation and unnecessary cameltoe place him on the bottom, along with Timothy’s failed Virgin Mary concept, and Angela’s unfinished and uninspired raincoat. Timothy is instantly reprimanded for his choice to feature a model wearing neither makeup nor hair product. Zac points out that burning a synthetic fabric (and producing toxic fumes as a result) goes against Timothy’s philosophy of sustainability.
In the end, it’s Angela’s simplistic design that falls at the bottom of the chain – and thus, with a barely audible auf wiedersehen from Heidi, the “short haired blonde who looks like Peter Pan” becomes the first designer eliminated from the competition.
Next week: Jewels go bling, Sandro goes mad, and people are crying already – in other words, a regular Thursday. See you then!