Project Runway Recap: Keeping It ‘Real’

Photo: Lifetime

So much of this episode centered around the argument that it’s simply too hard to design clothes for a plus-sized woman when you’re accustomed to dressing models, and that baffles me. Maybe that’s because every time I hear it, I think about my mom, who sews for fun and made clothes for our family and my dolls when I was growing up. My point is that if my mom — who doesn’t have the benefit of Ven’s F.I.T. education or his uninterrupted years in which to design and sew full-time —  can just as easily make clothes for a teenage boy or a Cabbage Patch Kid, I don’t know why Ven had to be insufferable about designing up a few sizes.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

When the designers show up at the runway, Heidi announces that they have new clients, and when a group of men and women traipse out, Elena says suspiciously, “They don’t look like they have anything to do with any kind of fashion.” Don’t worry, Elena! They’re not even the real clients; they’re FRIENDS of the real clients (as reality television fake-outs go, this was pretty pointless, and that’s saying something). Heidi explains that each person on the runway has a friend, and the designers will give the friend a new look. “Are you willing to help them out?” Heidi asks.  Dmitry immediately responds, “Do we have a choice?”

Back in the workroom, Tim sends the clients in, after telling the designers that clients were randomly assigned. Ven claimed on Twitter that there was no way  the assignments were actually random and called this unfair. He’s probably right that production made specific assignments, but it saves the clients the indignity of a schoolyard-style pick, and it’s reality television. Of course it’s not fair. Sonjia is paired with a client who wears running shorts and hoodies every single day, Fabio’s client hates skirts and loves blending in, and Gunnar (of all people!) interacts with his client so kindly she cries because she’s happy. Ven and his client Terri … we’ll get to that.

After a trip to Mood, the designers and clients meet with L’Oreal Paris’s Johnny Lavoy to plan the clients’ hair makeovers — highlights (no pun intended) include Fabio’s client lopping off her ponytail and Johnny’s claim that “Nothing’s hotter than red hair!” — and then it’s back to work. At one point, Sonjia absently asks if anyone has siblings, and Dmitry says, “I have a brother … I was a professional ballroom dancer. He was a professional hockey player.” I would absolutely watch a television show about that.

Tim does a lap of the workroom, stopping for a conversation with Nathan about whether the dress with mesh and cutaways he’s making for his musician client is too “vulgar” (Nathan reassures Tim that it’s “not regular hooker mesh”) before he gets to Ven, who proceeds to unleash. “When I first met my client, I was a little bit shocked.” He tells Tim that she’s plus-sized, and when Tim asks what size, he says 14 and laughs, before going on to say, “The before picture is definitely a nightmare.” And she’s old, too! When Tim asks how old, and Ven says she’s around 40, Tim replies, “She’s an old lady. NOT.” Congratulations, Ven. You’ve driven Tim to “not.” It gets worse when the clients come for fittings and Ven tries to find a belt that works while saying in his outdoor voice, over and over again, that he needs something bigger. Terri finally says, in the most dignified way possible, “You keep saying that. It’s embarrassing.” But of course, Ven doesn’t stop.

There isn’t a way to excuse or interpret or joke about Ven’s behavior toward Terri. There’s some comfort in how unacceptable the other designers find his behavior (Fabio says he’ll never associate Ven with the words sophisticated, elegant, and refined again) and how much Twitter support Terri’s been getting — Nina called her gorgeous, and Michael Costello from season eight said he’d love to make her a dress.

Then it’s off to the runway, where Alice Temperley joins Heidi and Nina and Michael as this week’s guest judge (this makes me sad, as I would rather Alice Temperley be home designing more lines for Target). Almost all of the clients seem happy with their looks, which makes for a fun runway, and Fabio, Dmitry, and Gunnar land on top. Michael points out that the good relationships each built with his client had a lot to do with this, but it’s Fabio’s win. Sonjia, Ven, and Nathan are on the bottom, and even though Heidi smacks down Ven’s claim about how hard it is to design for “real women” by pointing out that all women are real, Nathan goes home.

When Tim says good-bye to Nathan, he says how sad it is to be losing him both as a designer but also as a person with “profound qualities of character.” He doesn’t glare pointedly at Ven when he says this, but everyone knows what he’s really talking about.

And now we’re down to nine, and inching closer to Fashion Week! Click through the slideshow to see this week’s looks. Is anyone still on Team Ven? Is Dmitry ever going to get the win he wants so badly?