Project Runway's Shopkins Avant-Garde Challenge Is Overshadowed By Its Cheating Scandal

Which is probably just as well, because...Shopkins.........avant-garde challenge.

Our Players

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

The Talk

Scholars may look back on this episode as the most scandalous in Project Runway history. Of course, there's what actually happens on screen as last week's cliffhanger is resolved, which we'll get to. But then there's also what's happening at The Weinstein Company, which produces the show: Harvey Weinstein, having been fired in disgrace amid an avalanche of sexual harassment and assault accusations; his wife and Project Runway All Stars judge, the beautiful Georgina Chapman, having filed for divorce. Sarah? It's a lot.

It really is. They should really consider a complete rebranding, but this is a program that somehow tied the avant-garde challenge -- which, as usual, they failed to define in any useful way -- to...Shopkins. What a world.

Before we get to that insanity, let's talk about L'Affaire Claire. Last week, neither of us quite understood exactly what manner of cheating Margarita and Michael both agreed she was guilty of, but now I appreciate the season edit arc that let it all come out this way. In Episode 8, we hear Margarita refer to Claire sneakily measuring her pants, and even though she said "in her room," I somehow interpreted that to mean in the bathroom at the workroom? But no: the issue is that Claire has a tape measure back at their apartment; she even MORE sneakily measures garments before they start work (given the timing, I guess it might be before they've received their challenge), that this goes back to the Good and Evil challenge, and that having any kind of tools outside the workroom is explicitly against the rules. And Claire FULLY KNOWS IT.


When it was all said and done, I was put off by how long it took to get down to the brass tacks of it (which, by the way, is an idiom relating to the measurement of cloth and ensuring that you...don't get cheated). Why was everyone being so cagey about just saying, "She has contraband equipment in the room"? She has contraband equipment in the room! End of fuckin' story! You should have tattled before, Michael; own your part in this, which is a net good for the viewers because Claire is annoying! (And what a bratty-teen reaction she had to getting busted, too. The sing-song-y "taking responsibility"? She's worse than Shawn yeah I said it.)

I can kind of understand why none of the contestants (Michael and Margarita apparently not having been the only ones who knew about the tape measure) didn't say anything before: there are still a fuckton of them, and they could be fairly sure she would get eliminated on her own lack of talent before they had to risk their own bad edit looking like narcs. But when she's getting a win off straight cheating? NAW.

And 25K, no less, so like I said, the end result is juuuuust fine with me. But if the show has this kind of contretemps come up again, I could do with a little less patronizing "eyes on your own paper" shit from Heidi -- and exactly zero input from stupid Yolanda Hadid. Nobody asked you, Botox. Shut it.

Oh my god, seeeeeeeeriously. Yolanda, you've been here for five minutes. You don't know the backstory. Grownups are talking; stay out of it. I would also say that, going forward, I would like to see more transparency about what the rules are for the sake of the viewer, but then again, a) I suppose that's irrelevant if they never come up, and b) I doubt any future contestant is going to try to push his or her luck after Claire's experience: win rescinded; $25,000 prize purse revoked; summary dismissal from the competition, including a pointed shot of her packing up...her tape measure.


Congratulations to Brandon for getting his print chosen as a cup design instead...though since Tim says "there is no winner in this challenge" and therefore he doesn't get the money, he probably doesn't care THAT much.

Congratulations to Brandon also for exploiting the judges' malleable definitions of "avant garde" to end up in the top again, somehow. ...Let me back up: as I said, it's the avant-garde challenge, but the brief is that the designers meet with kids who are Shopkins Shoppies superfans, then create avant-garde looks based on their assigned kids' favorite Shoppies and stories about the characters. I cracked on this brand pairing earlier, but while it's as whorish a sponsorship "assignment" as the show's ever done, it actually worked pretty well for the avant-garde challenge, because the dolls and their crazy color schemes and backstories seemed to free up the designers to think big or differently. Well...most of them.


Brandon's! Look! Was! Awful!!! I get that it's his signature, so he's just going to keep sending down shapeless shit with a bunch of extraneous straps, but when guest judge Kate Upton said she cooks in an apron exactly the colour of his look, I was really hoping that would be read as the dis I thought it was. IT LOOKED LIKE AN APRON. And furthermore, as you said, if he wasn't going to do anything extraordinary with the shape he could have at least gone ultra-vibrant in his colour scheme; instead, we get that washed-out pistachio. No kid would even notice that toy on the shelf.

My notes: "totally predictable, mid-'60s avocado colorway, avant garde does not mean strappy and hard to wear." And GMAFB with the rumply wings meant to suggest shirt cuffs. I like Brandon too, and he's getting a finals edit, which is fine, but let's not act like he has more than two things he can do. And like hemming is one of them. Finish an edge, young man, goddamn.

I personally would have cut Brandon before Batani based on the work they presented in this challenge. Batani's didn't light my world on fire, but at least it didn't look like anything she'd shown us in the competition before, and did look like a crazy fashion doll inspired it and could wear it.


I'd still have cut Batani. I liked that color/print combination a lot, and then it kind of just didn't go anywhere; it's not her fault that she misinterpreted "avant garde" as "bunchy mess," necessarily, because she may not have been given a workable understanding of the idea -- but it looked amateurish and desperate to me. And she's been in over her head for a while. Amy, meanwhile, got a very clear auf-talking-head edit in this episode, and I was okay with her ouster based on the work in this challenge, because the look did nothing new, the styling was dated, and it seemed purposeless. But I was a little surprised Tim Gunn didn't Save her.


It does seem like a surprise double elimination is a setup for a dramatic Save, but in that case I would have guessed that Batani would be its beneficiary: un-cut when Claire got kicked out, it would have been a gasper if she'd been snatched out of the jaws of defeat twice in one episode. Anyway, I'll still defend her look, since if we're talking about lumpy messes, Margarita's was a similar silhouette, plus all-white? Boring.


THANK you, that was the other one that gave the judges a boner that I was like, wut. It must have looked quite different on the runway; what I saw was Gunne Sax on Quaaludes.

At least Margarita didn't throw a shit fit about Kentaro copying her colour scheme. His looked like a first draft to me too. Or a Carrie Bradshaw Hallowe'en costume that got splashed with a puddle of bleach.


I was interested to see what the judges said about that one and whether he bullshitted it as a "comment on bridal," but I guess they found it as enh as I did, because they just passed it through. Ditto Kenya's, which I really liked a lot of elements of despite it not really meeting the brief. That print is always. Too bad about the fried-egg-boob effect, though.


It definitely didn't meet the brief, but I wonder if she looked around the workroom and figured there would be enough looks that were worse than hers and that she could slide through with one that at least let her show off the quality of her workmanship even if it wasn't quite right for this particular challenge. Calculation correct! In the category of "Completely Right For This Particular Challenge": Michael and Ayana, and I would have had an incredibly hard time choosing between them for the win. Ayana's was such a huge swing -- particularly for her -- but as soon as you see Liris appear in it, you get "Doll-Inspired Avant Garde" instantly. Add to that the fact that Liris is totally up to get some face on it and it's a triumph.


Liris is my heart. The anime realness she was serving at the end of the runway was so cute, I wanted to hug her. Nice work from Ayana, too; it was well thought-out but not overthought. My only quibble, which may have been why she didn't get the win, was that the color was pretty expected. Then again, she also may not have won because Michael's just simply had to. It's flawlessly fitted, there's an artistic idea there, and a blobby theory that had no business looking good even on a model actually was flattering. (Plus there's a little shelf to rest a beverage on, hee.) He's really good, that kid.


He is, and this look makes me regret saying last week that he wasn't likely to be headed for a win this season. He totally could! I also wonder how much of the choice to give this one to him over Ayana was as a reward for his whistleblowing. Snitches don't get stitches...if they're good at stitching.

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