The season finale of "Project Runway" is just a week away, but the real prize came Wednesday night with the hometown visits from Tim Gunn. The challenge in preparation for Bryant Park was to create a collection of 12 looks in five months with a budget of $8,000. Tim visited the homes of the final four contestants, who were hoping to woo him with a preview of their Fashion Week designs. Of course, it wasn't all work. Tim was also subjected to family, friends and childhood photos to help remind us that these designers were once just kids with big dreams. Yes, Bravo reality stars are just like us.
Fast-forward three and a half months from the last challenge, and Tim is on his way to see Christian Siriano at his apartment in New York. I'm not sure the term "apartment" is appropriate here, since Christian's room used to be a closet, and his bed is a cot that requires folding during daylight. Tim was clearly shocked by the small space when he exclaimed, "This is your studio? Talk about making it work." Well, now that I think about it, Tim, that's a pretty standard Manhattan apartment.
Christian showed Tim some pictures of his family from Annapolis, Maryland. It's hard to believe that Christian was a blond, blue-eyed prepster growing up. That didn't last when he started working at a hair salon at age 13 — surprise, surprise. We only saw a few looks from Christian's collection, including a black fitted jacket, a high-collar ruffled neckpiece and his big-finale feather pants. Tim's reaction was both impressed and cautionary — except that he hated the pants. He encouraged Christian to take an editing eye to his pieces. Will Christian finally take any of Tim's advice? Spoiler alert, people: He didn't end up showing the pants.
Next up was Jillian. Normally the little fashionista, she greeted Tim in a Christmas sweater that read like an audition tape for "What Not to Wear." Perhaps the casual wardrobe is a side effect of Jillian quitting her job at Ralph Lauren to focus on her own collection, which she told Tim was inspired by the last challenge and 15th-century armor. While Tim described her collection as a "cloudy day" palette with femininity and strength, we really only saw one design from her: a coat. Thankfully Tim and Jillian's road trip to see her family in Long Island was a little more exciting. I'm sorry, but Jillian's boyfriend is in way more denial than Kevin Christiana. No straight man ever appears on "Project Runway" dressed that well.
Next, Tim visited Rami at his beautiful L.A. mansion. What is this guy going to do with the $100,000 prize, get a hot tub? Rami reminded us, once again, that he's from Jerusalem, and credited his mother, former Ms. Jordan, with his love of fashion. Although he kept his fascination with design a secret growing up, it was nice to hear that his family was very supportive. Rami then took Tim to his separate studio, which was 10 times the size of Christian's apartment. His collection was inspired by Joan of Arc, focusing on construction and details. Tim didn't seem to warm to the collection, calling it "hammered and nailed." Another spoiler alert: Rami scrapped a bunch of those designs before Fashion Week.
Of course, nothing was quite as special as Tim's visit to Chris' studio back in New York. Chris introduced his collection to Tim as beauty with a quirk, 95 percent fashion, 5 percent costume. He started by showing Tim a velvet crocheted hairpin dress. Promising start. He then moved on to a tailored black coat with some sort of fur trim. Before you could say PETA, he told Tim it was human hair. I shared Tim's gag-reflex reaction, but I can't take credit for his genius analogy comparing Chris' lack of objectivity to a trip to the monkey house. It goes like this: "You know when you walk into the monkey house at the zoo, and you're like, 'Oh my God, this place stinks'? And after you're there 20 minutes you're like, 'It's not so bad'? And after an hour you don't notice? You've been living in the monkey house, Chris."
As promised, this week's episode ended with the final four back in New York, and Rami and Chris showing their top three looks to the judges. While most people probably could've predicted Wednesday night's outcome, I think it's more exciting that these collections actually look promising. Next week could be one of the best finales yet, and it's nice to know Rami won't be smothering us in drapery in order to enjoy it.
Rami Kashou: Look one was a bright-blue coat with structured, voluminous sleeves and brass-button details over a simple black dress. Look two was a modern, black-and-white patterned dress with an asymmetrical strapless neckline and hem. Look three was a strapless black gown with detailed, tiered ruffles and a structured bodice.
Nina was glad to see that Rami had taken the judges' criticisms into consideration and incorporated them into a more tailored collection. She enjoyed his second look best, saying his dress was beautifully done. Michael called the look effortless, although he suspected it took a lot of work. Nina worried about the proportions on Rami's coat a bit, since she thought it incorporated too much volume. Heidi's favorite look was the evening dress, which Nina called a dark fantasy, but Michael wasn't keen on the hip details. When asked why he should go to Fashion Week, Rami told the judges that this has been his calling since he was 6 years old.
Chris March: Look one was a black fitted coat with belt detail, hair fringe and knee-length skirt made of black chrome safety pins. Look two was a black lace sleeveless turtleneck and hair skirt. Look three was a long, formfitting black dress in crushed velvet with corset-like detailing in front and a neck wrap.
Michael thought the use of human hair was a little creepy but was happy Chris thought outside the box. He thought Chris' looks were generally over-designed and dark, but the work that went into them was remarkable. Michael did, however, have a problem with Chris' third look, which he called a "velvet condom." Nina told Chris his clothes look terrific but can go overboard. Heidi called his collection "unique" and "creative." When asked why he deserved to go to Fashion Week, Chris said he wanted to bring a point of view from outside the fashion world.
In: Rami Kashou
Out: Chris March