‘Project Runway’ recap: It was ‘The Height of Avant-Garde Fashion’ for the designers, but 2 fell short of the finale [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

Last week’s “Project Runway” episode, “Olympic Game Plan,” was a feel-good, happy-ending kind of episode with the designers making victory dresses for inspiring athletes. No one went home at the end of the challenge. But that meant that this week, in “The Height of Avant-Garde Fashion,” two designers would fall back down to Earth in stead of just one. So which four advanced to Fashion Week, and who missed the cut? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

Who would move on and who would go home was anyone’s guess considering how closely matched the designers were. All six of them had won design challenges before. All of them had been at the bottom multiple times — two of them, Brittany Allen and Marquise Foster, had actually been eliminated before making comebacks after the fact. Brittany was saved by Christian Siriano, while Marquise got to come back following the withdrawal of Dayoung Kim.

So it was fitting to decide the final four with an avant garde challenge. It was an opportunity to judge how the designers operate at the outer reaches of their creativity. That, more than anything, would give us an idea of who has the artistic vision to show 10 looks at New York Fashion Week.

But it wasn’t just the looks that were special during this week’s challenge. It was also the locale: the designers showed their bold designs at the Vessel, a visitor attraction that opened in 2019 at Hudson Yards in Manhattan. And joining the panel to evaluate this week’s looks was Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star Rachel Brosnahan. So who did they send through to the final round, and who just fell short after coming all this way? Follow along below starting at 9:00pm (times listed are Eastern).

9:02pm — “You are the final six,” says Brandon Maxwell to the designers on the runway. Well, that was also true last week. Because the judges were so nice last week, two people are getting the boot at the end of this week’s challenge. “It does suck, but I just have to make it over this one hurdle,” says Brittany. Well, one more hurdle since she already had to make it over the whole being eliminated and getting the Siriano Save thing.

9:04pm — When the designers find out this is the avant garde challenge, Nancy looks especially excited. Sergio and Brittany also look like they’re down with it. “It’s something that goes beyond the norm we see on the runway,” Brandon explains. It deserves and “equally avant garde platform,” so the designers will be the first to do a fashion show at the Vessel. It’s already Geoffrey’s favorite building in New York even though it only opened in 2019. Sorry, Empire State Building. Sucks to be you, Grand Central Station. Nancy gets to choose her model since she won the last challenge: she picks DD. No one is surprised. She loves DD (as do we all), though ironically her only two bottom looks this season were for DD. She picks Sergio to select next, and he picks Yuen. Brittany picks Severine. Marquise picks Nora. Geoffrey picks Thijin. Victoria is picked last, so she gets the model who was picked last, Madeline. Victoria is encouraged by getting picked last since maybe it means the other designers are scared of her.

9:06pm — Marquise is excited because designing for ballroom is a good fit for avant garde. Victoria isn’t avant garde, but she feels like her looks are already pretty out there, and she thinks more is better than less — she’s right about that. Brittany turns out not to be thrilled by this challenge at all since she’s all about ready-to-wear, but her Ashley Longshore look was pretty bold and innovative, so she’s definitely got the chops for it. Sergio wants to use his look to honor female samurai warriors and tell an “amazing political story” — well, he has yet to tell any good political story this season. We’ll see how he ineffectually tacks on his message this week. Maybe stitch the words “girl power” into the hem?

9:08pm — Mood trip for avant garde, and Christian means business, so he’d better not see any duchess satin or “I’m gonna cut you all.” But they do get more time to shop (60 minutes) and a budget of $600 — Victoria wants more. Nancy needs a lot of horsehair to shape and sculpt, and she’s inspired by the Vessel. Geoffrey is also inspired by the Vessel and is excited because avant garde is his thing and his client base is blow if he screws this one up, but Christian has to give him a stern talking to about using the same satin the judges disliked last week. “They will murder you.” I guess it’s a good sign for Geoffrey that he’s frazzled, because he’s always frazzled, and it’s gotten him this far.

9:11pm — Brittany is thinking of her Ashley Longshore challenge win as a jumping-off point for the avant garde challenge. Geoffrey, as usual, is frazzled at Mood, and he’s going with latex — ooh, sounds cool and fetishy, and in a potentially great way.

9:13pm — Victoria is cutting out over a thousand pieces and assembling them one-by-one onto organza. And she’s got such a good rhythm going on that sewing machine that the show is synching it to the music. It’s like “Stomp” but stomping on a sewing machine pedal. However, she’s worried because these individual pieces are so time consuming that she’s worried about the undertaking. Marquise, meanwhile, is working on chain pants, but they’re heavy AF. I wonder what metal they are; I have an aluminum chain mail tie that weighs hardly anything. It’s not rated for armor, though, so I just have to avoid battles against other medieval accountants.

Christian Consultations

9:14pm — Brittany is unsure of herself, but Christian seems to like the track she’s on. He’s a little concerned about Geoffrey using latex until Geoffrey explains that he actually had a latex company. He’s done latex for Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Katy Perry. “I can make latex do stuff that nobody else can, I’m very good at it” — hey now! Elsewhere, Christian loves the idea of Marquise’s chain pants, but Marquise is worried about the weight.

9:16pm — Nancy isn’t entirely sure what she’s making yet. She’s just kinda making it up as she goes along, and Geoffrey’s not sure about that strategy with so much on the line. Christian is worried too: she needs a clear idea. Christian doesn’t understand Victoria’s “Lord of the Rings” idea from the sketch she made that looks like a big, billowing ruffle-gasm.

9:20pm — Sergio thinks the other designers keep watching what he’s doing because he works at such a high level that he pushes them to be better. His biggest competition is himself. Classic Sergio, and I wonder if this time the editors are really foreshadowing his comeuppance. And back at the penthouse, we finally get to meet Nancy’s husband during a video call. Apparently they met on a golf dating site, which for some reason feels totally on brand for Nancy. Apparently it has a romper and two coats?

9:22pm — Sergio thinks the other designers keep watching what he’s doing because he works at such a high level that he pushes them to be better. His biggest competition is himself. Classic Sergio, and I wonder if this time the editors of the show are really foreshadowing his comeuppance. Then back at the penthouse, we finally get to meet Nancy’s husband during a video call. Apparently they met on a golfing dating site, which is apparently a thing that exists and which for some reason feels totally on-brand for Nancy and I’m not entirely sure why.

9:26pm — Christian is back in the workroom with a special surprise. He brings the six designers into a room where all of their looks from the season are on display. It’s funny, seeing them on hangers make them seem more tangible to me, like they’re something that could be in someone’s closet (like mine!), which is cool. But it’s more than just a walk down memory lane. In addition to their avant garde piece they’re going to show the judges two past looks. So it’s gonna be important to pick looks with a clear, unified artistic voice. Their choices are pretty unsurprising. Victoria is going for her winning look in “Ultimate Upcycle” and the similar punk look from “Sew 80’s.” Sergio is picking his two winning looks. Brittany is using her two winning looks. Geoffrey is going with his “Sew 80’s” winning look but actually his tuxedo jumpsuit for his second look. Marquise is going with his winning tuxedo look and also the “There’s Only One You” design I don’t think he got nearly enough credit for, so kudos! Nancy is picking “Sheer Genius” and “Cats of the Urban Jungle,” both bold interesting choices and both DD choices, I dig.

Model Fittings

9:28pm — Eighteen models enter the workroom: three per designer so they can make alterations to their previous looks. But Christian is worried that Brittany’s avant garde look it too restricting: it’s “a pink straitjacket.” She needs to refine it, especially the pleats. She’s inspired by a feminine power vibe. Maybe she should ask Sergio. He knows all about women’s empowerment this week.

9:34pm — Geoffrey’s look doesn’t have much too it, just a jacket and a short. “Dream of it more,” Christian advises. He likes the idea of Christian’s samurai warrior idea. He explains that his hyper-confidence has been armor for him, sort of a defense mechanism against people after growing up gay and somewhat feminine and interested in fashion. I respect the hell out of that, but I think that pendulum needs to swing back some. Like, maybe be 20% less confident.

9:35pm — Christian isn’t a fan of the jacket Marquise’s making. It’s not innovative, just pointy. He advises Marquise to fold the points in, and Marquise totally agrees. And even if you don’t agree with Christian you should agree because he’s usually right about what the judges will think.

9:39pm — Day’s almost over, and they’ll still have a couple of hours to finish things up in the morning, but they’re arriving at 3:00am for a runway at dawn — which sounds like a nightmare to me since 3:00am is closer to my bedtime than my wake-up time. But as the day winds down, Brittany is worried for Nancy doing another look with lots of ruffly horse hair up around the shoulders and neck like she’s done before. And OMG, Geoffrey’s bleeding!

9:42pm — So apparently Geoffrey pricked his finger and got blood on his garment. “Blood is avant garde, but I wasn’t really planning on it … I’m not into a blood print right now,” he says. I dunno. He could lean onto that. Also, “Blood Print” sounds like a really awesome textile-themed horror movie. Sergio advises Geoffrey to lick the blood to get it out. So “Blood Print” is definitely a horror movie about vampire designers.

Morning of the Runway

9:44pm — Morning of the runway, Sergio isn’t worried because he’s had hundreds of runway shows. Man, he really sounds like he’s foreshadowing his own ironic downfall. He’s making me hope so. He’ll be the first to be killed off in “Blood Print.”

9:46pm — Nancy doesn’t want to blend in with other designers with funky sleeves, so Nancy is losing the sleeves. I hope it turns out better than when she took the sleeves off her tuxedo look — I dug that one, but the judges didn’t. Elsewhere, Geoffrey is finishing up with his latex, wiping off the powder so all the lube doesn’t get milky. Man, latex even makes practical garment construction sound kinky. “It’s a gay staple,” Geoffrey explains about all the water-based lube on the table. “Can’t have sex without it — well you can, but …”

9:47pm — And … Geoffrey had impaled his hand again. But he’s literally taping himself back together, so I’m sure it’s fine. It’s avant garde medicine. Victoria thinks Sergio’s hair and makeup choices for his model on his samurai look is “cliche.” I think she’s right. I’m worried that’s going to look like a big cultural appropriation costume moment. Right now I’m most concerned for Sergio and Nancy.

Runway Show at the Vessel

9:53pm — The designers and judges arrive at New York’s glorious space pine cone. They’re joined by guest judge Rachel Brosnahan. Brandon is scared of heights, though, so he’s taking the stairs … and then goes right back down the stairs — that is not happening. He’ll be judging the challenge from a lower floor — it’s avant garde judging.

9:55pm — All the models come out at once, and Elaine thinks it might be the best runway in the show’s history. I like Brittany’s three looks together, and those pink ruffles look neat. Nancy’s collection is impressively cohesive; I like the volume of all of them, but they’re also strong individually, not just same-old-same-old.

9:56pm — Sergio’s design is genuinely gorgeous and incredibly structured, though I still would’ve gone another way with that hair and makeup. Victoria’s avant garde look is lovely and voluminous, but I’m not quite as excited about it. Marquise’s looks are pretty good too — love how the chain pants came out, though I’m not 100% into the jacket. I’m maybe 60% into it. Geoffrey’s latex came out great, though, not too fussy, but bold and very him.

9:58pm — I have no idea who’s going to be eliminated based on this runway. I think all the designers really went for it and hit the mark to varying degrees. My least favorites of the avant garde looks are probably Victoria and Marquise, but they’re both still good. My favorites are probably Nancy, Geoffrey, and (gulp) actually Sergio, makeup aside.


BRITTANY — Elaine loves the color choice, which had a lot of “mesmerizing” “wow factor.” She thought Brittany really brought the drama. Karlie was “wowed” at the Vessel, but the execution is somewhat lacking when she sees it up close. Rachel loves the color, but she wasn’t sure about the dress underneath. Brandon also would have preferred the coat with jeans instead of the dress. Nina thought the plastic butterflies were “kitschy” and “detracted from the sophistication” of the rest of her look.

NANCY — Rachel thought it was dramatic and moved beautifully. It was one of her favorites. Elaine thought it delivered on the challenge and helped her understand who Nancy is as a designer. Karlie notes that the horsehair is similar to Nancy’s sheer challenge look, but the way she manipulated it was “wearable art.” Brittany doesn’t looks happy with the praise Nancy’s getting, but I’m with te judges on this one. Nina is with Brittany though, saying she’s “not completely floored by this.” It looked like a “black cloud” and a “missed opportunity” that didn’t use the light and color of the Vessel to its full potential. That cheered Brittany up a bit.

MARQUISE — Brandon thinks the pants are “really cool,” but Rachel thinks the proportions are “slightly off.” Nina likes it better without the jacket, and says Marquise over-complicates the process. Brandon and Elaine didn’t even realize that it was a jacket over a top. They thought it was all one piece.

GEOFFREY — Nina’s got her arms crossed. Elaine thought it was “poetic” with its “fluidity.” Rachel liked the bold top and the minimal bottom. Nina thinks it’s “tragic” that this is the first time Geoffrey has used latex this season because it’s “beautiful.” So I guess Nina was just mad that Geoffrey was holding out on them. Brandon thought it “matched the location” the best, but it was “very ‘Land Before Time.'” The other judges don’t know what the heck he’s talking about.

SERGIO — Elaine was “haunted” by the image of the model in the elevator. It was “theatrical” and his tailoring was “a cut above the competition.” Nina has a “dilemma,” though. She has seen that kind of Asian-influenced look before from famous designers, specifically the hair and makeup. Man, if he had just not gone so literal with that hair and makeup, it would’ve been dynamite. Brandon thinks the craftsmanship “cannot be denied,” but he needs to be a better “thinker” in terms of his ideas.

VICTORIA — Brandon thinks the champagne color was “so smart.” If the model sits down, her boobs will totally pop out, but Brandon thinks that’s avant garde too kinda. Karlie likes the “structure” and the “fluidity” of the fabric. Elaine didn’t think the earring attachment worked and “over-complicated the design. This didn’t live up to my wildest fantasy.” Rachel agrees with that, but she loved the silhouette and textures.

10:14pm — Sounds like Geoffrey is definitely in. Hard to say about the others. I think Brittany will go through based on her past work. They’re the only ones I’m confident about, though, and even then I could be wrong.

10:17pm — “There isn’t a single loser in this roundup,” says Elaine about the top six avant garde looks. Agreed! Elaine thinks Geoffrey has gained momentum all season rather than losing steam. Brandon notes Victoria’s “romanticism” and “fish-hook breast hammock,” and I can’t tell if that’s a compliment, but I love it. Mixed opinions on that one, but Elaine will fight for Nancy, and so will Rachel. Brittany had a great impact, but it was a “full-on Monet” — great from a distance, but kind of a mess up close.

10:18pm — I think Marquise might be out; Nina thought his garment looked like “the Tin Man.” But Karlie thinks he’d be great with some mentoring, and Elaine thinks he’s capable of a moment the show has never had. They think he’ll be a great streetwear designer (damning with faint praise?), but Brandon says Sergio will deliver a better runway moment. My final guesses: Geoffrey 100% in, Brittany probably in based on her season as a whole, Marquise out, the other three fighting for the last two slots.


10:22pmThe first designer announced for the finale is … Geoffrey! Not surprised at all, and it’s completely deserved. Nina wants him to think “streamlined” and “fresh” and “sophisticated” for his collection.

10:23pmThe second designer in the finale is … Victoria! Not too surprised, but I thought she would be on the bubble. I think she saved herself by going with something more romantic and flowing than her previous work. Karlie recommends that she think beyond the one kind of woman she usually designs for.

10:24pmThe fourth designer in the finale is … Nancy! Hooray! I’m kinda surprised. I thought she’d be out despite so many judges loving this week’s look. But that means there’s only one spot left. But Elaine warns her to ditch the oversized garments for her final collection. I really, really hope Brittany gets the last slot.

10:24pmThe first designer out is … Brittany. I’m kinda shocked by that. I know the judges didn’t love her avant garde look, but I thought the judges would want to see her aesthetic in a full collection after all her work this season. This means Sergio is almost definitely getting that last slot.

10:25pmThe last designer going to the finale is officially … Sergio. Which means I was right that Marquise is out. That means the two designers who were eliminated in previous challenges are both eliminated in this challenge. I wonder if the judges held them to a higher standard, wanting to see even more from them to earn their spots.

10:27pm — The final four will have $10,000 and five months to create their collections, but man am I bummed for Brittany. She wanted it so badly, and she had such good looks this season.

10:30pm — Scenes from next week’s show indicate that Nancy has tons of work already done, Geoffrey hardly has anything done, and Sergio is … fermenting his designs in the bathtub? Is his theme bootlegging? Or that “Breaking Bad” scene where they dissolved a body?

‘Project Runway’ now; change them until Thursday night’s show[/pmc-related-link]

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