Project Runway Recap: Does Anyone Know What ‘Avant Garde’ Means?

Tonight: the episode opens with Anthony Ryan Auld, Viktor Luna and Bert Keeter having made a tentative truce. It’s magical. Anything can happen this week, you guys!

The designers gather in the studio and Heidi Klum tells them that they’re going “back to school.” Everyone regards her with blank stares. She sends them to meet Tim Gunn at the Harlem School Of The Arts. Once there, they are introduced to a group of student painters whose ages range from 11 to 16, and who will help them with their next project – an avant-garde look using the students’ work as an inspiration. They have two days to complete this challenge, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

The designers and their kids start painting. Tim claims the artists were randomly selected, but these kids are too good for that to be true. Seriously, the level of the work they produce in just a few hours is staggering. The designers chat with them about the show and all seem kind of grateful to talk to someone outside the fishbowl, even if they’re kids. Kai, age 11, tells her partner Laura Kathleen that “Failure is opportunity in disguise.” LOL. Olivier Green is already getting the “falling apart” edit. Once the paintings are completed the designers head to Mood, where they find their materials while Tim chases Swatch down the aisle. More footage of Tim chasing the dog, please!

As it turns out, three of the designers have different definitions of “avant-garde,” which doesn’t bode well. Joshua McKinley is much more emotionally supportive of Becky Ross than he was last week. We learn that he lost his mother two years ago to ovarian cancer, and Bert also opens up about the death of his partner and his alcoholism. Basically, everyone who acted like a jerk last week gets to show another side of themselves in this episode.

The kids come to the workroom with Tim to consult and bring the paintings to their designers. “You don’t want to give Michael Kors the opportunity to talk about a ‘Hiawatha’ moment,” Tim tells Kimberly Goldson, looking at one massive feathered sleeve on her dress. Laura’s student tells Tim that she thinks Laura’s dress “will look much better as a finished project.” What happened to the zen master thing she was doing before?

On runway day, every single designer asks the Garnier stylist to give their models huge hair. Olivier is still not finished, and tries to glue part of his top to his model, which is definitely against the rules. Tim lets him know and he wisely decides to leave the top alone. This is my favorite challenge so far, since it allows so many of the designers to go back to their art school roots and get weird and ambitious.

This week, Nina Garcia is replaced by Zanna Roberts Rassi from Marie Claire, and the guest judge is Kenneth Cole. It’s seriously so great to see the kids’ reactions to the designers’ interpretations of their work. There’s a lot of “awesome,” “I would so buy that,” and fist bumping. Except for Bert’s painter, whose “WTF” face upon seeing Bert’s pastel pants and top with cubist appliqués is the winner of this challenge for me.

Kimberly, Viktor, Becky, Bryce Black, and Anya Ayoung-Chee (whose feathered dress with a kind of brocade skirt was my favorite look to come out of the challenge) are all called up first and told they are moving on. Joshua’s look is praised for the neoprene skirt he painted to look like a singed oak tree, but he’s dinged on the styling of his model. Joshua Christensen is told that his look is “trashy,” and “not fashion.” Bert’s look isn’t modern enough for Michael, Kenneth and Zanna, but Heidi likes it. Laura is praised for the way she handled her yellow organza fabric, and the boning beneath her sheer dress. Olivier’s dress is “boring.” Anthony is rightfully praised for the use of color on his dress, and I’m reminded that he’s color-blind. Doubly impressive!

Following the judges’ deliberation, Anthony is declared the winner of the challenge, and deservedly so, though I thought the top three this week were all stunning. Bert is saved first, then Olivier, and Josh C gets sent home for the second time. “Actually, it gets easier,” he giggles. At least he had a sense of humor about it!

Next week, ANOTHER TEAM CHALLENGE! Enough! And Nina is back, thank heavens.

Quote Of The Week: “I just hope it doesn’t look like a House of Deréon dress.” Viktor, how dare you!

Insult of the Week: “She looks like a victorian cocktail waitress in Las Vegas.” – Michael Kors, on Josh C’s admittedly terrible dress.

Runner Up: “His clothes are just like…Valium clothes. You just fall asleep” – Kors on Olivier.

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