Project Runway Season 16 Recap: Penney Ante
Project Runway Season 16 has reached the Top 10 mark, which means it must be time for another group challenge.
The Top 10 contestants are ushered into their local JCPenney (the sponsor of this year’s “Whoever Is Sponsoring The Accessory Wall” Wall), where it’s unclear if it’s a shut down section without customers, or just a typical morning. Tim tries to get everyone pumped up about meeting the Design Director of JCP, Monica Dalton. Dalton tries to get pumped up about reading a teleprompter.
It doesn’t matter that no one succeeds in this endeavor, since the contestant are too busy panicking as they eyeball the male models, in clothing that is already here in large bolts. (Like Heidi, Penney wants the designers to work from their own stock of fabrics, to be able to create the winning look — in “limited edition format” — for cheap.) But the men are a fake out. This is what would properly be known as the Thom Browne Challenge: make women’s wear from men’s wear fabrics.
The producers have preassigned the contestants to “inspiration” models, meaning that each of them will have the same fabrics to use. To wit!
But before you think this is the group pairings (all of which would be disasters), fear not! The button bag arrives to help make new groups of two, which they get to pick themselves. (The button bag is merely to see who picks who first.) The only stipulation: You can’t pick the person who has your fabric. To wit:
There is a trip to Mood with $100 for notions and “supplemental” fabric, that one member of each team gets to go on. Thirty minutes to sketch in the empty JCP before they go. Got all that? Let’s go to the workroom.
Two of our teams are obviously going to be fine: Brandon and Kentaro and Shawn and Claire. (Well, in terms of the twins, “fine” is the usual disaster zone.) Michael and Ayana seem more interested in insisting to the camera that they are fine with each other, since they were last picked.
Let’s see what Tim thinks.
- Margarita&Batani: Batani has a wrap dress with a suit jacket. Margarita is “reimagining a men’s dress shirt” complete with plackets and buttonholes. Tim looks ill. They are also not really working together either, but Tim doesn’t seem too worried about it.
- Kenya&Amy: Kenya has a denim pantsuit with a 70s flair. Amy has a grey flannel blouse which I thought was a mini dress. (Tim did too.) He worries the pussybow they’ve got on it skews matronly, as if that’s not Penney brand.
- Michael&Ayana: Michael is also making a shirt dress out of the same fabric stash as Margarita. The problem is Ayana’s piece, which looks like a hospital gown. Ayana insists she can make it work. Tim decided to believe.
- Kentaro&Brandon: Kentaro calls what he’s doing “sport casual.” Brandon says “Hoodie.” Tim worries about Kentaro’s outfit, but Brandon doesn’t want to criticize it.
- Shawn&Claire: Shawn is obsessing over the fact that she has a “bigger” girl again, and needs to fix her face to stop talking. Claire as a terrible looking tunic and a bikini top that goes over it that looks like, well, a “sexy” joker’s outfit that not even sexy.
Tim does something we’ve rarely seen in sixteen seasons. He puts his foot down in front of the workroom. No way, no how. He very broadly hints in the direction they should take what they have so far. Shawn’s eyes get big and she nods, understanding he’s trying to save them. But Claire refuses to listen, which leaves Shawn to basically drag her into doing what they’re told as best she can.
Shawn not only decides to steal one of Kentaro’s idea from earlier in the season, and even tells him, on camera, she’s doing it. Kentaro stares at her.
Day of runway and Margarita is really unhappy with Batani, because she feels like her time management is being derailed. Amy is trying to insist Kenya’s on the wrong track, but Kenya is not having it and just wants to be done.
Let’s go to the runway.
Heidi is wearing a leather dress that no one would mistake as coming from Penney. Both Zac and Nina are also in head to toe black, like they’re expecting a funeral. The guest judge this week is Asia Kate Dillon, the non-binary actor from Orange Is The New Black. Heidi introduces her from being from “the hit series” no one has heard of, Billions. Note that no one from JCPenney is here to pick what they have to sell, which has never been the case prior to this.
Now that we’ve hit the Top Ten, the Tim Gunn Save™ is finally mentioned for the first time all season, indicating that the show never wants another Char situation. Tim Gun Save™, ACTIVATE!
Ayana: That top is not flattering.
Michael: That top is not flattering. Cohesion!
Kentaro: I want all of it… wait, I thought they weren’t supposed to use each other’s fabrics? (That rule seems to be ignored by the judges.)
Brandon: That’s the first thing Brandon’s made I liked. Kentaro says he pushed Brandon to “not go too masculine.” I think that’s why. Still, they’re not going to win.
Batani: It’s cute. I was not expecting that from her. Heidi thinks this will sell slightly better. Zac frets that it’s two pieces.
Margarita: It’s cute. The men’s shirt’s tailoring was not the disaster I was expecting. Zac is over the moon over the tailoring. Nina loves both outfits as a set. Of the two though, this is the one they want to give to JCP to sell, who, to their credit, reproduce it faithfully.
Kenya: They misunderstood the challenge and worked together on both outfits, which I didn’t realize was the issue in the workroom. This one, credited to Kenya, is fine. Heidi says it’s boring. She’s not wrong.
Amy: This is a disaster. If this isn’t the end of Amy, I’ll eat my hat. It’s too ’70s, it’s too badly made. Asia calls them “flight attendant wear.” Nina calls it a costume. But yet! They’re safe. Why?
Claire: It’s not a disaster? Small miracle, that. Zac hates the top, which is the only thing she kept after Tim told her to trash everything. Nina tells them to to make excuses, these are boring. Heidi says she would be sad to see people walking around dressed like this.
Shawn: It’s not a disaster? But they’re not good enough either. Zac calls it trashy, and says the only reason it looks good is the model’s skills. Nina says there’s nothing here JCPenney would want.
No Amy and Kenya are safe, because the judges are done with the twins. But they won’t Shawn home (as she volunteered to do, even though she’s the designer with actual potential.) Instead, they send them back to the workroom for a one hour challenge, stipulating that for the first time they may not work together at all…
….TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.
Great, so, next week, a good 10-15 minutes will be “The Shawn & Claire Show.” Just what everyone wants, right?