“Project Runway” made a triumphant return for its 19th season by embracing the spirit of revival in New York City. Series judges Nina Garcia, Brandon Maxwell and Elaine Welteroth joined host and mentor Christian Siriano as well as 16 up and coming designers in a bold premiere in celebration of color and everyone’s first runway show since the industry shut down during the pandemic.
Below read our “Project Runway” recap of season 19, episode 1, titled “A Colorful Return,” to find out what happened Thursday, October 14 at 9:00 pm ET/PT. 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 named the next big name in fashion.
The 16 new designers are: Octavio Aguilar, Darren Apolonio, Kenneth Barlis, Caycee Black, Bones Jones, Coral Castillo, Meg Ferguson, Prajje Oscar Jean-Baptiste, Kristina Kharlashkina, Katie Kortman, Shantall Lacayo, Chasity Sereal, Sabrina Spanta, Aaron Michael Steach, Zayden, and Anna Zhou.
To kick off their next journey as designers, the contestants were greeted on the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center by Christian, Nina, Brandon and Elaine. As Nina explained, in honor of the revival of NYC, Lincoln Center had artist Mimi Lien install a piece “The Green” inside the courtyard and that would serve to inspire the designers this season to be bold with their color choices. In that spirit, the judges announced their first challenge: two teams would each create a cohesive collection of eight monochromatic looks in celebration of color.
The teams were divided one by one into two teams defined by “cool” and “warm” colors with eight color choices each, one for every designer. In a twist they’ve never done on the show before, Christian also said that the warm team would be working during the day and the cool team would be working during the night so that neither team could worry about what the other team is doing. By the end of the challenge, one designer from the losing team would be sent home.
Because it was their first time meeting each other, when the two teams broke off they first had to introduce themselves and their aesthetics to the group so that they could then formulate a plan for how their look would work together. Part of this process also involved choosing models and picking a color from the wheel that each would be using. Among the designers on the warm team was Aaron, a drag queen costume designer, and Shantall, an evening wear designer drawn to retro eras. After discussing all of their ideas, the group realized that they had two different collections happening and that perhaps hardware was something they could use to fuse them together. In that process, Prajje was worried that designers would compromise too much on their own style which for him is not part of how anyone should design.
On the cool team, the first thing Meg wanted to know was whether or not anyone else was as comfortable doing plus-size design as she is because she sees it as an essential part of where fashion needs to continue to go. As the only male designer on the team, Zayden quickly realized that he’d need to take a step back and let the women take the lead as they discussed florals and bows as their cohesive elements.
The warm team was first to head to Mood for fabric selections where Christian gave them 45 minutes and $400 to explore. Bones planned out a yellow jumpsuit to represent the idea of hope, while Darren was eyeing flashy gold fabrics to make a “runaway prom queen going to a New Year’s Eve party” dress. Wandering through the store, Christian kept reminding the group that they must be cohesive and pointing out that a lot of them were already cutting their fabric without having touched base with any of their teammates.
After Mood the team came together in the work space to discuss their overall concept, “dinner and a show,” and how they could create the story for that with their colors and fabrics. While they did that, the cool team made their way to Mood for their own trip around the aisles. Going into this experience they all had the original plan of “woman as a flower” in their head, but only some of them were sticking to that and Zayden was still confused how the bow became part of the story, but Christian seemed less stressed about reminding them of cohesion.
When Christian returned to the work space to check in on the warm team’s progress, none of the designers were able to communicate to him how their own garments were fitting in with everyone else’s aside from mentioning the “dinner and a show” evening wear concept. Among the group, Christian noticed gold sequins, leather, and crop tops in the room, none of which were speaking to each other and he told Octavio that his oversized red harem pant is “totally different” than everything else. At the end of the day though, Bones assembled everyone’s work so far and they all agreed that it was definitely telling a single story and looked cohesive.
During the cool team’s work time, Chasity noticed that everyone was so caught up in their own garments that it became hard to have the conversations they needed in order to remain cohesive. When she asked if anyone else was planning on cut-outs, she got no response and then had to focus on making sure that she also included a bow because that seemed to be what everyone was doing to bridge them all together. During check-ins, Christian understood that the bow would tie everything in, but no one could really articulate to him why the bow is a thing for this customer and what the actual story of their show is.
Before he left, Christian stressed to the entire team that they need to figure out something to tell the judges when they inevitably ask them the questions: “Where is she going?” and “Why is the bow the thread?” But another discussion devolved into everyone throwing out a ton of ideas of where their specific model would be going, but there was not one voice to bring it all together. Sabrina said that they are over-complicating it and that everyone’s garment should speak for itself, and that because they’re all evening wear it makes sense.
Ahead of their return to work the next day, the warm team decided that Bones would be the spokesperson for their team on the runway in front of the judges and he willingly took on that position. Their first task of the day was to bring in the models for a fitting, at which point Christian questioned some of the garments, in direct opposition to Bones who told the group to not let “any outside opinions” sway them. Christian obviously took offense to that comment and explained that he’s present to help them, but that if they don’t need it then he doesn’t need to be there. The whole team later explained to Bones that he was out of line and that Christian is the most successful designer from the show so they should always take into account his opinions.
Christian returned later to greet the cool team and watch them work while the models fit the garments. He offered a lot of “pretty” comments to everyone, but told a few of them to play around a little bit and edit. He was still concerned that they didn’t have a single through-line story and urged them to find an element that would truly bring it together. That element remained the bow, but some of the designers didn’t know how to incorporate it without looking junior and Meg was refusing to add one to hers because it simply wouldn’t work.
Back home, Bones was concerned that the group was going to refer to him as a the leader of the group and that he’d be thrown under the bus in front of the judges for everyone else’s work. It created a ton of tension ahead of their final stretch of work before the runway show. When they finally returned to the work room, both teams were together for the first time with only a few hours before the show. In this moment, Bones took the opportunity to apologize to Christian for his attitude and to say that he’s always willing to listen to his opinions. With only 30 minutes until the show, Bones noticed that Darren didn’t have a full garment ready and so he got to work throwing together a last minute dress out of some of his extra fabric as a secondary plan just in case it was needed. As it turns out, that’s the dress that Darren went with and Christian, before asking whether or not it would even stay together, called it “stunning.”
Joining the series judges for the runway show this week was designer Jason Wu, known for famously dressing Michelle Obama. Darren’s gold dress was the first to walk and while it did hold up on the runway, he was “devastatingly embarrassed” that it was mostly done by Bones and not him. His teammates Aaron and Octavio both made pants with jackets and were expressly proud of how well their visions came together. On the cool team, Zayden’s model walked first, and he was happy with how perfectly his own vision had come together, but others like Katie and Chasity were a bit disappointed that they had to add the bows in order to merge with the group vision, ultimately sacrificing their own voices in the process. Meanwhile, Anna and Meg did not use the bow at all.
The judges were honored and grateful to have witnessed their first runway show in a year after the pandemic, and complimented the designers for a job well done. That being said, they must select only one winning team and their scores dictated that it was the warm team. With the whole team on the stage, the judges brought forward the three specific designs that they liked the best: Octavio’s red pants and coat, Bones’ yellow draped pant and crop top, and Darren’s gold dress made by Bones. Darren did admit that Bones made almost all of that dress and the judges acknowledged that without Bones they may not have been the winning team.
With the cool team, who lost the challenge, the judges brought forth three looks that had the lowest overall scores: Sabrina’s light blue princess gown, Caycee’s mauve coat dress, and Chasity’s deep blue pants and top. Sabrina said she did lose herself in the fabric and that the garment doesn’t represent who she is as a designer. The judges thought Chasity could have done without the bow and that she should have stuck to her gut on that one as some of the other designers did when they didn’t incorporate the bow either.
During further deliberation without the designers present, it was a clear win for Bones considering his leadership role and the way he stepped in to make Darren’s dress that they loved as well. That being said, they did truly love Octavio’s point of view as expressed through his garment. On the flip side, they referred to Sabrina’s work as a “bad prom dress,” but agreed that the elimination would be between Chasity and Caycee. Nina’s only problem with Chasity’s was the top and she’d wear it over Caycee’s coat, but Elaine wasn’t convinced that Chasity has a a fresh point of view or creativity. Brandon differed and said that in point of view and color and construction, Caycee is the weakest.
As expected, the judges congratulated BONES JONES as this week’s winner, offering him immunity in the next challenge. Among the bottom three, Brandon said that the overall problem with the team was an unclear vision and it caused all their individual looks to suffer. They then excused Sabrina as safe, and while the decision was hard for them, CAYCEE BLACK’s unfinished garment is why they chose to send her home this time.
NEXT WEEK: Tensions in the work space continue to rise as the designers throw together a captivating streetwear look.
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