So, how perfectly scripted is it that one of their judges, designer Michael Kors, decides to channel "Bob the Builder" and dispatches the designers to the hardware store for a lesson in constructing a look.
The Challenge: Kors, who really should have been wearing a yellow hard hat, plaid shirt, denim and a tool belt, greets the designers in his SoHo, NYC boutique. But the store is really just a promotional backdrop intended to show off the cool handbags and shoes. But in reality, the designers are going on a second field trip to the Scheman & Grant hardware store.
"What?" their shocked faces say. "Not Mood Fabrics?"
Nope. Kors tells the designers.The purpose of this project is to "think in [an] unconventional way" about design. They are commanded to construct a garment and coordinating accessory out of hardware items.
We're thinking the designers may hook Ty Pennington from ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to make it work. Too bad his show's on another network.
The Workroom: Looks like the Arms and Armor wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, declares design mentor Tim Gunn. The contestants are bereft without real fabric. "I don't make crafty things," says Emilio Sosa, who opted for metal wire and washers, but went over budget and had to give some back.
He's so short on materials that he has to convert his intended dress into a bathing suit. And a bad one at that. The rest of the male designers grabbed a lot of metal sheeting, so there is a lot of pounding as they try to create tin and copper garments on their mannequins.
And who says girls can't build stuff? Amy Sarabi is manipulating sandpaper into a dress (and we so don't want to be her model). Maya Luz is making a radical statement necklace out of house keys and a vest out of venetian blind cord. Mila Hermanovski is constructing a dress out of lacquered paint trays.
The Guest Judges: This week there are two! Designer Isabel Toledo who was introduced with a film clip of her inaugural day dress for Michelle Obama. Also on hand, jewelry designer Stephen Webster, who apparently is needed to critique the accessories.
The Runway Show: Is just missing Dorothy to complete the "Wizard of Oz" montage. There are a plethora of tin and copper ladies and we're surprised there are no pauses so the designers can squirt oil on their models' joints. Some of the looks are so witty and inventive, which is why the change in materials challenges are always our favorite "Project Runway" gimmicks.
Best Line By a Judge: "Tin men. Hershey's Kisses. Dirty vacuum bags.... these are fabulous fashion references," says Kors of Jesse LeNoir's metallic frock.
Who's In: Gap stylist Jay Nicolas Sario notches his second win this season for a chic pant, top and belt ensemble fashioned out of garbage bags he managed to made look like leather. "He made a luxurious product out of the least luxurious thing," says Webster.
We won't tell anyone he had to sew his model into the pants so she can't use the, um, facilities. Sario, a community college dropout, is profoundly emotional about how far he has come. He's been in the top three so many times we've lost count. Hermanovski and Luz are also in the top two.
Who's Out: It's Floridian Jesse LeNoir for his tin Hershey's Kiss of death dress. Still, his goodbye is a surprise to us and Gunn, who had concerns about LeNoir's garment, but not "clean up your workspace" level concerns. The guy who seemed destined for the cut was Sosa, his bathing suit was dubbed a Las Vegas showgirl disaster. Still, thus far, Sosa has been more impressive than LeNoir, who the judges often felt rendered looks that read "too costume."
We thought LeNoir went too costume when he showed his collection at the ""Project Runway" finale fashion show. He sent a beautifully constructed collection of vintage military inspired looks down the catwalk, but his models looked like sexy girl scouts. It didn't quite work. Still, he's got good things in his future. He told the fashion week audience he's getting married this month!