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Multiple zippers don’t equal a win on ‘Runway’

When the designers have to complement their best looks, it becomes clear who shouldn't still be there.
/ Source: Entertainment Weekly

If all season Irina has been getting the “Bitch Edit” (as Nicolas so humorously claimed in the latest episode of “Project Runway” Talk), then last night, Logan got the Loser Edit. At the top of the hour, he proclaimed the time had come for everyone to “step outside our comfort zones.” It’s 11 weeks in. Six of you are left. Um, yeah — now’d be a good time to step it up.

Then, when Heidi unveiled the challenge — each designer had to create a companion piece to compliment and enhance his or her best look — guess who was the only one who didn’t have a winning garment? Yep. Mr. Pretty Boy. And finally, the sound bite de résistance, offered by Logan himself: “My chances to get to Bryant Park are good, just because I’m showing a different point of view.” Riiiight. And I’m going to win the Pulitzer Prize for filling my TV recaps with random references to Siouxsie and the Banshees. (Happy Halloween, all!)

The episode kicked off with the usual musings on who’s still standing, and we got a glimpse of the gals enjoying a morning gab about their dominance this season. (Love those blue hair rollers, Althea!) Once Carol Hannah and Althea had successfully coordinated their twin belts — red and silver leather, respectively — the designers trooped on over to FIDM, where they turned their backs to the runway until Heidi gave them the OK to turn around. Since Logan was the only one without a win under his belt, the producers chose his silver-gray gown from the very first challenge. Have we ever been given a clearer illustration of Logan’s lack of ability than this? After week one, it was one long slide downhill.

Off to Mood they went, with $100. For the zillionth time, Christopher gassed on with false confidence, vowing that this would be the challenge in which he’d redeem himself. He talked about his strength in gowns... while sketching what looked like a Bratz doll swaddled in Christmas popcorn garlands. He proclaimed, “I’m gonna go big. I’m gonna go huge!”... while purchasing 30 yards of lining. Later, he said, “I think when my garment walks down the runway, they’re going to look at it and go, that’s a Christopher piece.” Yes, a Christopher piece... of crap.

Carol Hannah’s nerves were more than a little frayed last night. She expressed concern that she hadn’t showed the judges anything but dresses so far. And at Mood, she fretted about whether she should bite the bullet and go for separates. Tellingly, Tim gave her this advice: avoid the pants, stay in your comfort zone, and within that zone, knock it out the damn park. A few minutes later, when Carol Hannah was confounded before her dress form, Tim helped her out again, encouraging her to layer the black and blue-green chiffon. I wonder: Has Tim ever been this generous with the wisdom in seasons past? I think not — because there’s never been a cast so in need of his assistance.

Back in the workroom, Gordana observed that the tension had risen to new heights. “Everybody’s nervous,” she explained. Nervous and, in the case of Logan, maybe a little too eager to play head games? “They look like Malvin’s pants,” he told Althea, referring to the chicken-thigh fiasco that got the eggs-eptionally eccentric designer auf’d in week two. When Althea bristled at this comparison, he dismissed her with a curt “Don’t be so sensitive.” Obviously Logan is not familiar with the adage hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by a pretty boy hack who thinks suspenders epitomize Hollywood chic and who should have been ousted weeks ago but has been skating by because Heidi thinks he’s cute and the judging has been totally whackadoodle this season. Eh-hem.

Soon after Logan uttered those words, it was on between him and Althea! She was “annoyed” that he’d fashioned a collar out of zippers — exactly what she’d done for the Bob Mackie/Christina Aguilera challenge. Soon, she launched into a full-on runway rage. Eating lunch with Irina, she hissed, “What the f--- with Logan? How uncreative are you that you have to steal ideas from people? I hate Logan.” And it didn’t end there. “I’m so pissed,” she said. “He’s never had one look that’s been in the top three, not one, and now he’s stealing ideas?” She was still ranting when Tanisha came for her fitting: “He thinks because he’s, like, cute, he can do whatever the f--- he wants.” I especially enjoyed the invisible air quotes she conveyed when she spat out the word cute with particular disdain.

Except for Gordana “I’m gonna kick your ass! You want to see me in action, girl?” Gehlhausen, who was forging ahead on a path to Dowdy with a Chance of S---balls, the ladies all seemed to be on solid footing in the workroom. (Though Tim did warn Althea about the Pampers effect of her trousers. Loaded diaper alert!)

The boys, on the other hand, might as well have been sewing with blindfolds over their eyes, plugs in their ears, and both hands tied behind their back. And perhaps a few ounces of psychedelic drugs in their system as well, 'cause the results couldn’t have been any worse. By the time Tim arrived at Christopher’s workstation, he had transformed that two-dimensional Bratz cartoon into a three-dimensional jumble of meringue that was far too reminiscent of his overrated film genre gown. Tim warned that it was skewing old, but of course these comments fell on deaf (or plugged up?) ears. With characteristic cluelessness, Christopher announced: “I’ve been battered a couple of times by the judges. But I keep making it to the next round. I’m meant to be here.” Oh, Christopher. Your delusion is on par with John Cleese’s dismembered Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Your hemorrhaging ego? “It’s just a flesh wound!”

As you all know, I’ve been pretty hard on Irina around here. Last night, however, I found myself applauding her for her funny assessment of Chrissy’s gown of balled-up craptacularness: “Christopher’s dress? What are you going to say about it, other than why is one dress is throwing up the other?” Ha! Then she was back to her “Mean-a Irina” ways, repeating the tired ole not-here-to-make-friends proclamation and explaining that, much like Lola, whatever Irina wants, Irina gets. And when she does, she never looks back. Machiavelli, meet your disciple in all ends justifying all means, Ms. Irina Shabayeva.

Perhaps it was the result of rank craft services food, but there was something vicious in the workroom air last night. Althea, who has refrained from excessive trash-talking all season, let loose, lumping Gordana in with the Tool Club for Men and even going after her sister in wraparound leather belts, Carol Hannah. “When is she not gonna do a dress?” Althea wondered. “I’m really surprised the judges haven’t labeled her a one-trick pony.”

We also had a domino effect of cheating accusations: Althea versus Logan in Zippergate, and Irina versus Althea in Sweatergate. “Are you insane? Are you drunk?” Irina fumed in the confessional, convinced that Althea had swiped her chunky sweater design. Now, it’s true that Althea’s knit did recall Irina’s ski-bunny sweater from last week, but let’s not get carried away here, kids. It’s not as if Irina invented these things. So, uh, settle down, lady.

Soon it was time for the runway show, and by then, it was so abundantly clear who had soared and who had tanked that I felt about as much suspense as I do when I open a can of fresh, juicy cat food and wonder if Miko and Lilu will come a-runnin’. (Duh. They do.) The gulf between the good, the bad and the fugly was epic. There was just no contest.

Let’s start with the good. Carol Hannah produced a lovely black dress with a flattering, swishy skirt and a detailed (albeit loose-on-the-boobs) bodice. Guest judge Kerry Washington loooved the pockets, and the adorable Nick Verreos — hollah for the season two alum! — said the whole look reminded him of Ava Gardner. I agree the frock was perfectly pretty, but sheesh... that’s it? Did Tim not tell Carol Hannah that it was acceptable to stay in her comfort zone, but only if she did something “über-creative”? In any case, her design was solid enough to move on to the next round. And big picture, that’s the way it should be.

Dueling for the top spot were none other than the ladies of Sweatergate. At first, Irina and Althea seemed to be on equal footing, both benefiting from ample amounts of praise. Nick imagined Irina’s brown brocade dress and sweater (also brown!) on a “former Russian model who just married a millionaire.” And of course Heidi marveled at how expensive it looked, even though it cost just $100. (I love you Heidi, but you really need to get yourself some new go-to comments.)

Hawk-eyed Nina threw a wrench in the mix: She was not a fan of the skin-tight, “cheap” brocade dress. Well, lookie here. Irina is not universally loved. This wasn’t exactly the teardown that Logan had been hoping for, but it sure wasn’t what the super-confident gal was expecting to hear, either. The best part was that Nina was right. Irina’s intricate fabric was lovely, but those beige side panels were mighty unfortunate. And what is up with Irina’s obsession with chestnut hues? What, is she not physically capable of shopping anywhere but the B.S.B. department? (That’s baby s--- brown, by the way — not, for the love of gawd, the Backstreet Boys!) And for that matter, why do any of these designers have against vibrant colors?!

As for Althea, Heidi was practically drooling over her paper bag–waist trousers ensemble. “I want it. I love the pants. Fabulous,” she said, with a hungry glint in her eyes. (Easy, Klum. Eeeasy.) Nina loved the proportions, Kerry loved the cozy, architectural flair, and Irina was not happy about any of it. She tried to start a rumble by bringing up Sweatergate, but Nick brushed it off with a simple “sometimes that happens.” By then, it was clear that the tide had turned in Althea’s favor. Stick a feather in her cap, 'cause Althea won this one, beyotches!

And now for the vomitous. After greeting Christopher’s puffball of shiny hideousness with an eyebrow raised in disgust, Nina called the thing “so bottom-heavy, it almost looks like she’s a carnival float.” (“Terrible, terrible!” she later wailed.) Kerry wondered if there were “children hiding underneath” it. (Good one!) What with those silly and oddly placed appliqués, the thing was a head-to-toe failure. Buuuut it wasn’t quite grotesque enough to land Christopher in the bottom two. And that is saying something.

Much as I’m fed up with Christopher, the judges were right to reserve the Circle of Hell for Gordana and Logan. Gordana’s frump fest was so appalling, I all but shielded my eyes from the sight of it, for fear of fashion infection. Her misshapen gray blazer (extra-long! extra unflattering!) was tired and sloppy, like she pulled it straight from the 1983 Kmart Office Temp Collection. (Did Kathy Ireland design that one?) Nick’s description was apt: “It looks like an office worker in Warsaw, Poland.” The look was depressing dressing to the max. And it was only because Mr. Pretty Boy sucked even harder that she got to stick around another week.

“Shameful mishmash” is what I scribbled down as Logan’s extravaganza of zipperific Nosferatu collaring hit the runway. Not even Kerry could refrain from laughing out loud as Logan attempted to defend his latest s---show by claiming it was a “pow, wow piece... I know it’s on the brink of costume...” blah, blah, blah, and then some in-his-dreams nonsense about Pink wearing it to the VMA’s. Nick said it was “a little Judy Jetson,” which wasn’t really fair, given George’s daughter’s eye for intergalactic color. (Eep opp ork ah-ah!) Later, during the private judging session, Kerry got the giggles again, Nick sighed, and Nina grimaced. Señora Don’t Bore Me called it “an indulgent fashion student project,” but it was giggly Kerry who offered the best sound bite: “You know those lizards, when they’re trying to scare you, their necks pop out?” Thank you, Kerry. With Sir Quips A Lot gone this week (grr!), you brought the funny.

And with that, Logan went bye-bye.

I must say, I was put off by the baffling lack of self-awareness that Logan displayed post-elimination. First he said, “I’m surprised that I’m going home for taking a risk and showing them something that’s innovative and kind of out there.” By “kind of out there,” did he mean: the dumpster on the farthest corner of Five Mile Island? Then, in his typically dead-eyed monotone, he finished with a most unattractive flourish of elitism: “I’m not a designer for Middle America or 90 percent of the population.” WOW. Best of luck making a living as a designer with that attitude, dude.

What did you think? Am I being too harsh on Logan? (Nah.) What did you think of Gordana’s sob-light backstory about growing up in Serbia? (Funny that they don’t do more of those bio snippets anymore, huh?) Is there any possibility that the final three will not be Althea, Carol Hannah and Irina? And is there any way in hell that Irina isn’t going to win this thing?

Sound off... after you check out Nicolas on “PR” Talk, of course. And stay tuned for the forthcoming chat with Logan.