Project Runway Turns Project Haberdasher With A Menswear Fabric Challenge

When designers team up to make men's fabrics into women's looks, who cocks it all up?

Our Players

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

The Talk

In Season 16, there are only so many ways Project Runway can surprise its designers, and this tiiiiiiiiny twist on a menswear challenge -- in which contestants were tasked with creating looks for their female models using (product-placed) menswear fabrics -- was original enough for me. I personally didn't need to spend an hour listening to them whine about fitting male genitals into pants when we're still, in Episode 7, hearing about who doesn't usually design for women who don't wear straight sizes, CLAIRE AND SHAWN.

No, I was fine with it too. Granted, I could have done without the aspect of it that obliged everyone to endure JC Penney's attempt to rebrand, but the team aspect of the challenge drew focus away from that unfortunate...ness. Do you think production decided to set it up so that Claire and Shawn could (and therefore would, of course) partner up, thus forcing the issue?

I think the only reason this was a team challenge at all was so that Claire and Shawn would partner up. As they both noted several times in the episode, they've each been in the bottom more than once, so this could have been their big redemption episode, as they proved that they have been right to lean so heavily on one another when their micro-collection blew everyone else away...but I think producers were pretty sure that's not how this was going to go. Setup! And, since at least one of them's going to get bounced off it, for once I'm not mad. Which of their looks did you think was worse?

Claire's. Any look that relied on that green would look cheap. But the larger problem with both of their design aesthetics is one they share in equal part, I would say, which is that there isn't one, as Zac Posen pointed out.


Like, Shawn's was perfectly fine -- but 1) that's at least 75 percent because it was on Liris, and 2) there's no design. It's just tweaks on shit I've seen for years now.


Yeah, the idea that Claire and Shawn are pushing the Penney's customer forward in her style by adapting their amazing looks for lower budgets showed such self-delusion that it should have gotten them both eliminated, honestly. From the nadir to the zenith: let's talk about Margarita's dress, because I was just about as rapturous about it as the judges. I agreed with guest Asia Kate Dillon that the silhouette might not work as well on larger sizes, but it was beautifully tailored on Meisha and that diagonal slit in the bodice was such an interesting detail. I've liked Margarita from the start as a personality, so I was weirdly proud of her for getting the win this week.


Same, and same! I really hope they put a pocket on it for mass production because I would wear that in a second, even with some weird cut-outs that don't necessarily dovetail with my "foundation-garment narrative." But mostly I'm just relieved that the auf edit she was getting for like the third week in a row turned out to be the opposite. That she didn't get to work with Michael seemed to bode ill for her, but she got it done. What did you think of her teammate's look? Because I feel like Batani's been skating by, but doesn't have much longer -- especially if Margarita's account of having to do a lot of the work for her was accurate.


Batani's look was something every girl at my hippie-ish high school in the early '90s would have wanted to wear for our grad: that burgundy was somber enough for a dress-up situation, and the velvet would be their nod to Janis Joplin. (That, plus they'd be high. Hey girls!) It seemed well made but boring; she was lucky to have been buoyed by her teammate's innovation. I get why Brandon and Kentaro weren't the winning team, but I felt like theirs was the most partner-y partnership: their looks complemented each other and their team dynamic was, as always, adorable.


I suspect that really was the winner, but they didn't want to give either/both yet another win so soon and felt they had to acknowledge Margarita. I'd have been okay with their winning; their brolationship is cute and I like their work separately and together. The separates also looked like what Penney is trying to do, but not cheap. That said, it was nothing world-shaking, and of course they got along throughout the process...unlike Kenya and Amy, who had frayed apart quite a bit by the runway. Did you like anything about their looks?

Oof, no, I did not. Amy was high to use that much of the light denim; head to toe it looked so cheap and would have even if she hadn't gone with that corny collar on the jacket and the unnecessary buttons on the pants.


Kenya's was, I thought, more successful in its modest ambitions, but if I'm a JC Penney shopper, I'm looking at her design and getting insulted that she thinks I'm so boring.


I liked Kenya's top, but the judges were right about it: no design. And Lord, that collar on Amy's! So '90s-take-on-the-'70s from Express (and I speak from ownership experience)! I like Amy's take on other looks in THes and she has a cool style, but I haven't liked a thing she's sent out. Girlfriend better hope the avant garde challenge is coming down the pike soon.

So here we stand, on the threshold of getting our supply of Project Runway twins reduced by at least 50%. Who is going to choke?


I think Claire's going to choke! Hear me out: we see her melting down in the next-ons, but more to the point, I think she is more dependent on Shawn needing her than Shawn herself is.


And Claire's not going to be able to deliver the killing blow.

I agree: based on the teaser, Claire's priorities are all wrong...which may be misdirection, but of the two, she is the one who's been in more of a tailspin lately. Ultimately, though, it probably doesn't matter which is the first to go; the one that remains is sure to fail before long.

Unless they both get the boot, which could happen ("she says hopefully") and then a question mark? Even if they don't, I feel very confident in saying Tim Gunn's not going to deploy the Save on either of them.

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