‘Project Runway’ recap: Designers had to ‘Survive in Style’ or die trying in unconventional materials challenge [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

After futuristic body modifications and full-body prints, it was time for the “Project Runway” designers to tackle the dreaded unconventional materials challenge in tonight’s episode, “Survive in Style.” And there was yet another twist: this challenge would take place entirely outdoors, including the sewing, sleeping and even the runway show itself. So how did they do? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

One of the big questions entering this week’s challenge was the fate of Hester Sunshine. After two weeks of seeming disorganized and unsure of herself and her fabric choices, she redeemed herself by winning “All the Rage” with a playful, polished look in a red and white print that was like Red Riding Hood at a Parisian picnic. But was that win just a fluke or would she be able to follow it up with another success with an entirely different set of design materials?

The show teased a possible controversy in which her stash of unconventional materials was plundered by other designers. Did that turn out to be as dramatic as her previous clash with Nadine Ralliford? And did it throw off the entire challenge for her? She had immunity this week, but it’s never a good idea to make a bad impression on the judges.

Also with pressure on his shoulders was Rakan Shams Aldeen, who landed in the bottom two in “All the Rage.” Getting on the judges’ bad side right before a challenge as daunting as unconventional materials could be deadly, but don’t forget that Kovid Kapoor just went from the bottom two to the top three in the space of one episode, so never say never in the wilderness of fashion. Follow along below starting at 8:00pm (all times listed are Eastern).

8:03pm — Last week’s challenge just ended, and in comes Karlie Kloss: “Sorry to break up the party,” she says. “but I wanted to tell you about your challenge for tomorrow.” The designers are going on a trip to a place where fashion had its beginning. She won’t tell them where, but they should pack rain gear and vans will pick them up at 6:00am, which sounds kind of like something a serial killer would say. They wonder if they’re going to Paris or London — yeah, not so much.

8:04pm — Time to go. They’re on the bus and still wondering if they’re going to the airport. These poor designers still think they’re going someplace fancy. Sorry, guys, you’re going camping. That’s like going to Paris in the sense that they also have trees in Paris. But Kovid is his usual smiling self. He loves the idea of meditating in the woods.

8:05pm — “We’re out here in nature!” says Christian Siriano when he greets them. Fashion started in nature for the sake of survival, but now “it’s time for outdoor wear to be chic so we can survive in style.” It’s an unconventional materials challenge, so they have to create high-fashion looks for outdoor conditions — “survival chic.”

8:06pm — They’ll all be working and sleeping at the camp site, but not Christian. He’s an “indoor cat” who will be at the hotel up the street. Everything will happen outdoors: the model forms, the sewing, the fittings, even the runway show itself. They have until sundown tonight and all day tomorrow.

8:07pm — Good news, designers: Marni Senofonte will be back to help them with styling. Venny raves that Marni could take a trash bag from a street corner and turn it into avant garde fashion art. Since this is an unconventional materials challenge, that could literally be what she’s doing.

8:08pm — Designers have 20 minutes to collect materials to use for their designs. Sonia feels confident because she used unconventional materials when she studied at Parsons, and she likes the cold. Afa has also worked with outdoor materials, but nothing like this, and he has “zero strategy.” And an unconventional challenge was what Renee was most worried about in this competition.

8:10pm — Kovid wants to make something that comes from a different galaxy. He’s inspired by his upbringing, when he was told how he should and shouldn’t act as a boy. Now he has learned to go crazy. But maybe he went a little too crazy because he seemed to have snatched some of Garo Sparo’s materials. Speaking of which, Hester is off to find some leaves and leaves her pile of materials unattended. Other designers take from it, seeming to not realize it belonged to anyone. Perhaps Hester can find some naturally growing tulle?

8:12pm — Hester’s not buying their BS about not knowing it was anyone’s pile, but when she lets the other designers know, they do their best to return what they took. Hopefully that’s the end of pile-gate. This show needs a break from high drama for at least one week.

8:14pm — Garo Sparo is doing a corded corset gown with fishing lures. He was inspired by fishing with his dad. Renee’s doing a utility dress that can carry different things. Lela is going for “high-end couture mother nature” — I hope that works for the survival theme the judges will be looking for. Sebastian is going heavy on tape and leaves so he doesn’t need to sew as much. Excited to see what he does with that given his strong track record this season.

8:17pm — Jamall is going for a puffer jacket idea and making it almost like armor. He struggled growing up with his racial identity, and he grew up feeling “guarded and protected” in his puffer jacket. Tessa is building her own loom and making her own textile — is there a Girl Scout badge for that, because maybe there should be. And she advises Afa to go back to his roots too since he has used natural materials before. He’s seriously doubting himself.

8:19pm — Marni and Christian come in to advise the designers. They’re worried about Hester, thinking she’s making a bland tarp, but they’re convinced once they see her sketch. Hopefully she can pull off her “survival gown.” Marni loves Sonia’s use of a “twig bustle,” and Christina thinks it’s “gorgeous” too. Kovid’s look seems to have “a lot of elements” — and I do mean a lot —  and Christian warns him that he might want to edit it down a bit. Uh-oh, I’m worried again for Kovid, you guys.

8:26pm — Bishme’s look is “fabulous,” but it looks too safe and convention and needs something to make it feel more unconventional. Meanwhile, Rakan is worried he took the challenge too literally and is creating a kind of cocoon out of sleeping bags, and Marni thinks he needs a lighter shoe. Either way, he’s “tired and hungry” and needs “more hot chocolate” if he’s going to make it through this challenge. He’s worried about the time, and just like day day one is over.

8:29pm — Day two begins with a spider sighting and half the designers wishing the outdoor adventure would end. They’re so delirious they’re improvising camping songs about their desperate need for gloves, heat and food. This could turn into “Blair Witch: The Musical” by the end of the show — though I don’t hate that idea. Kovid is still super chill, though. He’s inspired by the cold.

8:32pm — Time for model fittings! “You will be one of the colder models,” Lela warns her model about the look she’s creating. I hope these poor ladies won’t get Lyme disease too from these woodsy designs. Christian is worried for Renee because she seems to be making just a “basic block coat” out of a tarp.

8:38pm — Bishme’s got a problem. His skirt split and his model’s “whole ass cheek is out.” But Sonia’s model feels “empowered” by her look, though she needs to make sure her model can actually walk. Afa tries his look on his model MiMi, and I’m loving it so far. Rakan has a sleeping bag wrapped around his model’s shoulders. Christian wants him to push himself, and so do I because it looks like it’s halfway between a hot mess and something potentially amazing.

8:40pm — Sebastian’s dress is too stiff and walks like a piece of cardboard. Sonia’s look seems to be walking well too, but she hasn’t resolved the front of her dress yet. She’ll need to finish it on the model on the day of the runway. Fingers crossed. Rakan gives Sebastian some helpful advice about his stiff dress. At the risk of jinxing things, this has been a gratifyingly drama-free episode.

8:46pm — We haven’t seen too much of what Tessa has been doing. It looks like she’s been working on one textile during the whole challenge. She goes out into the woods to pick up some more bark for a bra, but I have no idea what her design is supposed to look like.

8:48pm — It’s pitch black on the morning of the runway. It’s so early that the designers are working with head lamps. Tessa’s bark boob piece breaks while she’s putting it on her model, but she still think it looks cool — but I still have no idea what she’s making.

8:52pm — And there’s the rain. The designers have 30 minutes left to dress their models for the runway show. “My big concern is tripping this Mylar … This is going to be a disaster,” says Sonia when their time with their models is up. Uh-oh. Things seemed to be going so well for her.


8:56pm — The judges’ tarp is leaking, and everyone looks wet and slighty uncomfortable. Well, if the designs can survive these conditions, then they’ve definitely made survival-wear.

8:57pm — Hester’s look is first, and it’s dynamite, colorful, dramatic. Way to go, Hester! Venny’s low-cut camo look is pretty dynamite too (and on the model Nadine thought was too heavy to wear her garment last week). Garo Sparo kills it too with a dress that looks surprisingly slinky and sensual. Great start to the runway show.

8:58pm — Jamall’s look is very avant garde. It’s … interesting, but not sure if I like its big blob of orange and leaves. Tessa’s look comes out, and it’s super sexy and intricate. The textile she wove is dynamite, but there’s not much else going on with her look — just a mesh skirt underneath. Sebastian’s leaf look is still stiff, but I think it moves well enough, and it looks pretty damn hot.

8:59pm — Bishme’s grey twigs-and-rocks-adorned skirt looks great. Purple bubble coat is pretty basic, but under it is a great top. Kovid’s look … okay, I love Kovid so much, but his looks is all over the place, a lot of bunched up fabric and ties, like he tied up a woman while she was camping and is about to throw her in the trunk of his car. Renee’s look is solid, more utilitarian than elegant, and Brandon comments that even in the woods she managed to do a reveal. Does he like reveals, or is he giving them side eye. I can’t tell anymore.

9:00pm — Lela’s look is another dynamite, elegant, dress. Rakan’s look is pretty cool, though it still looks like a sleeping bag wrapped around her waist and shoulders. Afa’s look is fantastic with its ropes, nets, flowers and maps.

9:01pm — Oops! Sonia’s model tripped because Sonia didn’t hem the front of her dress. That’s going to hurt her, though I don’t think it’s a bad look overall — a little baked potatoey with all that silvery foil, but mostly flattering.


9:05pm — Afa, Renee, Hester, Sonia, Kovid, Rakan are their highest and lowest scorers. That means everyone else is safe: Jamall, Sebastian, Tessa, Garo Sparo, Bishme, Venny, and Lela.

Hester — Nina thinks she used the materials really “smartly.” Her design is “meticulous.” Elaine noticed an Afrocentric inspiration and she “loved it,” but she needs to be careful not to cross a line into cultural appropriation. Brandon thought it took his breath away with Hester’s execution.

Sonia — Brandon thought it was “breathtaking” when she walked away, but otherwise it looked like she was duct taped in foil and ready to stick in the oven. Nina thought there was too much uncontrolled fabric. But Karlie thought it was Sonia’s best look on the show so far.

Renee — Elaine thinks her design is a true survivor look. Nina and Karlie rave about the Beverly Hills glamping quality of it. Karlie loves the accessories and styling. Nina loves the pleats and thought the look was very “editorial” and “brilliant.”

Afa — Elaine thought the design was a “shipwreck,” and reminiscent of a “souvenir shop.” Nina thinks it’s too skimpy on actual clothing. And Karlie feels so bad for the model they actually give her blankets to cover up. Bad sign. Karlie also thinks he could have been more innovative with materials. Brandon thinks there are too many loose ends and it had nothing he felt positive about.

Rakan — Karlie thinks it’s a very “chic sleeping bag,” and she wants it for herself. Nina thought he took something practical and turned into something fashionable. It’s Elaine’s favorite look from him. She thinks it’s an “amazing, voluminous” look. Brandon considers it “impeccably styled.”

Kovid — He describes his look as functional, but Karlie disagrees, and she thinks it looks unfinished. Brandon thinks it looks like the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are in a straitjacket, and he wants to click his heels and go home. Nina loves the pants and the color, but she doesn’t understand the top: she’s “not buying the whole conceptual design.”

9:16pm — During deliberations, they rave about what Hester accomplished even though she had immunity. Renee’s look is covered, tailored, warm and smart — sexy even though it’s more covered than anyone else. And Rakan’s look is “super fashion” and a well edited idea.

9:20pm — Sonia’s look makes Brandon want to eat a baked potato, but she had an interesting idea. It’s not enough for Nina, though, and it’s starting to fall apart before their eyes. Afa’s dress is not nearly enough material, but Elaine likes the train even though that’s a low bar to clear for her. And Kovid, poor Kovid — he made great pants, and Brandon is unsure of who Kovid is as a designer, and it’s too conceptual. I have a feeling Kovid is going home, and I sadly have to agree that he has the poorest look.


9:25pmThe winner of the challenge is … Renee! Hester and Rakan are both safe and in. I personally would have picked Hester to win out of those three, but I think Renee should have won the season premiere challenge, so I don’t mind too much.

9:27pm — Sonia had a low score, but she’s safe. So the bottom two are Kovid (again!) and Afa. The designer going home is … Afa!? Wow, I thought Kovid was toast. I love Kovid so much, but Afa didn’t remotely deserve to be eliminated for that look. Now Afa is crying. He’s disappointed for himself. “I appreciate you all,” he tells the judges. Poor guy. I think he got screwed. Even Brandon is crying.

9:30pm — Next week’s challenge is luxury streetwear, but they only have until midnight that night to get it done.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

More News from GoldDerby