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Project Runway Goes (Cat)Walking In A Winter Wonderland

A cold-weather outerwear challenge determines who'll show at New York Fashion Week. Who gets frozen out? Your editors discuss!

Our Players

Hello, I'm East Coast Editor Sarah D. Bunting.
Hello, I'm West Coast Editor Tara Ariano.

The Talk

I didn't envy the judges the choice they faced at the end of this episode -- it was clear "brothers" Brandon and Kentaro would be moving forward, but amongst the ladies, it came down to taste, and perhaps whose sob story was more affecting -- but I still wish they'd made one instead of sending all five of the designers to Fashion Week. (Well, sort of. Based on the next-ons, it looks like not everyone's going to make the final, which is a winnowing they've done in the past.) And while I do want to see a collection from her, Ayana is the one who should have gone home, in my opinion. That kids'-party-puppeteer situation under the coat was a more serious misstep than anything else we saw out there.

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Oh, you don't want to spend winter walking around looking like a clown chef? Sarah, you've changed. I appreciated that Ayana considered using colour in outerwear -- I remember from my time in the temperate zone that it actually is hard to find a coat that isn't, as Heidi noted, black or camel (RIP red wool hooded toggle coat from Esprit) -- but why add the "feature" that it can come apart and leave you in a bolero? I'm from the prairies, son; I need my butt covered. I think they were assuming Kenya would fail this week; among the final five, she's the one who's the most "...you're still here?" But then Kenya's plaid coat was perfectly made, the judges couldn't deny her, and Ayana got a fifth slot based on her past performance and particularly her recent wins.

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I liked Kenya's look a lot, although I'm unconvinced the pants were a good choice for that particular model -- but that pleat at the shin was fantastic, and the coat is everything, especially the standing cowl. Kenya is, I would say, more of a seamstress than a designer, but she's a good seamstress, usually, and I disagreed with the judges that the coat and the outfit underneath didn't go together. More to the point, she didn't make her model's ass look like cut footage from One Million Years B.C.

The thing about Margarita's runway look this week is that I feel like I am physically unable to be strictly objective about anything Liris models because she always sells it like whoa -- including this week, when we get to see her admit to the mirror diary cam that she questions the dress and doesn't believe Margarita got to "compete her vision." When she walks, I believe whatever she's in is hot, but that's just because she casts a hotness spell that tricks my eye. ("Incendio Liriosa!")

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That said: camel is very expected for a winter coat BUT it's expected because it's a classic, and I do think the edginess of the dress makes it more modern even if it would never look good on anyone other than the great Liris herself. But can we also backtrack to Margarita's trip to Mood? Because if she was very aware of the rule governing construction tools like A TAPE MEASURE, I'm not sure how it could surprise her to learn that Project Runway is a cruelty-free show.

That whole sequence landed strangely to me. Why did it only come up at check-out? It just seemed like someone from production should have stepped in off-camera much sooner, particularly when no real drama came of it. As for the look itself, I agreed with guest judge Little Joey Potter (Katie Holmes, for those of you not scarred by years of recapping Dawson's Creek): it felt like a first draft. Lirises gonna Liris, so that helped Margarita, and I didn't hate the idea -- or the coat, which was deceptively simple-looking and perfectly made -- but this was the first time I kind of understood Zac Posen's continuing note that he doesn't know who Margarita is as a designer. (I also had a pang of missing Michael and wishing he'd had a crack at this challenge, but oh well.)

That's a great segue to our last two designers, both of whom have certainly staked out their terrain and obviated the conceit of a "blind runway": Brandon and Kentaro. It's been a long time since I entertained the faint notion that either of them wasn't going to make it to the finals, so I guess they both might as well have made these looks the most them yet -- which, in Brandon's case, meant layering on as much unedited faff as he could. You think the non-functional straps have been extraneous? Meet the muff fanny pack!

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Feh, that apron hand-warmer. So dumpy. In fact, everything about Brandon's look that wasn't the coat was a snooze, because we've seen a variation -- barely -- every week. The colorway, the crop top, the asymmetrical Winchester House layers, all of it. It's not that it's bad, and I really did like the coat; he does have a point of view. But...only one, and I do wish the judges would point that out, if only in passing. Like, I don't think he's constitutionally capable of making a pencil skirt or a blouse that goes past the bellybutton, and it seems like he should have been clocked for that at some point.

Exactly. Can Brandon make a gown that wouldn't look absurd on the red carpet at the Oscars, for example? It's fine if that's not the kind of designer he wants to be -- as someone who lives in sweats, I am no snob about the athleisure space, if that's what Brandon wants to do -- but the season should have done more to test his versatility instead of just letting him send fabric shingles out week after week. Kentaro's winter white wrap layers feel like his apology for his black samurai fail in the last challenge, and even if a wool bermuda short with a knee sock and legwarmers wouldn't be the most practical outerwear in real snow, it was editorial as hell and I am more eager to see his collection than anyone else's.

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Same here! That specific pleat on the short is not meant for anyone but a model, but the rest of it was always: cozy, but still bodycon somehow, and as someone who lives in scarves six months a year because her home office is drafty, that neckline was practical AND pretty. And he made kneesock spats for his model. Yes please. (Also, his sarcastic "okay bye-eeee" when Brandon pretended he was going home cracked me up for five minutes.) ...He can be a little inconsistent, though, Kentaro can. Do you think he makes the "real" finale?

Without the slightest doubt, I do. He's fine, Brandon's clearly anointed; Ayana probably makes it due to her modest aesthetic, which is new for the show. Kenya and Margarita are the ones in danger, I think.

Yep, I'd agree down the line. I can't totally rule out a Kentaro or Ayana face-plant serious enough to send them home next time, but it seems about as likely as Brandon being satisfied with a single strap.

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