‘Project Runway’ recap: ‘The Art of Fashion’ and the science of deciding the final four [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Five went in, but how many came out? In episode 12 of “Project Runway,” titled “The Art of Fashion,” Garo Sparo, Hester Sunshine, Bishme Cromartie, Tessa Clark and Sebastian Grey competed for spots in the final four. So who will get to show their collections in the finale, and who flunked their final art class? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

This was another odd challenge for the designers to wrap their heads around. Their task was to create “experiential” looks that would be displayed as part of art installations at the Riverside Warehouse. Such an unusual, conceptual challenge meant the designers had to think outside of the box even as their designs would end up displayed in dioramas inside of boxes. That sounded like an ideal challenge for contestants like Garo and Hester, whose designs are conceptually adventurous even on normal days, though the judges sometimes think they push their playful looks too far into costume territory.

Meanwhile, Bravo’s previews of the episode indicated that Sebastian would struggle most of all. Though he has been an impeccable craftsman throughout the season, he has suffered designer’s block when trying to interpret more abstract challenges outside of his comfort zone, like creating a video game character in “Power Play” or making an Elton John performance look in “The Stitch is Back” — he barely even knew who Elton John was.

But Sebastian was also the the only designer in the first 11 challenges who never got a single low score, and he was our readers’ front-runner to win the whole season going into week 12, so he has a tendency to worry about nothing. Did this week really give him more than he could bargain for? Did he make it to the final four? If so, who joined him? Follow along below starting at 9:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

9:01pm — “I definitely feel a lot of pressure,” says Tessa right after landing on the bottom two. Garo Sparo tells her not to send any more raw hems down the runway again, and he’s absolutely right. The fastest way to go home now that we’re in the final five is to be the one designer who can’t finish a damn hem. Meanwhile, Hester has a less fashion-related critique: she thinks Tessa’s disposition comes off as “fake” sometimes. I don’t know about that; there’s plenty of shade to go around this season.

9:02pm — Designers wake up at 5:00am (which is closer to my bedtime than it is to my wake-up time). Some of the designers are like zombies at this hour, but Sebastian is wired. They deserve energy drink budgets as high as their fabric budgets.

9:03pm — They meet Karlie Kloss at the Riverside Warehouse. Whenever the designers embark somewhere on a challenge, it sounds like they’re on their way to a mob hit. This week’s challenge is to create an “experiential fashion show” which will show off who they are as designers. It needs to be “bigger and bolder” than anything they’ve designed before, so already that’s good news for Hester and Garo Sparo, bad news for Tessa. Funky art installations don’t sound like her forte. This challenge will decide which four designers get to present their collections in the finale.

9:05pm — The designers all get to pick their models, and Tessa is last to pick, but since there are only five of them left, they’re able to pick exclusively skinny models. I wish they still had to confront their full-figured phobia.

9:07pm — This is a two-day challenge with a budget of $500, and the designers will be working with conceptual artists for the complete installations that will go with their designs. Garo says he’s used to experimental installations, as I expected. Hester wants to make a rococo room that’s turning into a forest with a mossy floor. Bishme goes back to his “Baltimore bloom” inspiration; smart call since Baltimore themes have brought him two challenge wins. Garo wants a dressing room with robotic hands — weird, but weird is good, so I’ll allow it. Tessa is thinking about a ceramic studio, which is inspired by her mom; her upbringing has inspired her highest-scoring looks so far, so she thinks it’ll serve her well. And Sebastian wants a Grecian palace, but he’s worried that he’s not a good enough storyteller. He’s a great designer, but not a very conceptual one, so he’s not sure where to take this challenge.

9:11pm — At Mood, Garo is after metallics and Hester wants red-and-white gingham for an “aggressive rococo bondage picnic.” Okay, there’s weird, and then there’s that, but as long as there are no pasties I’m dying to see that look. Tessa in inspired by wabi-sabi, which embraces imperfection. Christian is skeptical. So am I. That sounds like it could be a cop-out, like, “My look is messy, but on purpose!” Christian also encourages her to think outside the box with her colors — not just clay, Tessa! Sebastian wants to make a new version of his winning week-two look, which is worrisome because he needs to be careful not to just repeat himself.

9:13pm — Bishme wants to work with rose gold lamé, which didn’t work out too well for him last time. Hester’s “concept is slowly going down the drain.” And Sebastian doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, so he buys a fabric and plans to just wing it in the workroom.

9:17pm — Sebastian is playing with structure, but he’s planning to use neoprene. That’s always an iffy fabric choice on this show, but if anyone can make it work, it might be him. It looks like it’s going better than Hester’s look, though. She’s spinning her wheels all day just trying to figure out what her design actually is.

9:18pm — Even Bishme is questioning himself. He’s the only self-taught designer left in the competition, so he’s doubting himself. It sounds like the only people who aren’t getting their asses totally kicked by this challenge are Garo and … maybe Tessa?

9:21pm — The designers are back in the van on their way to an undisclosed location … the Council of Fashion Designers of America! The winning designer this season is getting a mentorship there — no pressure. They’re meeting CFDA president and CEO Steven Kolb, who describes a process where someone from the council will help guide the winning designer’s business to see what’s working and fix what’s not. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal, maybe even more than the cash prize, so if the winning designer wants to give me their quarter of a million dollars, I could take it off their hands.

9:24pm — Garo is working on a lampshade silhouette. Tessa loves it, thinks it has a Lady Gaga/Madonna vibe, which sounds perfect for a conceptual art installation piece. It’s “modular” and “very avant garde,” but can be stripped down into something ready-to-wear.

9:25pm — Christian Consultations: He’s nervous about Hester, who’s making a silhouette a lot like the one she made for the last challenge. She she takes a pair of scissors and slices it up right there on the spot. Yikes!

9:29pm — Tessa’s “modernized kimono” is confusing Christian with all its layering. He just thinks it’s messy. Bishme’s rose-out-of-concrete idea is “interesting” to Christian, but he warns Bishme not to do too much — you’ve already got a rose, so don’t gild the lily. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s look is too front-heavy and he needs to play more with proportions, and Christian doesn’t understand the reason for the colors he’s using in his room. Neither does Sebastian, really. Now I’m really worried. Conceptual installation art is just not his thing. Garo’s look is “super chic” and Christian can’t wait to see it. Garo seems to be the only one on the right track.

9:33pm — During model fittings, I’m loving Garo’s look in progress. He might win by default if everyone keeps struggling. For instance, Hester has “a mental lapse of insanity” because her top doesn’t fit right, so she just cuts right into it. Note to self: don’t get between her and her scissors this week.

9:39pm — Even Christian is freaking out over how much work the designers still have to do. Sebastian hates his look, and Christian tries to talk him off that ledge, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

9:40pm — The designers seem to love their installations when they see it. Bishme thinks his Baltimore diorama is a too literal, though. Tessa likes her own pottery studio installation, but she has no idea what Sebastian is going for and she doesn’t like Garo’s installation at all. However, Garo seems to be the one with the clearest idea of his own creative vision. Hester loves her room, but she still doesn’t have a dress to put in it yet. Her model Thijin is a sweetheart, though, reassuring her.

9:43pm — Sebastian has another freak-out because his installation doesn’t match his idea of Grecian palace at all. He even seems to be kinda angry at his creative consultant, and mad Sebastian isn’t something we’ve ever really seen. He’s ready to give up. He’s done! But Hester tries to reassure him that no, she’s the one going home because she doesn’t have a dress at all. It’s not a good challenge when the designers are trying to convince each other that they’re the one going home.

9:47pm — “I’m gonna smack you,” says Garo to Sebastian, trying to knock some sense into him and talk him out of quitting the show. Sebastian takes a few minutes for a time out, and he finally decides to fight his way through.

9:49pm — Day two is done, and I have no idea who’s sticking around, and in comes Christian with another twist: Cardi B is attending their fashion show. Hester would normally love that, but since she doesn’t have a look she’s especially enthusiastic about, now she’s just more stressed. That’s a shame because Hester Sunshine and Cardi B sound like a fashion match made in heaven.

9:52pm — “Something came together!” says Hester. It’s not her favorite look, but she’s proud of what she managed to throw together at the last minute. Even Christian likes the top she made. Okay, she might have dodged a bullet. But Tessa has 20 minutes left and nothing but raw edges, but she tells Christian she’ll finish them. She has time. Except that she doesn’t. Christian needs a drink.

9:53pm — Tessa thinks Bishme’s look isn’t pushing the envelope enough. Well, that’s the pot calling the kettle another black dress. And Bishme is sewing a shiny wing into his model’s hair. This could be pretty rough when the judges get in there.


9:59pm — It’s not a runway show this week so much as a warehouse show. Joining the show as a guest judge is Linda Fargo, the fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman.

10:00pm — I really like Bishme’s look with the way the rose color and sparkle stands out against the brick background. Linda think it’s an “entrance maker” and Nina think it has “beautiful proportion.” Brandon thinks the peplum is ho-hum, but he likes Bishme’s overall design story.

10:01pm — I love Garo’s lampshade look, but I wish that pale color stood out more against the rest of his installation, which overpowers it a little. I like it better when his model stand up and shows off the design. Up close it has really splendid details. Elaine thinks the corset fabric is the best element, and she think’s it’s overall elegant and wearable while also being futuristic. Karlie thinks it could be sold at Bergdorf Goodman as is.

10:03pm — Okay, I’m actually really liking Tessa look, and I wasn’t expecting to. The colors pop nicely against the background, there’s a lot going on with bits and pieces everywhere, but it feels cool and controlled. Elaine thinks it’s a nice departure, but Karlie feels the quality still feels unfinished. Cardi B wonders if it would look good on a runway and if customers would want to buy it; she thinks something is missing. Ouch.

10:04pm — I really like Sebastian’s look too. Very sculptural, ornate, and well made. His problem is that he doesn’t really have a clear story concept in his installation. Linda thinks there’s a “push and pull” between the colorful decor and the neutral dress. She thinks they “fight a bit.” Sebastian says it was intentional, and I’m not buying it. I don’t think the judges are either. But Brandon adores his construction, and so do I. I think he might be safe.

10:06pm — Hester’s look is pretty good, but I don’t think the look and the installation tell much of a story. Linda loves it though. Nina has issues with the fit, and Brandon thinks it has issues too, but he thinks the skirt is perfect.

10:07pm — Wow, Cardi B thinks there’s “too much going on” with Hester’s look. That’s really saying something coming from Cardi B, when I think this is one of Hester’s subtlest looks. I’m heartbroken for Hester, though, who would have loved to impress someone like Cardi B.

10:08pm — Elaine gets to Bishme’s dress and notices some imperfections. And Cardi B loves Garo’s lampshade even thouggh Nina thought it was a little costumey — come on, Nina, this is Garo making an art installation. He’s has earned a little creative license where “costumes” are involved.

10:09pm — Tessa explains wabi sabi to Brandon and suddenly he understands all her unfinished hems throughout the season. It actually does open his eyes about who and what she is as a designer. Linda loves the counter-intuitive color choices, and Brandon is overjoyed to see at least one finished hem!

10:10pm — Elaine gets to Hester’s look, and she doesn’t think it’s the kind of bigger and bolder look the challenge called for. I agree: by Hester’s standards especially it’s too understated. After all that drama in the workroom, I don’t think there’s a single bad look in the challenge, but Hester’s might be the weakest.

10:12pm — Cardi B thought Sebastian had her favorite dress even though she hated his yellow and purple room. It’s going to be a tough decision, so the judges are going to reviews the designers’ looks from throughout the season to make their decisions.


10:13pm — The judges are going through all the designers’ looks one by one.

BISHME — Elaine thought he was one of the few who showed the designers something bigger and better in this challenge, and Karlie sees a lot of reflections of previous looks. Linda admires how much range there is in his looks.

GARO SPARO — Karlie thinks he has no shortage of ideas and brings through finished garments with lots of creativity. Nina thinks he has had ups and downs, but Elaine thinks he has taken to heart all their feedback.

SEBASTIAN — Christian thinks Sebastian makes great clothes, but doesn’t really have any story behind them, so he might struggle with a concept for a full collection. Nina thinks his technical skill is what has mostly gotten him this far. But Brandon doesn’t care about the story when the looks are as well made as his are.

HESTER — Christian likes that she’s so different from everyone else. Linda is seeing this all at once for the first time, so she’s not sure how she feels about all the silliness and theatricality. Karlie thinks she has great ideas. And Nina admires that she always took chances when she had immunity, which is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about her taffeta pasties.

TESSA — Man, going from Hester to minimalist Tessa is going to give the judges whiplash. Karlie liked her installation but wasn’t excited about her clothes. Brandon agreed that she had the best room but wasn’t enthusiastic about her design. Elaine is concerned that Tessa struggled the most whenever she was asked to push herself beyond her comfort zone. Christian agrees that she has issues and often doesn’t finish. Nina thinks she’s a good designer but may not have enough inspiration to show a whole collection.


10:22pm – Linda thinks Sebastian should win even with the bad yellow room. But Elaine would give this challenge to Garo. Nina and Brandon are also torn: they loved Sebastian’s design but hated his room, loved Garo’s room but weren’t as fond of his design. Between those two, I’d personally give this to Garo.

10:24pm — Linda would eliminate Tessa, but Hester’s look was poorly made according to Karlie. Nina thinks Hester deserves a spot in the final four, and I agree. Though I think Tessa did better than the judges gave her credit for this week, Hester is the designer I’d rather see a collection from in all its insane glory.

10:25pm — Elaine feels Bishme has risen to the occasion time and time again, even though this week’s look had construction issues.

10:26pmGaro Sparo wins the challenge! Well deserved, and that guarantees him a spot in the finale. It’s his second win of the season.

10:27pmSebastian gets another spot in the finale! To think he wanted to quit and he ended up with one of the best dresses in the challenge. Dude needs to chill out from now on.

10:27pmBishme is also moving on to the finale! Another well deserved spot, and I think it’s well deserved. Sad to see it’s coming down to Hester and Tessa for the last spot. They’ve both done some great work.

10:27pmHester is in! That’s what I thought, and I think it’s the right call. Tessa is eliminated, but Brandon tells her that her work is “vital and important” and she should be proud of herself. Tessa is disappointed, but she’s really gracious in her elimination and I appreciate that after the rough few weeks she’s had.

10:29pm — The final four will have five months to make their 10-look collections. And holy cow, they get $10,000 apiece for their collections, which comes to $1,000 per look. Get ready for diamond-encrusted corsets from Garo and ruby fetish pasties from Hester!

10:30pm — Yikes! Scenes from next week’s show look intense: Hester impaled by a sewing needle, and Bishme walking off in tears. But at least it doesn’t look like Sebastian is threatening to quit again.

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.

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