Culture

Ever since, as a child, I first witnessed my step-grandmother step out in a full-length mink coat during dinner in a Colorado skiing town, I’ve had a frightened fascination with fur. Is it atrocious? Is it delectable? I could never decide, but point was, all evening long, everyone had their eyes on my step-grandmother. She’s far from an heiress, but she looked like one, and sometimes that’s enough to draw you closer. Project Runway seems to understand that razzle dazzle, as this week our designers were tasked with assembling regal avant-garde looks from plant-based, recyclable faux fur.

They have two days to work in teams of two, with whom they’ll create one avant-garde runway-ready look with fur as the main component. Most of the competitors are excited but wary, given how temperamental fur can be under the sway of a sewing needle. What’s more, they’re in pairs, which is almost always a recipe for disaster.

Take Bones and Aaron, for example. Almost immediately, you can smell the disagreement radiating off of them through the screen. Bones wants a design that feels “very Game of Thrones Dothraki. Like I’m literally thinking, what if a Dothraki had a million dollars?” To which Aaron tells the audience: “Bones is…creative. Is it my kind of creative? No.”

He keeps his thoughts to himself long enough to survive a trip to Mood, where the teams are given 30 minutes and $500 to buy supplemental materials while Christian eases back into his role as agitator extraordinaire. “A faux fur coat? Groundbreaking,” he deadpans as Zayden and Coral work through their sketch.

In true Bravo style, the levity doesn’t last long—something insane must happen next. Within literal seconds of the crew climbing into the transit van for a trip back to the workroom, the cameras go topsy-turvy to the tune of shattered glass. Project Runway boosts the drama here to make the apparent car accident seem serious—we get no immediate views of the designers, uninjured—until Aaron jumps in over VO: All’s good! A piece of scaffolding has merely punctured one of the van windows. Just another day in NYC!

But, much to everyone’s horror, Anna was sitting right beneath said shattered window, and a visible trickle of blood runs down her nose as an ambulance rushes up to the scene. Although visibly shaken, she appears mostly unharmed while the paramedics cart her away to the hospital. Unmoored, the rest of the squad is rolled back to the PR runway lounge, where Christian tells them to rest up, relax, take the night off—but, uh, also they’ll only have one day to complete their fur challenge now. Oops, sorry, good luck!!

After Anna is safely returned to their arms, the teams reassemble the next morning for a lightning-quick garment assembly. Prajje and Chasity are laser-focused on their pillared fur gown, which Prajje elevates with his signature paint-splatter explosion. Coral and Zayden attempt to rework their fur coat with a “cage” design, hinting at their experience as minorities in America. PR slows down the chaos long enough to give Coral a deserved emotional beat, in which she relays the story of her seamstress mother, who didn’t want Coral going into fashion. “I want to show her fashion is not just what it was for her, sewing all day,” Coral explains, her eyes welling with tears. “Fashion can be something beautiful, something that inspires.” God help me for my deep attachment to sentimentality, but these are the moments I love best. These are when Project Runway feels like it matters.

Of course, such an impact can’t be felt for too long, because we simply must return to in-fighting. This week it’s Aaron and Bones at bat, with Bones repeatedly striking out as he tries to grab Aaron’s attention. That fluffy fur cobra-collar Aaron’s constructing? No way it’s gonna stand up on its own, Bones says, and recommends stuffing it with scaffolding in the form of paint sticks. Aaron takes such a suggestion as a personal affront and storms out onto the terrace.

project runway    are you fur real episode 1907    pictured aaron michael steach    photo by barbara nitkebravo

Aaron at work on that cursed collar.

Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Later, while the group unwinds on the patio with some hastily poured glasses of wine, Aaron unspools his opinions. “You have no clue what you’re doing,” he directs at Bones, who—understandably—rocks back on his heels. Anna, bless her soul, attempts to mediate, but no! Lo, behold the full argument.

“My point is, you didn’t know what you were doing—” Aaron begins.

Bones: “No, my point is you’re rude and disrespectful—”

“My point is, nobody gives a fuck, bitch!” Aaron shouts, with such vitriol I actually felt my eyes glaze over. “You know what’s disrespectful? Unfinished hems down a goddam runway.”

“What unfinished hems did I send?” Bones protests.

“Did you see your look last week?”

The thing I hate most about this whole charade is, in spite of some truly spiteful words exchanged, Aaron and Bones reconcile and end up using the paint sticks to structure the collar. My exact notes from watching this were, to put it bluntly, “LMAOOOO.” To be fair, Bones does give Aaron a short lesson on white privilege once they’re back in the throes of their Dothraki gown-crafting: “White men always get the chance to react first, think later. Black men don’t get to do that. If you react, you’re looked at as a bad guy. So what I’m telling you is, think first, and then process.” Bones, my dear, pour yourself an extra glass of wine after this week. You deserve it.

Thank goodness everyone has survived long enough to make it to this week’s runway. Let’s actually talk about the fashion, shall we?

  • I was concerned Prajje and Chasity’s cotton-candy-colored rabbit-fur gown might end up looking too much like a bath mat, but shame on me for ever doubting them. Their look is a walking work of art, its structured columns at the waist cascading into a Jackson Pollock-like painted skirt. This is the first look of the night, and I already know it’ll be my favorite.
  • Next is Zayden and Coral’s red dress, accented by a complex, trailing system of buckles and straps and macrame fringe. The ensemble is wild and rebellious, yet still simple enough to feel street-ready.
  • Oof. If the first thing I think when I see your look is, “This is going to become a meme,” that’s not a great sign your garment will survive the judges. Kristina and Shantall’s patchwork balloon coat is certainly a unique silhouette, but it’s so bulky the effect is comical rather than couture. Underneath, the model appears to be straitjacketed in quilted bubblegum-pink fabric. Nothing about this design is working.
  • There’s a glimmer of something smart in Octavio and Anna’s concept, but the actual pieces are so disparate I find myself tweaking my head to the side, trying to make sense of their decisions. They’ve made a leopard-print dress, sure, but with a headpiece and an arm-piece and a ruched shoulder piece in patent leather. The result is a cute but confusing jumble.
  • Finally, Aaron and Bones pull back the drama long enough to send out their model, who looks Elizabethan in her enormous collar and trailing white train. Perhaps my favorite piece is the leather corset at her waist, which brings a necessary elegance to a look that could otherwise fall into costume territory.

    Somewhat predictably, the judges—including guest judge Billy Porter—love the looks from Chasity and Prajje, Zayden and Coral, and Aaron and Bones. Although they love that Zayden and Coral incorporated signature details to make their design contributions immediately recognizable, Chasity and Prajje get top billing for their runway-ready look. Porter himself wants it shipped directly to his dressing room. Ultimately, Chasity wins immunity for her columned waist idea, but Shantall, Kristina, Octavio and Anna are left facing the boot.

    project runway    are you fur real episode 1907    pictured l r kristina kharlashkina, shantall lacayo    photo by barbara nitkebravo

    Kristina and Shantall with their fur-quilt coat.

    Barbara Nitke/Bravo

    There was never any real doubt Octavio and Anna would make it through—they’re far too talented to go home now, and their look was a miss but not a disaster. Shantall and Kristina’s quilted pink dress, however, is a mess, and Kristina seems to know it, but she has immunity from last week. That means Shantall, undeservedly, is kicked out from the competition, despite the fact that her contribution to the design is its best part: the patchwork animal-print coat. Nina gives Kristina a withering warning: “It really could have been you going home tonight.”

    Of course, I knew within seconds of Shantall bursting into tears backstage that she’d be back next week. Christian would never let such an unfair elimination take place with a Siriano Save in his back pocket. Sure enough, he rescues Shantall for another chance at the top spot, but urges she’ll have to bring it for next week’s challenge: comfy-chic. Get your Gucci sweatpants ready, gang.

    << Read last week’s recap

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