Project Runway

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Al Lowe: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Right off the bat, let me tell you what I love about this season of Project Runway. There's no "here's what the show is." No "we picked blah-blah strangers to live in a house." None of that boring exposition that explains the point and the contest and who anyone is or what they're doing. No. It's full-on Lagerfeld-style "if you don't know you don't deserve to know, dahling... you obviously were never in Paris," and the show just begins as if your whole life hangs in the balance of Tim Gunn's raised or lowered eyebrow. And, doesn't it, people? Doesn't it?

Hello, and welcome to your Season 6 recaps. I am sorry for the rude awakening you are receiving in your beloved Jeff's absence, but listen, he is off being very important and, anyway, I am also from Alabama. We can work this out. I will try my best to live up to his legend.

Boom, the show has begun out of nowhere and we are greeted by the sinuous Ra'Mon, who is 30 and from New York. Why the apostrophe, Ra'Mon? He says that previous to following his dream to become a designer, he went to med school... specializing in neurosurgery? "Towards the end I realized: it would be one thing to have a career that I could be great at, but it was another thing to have a career that I could be passionate about." Forgive me, but did brother just say he left med school towards the END? To make clothes? If he wins this thing, I guess he'll be using the money to pay off the loans he took out to learn how to save people's lives from debilitating brain disorders.

Ra'Mon is greeted in the house or condo or whatever this place is, by Logan, from Seattle, and Johnny, from L.A. Logan is fine, knows it, and considers himself different from your average fashion designer because he is "a guy's guy." Hey, hot stuff? We all get the code, okay? Avoid alienating the gay boys. I know you're not on Bravo anymore but... they have this channel, too. In his annoying bio video, he attempts a macho pose by saying that if his limo breaks down on the way to Fashion Week, he'd probably "pop the hood" and figure out what's wrong with it. Oh, tell me about it, stud! If you're so tough, why are riding in a limo, Marlboro Man? Anyway. He says he has strong sewing and pattern-making skills and can figure out how to make anything with his hands. He irritates me, but I believe him.

Johnny, a mildly menschy guy with a shaved head and a goatee, tells his new roomies that this isn't his first time around the block. He auditioned for three previous seasons of the show. "I know why I didn't make the third and fourth seasons," he says, pausing pregnantly and forcing Ra'Mon and Logan to finally ask why. "Because I had an addiction problem." There follows an awesome shot of Ra'Mon attempting to not react and Johnny says in an interview that if he "wouldn't have overcame" that addiction, he'd probably be dead. I used to work for a guy just like Johnny -- a supermegaultra sensitive man who was not addicted to meth, but addicted to... emotions. He was a nice person, and cared about people, but what he cared most about was the drama of caring. Everything he did or said was couched in the most dramatic terms. I've been watching Johnny for literally one minute and I can already tell: this is the same dude. However, they show some quick shots of samples of his work and from what I can see, it's quite impressive. Two gorgeous dresses and a coat I would kill for.

In another condo, one of the women designers arrives. "If you give me a sheep," she says, in a wonderful, heavy accent, "I can make you a sweater." This is my girl, right here. Gordana, 44, was born in the former Soviet Yugoslavia, where the sweater makes you. Where people grow potatoes for a living and when they can't make enough of a living growing them, they distill them into vodka in order to drink themselves to death in the frozen tundra of their impoverished homeland. She now lives in Charleston, but we can only hope she stays on the show long enough to explain to some whiney beyatch (why do I feel it will be Johnny?) that crying will get you nowhere, only sewing 'til fingers bleed will make winner!

Back with the boys, the elf-like Malvin arrives, all punk-rock energy and hair. He already thinks he has it in the bag, you can feel it.

Two more women have arrived to meet Gordana. Carol Hannah, young and blonde, is also from Charleston, and though Gordana shakes her hand like she's never seen her, apparently Carol Hannah used to have a line of dresses in her store. This is weird, but what's weirder is that the other lady? Is named Qristyl. And as if I didn't already love her for that, she describes her work -- a selection of what looks like blinding satin drawstring bags -- not as "plus-size," but as "plus-sexy." Oh, girl. In a way, you are the most fabulous of all.

Also arriving is Shirin, and yes, I am spelling that correctly. Her name means "sweet" in Farsi, and she is sweet, indeed. She specializes in things that can serve multiple functions, and in her bio video shows a coat, the bottom of which can be zipped off to make a cape. Somehow, it works and is adorable, as is she.

Next up: the Feather Prince. Oh, what's that? You haven't heard of him? Because he's allegedly known in New York City as that, and if it's true, frankly, I am jealous. I would kill for such a nickname. Here, I'm going to try to make this happen: "I'm Al Lowe, and I'm known in Atlanta as the Sequin Baroness." Spread it around. His actual name is Nicolas, and his friends apparently joke that all he uses is chiffon, lace, feathers and champagne. Ridiculous as he is, those are some of my favorite ingredients for life, and he actually seems capable of using them professionally as he says he has worked for various fashion houses, including Marchesa, for whom he did a dress that was on the cover of Vogue. If that is the case, it is a mystery to me why he feels he needs to do this show.

Arriving now is Mitchell, who is cute and from Savannah, but already looks like he has been crying, along with the beautifully dreadlocked Epperson, and awkwardly funky Christopher, from Minnesota. When Christopher shares his provenance, by the way, Mitchell reacts like he just said he was from a cave in the woods. Um, Prince is from Minnesota, okay? Not the Prince of Feathers -- don't get confused -- but the Purple One, himself. And a man who routinely wears assless chaps and renames himself a shape is not going to live in some kind of fashion wasteland.

Here is where things get sad and confusing. Ari, who is a way cuter, far more likable clone of Samantha Ronson, arrives and is instantly weird. She likes to channel "creative options" and ask fabric what it would like to be made into. And she wants to make clothes that could also be tents that have water purification systems. Hold up -- is she saying that she wants to make a piece of clothing in which you can live and... pee, and then recycle your pee into drinking water? I feel that's what she just said. Because that already exists, and it is called the suit an astronaut wears. Which she might have learned about it when one landed on her home planet. Poor Ari -- she is CUTE, man, but she is waving her freak flag WAY too soon. She shakes the hand of Althea, who breezes in never to be seen again, and they are soon joined by New York native, Irina (who is inspired by her poodle to make handtooled leather), and Louise, the retro/vintage champion from Dallas.

Back in the boys' area, Ra'Mon helpfully comments that he is surprised that the show is being produced this season in Los Angeles, instead of New York. Yes, I understand that has been a major point of contention among the fans but, fear not. Johnny reports that the L.A. garment district is like, seven times bigger than NYC's. So, sure, that settles it. I know L.A. gets an enormously bad rap in this argument, and I am not qualified to add to the discussion, so I hereby bow out and invite you to scratch each others' eyes out in the forum.

In an interview, Carol Hannah says her designs are like, woodland fairy-meets-cocktail party. I like the sound of that, but do not like the sound of her next statement in which she declares that she realizes that being blonde and from the South are things not often associated with intelligence. You pain me, Carol Hannah, especially when you lose your train of thought in mid-sentence. Also, brush your hair, sit up straight and get ready to kick ass because Gordana, who understands how lucky she is to live in Charleston vs. sleeping on a raft of frozen potatoes each night, is prepared to represent for S.C.

Meanwhile, Epperson is blowing the minds of the boys in his room merely by demonstrating his levelheaded maturity and normalcy. While the other guys are all in their 20s, he is 46 and a family man. He's so refreshingly serene and pleasant, in fact, we pretty much never see him again.

Everyone is excited to receive an invitation to join Heidi and Tim on the roof of the building for a welcome toast. Heidi, of course, is completely and utterly gorgeous and Tim Gunn is, well, what remains to be said? He is pure greatness. The designers are told they will be working out of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, "the leading fashion institute... of this city." Ouch. No need to dwell on what is obviously a veiled bodyslam to L.A.'s fashion claims, because Heidi is clapping her hands and insisting on learning more about her hopeful charges. Louise amusingly says that she is from "Tixis" and Heidi must be from Charleston or something, because she cracks wise that Loui

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Project Runway




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