Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about last Thursday’s episode of Project Runway: Season 10, Episode 2, “Candy Couture.” If you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen it yet — you stand warned.
So did the wrong awesome designers in the “make clothing out of candy” challenge make the top three this week?
In last week’s Project Runway recap, I was definitely on the snarky and bitchy side. For which I won’t apologize: being bitchy and snarky about laughably bad designs is part of the fun of being a Project Runway fan, and in any case, bitchy snark is my birthright as a queer American. I could easily go there again this week: wondering rhetorically if anyone in the known universe had even a microsecond of doubt about who was going home this week, or declaiming with horror and dismay about why Andrea’s shapeless paper smock thing irrelevantly slapped over the nightmare bustle didn’t catapult her to the bottom three.
But I don’t want to go there this week. Like Mr. Darcy, this week my mind was more agreeably engaged. I’ve been meditating on the very great pleasure which an unconventional materials challenge in a group of talented designers can bestow. The guessing game this week wasn’t, “Given what should be the easiest challenge of the whole damn season — make any design you want, inspired by a piece you made at home on which you had no time or money constraints — which crappy designer is going home?” The guessing game this week was, “Given what is typically one of the more difficult challenges of the season — make an outfit out of unconventional materials, in this case candy — which delightful, imaginative, surprising, freakishly beautiful design is going into the top three?”
I have no argument whatsoever with the winner: Ven’s beautiful, weirdly sophisticated “stained glass” dress. I freaking want that dress. I want a version of that dress that isn’t made of licorice and crushed rock candy. It walked a delicate, difficult line between elegant and playful: the structure and sharpness and meticulous construction gave it a chic grace that transcended the goofy materials, while the bright pastel colors gave it a touch of whimsy. Ven is the real deal: I’m not sure he has quite the “cutting-edge visionary” thing I usually want from Project Runway contenders, the way Mondo or Christian or Korto did… but he sure can make a stunning dress.
And I have no argument whatsoever with the runner-up: Sonjia’s aquatic-themed dress, in all the different shades of turquoise and blue: This photo doesn’t quite do it justice. It was both exquisitely crafted and exuberantly joyful, and the back was so richly designed it could have stood on its own. And it definitely showed signs of that ground-breaking, risk-taking vision thing that Ven may not quite have. It was a touch overdesigned, with a few too many elements than were strictly speaking necessary. (Especially that hat.) But then again, it’s a freaking dress made out of candy already, and if there’s ever a time to go a skosh over the top, this is it. These two should definitely have been the Top Two — and if Sonjia’s dress had won, I would have had no argument at all. It was neck and neck for me: do you go with the flawlessly-executed but less risky piece, or do you go with the delightful near-miss that takes more risks and better embodies the joyful spirit of the challenge?
And I had no real argument with Gunnar’s checkerboard dress with the peplum. A little bunchy at the top, perhaps, and certainly not out of the park the way both Ven and Sonjia’s were. But he freaking made a dress out of candy that looked like it could have been worn by Jackie Kennedy. I’m not going to argue with it being in the Top Three.
What about Fabio’s blue ombre number? He made crushed candy sparkle like gems. This dress looked rich and luxurious, and at the same time playful and friendly. And the detailing at the waist and the neckline and along the side was just lush. Admittedly, I have a weakness for the combo of high-necked and sleeveless — it’s a great trick for being both sexy and age-appropriate, especially if I’ve been hitting the gym and my arms are ripped — but this was easily one of my personal favorites, way more than Gunnar’s checkerboard number.
And what about Dmitry’s dress? Okay, it probably had too much fabric and not enough candy to win the thing. But it was the one look among the fifteen that actually moved. And it moved beautifully. Almost every other piece on that runway was stiff and heavy and moved like cardboard. I won’t fault the designers for that, they were making outfits with candy and glue guns… but Dmitry made a dress with candy and a glue gun, and it swung like a flapper doing the Charleston. Surely that earned him a spot in the Top Three. (Plus that zipper down the bare back was one of the sexiest things I’ve seen on PR.)
And what about Raul? I loved that the front of his dress bared the model’s belly, and still looked tasteful and beautiful and exquisitely detailed. Okay, not tasteful for the boardroom or the opera… but tasteful for a beach town or a resort. I loved that the color in the front was so luscious and yet so restrained, with just that little pop of red… and I loved the unrestrained explosion of color in the back. I do kind of feel that, with a candy challenge, if you don’t go for color you’re missing the point. Unless you make something that’s out-of-the-park gorgeous and meticulous and magnificent and perfect — which Gunnar’s checkerboard thing wasn’t — then have some fun with color. It’s candy, for heaven’s sake.
And I’m even going to give a shout-out to Nathan. Okay, his thing was bonkers, and it weighed twenty pounds (note to designers: if your dress weighs twenty pounds, do not make it strapless!), and the silver bodice had unfortunate overtones of “bad Star Trek convention costume.” But that bubble skirt was wild. Twenty pounds or no, it looked light and frothy and… well, bubbly. The use of foil-covered candy was some kind of genius: it made the skirt shimmer and twinkle like girly pastel stars.
None of this is to rag on the judges for making the wrong decision. That’s not the point. The point is: The judges had a really tough decision this week. There was an assload of awesome this week. There were safe, also-ran looks this week that in almost any other season would have outrun the pack by a mile.
I think this is going to be a good season.