This week the designers were challenged with combining two demanding elements into their designs: lighting technology and an avant-garde look. Both aspects were different and intriguing, making for a particularly exciting (or, as Joanna put it, “electrifying”) runway show.

Fairy Tales and Neon
Instead of sketching first and then visiting Mood, the designers first stop by a light and special effects store to purchase the lighting part of their garments. As expected, the designers are attracted towards different materials: Jerell likes some fiber optic lights, while Kenley decides to go for neon tape that will pop under the black light of the runway. Meanwhile, Austin gravitates towards the fairly lights (no surprise there), claiming he needs to make “fairy tales come true” in his designs (this is when they cut to an exasperated Mondo who says Austin has become a high-maintenance “prima donna”).

Michael’s Commitment Issues and Kenley’s Smart Plaid
Back at the workroom, Michael starts to second-guess his bright pink coat dress. After scratching this design, he goes for his black fabric instead, citing “severe commitment issues when it comes to fashion.” While the other designers acknowledge that Michael has the upper hand when it comes to completing outfits in no time, Mondo voices his concern for Michael, while surprisingly admitting he actually likes Kenley’s design (normally he would be complaining of her unnecessary presence on the show at this point). And it’s not unfounded–Kenley’s decided to use the neon tape to create her own plaid pattern on a black dress (no polka dots in sight).

Fugly or Fabulous?
During Joanna’s critique, Jerell reveals that he’s going for a tribal, ethnic look (again) with a peplum skirt lined with bouncy fiber optics, and that he’s ready for this look to be his second win. He admits he’s taking some risks, that the result will be “either fugly or fabulous,” but that he’s OK with that. Say what you want about his designs, Jerell has a pretty admirable perspective on designing and being true to himself. Using this binary assessment, I’d say Austin’s voluminous, romantic black tulle dress is looking fabulous and Michael’s black head piece (covering his model’s entire head except for a hole for her ponytail) is more fugly (Mondo describes it as “Ewok”).

Technical Issues and a Samurai Surprise
After an odd Skype session between Austin and his mom (I guess with only five designers left, they have more airtime to fill), which was touching but unexpected, the designers are in the home stretch. Mondo, who was working on some striped panels incorporating his stringed lights but seemed clueless as to how to turn them into a garment, finally has his fashion epiphany and gets to work. Michael, nervous that he’s not finished before all the others like usual, seems rushed but suddenly reveals a black samurai-like creation with yellow neon stripes and big, looped panels on the shoulders. Then when it comes down to hair and makeup, Mondo swears, complaining he’s not a technician and that his lights aren’t working. This might be a problem for a black light runway.

The Runway
The guest judge is Grammy winner Pharrell Williams, who has his own fashion lines and was voted the best-dressed man in the world (I somehow find this hard to believe–in the world?). The winner’s design will be worn by one of Pharrell’s celebrated artists.

proje8495.jpgMondo: I like this look (despite the pointed breast cones) because it’s clean, fully executed (the futuristic face-covering cap is cool and pulls the look together) and he actually incorporated the lights into the clothing by making casings for them. Not sure how avant-garde it is though (futuristic isn’t necessarily the same thing).

proje8493.jpgJerell: The fringe all over the peplum skirt and on the big collar doesn’t read as fashion-forward to me; it almost conjures up a sort of Vegas showgirl image, with the feathery fiber optics shooting out of her head piece. But I did like the light revealed when the model opened her mouth at the end of her runway walk–an unexpected detail.

proje8494.jpgKenley: Once again, a pretty enough dress. I’m indifferent about this upholstery jacket with lights weaved through it. The styling completes the look though, with that Nicki Minaj-inspired pink wig.

austin.jpgAustin: With the black tulle (one of his go-to fabrics), it’s a very romantic, “Austin” dress. I can even see the whole “magical fairy floating in a galaxy” spiel he was touting the whole show. BUT that string of lighted tulle connecting the dress to her head is seriously weird and is giving me a very creepy alien vibe. (I will say, it looks prettier in this picture than with the lights on.)

proje8492.jpgMichael: Michael sort of lost his way on this one. She looks perfect for a Halloween rave party, dressed as a dark ninja warrior with neon highlights. But as a fashion statement meant to push the envelope, I think he missed the mark.

The Critique
Overall, the judges are very impressed with Kenley’s silhouette and mastery of proportion (a new praise for her in this competition) and appreciate her pushing herself and being thoughtful with her plaid pattern. They are also enchanted with Austin’s galaxy dress–excessively so, in my opinion. They call it “beautiful,” “so romantic” and “sick” (by Pharrell, meant in the positive sense), when it seems sort of run-of-the-mill, especially for Austin (and I still can’t get over the tentacle sprouting out of her face). They’re satisfied with Mondo (“he’s never not good”), but can’t get over Jerell’s long black grandma skirt (underneath the fringey peplum one) or Michael’s “Mortal Kombat,” waist-eliminating getup.

The Results
The Good News:
Mondo is safe.
Between Kenley and Austin it’s…

Austin! Wow, even with all their praise, I’m still surprised by this one. (But maybe should have seen it coming with the personal clip of his video chat with his mom?)

The Bad News:
With only five designers, no one is safe in the bottom. Between Jerell and Michael it’s…

Jerell! Between their reasons for Jerell and Michael, I almost thought the latter was a goner (his “execution fell short” and it “wasn’t flattering”–two big no-no’s on Project Runway). But I guess the granny skirt hiding the legs was too much for the judges.

But there are no tears from Jerell (maybe from Michael, who says “I love you”), only pride. He did everything “Jerell,” so he can’t be mad at himself. Like I said, this designer has such a positive attitude, it’s hard to mourn his departure, even if this was a long time coming and it’s what was predicted.

With Michael on the bottom this week and Kenley near the top, I’m not sure who will be eliminated from the final four next week–check back for the recap.

(Images courtesy of Lifetime)

Jenn Lee

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jenn grew up in Ohio before moving to Seoul, Korea, where she attended international school and failed to learn Korean. From there she went on to earn a BA in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania before settling in Seattle, where she now spends too much time pondering the power of narrative in TV shows and novels. While she loves a good smart comedy (a la Community or Parks and Recreation), her favorite current show is Breaking Bad; all-time mentions include Arrested DevelopmentLost and Friends. When she’s not consuming television or literature, she’s savoring pastries and searching for the city’s ultimate sandwich.