Why is it that in most futuristic movies everybody is walking around in earth tone tunics or other minimalist attire? Sure, there’s exceptions but in a lot of interpretations of the future we’re all going to dress like a Nancy Meyers character at a weekend detox retreat in a few years. Truth be told, a lot of us are dressing like that now. I’m not judging, nor am I complaining. Sometimes it’s just easier to throw on a taupe caftan and saunter through your day. But that can’t be every day! You’re telling me we put all this energy into building our present dystopia just to wear Kanye West’s latest runway collection in our dotage? I don’t think so. Where’s the spaceship movie where the captain has hot pink eye shadow and a sequined coat with huge shoulders? Every time she pushes the ship into warp speed the 16 bangles on her arm shake like jingle bells. And a cape! She has a cape! We must reclaim capes from villains, as a gift to the future. This is the dream. If you haven’t guessed already, on this week’s Project Runway we’re talking MAXIMALISM, honey.
The designers are paired with pop artist and all-around good time Ashley Longshore, whose work is bursting with life, ribald wit, and color. Her work is too much in the best way and it pushes the designers to embrace a totally different side of their personalities. I love it! Let’s all do maximalism this year. Let’s all do patterns and sequins and many accessories and—I know I previously forbade this—words on our clothes. To quote Oscar-winner (in my heart) JLo: “Let’s get loud!”
OBSESSED. Each designer is allowed to chose one Ashley Longshore print to incorporate into a design. Each print is just as busy and as vibrant as you’d expect from her work. And, in the spirit of maximalism, they’re given two days to complete the look. But, for a few designers, including front-runner Victoria, too much is still not enough. “I hate prints,” Victoria declares more than once. This vexes me. I mean, I hate eggplant but if I had to eat it for a contest on national television you better believe I’d throw that bad boy into a parmesan quick, fast, and in a hurry. This sort of conflict between the designer and the challenge happens a lot on this show. I understand having an aesthetic, but I’m always confounded when designers seem totally unable to work outside of their comfort zones for a challenge on Project THEE Runway. Like, you can be minimalist at home; you’re on TV and Ashley Longshore wants you to throw some glitter on the runway. So, again to quote two-time Oscar winner JLo (she deserved for Out of Sight), “LET’S GET LOUD!” And while we’re getting loud, let’s get some SUPERLATIVES up in HERE!
Most True Gritt
The contestants gather in Palette at Bergdorf Goodman to meet Ashley; Nancy arrives with a huge coat thrown over her shoulders (I LIVE) and an orange crocheted tam cat with two white triangles popping up in the front. My first thought was that Philly-area resident Nancy was repping the president of Philadelphia: Gritty. That was hugely exciting to me as it is such an absurd choice, particularly for Project Runway, and I was ready to crown her the winner immediately. Upon closer inspection it turns out it was a fox cap and the triangles were ears, not Gritty’s roving eyes that see into your soul. That’s fine, too, I guess.
In addition to not caring for prints, Victoria also declares that she hates flowers. I love that Victoria can say things that would, in any other context, make her a Disney villain.
Ashley, standing next to Christian and Linda Fargo, the chic fashion director of Bergdorf, drops an F-bomb mere minutes into the the episode. “Is it okay that I said that?” she asks, gloriously too late. Linda, who has covered her ears underneath her perfect silver bob, grimaces and replies “Ashley, I’ve given up a long time ago.” Give them an odd couple reality spinoff RIGHT NOW.
Most Hidden G-Spot
Nancy chooses a print that has an illustration of a pink dildo tucked into it, a detail she doesn’t notice until afterward. We’re doing camouflaged sex toys in 2020, people! She runs with it, creating an oversized coat that has a wine pocket, a phone pocket, and a dildo pocket. I suppose it’s for when you’re on the go but you still want an O. Unfortunately for Nancy, the oversize coat is way too oversize, swallowing the model and putting her in the bottom three this week. Time to pull the wine bottle out of the pocket.
Best Runway Walk
After the first day of work, the designers relax on the deck outside the studio with drinks and tacos courtesy of Ashley. Delvin suggests they compare runway walks. Marquise’s is quite good but Victoria fully serves. This woman can do everything… except maximalism. When it comes to the real runway, she relegates a black and white striped print with big colorful flowers to the pants, making the focal point of her design an all-white top with the same criss-cross/cutout aesthetic of her most successful designs. Nobody is happy with this and it lands her in the bottom for the first time.
Most Asia O’Hara Impressions
This may be a niche reference, but on the season 10 finale of Drag Race Asia O’Hara performed a lip sync during which she opened a box of butterflies and set them a-flutter around the stage. Well, that was the intention at least. However, the butterflies got stage fright and, horrifically, just laid on the ground. This week on PW, Brittany choses a print that features butterflies and decides to cut them out and re-attach them to the garment (an asymmetrical dress with cold shoulders and yellow arm straps) giving them a 3-D effect. This works perfectly and cinches the win for her.
Sergio also goes with butterflies, albeit less successfully. He chooses to create a white cocoon coat and a colorful butterfly-esque dress to symbolize “the struggles transgender people go through in everyday life.” It looks fine; he’s safe.
Best Medical Descriptions
I’m really concerned about Dayoung’s on-going mysterious health issues. Once again, she gets weak and faint during the challenge and the medics are called in. No shade to the medics, who take good care of her, but at this point we need to call in Dr. House to get to the bottom of this. Dayoung tells one medic that she feels like a well or a fountain that has malfunctioning machinery which is the most poetic way of describing a medical crisis. I am adopting this in all future doctor’s visits.
Doctor: What’s wrong?
Me: I am a flightless bird sailing through time.
Doctor: Okay. Um, do you want a Z-Pack?
After the judges rip apart Nancy’s coat, they ask her model to take it off, revealing a chic blouse and wide leg pants, which they love. Ashley, especially, loves the pants declaring “The pants flood my basement!” Brandon is fully out of his chair even as he asks “What does flood my basement mean?” Sweet, innocent Brandon.
Most Done-in by Darts
Marquise makes an oversized bomber jacket (so many bomber jackets this season!) that the judges are a little lukewarm about. Then, when they remove the jacket, they discover he’s made a white blouse with awkward darting at the bustline. It’s not a tragedy but at this stage in the competition it is enough to get him sent home. He takes it in stride, however (considering his fierce runway walk, that’s quite a stride). He’s proud of himself for getting this far as a self-taught designer and the judges remind him that he’s going to make it. I agree. And I would also like to remind him that I NEED the denim ensemble he made for last week’s challenge. Should I just DM him my measurements?
Brittany’s butterfly dress, which captures the joyful maximalist spirit of Ashley Longshore’s work.
R Eric Thomas is a Senior Staff Writer at ELLE.com, home of his daily humor column “Eric Reads the News,” which skewers politics, pop culture, celebrity shade, and schadenfreude.