Project Runway: Go for the Gold ... Sequin
November 13, 2021 3:46 AM - Season 19, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Figure skating icons Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir steal the spotlight for this celebrity client challenge. This charismatic duo known for their savage takes and outlandish fashion have come to Project Runway for one reason - they need looks for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. The designers will compete in pairs and the winning looks will be worn by Tara and Johnny in front of a global audience live in primetime from the Olympics. (imdb) Spoilers inside

The episode started with a few minutes of the designers in their townhouse, where we learned that Sabrina suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which she was diagnosed with as a child. A friend's daughter (aged 17) has had RA since childhood, so I know from seeing her how very debilitating this is when it flares up. In her THs (where she was wearing a top that looked as if it was made of coloured napkins tucked under her chin, ready for a messy dinner), Sabrina talked about her struggles with the disease and the pain she was in.

Back on the runway, pre-challenge, Aaron knew instantly from the silhouettes who the clients were and was dizzy with excitement. He is a major ice-skating fanboy, and his off-the-scale reaction more than made up for the lack of enthusiasm from the other designers.

It turned out that he wasn't the only skater fanboy on the runway. We learned during judging that Brandon was also giddy about this challenge, and had the same kind of memories as Aaron shared about growing up watching men's figure skating. I totally get it. This is probably the only sport in the world where men are allowed and encouraged to be creative, artistic and flamboyant, do it all wearing fabulous costumes and be hailed as sporting heroes when they win. What an inspiration to boys growing up in small, conservative towns and villages all over the world with limited exposure to real-life role models.

Tara and Johnny passed out cards "at random" (I wonder?) putting the designers into pairs, one of whom would have to design for Tara, the other for Johnny. There were multiple factors the designers had to take into account. Tara is only 5ft 1in tall, so needed something that wouldn't swamp her. She and Johnny would mostly be shown on TV from the waist up, which meant that the top half of the garments should be interesting. Johnny explained that they are often in a small commentary booth, and so the outfits mustn't swamp either one of them or compete with one another. This was also a one-day challenge. One of the designers from the top pair would be the winner, and one from the bottom pair would be out. The pairings were:

Anna & Bones
Chasity & Zayden
Coral & Kristina
Shantall & Aaron
Octavio & Katie
Prajje & Sabrina

When Octavio realised he was paired with Katie, he looked as if he was about to throw up, and I confess I LOL'd at the expression on his face. Prajje, too, was unhappy about being paired with Sabrina, and from the start was criticising her design when he really ought to have been concentrating on his own.

Some of the designers had never made menswear before, and many of them struggled to design something that wouldn't fight with their partner's outfit, yet still maintained their aesthetic. Predictably, Octavio and Katie struggled the most with this. Octavio hated everything Katie was doing, and Katie's lack of experience meant that she let Octavio dominate (even bully) her into changing everything about her dress that had her stamp on it. We learned a little bit more about Katie, who was uncomfortable with her garment being too revealing. She explained that, as a Latter-Day Saint, she prefers modest clothing. But I think she could have made something that was much more flattering and which met her aesthetic using the fabric she put into the skirt (which wasn't awful, it was a sort of metallic purple stripe).

Their finished outfits of a huge ruffled purple metallic jacket with an organza t-shirt underneath it and a blah black bustier with a big, baggy skirt were awful, and justifiably landed them in the bottom. Octavio then tried to throw Katie under the bus in front of the judges, who, rightly, called him out on his horrible ruffled pouffey jacket. I started to dislike Octavio this week. He will need to redeem himself with me.

Aaron was worried that Shantall (who won immunity last week) might dial it in and thus put him in danger, but his fears soon dissipated when he realised she also wanted to win. Aaron's suit for Johnny was wonderful, but Shantall's asymmetric short dress had a very plunging neckline with little straps, which the judges didn't think would look great on TV if all you saw was from the waist up. Aaron wanted to use as his inspiration Tara's royal blue and silver dress that she wore when she won the Olympics, but toned down. Their colour palette - navy and black - was quite muted, but I think in close-up in a commentary booth, Johnny would have looked fantastic in it. I think if they'd gone brighter, it might have come over as costumey.

And speaking of costumes, Sabrina made a red and gold matador outfit for Johnny. It was terrible. Prajje, who obviously hated this challenge, made a baggy metallic dress in a totally different shade of gold, with a huge bow on one shoulder and his model was carrying a small clutch purse. Brandon said she looked as if she was going to a wedding at a suburban mall (ouch!). Both outfits were terrible and didn't meet the brief at all.

Kristina also made a baggy gold dress, which Christian had already warned her about during the critique, reminding her that Tara is tiny. I think Coral's smart black suit with a gold top and her signature macrame detailing is what saved them from the bottom, because that dress was just awful. We've not seen much of Coral at all, she's not really registered with me much because she's always been safe. I expect before long she'll be featured, as more people leave.

Chasity and Zayden worked well together, but I didn't like their outfits. Chasity's dress featured a strange hemline that probably wouldn't have been very comfortable for Tara to sit in for too long, and the top, if only seen from the waist up, would have looked like a skater costume on TV. Zayden's suit almost tipped the scale into costume. But both were safe.

Bones sensibly let Anna take the lead on their partnership. Because the outfit would be worn in Beijing - and Anna is Chinese - she really, really wanted to win. They had a bit of a meltdown when they realised they'd lost some fabric (I wasn't entirely sure what had happened there, as we saw in flashback that Bones had added it to the basket), but they collaborated well and made it work with the fabric they already had.

They decided on an 'ice' theme, and so their outfits were predominantly white, with a soft cream for the top Bones made for Johnny. Anna's dress was stunning, a simple silhouette with a plunging v-neckline, covered with a beautiful, shimmering beaded fringe. For Johnny, Bones made silver-white pants, an organza top that was cut beautifully and a fairly unsuccessful little vest with mirrors on, that everyone rightly said looked crafty. Johnny said he would go 'full nipple' and wear just the organza top without the vest. Anna was the winner, which was totally the correct choice, her model looked gorgeous.

Prajje was furious to be in the bottom, but ultimately it was Sabrina who was out. This was the right decision and I think that if she'd not been auf'd, she might well have decided to withdraw from the competition anyway, if not this week, then soon. We've seen in past seasons that PR takes its toll on contestants who are not physically or mentally robust. The whole season - other than the finale - is filmed over about four weeks, so it's back-to-back challenges, with long hours in the workroom and then extra filming for THs at the end of the working day. If you have any kind of impairment, when it's coupled with exhaustion and stress, it's going to be a whole lot worse. Last season Dayoung had to leave, after she contracted some kind of virus and - probably due to the schedule not allowing sufficient time for rest and recovery - just couldn't get over it. (That was a blow, I thought she was really talented.)

This week I was very happy for Aaron. I always worry when there's a focus on one designer - especially if the challenge is 'their' challenge - that it's the last we're going to see of them. So even though he didn't win, I shared his happiness at meeting one of his heroes. Brandon too, who had to fan himself with a scorecard when Johnny told him he'd worn Brandon Maxwell to an awards ceremony!

All this week's looks can be seen here.

Next week the designers are paired up again - this time with accessory designers for a collaboration. I foresee more drama...
posted by essexjan (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Octavio’s outfit was the worst of all. There’s a whole level of taste that he doesn’t have. In what small commentary box would that outfit have worked? He should have gone as well as Sabrina.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:40 AM on November 13, 2021

As you can imagine, I have Opinions but I have to go out in a minute. But summarizing, this was the worst challenge evah and they all should’ve been in the bottom.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:21 AM on November 13, 2021

Octavio's jacket was atrocious and he had some nerve bullying Katie, like Prajje had some nerve mistreating Sabrina. Aaron is becoming my favorite and I hope we see more from the people who have been safe week after week because I don't have any idea what they can do.
posted by ceejaytee at 8:36 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think Tara and Johnny should have been insulted because it was a one-day challenge. Total bullshit. I thought all the challenges have been two days so far? Some of these problems may have been solved but probably not Octavio. Yeah, I like him a bit less now.
posted by Glinn at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2021

It's so, so shallow of me, but I hate Octavio. I hate his stupid little red moustache and his godawful stupid hats. This week's was the worst of the lot so far. It looked like Keith Haring trying to make Jiffy Pop.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't like Katie's aesthetic, but even worse is the way she's being coddled by the show like her participation is a personal therapy session for her and her feelings about herself and her fledgling career. But she is just utterly unqualified to compete on this show. She feels out of her league because, uh, she literally has no experience as a designer.

Sabrina's not finalist material, but at this juncture I thought it was unfair that Katie got another chance and Sabrina was sent home. Two other designers who had stress breakdowns were afforded sympathy in the judging.
posted by desuetude at 9:37 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ugh. Octavio. What the hell was that thing? And good on the judges for calling him on his BS treatment of Katie.

I rarely say this about anything on PRW. I would wear Anna's dress.
posted by kathrynm at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2021

Oh my goodness, so many terrible takes. I didn't even think the winning look was all that amazing, the very visible lining at the hem is very unbecoming, to my eyes. It needed to somehow end differently. But no one cared about the bottom half so I guess? I loved the dramatic nipple-showcasing sheer shirt for Johnny more than I liked the white dress. In a sea of...well not even mediocrity, more like disasters, the better than average becomes the pinnacle. The winning looks were so nothing special. I know, I know...a one day challenge and here I am ragging on the clothes. The bedazzled vest was just....terrible. The thing that Katie was going to make before she made what she made was just...terrible. Everyone did terrible things and they should feel terrible about it. Please send Katie's actually an insult to people who care about designing clothes to have her there.
posted by the webmistress at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2021

Okay, this was a impossible challenge and the results were terrible. The set up: one flamboyant man and one petite woman. Must be cohesive. Must be colorful. TV hosts for a family friendly telecast. Cramped studio. Sitting for long periods of time. Background is white ice (?). Under hot lights in an otherwise cold arena. 2-person teams (no choice). One day challenge.

None of them fulfilled the brief. There's a reason that news announcers don't wear white shirts on camera. The winning dress, as lovely as it was, was for a bride on her second marriage. The $$$$ fabric did all the work. That plunging neckline won't play on the family hour; she'll have to sit ramrod straight and not move. Bones' translucent shirt, ditto.

The 2nd pair, blue and black. really? I couldn't make out the detail in Aaron's jacket and a skimpy slip dress?

Bottom, well I remember in the past Tim Gunn saving a couple designers that I didn't think were worth the effort or the judges coddling a designer week after week so it's a funny feeling being on the other side. The Katie/Octavio match up was poisonous but Sabrina's RA flare up gave them a convenient excuse to auf her.

When Christian announced the Siriano Save, I thought he might use it this week but what the judges should've done was line them all up and announce that all the entries were mediocre so no winners and no losers.

I forget what the challenge is for next week but I'm sure it will be Katie's swan song. It's just a shame she has to leave before Octavio.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:13 PM on November 14, 2021

Please, please send the clown hobo home. She doesn't even have the delusional nature that often kindly spares the in-over-their-head type from the agony of not being able to do the work (see: Darren). I don't like her work (though a few of the pieces she's worn herself have at least...made somewhat sense?) but that doesn't mean I enjoy watching her suffer.

The lack of professionalism on the losing teams was also pretty goddamned depressing. Not even a nod to team unity first, and, at least as edited, no circumstances that would really justify the immediate attacks on teammates. Prajje and Octavio should both be ashamed of themselves. I thought I hated everything last week because my aesthetic is anti-floral, but maybe not.

That vest was painful, but my opinion of Bones as a colleague did rise. He was very collaborative.
posted by praemunire at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2021

Oh yes and the imploring of the skaters and of Christian: give us color we love color omg colooooorrrrr

And then. They all shamelessly flip out over all white outfits.
posted by the webmistress at 8:01 PM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

The funny thing about that vest…Galliano just designed a wedding gown made from broken mirrors for a SF socialite/Getty spawn
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:11 PM on November 14, 2021

And I thought that looked terrible, too! Neither classically beautiful nor punk.
posted by praemunire at 9:06 PM on November 14, 2021

That plunging neckline won't play on the family hour; she'll have to sit ramrod straight and not move.

I believe women figure skaters, like gymnasts, are intimately familiar with the weird magic of double-sided tape/glue.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was thrilled to see Johnny and Tara on the show - they're so cool. Have they never been on Project Runway before? Missed opportunity, for sure.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:35 AM on November 15, 2021

I think the last "event commentator shot from waist up" they had on may have been the super-notorious Nancy-from-ET-chooses-Wendy-over-Austin-Scarlett debacle of the very first season. The designers struggled with some of the same issues then, too.
posted by praemunire at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2021

Just guessing, NOT a spoiler, is there an avant-garde challenge coming up? Looking at Katie’s insta today, she’s wearing a distinctive fabric we’ve seen in the opening sequence. So she’s on a redemption arc, survives another challenge and then gets voted off.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:26 AM on November 16, 2021

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