Two weeks ago in the sixth episode of “Project Runway” season 19, the 11 remaining designers were partnered with New York accessories designers in celebration of the fashion industry getting back to work after the pandemic. Including pairings with hat, glove and shoe designers, each of the fresh garments was inspired by and created in harmony with the locally-designed accessory. Kristina Kharlashkina worked with a shoe designer and earned her first win of the season for a neon green suit that gave the judges multiple pieces that could be worn together or on their own. After two consecutive bottom placements in a row, Katie Kortman found herself among the judges’ least favorite yet again for failing to find her own voice in partnership with a vegan shoe designer.
Below, read our “Project Runway” recap of season 19, episode 7, titled “Are You Fur Real,” to find out what happened Thursday, December 2, when fashion icon Billy Porter joins the panel to assess the top 10’s use of faux fur in an avant-garde look. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about your favorite designers on Bravo’s reality TV show, who has the best aesthetic, and who you think will ultimately be crowned the next big name in fashion.
The 10 designers remaining were: Octavio Aguilar, Bones Jones, Coral Castillo, Prajje Oscar Jean-Baptiste, Kristina Kharlashkina, Shantall Lacayo, Chasity Sereal, Aaron Michael Steach, Zayden Skipper, and Anna Zhou.
Following his own second placement among the bottom designers, Zayden was inspired to “prove people wrong” and “keep going,” much as he’s done throughout his career and life. His chance to do that this week came in the form of recycled, plant-based faux fur that Christian Siriano explained would be the basis of their next challenge. The fur would be used to create an avant-garde look that shows innovation and ambition while working in pairs. As the winner of the previous challenge, Kristina got to pick her partner first and she quickly chose Shantall. After that, Christian randomized the pairings with the button bag: Aaron and Bones, Anna and Octavio, Zayden and Coral, and Chasity and Prajje.
The pairs were only creating one look together, but would be judged on their own contributions to the design. They chose from selected faux furs already in the studio and then brainstormed before heading to Mood for additional fabrics. At Mood, Prajje picked up a ton of paints, thinking that adding paint to the fur would be something unexpected, while Chasity was worried they didn’t pick up enough supplemental fabric at the expense of so much paint.
Then, on their way back from Mood, their van turned a corner and scaffolding came through the window of Anna’s seat, shattering glass all over her. Anna went to the hospital, and Christian gave the designers the rest of the day off to decompress from the shock. He also noted that Anna would soon be released from the hospital to join them back at their apartment and that they’d all return the following day to finish the challenge. Luckily, Anna only had a few cuts and bruises.
Back in the studio the next day, Aaron and Bones began construction on their exaggerated collar piece. The concept was Aaron’s, which left him leading their team and Bones feeling like he was just a worker bee in service of his partner’s vision. In the other teams, Octavio and Anna were working on oversized puffy arms and skirt, Chasity and Prajje worked on structured pillars for the sides of their garment, Shantall and Kristina patched together two different animal prints for a coat, and Zayden and Coral were using red furs with New York City as their inspiration.
When Prajje got to painting the skirt of their look, Chasity expressed concern that it wouldn’t tie into the fur pieces. Prajje said that because it’s an avant-garde piece it didn’t have to go together perfectly, but she stressed that it couldn’t just be them adding artwork on top of the rest of their design. During check-ins, Christian urged them to incorporate fur into the painted portion in order to make it more cohesive. He also had a lot of advice for the other teams, inspiring Zayden and Coral to think about a cage effect and warning Octavio and Anna against going too “monster costumey” to the point of them switching their idea to a corseted dress.
While assembling their large collar, Bones was worried that it was going to be too floppy and come across as “avant-garbage.” Christian wasn’t sure if Kristina and Shantall had made the right decision to place the waist of their gown so high on the model’s body and to use pink as the inside of a flap-opening fur coat because of the way it could read as female anatomy. Despite Christian pushing them to reconsider parts of their dress, Kristina insisted that they not change anything, which just added pressure to Shantall who would automatically go home if they were the bottom look due to Kristina’s immunity.
Frustration continued between Bones and Aaron over Aaron’s refusal to let Bones add structure inside of the collar to give it some more stability. Later in the night the designers attempted to chill out with some drinks together, but Aaron was still angry at Bones for trying to put wooden paint stirrers in their dress, saying that Bones had no idea what he was doing and insisting that his previous designs in other challenges weren’t good enough.
Their argument got heated and personal, so the next morning when Aaron tried speaking to Bones about their design without first apologizing for his behavior, Bones shut it down and refused to have a conversation with him. Once back in the studio, Bones said that he respects Aaron’s work and only asks that Aaron treat his work and ideas with the same amount of respect without blowing up at him. Aaron admitted that he didn’t handle it well and so he apologized, and Bones was happy to move on.
Ahead of the runway, Bones and Aaron were finally adding sticks to support their heavy collar, Coral and Zayden were harnessing their caged-in dress, and Shantall was determined to coach her model into presenting their large coat in a convincing way. After hair and makeup, the five looks were ready to present to series regular judges Elaine Welteroth and Nina Garcia, as well as special guests Billy and designer Esteban Cortazar, who was sitting in for an absent Brandon Maxwell.
Prajje and Chasity were very pleased with Mimi’s elegantly dramatic presentation of their pink fur and painted combination. DD followed, presenting Zayden and Coral’s black and red cage dress with an appropriate amount of hardness. Next was Cassandra in Shantall and Kristina’s patchwork coat that opened into a pink flower, showing off a much softer concept of avant-garde. Anna and Octavio didn’t think their vision was executed to the standards the judges may have expected, but Grace did her best to sell it on the runway. The show closed with the collar staying up as Luz walked in Bones and Aaron’s regal gown (thanks to the paint stirrers that Bones had suggested).
Because there were only five looks to assess, Nina kept all of the designers on stage to hear the judges’ critiques. Among the top three looks was Zayden and Coral’s for coming up with something cool and merging structure and fun in one piece. Elaine called it the most functional and wearable art that they saw on the runway. Aaron and Bones were relieved to learn they were also on top, telling the judges that their vision of “Game of Thrones” and royalty came through. Billy called it his favorite of the night and the rest of the judges completely understood the concept, though Nina pulled back a little bit in saying that it wasn’t the most avant-garde of the group. Prajje and Chasity were also in the top for what Esteban called “full-on couture” and Billy understood as the “pillars of strength.” Billy’s only concern was how restrictive the dress was in terms of walking, but Mimi proved him wrong by walking confidently in the dress once she was off the runway.
Kristina and Shantall had one of the bottom two scores despite Elaine calling it “not a boring look.” She explained that in this case less would have been more and Nina called it weighty and clunky. Billy liked the idea of the cocoon opening up, but mentioned that the quilting inside wasn’t the reveal of a butterfly, just another cocoon. Their competition on the bottom was Anna and Octavio’s puffer look that the judges were surprised came from them because of the lack of strong execution and no sign of streetwear or romance that the two of them are known for. Elaine called it sloppy, Billy called it confusing, and Esteban said it was clear they had a limited amount of time to execute it well.
In deliberation, the judges had a tough time choosing between the top designers. They liked the modernity of Coral and Zayden’s look and appreciated their ability to marry their own signature touches (macrame and buckles) into a cohesive and visionary piece. But that modernity was not a match for the pure avant-gardeness of Prajje and Chasity’s elegant gown. Between the two, Nina announced Chasity as the winner for creating a level of structure in fur that Esteban said is nearly impossible to do. The win secured Chasity the status as the first two-time winner of the season.
Before announcing the eliminated designer, Nina noted that Kristina was lucky this week because without immunity she would have been sent home for the inner lining of the fur coat, which was their least favorite moment on the runway. From the remaining three, Nina apologized that they had to eliminate Shantall since she was the only option for the garment that they liked least overall. Shantall was prepared to leave with grace, not blaming Kristina’s immunity for her elimination, but Christian told her she wasn’t going anywhere, choosing to use his only Siriano Save to keep Shantall around for another chance.
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