It’s season 12 of Project Runway and it’s only been 30 seconds into the episode before the phrases “you either love me or you hate me” and “I’m a force to be reckoned with” have been uttered. I’m glad our fresh group of designers have all paid attention in their Reality TV Confessionals 101 courses.

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Tropes aside, a few things are different about this season. First, Tim Gunn is now going to be a mentor and a judge, so get used to hearing his trademark drone for a full episode instead of just the first half. Also expect a plethora of educated sassiness when it comes to runway critiques. Not only that, but he will have a chance to save a designer from being eliminated at some point in the competition.

Second, the designers have one overall budget for the entire season as opposed to individual challenges. While this may seem like a minor detail, it can really affect how the designers strategize for a win. Do you spend a lot of cash on the perfect fabric early on and then make it far and not have enough for a later challenge? Or maybe even worse, do you scrimp and save only to be eliminated after making poor fabric choices that saved you a dollar that won’t even matter?

And third, there is a returning designer that the fans have voted to bring back. There’s Ramon (the Disney Prince) from season 6, Valerie (the Who from Whoville) from season 8 and Kate (she’s just kind of a B) from season 11.

The judges will also, at a random point in the season, judge a single runway anonymously, meaning they won’t know which designer made which garment at the time of the show. Oh and there is a monster prize package worth $500,000 so, yeah, the stakes, they are high.

Got all that? You gotta give them props for trying to keep things fresh. Onward to the recap!

They’re On A Runway (Get It?)

Since the “Road to the Runway” episode aired previously to the premiere, we’re spared the introductions at the beginning of the episode and all of the designers meet on a runway… like where planes fly in guys, not a silly old fashion runway! Wordplay!

In quite the dramatic fashion that I will spare you in this recap, Kate from season 11 rolls up in a little plane that she flew there herself (okay, that part’s not true) because she actually got more votes than the two other decent people she was up against. How did this happen? Were seasons 6 and 8 too long ago for voters to remember? Probably.

So this is where the theatrics stop and people get serious about designing. Oh wait, that happens AFTER parachuters drop out a plane in the sky only to shed their chutes for the designers to use as their material for their first unconventional material challenge. The designers are to create a look using mostly the parachute fabric, with a little help from some black and white fabric of the same material.

Everyone scrambles to grab a chute color that they like, most are bright and neon-y. Kate biffs it running to the yellow one and the peasants rejoice.


In the workroom we learn that we have not one, but two designers from Milwaukee, which for those of you who know it only as the fashion capital of the Midwest, is a city in Wisconsin. The two cheeseheads have unique backgrounds: Miranda is a veteran army mechanic who strives to create feminine but militant clothes that are uniform inspired and Timothy has a mission to only work with re-purposed materials to create sustainable art.

Timothy’s concept is to create something inspired by origami based on World War II paratroopers or something utterly ridiculous like that. He uses a lighter to burn his fabric which gives it an interesting texture and claims that he is neither “producing or reducing” by burning his fabrics (are you rolling your eyes yet?). He also refuses to use the sewing machine because… electricity. Good thing he is sewing by the light of firefly butts instead of, you know, using electricity to see and everything.

Obviously the other designers think Timothy’s cuckoo, and while he really might be, his mission statement and creativity seem completely genuine if not overwrought.

Kate doesn’t mind giving advice to her fellow designers and says she wants to win because she is the best designer there, not because she has a leg-up on anyone. So far she has been surprisingly tolerable.

Sue, a faux-dreadlocked self-taught designer who likes to work with leather, has an idea for tons and tons of pleats but is worried about getting it done in time. Also Sue doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine. WHO COMES ON PROJECT RUNWAY AND DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO USE A BASIC SEWING MACHINE?! I’m sorry for yelling, but I am outraged.

Sandro, the long lost Russian twin brother of Freddie Mercury, decides to make an avant garde swim suit. He has a minor run-in with Alexandria, a Swedish designer who was a model who wanted “to have brains because face goes away” so she went to art school. Minor run-in will probably turn into Clash of the Euros by the third episode.

Bradon, a retired modern dancer who wears plaid bow ties on top of plaid shirts (BOW TIES ARE COOL) is making a beautiful flowy gown that goes from light blue, to white, to light pink, to neon pink in the back, like kind of an ombre. He uses parachute chords as a structured lining on the bodice.

Justin, a deaf designer from North Carolina who has a background in architecture is making a sweet pink cocktail dress with black accents.

Tim Gunn stops by to advise everyone. He is worried that Miranda is not using enough of the original parachute fabric in her Harley Quinn cos-play, I mean, Japanese inspired black and red kimono dress.

He is also worried about Angela, a rock star wannabe turned fashion-designer-possibly-lesbian, is creating a poncho-type look with no shape and a weird length. He does, however, like Timothy’s weird burn fabric.

In the last looks before the show, Timothy gets even stranger than I originally thought possible. He tells his model she needs to walk down the runway like she’s in chains and then pose at the end like “sad virgin Mary” and like she’s “retardedly smelling her armpits.” He also makes the odd decision to send her down the runway barefoot and sans makeup. She is very sad about this and we know she is sad because she cried.

Runway Landing

Our regular judges this season will be Heidi, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen. Kate Bosworth is the guest judge, who is literally just there to smile and nod her perfect ombre hair in agreement, and Tim will bring the top and the bottom designs back out to the judges for a final inspection and critique before they make their final decision.

Overall the designs were pretty impressive, but I suppose that can be expected when your unconventional material is actually a fabric and not kitty litter and fake aquarium plants that you find at a pet store.

The Top

Bradon – The judges say it looks expensive and Nina especially loves the parachute chord piping, although Zac isn’t crazy about it. He does, however, love the movement in the back.

Miranda – The final design doesn’t turn out too cos-play, lucky for her, and the judges are impressed with the structure and fine tailoring. But they are dismayed to find out that the garment is mostly the supplemental black fabric as opposed to the parachute. Heidi in particular is peeved that she didn’t follow the rules. Tim says to the judges later that if they were in class, she would have gotten an F.

Sue – In a complete re-design, Sue managed to edit out some original pleating into a lovely gown. Nina says it has a sculptural quality and the fact that is both sporty and elegant.

The Bottom

Sandro – So Sandro did make an avant garde teal and purple swim suit with a great fit… well, a great fit around everywhere except his model’s lower lady parts, which were completely exposed during the runway show and critique. The judges also criticized Sandro for using too many accessories and having a questionable taste level. Uhhh, ya think?

Timothy – Surprise, surprise, Timothy gets called out for having a sub-par garment with zero styling. Heidi says it looks frumpy and crumply at the top and Zac says it’s “creepy.” Nina appreciates his mission, but also tells him he has to work harder than everyone else because of it. Zac also calls him out for burning synthetic material and releasing toxins, a fact that Timothy did not dispute at all because he was too busy falling all over himself in the presence of Zac Posen. I can’t say that I blame him.

Angela – The blue poncho dress with a pink inside hood is a miss. The judges do like the coloring but Nina says it looks like a smock a dental hygienist would wear. Heidi wonders where the rest of it is, that it could use some pants or a skirt.

The winner of the challenge is Bradon who also wins immunity for next week. And Angela gets the auf wiedersehen, which means that Timothy is sticking around to be the wildcard for at least another week. So let’s get weird!

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(Image courtesy of Lifetime)

Gina Pusateri

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV