Project Runway Recap: A Handi Wipe Gone Wrong

The season-five premiere kicks off with some seriously cutthroat competition. (Also: spoiler alert!)

Last night's best and worst designs. All photos courtesy of Bravo.

It’s no secret that everyone’s favorite fashion-design competition has been shrouded in drama in the months leading up to last night’s season-five premiere. There was the surprising news that Project Runway will decamp from Bravo to Lifetime for season six. There was judge Nina Garcia’s very public unseating as Elle magazine’s fashion director. And then there was the fact that, even in the weeks before the show, it had only been quietly promoted and the designers had yet to be publicly revealed.

Turns out the wait was worth it. The season-five designers pranced past the screen in a flurry of serious credentials and catty remarks that would have made season-one winner (and super-trash talker) Jay McCarroll proud. In some ways, the roster of already-pretty-well-established designers seemed like a departure from Project Runway’s spirit—where were the well-intentioned moms who aspired to create beautiful clothes, the tech geeks with fashion dreams?—but at the same time, it was hard to fault the fact that we didn’t have to be subjected to any Wendy Pepper-style monstrosities.

Whoever told Blayne orange (skin) is the new pink is seriously deranged.

Instead, the designers were—for the most part—intensely skilled and intent to win. Not that there wasn’t the fair share of crazies: Self-professed tanorexic Blayne paraded around sniffling (quite literally—could they not give him some Sudafed for that postnasal drip?) and proudly announced his “girlicious” visions. One-upping him for the Most Annoying award was the whiny Stella, who seemed to spend most of her time complaining and running around in inappropriately short shorts. I can only hope the two of them get paired for a challenge and doubly eliminated—and fast.

After the requisite introductions of the cast (which includes several pretty men, a parade of indie-chic women I haven’t quite individually identified yet, and a guy named Suede who insists on referring to himself in the third person), some gratuitous shots of Heidi Klum in a very skimpy dress, and a few close-ups of Moët Champagne labels, the designers were awakened very, very early in the morn by the ever-chipper Tim Gunn, who took them on a field trip to Gristedes supermarket, the site of the very first challenge from the first season. (Best moment of Tim’s surprise wake-up call: “I was embarrassed to be standing in a towel next to Tim Gunn.” Oh, Jennifer [uh, at least we think it’s Jennifer], we do feel your shame.)

The cast did its best to look suitably shocked and excited at the prospect of supermarket shopping. (Seriously, do they just tell everyone to drop their jaw as much as possible? The reactions always strike me as hilariously forced.) I was feeling less enthralled until Tim brought out that little scamp Austin Scarlett—the charmingly flamboyant designer from season one—who came prancing across the street in a little scarf and hat. He reached deep into his prim, double-breasted blazer to dole out the challenge cash and sent the designers off to the supermarket in search of fashion inspiration.

Girl, we’d also be frowning if caught dead wearing that outfit.

The next twenty minutes or so were spent in a tablecloth frenzy. Did everyone get a tablecloth? Are tablecloths a sign of slackerdom? Could we possibly talk more about tablecloths? The tablecloth conundrum was punctuated by Stella throwing small and annoying temper tantrums about her poor material choices and designers talking smack about one another. Many of the creations actually looked pretty striking, but the competitive cattiness was a little tiring. Where’s the joy of the creation? The thrill of the innovation? Has Project Runway become a victim of its own success? What I wouldn’t give to see Austin Scarlett prance across the small screen right about now. A little levity, please.

In the end, justice was not served. Both Blayne and Stella slipped through with their modified diaper and trash-bag messes, respectively, while the quietly talented Jerry—who obviously had more skill than either of them—was prematurely sent home for his dull-but-definitely-not-as-bad-as-the-diaper raincoat. (Michael Kors dug deep for a description for Jerry’s creation and somewhat smugly came up with both “bridal nurse” and “a Handi Wipe gone wrong.” Heidi opted for “hospital plumber.” We were amused despite ourselves.) After the show, my Instant Messager was immediately buzzing with the travesty of the judges’ decision—did Michael Kors show favoritism toward Blayne because of their obvious mutual affinity for overtanning?—but one thing was clear: There’s a lot of talent up there, and it’s going to be a stellar season.

Oh, Project Runway, how I missed you. See you next week, and until then (in the immortal words of our personal hero, Tim Gunn): Make it work!

What did you think of the season premiere of Project Runway? We want to know! Leave your thoughts in the comments. And check back every Thursday for Betsy’s recaps of Project Runway throughout the season.

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