On ''Project Runway,'' when the designers are challenged to create looks out of recyclable materials, Michael shines, Alison flops, and Vincent somehow survives.
by Mark Harris
To understand what happened on the latest installment of Project Runway, it helps to begin at the end. The very end — specifically that little sentence that flashes by in the closing credits that says ''the Producers and Bravo'' give the judges ''input'' during the elimination process. Following their lead, I would like to offer my own ''input'' to the producers and Bravo after this week's outcome: Butt out. Keep your grubby ''We have to keep him because he's 'good television' '' mitts off of the judging process, and let Runway be Runway. Because I bet there isn't a contestant, an actual judge, or more than a tiny handful of viewers who seriously believe that Vincent, perennial bottom-dwelling nut bag, should still be around.
And yet, he is. This week's challenge wasn't a ''Make it beautiful'' show but a true ''Make it work'' hour in which the nine remaining contestants had to style clothes out of recyclable materials found in a Newark warehouse. (It was all very An Inconvenient Truth goes to Fashion Week.) Here's what we learned: Tim Gunn looks dapper and freshly pressed even at 5 a.m. Kayne used to Dumpster-dive as a little boy. Forced to use garbage, Angela will make exactly the same kind of Sporty Space Whore costume she makes most weeks. And one more thing: In the world of couture, looking like Minnie Mouse, whose name was rudely invoked more than once, is apparently a bad thing. As bad as looking like Frankenstein (or, as Nina Garcia pronounced it with regal disdain, Frank N. Stein).
Minnie came up when the judges were considering this week's bottom three. Alison (who at one point this week was subtitled, apparently for viewers not conversant in Blonde) complained that she was stuck with a big model without a waist, a conversation that allowed Tim Gunn to become the least Jewish person in history ever to use the word zaftig. Figuring that humiliating your model is the best revenge, Alison wrapped her in a stiff, wide hate crime of a minidress, stuck a king-size hair bow on her head that looked like something a Topsy Tail vomited up, and, for good measure, attached a bewildered-looking six-inch stalagmite to her right shoulder. The poor model walked out onto the runway looking as if she knew the bad teenagers were about to dump a bucket of pig's blood on her and ruin her prom. And when Heidi used the sentence ''She looks like a plus model'' (a word so filled with rage I'm surprised Bravo didn't bleep it), end of story. Alison went home. And, as Mr. Gunn always says with an absolutely delightful lack of conviction on his indispensable podcast, ''we'll miss her.''
That saved Kayne, a surprise tenant in the bottom three whose good judgment in saying that he knew his fourth-grade Thanksgiving-pageant, ''Look, Mommy, I'm playing a tree!'' dress was ugly did not mitigate the fact that it was, indeed, ugly. Kayne got off with a warning because of his past strong performances and open display of shrewdly calculated shame. (Oddly, Kayne also got subtitled once this week, I guess for the few Project Runway viewers who don't speak Gay.)
That left seven other conflicted, worried personalities in jeopardy — all of them Vincent. True to form, he listened to the Inner Voices and designed a tubular white fire hazard that looked as if his model were the victim of a sorority hazing in which she was mummified in double-stick tape and then pelted with debris. At one point, as she shuffled along, I thought she was being pecked to death by origami birds. Even his design table was frightening; it looked like a room from Se7en. As Vincent stood there, he blinked and gaped and fussed and threw out words like ''artsy'' and ''avant-garde'' as if going through a series of fashion adjectives alphabetically would eventually save him. And something did — though what it was, only ''the Producers and Bravo'' know.
This dunderheaded decision led to one of PR's only post-elimination fights ever, when in-it-to-win-it Laura leaned over (almost saw your boob; still love you) and tore into Vincent. He said something incomprehensible about Harry Winston and her nose and then smugly leaned back, ready to get kicked around for another week after all.
What else? Oh, right — the winners. Is there anyone, at this point, not wowed by Michael, whose phenomenally smart and appealing three-piece gold, white, and translucent plastic combo won him his second straight challenge? He was joined in the top three by Laura, who found a way to make a Laura dress even out of garbage (although she appears to have contracted a localized case of Rosette's disease from Angela), and by the reprehensible Jeffrey, who made a dress that I guess had its virtues, especially if you've ever looked at bile and thought, ''Gee, what a nice color.'' (Michael Kors called it ''ugly-beautiful''; he was half right.) And that left three in the middle: Robert and Angela, both elated to dodge the bullet, and Uli, who seemed to aim a German-to-German laser death beam at Heidi when she missed the top three. Now that's a cage match I'd like to see.
What did you think? Is Vincent still around on merit or because of meddling? What is ''the fine line between innovation and insanity''? And doesn't the timelessly stylish Minnie Mouse deserve an apology?