The designers weren’t the only ones acting like babies during last night’s episode of Project Runway.
Babies, you better work.
The challenge: Create a baby-sized look for Heidi’s “Truly Scrumptious” Babies R Us line. Bonus challenge: Make a companion look for the baby’s mom. Unnecessary gimmick: Hang out with a crying baby doll for half the episode.
Guest judge: Hilary Duff
The winners: Sonjia with her mini-man suit (boy baby look) and Christopher with his Sunday brunch getup (girl baby look).
The auf’d: We’ll miss you and your dramz, Elena, but your model did look she’d been at a “baby sample sale.”
Okay the dolls were a weird addition, but you have to admit this is CUTE.
Dress your family in crayons and denim
This episode opened with an early pearl of wisdom from child expert Dmitry. When informed that the designers would be making clothing for toddlers, he deadpanned, “It’s like making outfits for cats. Literally.” I was really curious to see how his hypothesis would play out, since I was struggling to see the connective thread (they wiggle? they can’t talk to you? they like bathing in the sun and chasing mice?). However, now having watched the episode, I’ve got to disagree. Making clothing for cats would be an exercise purely in whimsy. While the judges could not stop saying the “W” word during the runway show, they clearly also valued a balance with practicality. And there’s nothing practical about shoving a cat into a denim vest.
Let’s break it down: The two winners, Christopher and Sonjia, both kept in mind fun and logistics. Christopher’s design obviously erred more on the side of fancy, but you could imagine seeing kids in the world wearing both of those outfits and thinking, “What a cute get-up!” However, Dmitry’s crayon costume and Fabio’s artsy-craftsy sailor look both definitely fell entirely in the WHIMSY category (so maybe designing for cats and children ARE similar processes after all!). Having kids dress up as things or people other than kids is cute, I get it. But isn’t it a little weird? For just a regular kid’s clothing challenge? The judges, much to my surprise, didn’t care and, in fact, were charmed, so Dmitry’s race-car enthusiast red crayon was carried off the stage to sleep through another day. On the flip side, Elena and Melissa were criticized for essentially not having special enough outfits (or practical enough? Make up your minds, judges!). Which, sure, I guess. However, Melissa’s look was boring and SO UNREALISTIC FOR A CHILD. An all-white dress that is constantly riding up? What?! And in a move that convinced me that the judges truly do care about past performances, they kicked off Elena, joy of my heart, because her outfit looked like hand-me-downs. You know, those things that most kids (commoners) wear? Ugh, JUDGES!
As you can probably tell, I’m getting a bit tired of Melissa. I think I keep forgetting that she’s become sort of lackluster because of her early strong performance and her generally easygoing nature. However, girl’s got time management problems and hasn’t put out an eye-catching look since the workwear challenge. Please allow me one last Elena fangirl moment (*sniff*), since it bears pointing out: Elena is still leading the fan favorite vote with 42% (double that of the next runner up, Melissa). Also, here’s a Elena vs. Melissa fun fact: both attended San Francisco’s Academy of Art University and (unsurprisingly) Melissa was a campus It Girl, while Elena remained “stubborn but talented.” At least she’s consistent?
OH! The new All Stars cast has been announced and this is all that matters: Wendy Pepper and Joshua McKinley. On the same season. HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS! (Also, nice to see you back, Andre, Althea, Uli, and Anthony Ryan!)
Avant garde blah blah blah. WHO KNOWS WHAT THESE JUDGES WILL DO?! Since we’re given the impression that this is the last challenge before the designers are sent home to their tiny apartments to create a fashion week-worthy collection, I’m more interested in who’s in the final three than who is going to make the fanciest shmanciest gown. Sonjia should be a sure pick. Christopher, for better or for worst, has been on a winning streak. And Dmitry is just too good to not get there.
Is that a diaper on the head of Elena’s baby? Of course it is.
Look, I love babies. Babies are awesome. Babies are magic. This was a delightful challenge, once you got past the product-placementy Heidi-ness of it. And even though we all saw the make-an-outfit-for-mom add-on coming a mile away, that twist was refreshingly low-pressure and, with the exception of Chris’s client, low-drama.
So the whole robot-babies “surprise” was beyond dumb, and seemed more so every time Heidi or Tim tried to justify it. Oh really, Tim? The plastic infants are being given to designers “so that [they] can understand what goes into creating clothing for infants”? No. Shenanigans. Why not just say, “We are giving you these infernally squalling pieces of swaddled plastic because we WANT TO FUCK WITH YOU in front of millions of viewers.” Well, Tim would never say “fuck.” He’d say “We want to further destabilize your sense of place in the workroom by the introduction of controlled chaos. Oh, and they might need to pee.”
I’m all for good TV, and honestly, the sight of Fabio shushing his colicky fake baby and saying “My kid’s polite. He’s just going through something” went a long way toward making this gimmick palatable. But, in the end, it’s a design challenge, and the fake babies and the fake care they fakely demanded took away actual valuable time that the designers could have used to, frankly, make better shit. (I loved Sonjia’s suit, but that t-shirt underneath looked to be straight out of Casanova’s Deep V Collection.) Is there something to be said about the fact that literally none of the female contestants had a lick of maternal instinct for either their fake or real babies? No. Because they knew the gimmick was pointless bunk.
As usual, Boris and Natasha walked away with almost every one of the episode’s notable quotables. From Dmitry’s initial assessment of the baby challenge—”We’re all screwed. Those babies are really, really small. I’m not even sure how old they are, but I’m pretty sure they can’t talk. [Cut to sleeping babies.]”—to his estimation that Heidi has “105 babies,” his deadpan disinterest in the existence or well-being of future generations was pure comedy. Elena, who does not suffer fools gladly, suffers babies apparently even less, and robotic babies less still. “Her name is asshole,” she announced of her young charge. Yet another spinoff possibility for Lifetime: Baby Crazy, a reality show which follows Dmitry and Elena as they sit at an outdoor café and judge all the toddlers strolling by on a scale of “Eh, okay” to “I hate that stupid baby.” I would watch!
(Ed.’s note: I asked Andi to make a prediction and she said, “Meh. Fabio.” Wise words.)
Future hosts, Project Runway Season 32
Unlike Andi, I’m not a real baby person. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends’ kids, but I’m not one to say, squeal with delight when I see infants wearing adorable outfits on television. So I can only chalk up my reaction to this baby challenge (which was one of said squealing) to the pure entertainment value of a fashion judging show about babies. From a be-suited Tim Gunn looking sternly down on the floor at a be-suited toddler; to Dmitry’s desire to have the “coolest” baby model; to the sheer charisma of Jude, the Ryan Seacrest of the baby world (but with more personality); to Michael Kors’ accurate pronouncement that, “A baby doesn’t need a dress with ruching!”; this was one of the best episodes of the season. (I would absolutely watch the shit out of Baby Crazy, for what it’s worth.)
What is it about baby models? Yes, they’re cute, but so are adult models. I think it has more to do with the utter indifference of babies. They truly don’t care. The usual concerns—looking expensive, not being too “mother of the bride,” having a backstory that involves the phrase “day to night”—mean nothing to babies. I don’t know what was going through baby-girl-winner Nile’s head during this challenge, but much to her fashion-forward mother’s dismay, I bet it had more to do with putting her shoe in her mouth than it did looking spiffy at Sunday brunch. Considering the egos of these designers and judges, seeing a pint-sized model look them straight in the eye and take a crap in his freshly made nautical-but-not-too-nautical jumpsuit is comedy gold. Who knew?
I know I’ve already professed my newfound Dmitry love, but it continues to grow each week. I can’t believe I called him dour at the beginning of the season! He is a delight, and I’m super bummed that the Natasha to his Boris, Elena, will no longer be around. Not because she’s my fave designer (I’ll leave the Elena fandom to Annalee), but because I loved seeing Elena and Dmitry onscreen together. Congratulations, Eastern Europe! Your contestants are the best.
I love me an avant-garde challenge, but it’s happening too late in the season! Whither Ven with his giant rose pleats (I know, I know, but they actually make sense here), or Kooan, who would KILL an avant-garde look? Our remaining designers are just too restrained. That said, Christopher will probably do some gown that we will have to admit is pretty good even though he is kind of a pill.
The Gunn Show: As PR devotees know, this is Tim Gunn’s world and we just live in it. Each week we pick our favorite Gunn moment (tell us yours too!). This week it had to be when Tim was bidding farewell to Elena and said “What are we going to do all day everyday? F*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck f*ck” Though he doesn’t normally swear, Gunny Sack is willing to drop an F-Bomb when it feels right.