Season ten of Project Runway! Even Tim Gunn can't believe it. "I never thought it would go to season two!" Never change, Tim. Never change.
The two-and-a-half-hour event starts off with an hour-long casting special, which is pretty thankless for anyone who's spent time on Lifetime's website and is familiar with the cast already (and believe me, Lifetime's website is punishing enough all on its own). There are some notable moments: Lantie, who is a grown woman (48 years old) but still hopes there'll be a "pretty girl club"; Ven, who was inspired to design clothes by drawing the cover of the Beauty and the Beast VHS tape over and over as a child; and Fabio, who is a Brooklyn freegan. Here's hoping he shows up with a continental breakfast of garbage doughnuts for his cast mates!
After a quick flash-forward peek at the episode's challenge, the sixteen designers enter the workroom at Parsons and are greeted by looks they made at home with unlimited time and (presumably) an unlimited budget. Tim Gunn shows up to what seems like semi-subdued fanfare (one of the designers says he's "tired" when Tim asks how they're doing, and everyone knows the only correct sentiments in the presence of Tim Gunn are elated or terrified). He announces that they'll have a single day to create a companion look to the look they designed at home, and that they'll be showing both looks to the judges and thousands of onlookers in Times Square. The designers' responses make it clear that most of them have never actually been to Times Square.
I like this as a first challenge, mostly because it gives the designers a clear opportunity to showcase their skills and points of view right off the bat, rather than requiring them to, say, make a cocktail dress out of boxers or pleated pants out of hamster cage shavings. When you're judging people on the latter, you're judging their ability to put together a costume for their child the night before the school play, not their ability to envision and execute a wearable design. There's definitely a place for the wackier challenges, but it's not this early in the competition, so this marks a good course correction from last season — as does the fact that there are some very strong contenders in the mix this time. Consider me stoked.
Christopher gets the "everything's falling apart" edit — his sewing machine breaks! his bodice got ripped! he has so much to lose! —and, of course, this means he'll win the challenge. He gets in a few good rounds of bickering with Gunnar, too, and their arguments are hilarious because of the one-liners they generate ("He should be on Toddlers & Tiaras, not Project Runway. Wrong show," and, "It's not Project Obnoxious."), and also because Gunnar is desperate to get a reaction out of Christopher, who simply refuses to play along. Dmitry is established as the one who just wants to work quietly and mutter smack about his fellow designers; when trying to describe Buffi's personality and design aesthetic (loud and all over the place), he points out, "She is like … a diarrhea." Tim's visit to the workroom shows him interacting very, very briefly with all of the designers except for Kooan, who is the human, sentient equivalent of an animated GIF. Tim stares at Kooan's design for several seconds before finally saying, "Where's the dress part of it?" Meanwhile, it becomes clear right away that Beatrice's sewing skills aren't going to (ugh, no pun intended) cut it.
Side note: Am I alone in wanting live-streamed video from the designers' apartments in the style of The Glass House? I'm pretty sure I could watch 30 minutes a day of Christopher and Ven having pillow-talk time.
And then it's off to Times Square, where Lauren Graham and Patricia Field join Heidi, Nina, and Michael on the judges' panel. Nina is tamer than normal (either flawless Dolce & Gabbana brings out the best in all of us, or she's lying in wait), Michael is tan as ever, Patricia Field is apparently recovering from swallowing a box of thumbtacks the night before, and it appears that Lauren Graham is not allowed to speak without Heidi Klum's express approval. Maybe it was editing, but the way Heidi shut down Lauren's attempt at defending Beatrice, the sweet, hapless knits designer whose "sad" looks got her eliminated, was kind of shocking. And in the end, it was Christopher who triumphed over the adversity carefully edited into the show for him to win the challenge on the grounds of the long, intricate dress he'd made at home (even though the little black dress he made as his companion garment took a lot of heat for being little, black, and a dress).
One designer down, and off we go! Who are your favorites to make it to Fashion Week? Is anyone else hoping that each of the final five designers has to design a look for one of Heidi Klum's children?