Season 9 of Project Runway kicked off last night and as a longtime viewer of the series, I was interested to see who would be taking a stab at fabric design this go around. This interest persisted despite Tim Gunn’s ridiculous comments earlier this week that Hillary Clinton dresses as if she “is confused about her gender.” Shame on you, Tim, for not offering her any helpful advice privately, but huge disappointment on you, Tim, for making a transphobic attack in your criticism. Still, I sat down to catch the opener and see which of the 16—erm, 20—contestants would make it through week one.
Sadly, the first thing I do when a reality contest show runs through its exposition, is count the contestants of color, and try to discern which one will be sent home that first episode, because hello, first failures are often not white. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Nimma Osman, Season 4 of Top Chef, Lisa Turner, Season 1 of Top Design, Jerry Tam on Season 5 of Project Runway—it happens again and again. At least, it happens enough that I make note of who seems to be getting too much camera time in the initial week, because that’s going to be their 15 minutes of soon-to-be failure, right there.
This season the producers brought on 20 contestants, saying that four would be eliminated before the season even “officially” began. This meant that we’d have 5 auf wiederseins in the first 90 minutes, a lot even for Heidi Klum to get through. But the speed dating development gave the judges a chance to play it American Idol style, and they bickered amongst each other as if it were 2004 with Paula fighting a manicure infection and Simon fighting an instinct to be nice. SPOILERS AFTER THIS!
Nobody really stood out in that there were several pleasant collections, and several boring ones presented to the judges. I was surprised that Gunnar Deathage didn’t make it to the pool of 16. Who doesn’t want a designer with the name “Deathage” to succeed, especially with his asymmetrical hairstyle? He was as close to “fierce!” as a young designer named Deathage can aspire.
Now we were in the main contest and Tim Gunn, who is clearly quite clear on his gender, woke up the male contestants while Heidi Klum roused awake the women. It was the start of the “Come As You Are” challenge in which the fashionestants had to pull their top sheet bedding and walk to the Parsons Art Institute in only what they were already wearing when the panty brigade broke in. I bet all the other art students at Parsons hate these people. Or maybe they’re not in session when the Lifetime crew is there. In any case, the fashionestants were given a cargo load of fabric dye and offered scissors.
If the cruelty of this challenge has any bearing on the rest of the season, we may see more mean-spiritedness than even Gretchen could muster last season. (Long live Mondo.) The intrepid, sleep-starved gang was largely not at their best, although Bert Keeter’s layered dress well deserved the win. Note to average US men: do not expect that your women will want to wear your old boxers on their chests.
Gunn took another 20 points of wrong from me when he pressured on of the fashionestants to remove his do-rag and include it in his outfit. Come on, Tim, he’s clearly not comfortable going from bed to uncovered hair without the use of a vanity. But Tim put on the pressure, saying the judges would wonder why he didn’t use all of his “resources” at his disposal. Rafael looked like he was going to cry at one point. “I see you gulping,” said Tim, still pushing his point. We could all see him gulping, Tim. That’s a sign you need to shut up and back off.
Rafael Cox capitulated and tried to put the animal print fabric in his look, but it was disjointed and reminiscent of the Flintstones. Bye-bye, Rafael. It’s a white, white, I mean cruel, cruel world.