They arrive to find Tim Gunn awaiting with a makeup artist and a velvet bag. Inside the bag are slips of paper, each with a different movie genre written on it: film noir, period, Western, action/adventure and science fiction.
Every designer must draw from the bag and invent a character in the style of the genre they chose.
And so the competition begins.
Irina, who won the last challenge, has first pick and takes film noir. Epperson goes last and unhappily ends up with Western. "I'm thinking 'Hmmm, John Wayne,'" he says sarcastically.
After some quick sketching and a trip to Mood Fabrics with $150 to spend, the contestants go back to the workroom and have only until midnight to complete their costumes. Characters quickly emerge, from sexy assassin to pioneer woman to vampire bride.
Nicolas Putvinski, who is confidently comfortable with costume design, had the most complete story for his character: a banished, evil ice queen. Epperson, who had been so confounded at first quickly pulled together a dramatic denim ruffled gown.
Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman struggled from the get-go, in spite of being an avid sci-fi fan, his green Spandex outfit for an "it" girl from another planet ended up looking more Kermit the Frog gone awry, or as Gunn put it during his swing through the studio, "it could be sublime or a big, hot mess." And two hours before midnight, Coleman scrapped the garment and started from scratch.
Gunn did not mince words as he left, urging all the designers to: "Work like there's no tomorrow because for one of you there won't be."
On the runway, presided over by designer John Varvatos, costume designer Arianne Phillips and Marie Claire editor Zoe Glassner, the more dramatic looks quickly stood out, for better or for worse.
Nicolas' ice queen looked like she'd stepped right off the movie set in a frosty white gown. Christopher Straub's gown was "spectacular" from both the front and the back -- always good for a film. And Ra'mon's redo was still, as Heidi Klum dubbed it, "a green hot mess."
Both Gordana Gehlhausen, who went for an unimaginative flapper look and Louise Black, who floundered with a 1920s-meets-1940s frock were taken to task for their lack of originality and vision.
The judges quickly settled on Nicolas as the winner. "If you would watch that movie, you would say, 'Wow, what a beautiful dress that ice queen was wearing,'" Klum declared.
And in the end it was Ra'mon who took the fall. It all seems a bit unfair, because of the three bottom designers in this challenge, Coleman is definitely the one with the most promise. "You're a fabulous designer and a fabulous person," Gunn said in parting.
But that's life on the runway.
Tune in next Thursday at 10 pm ET/PT on Lifetime and then visit us for the recap.