'Project Runway' Teams Up With Tiki Barber For First-Ever Menswear Challenge

The designers get a crash course in tailoring for the less-fashionable sex, and most fail miserably.

I have to begin this recap with a disclaimer, because Wednesday night's "Project Runway" was all about men's fashion and, well, I can't say I know a whole lot about it. Actually, as far as I can tell from riding the New York subway every day, most men don't know much about it either. It seems like men's fashion offers very little variety, and when Heidi Klum uttered the phrase "boring suit" multiple times Wednesday night, I found myself thinking, "What other kind of suit is there?" The truth is, regardless of the quality of the materials, fine tailoring or handwork, making a man's suit interesting is hard — and making an episode about it interesting proved even harder.

Not that this absolves the majority of Wednesday night's designers of blame for attempting to make suits. They should know there are other options. Anyone who watched Season 2 remembers Chloe's suit of pinstriped perfection versus Nick's "suit" of rippled, gender-confused fame. Chloe was a technical designer who knew how to construct a tailored look, even if she was unfamiliar with men's fashion. But many of the designers on Wednesday night went ahead and admitted they could neither design nor execute a suit properly. So why risk it? I've got to hand it to Elisa on this one — she managed to send a decent garment down the runway without even touching a sewing machine. She knew she couldn't make a suit and she didn't. Shame on the other designers for letting Elisa make them look crazy.

The Challenge

The presence of former New York Giants football player Tiki Barber as the celebrity guest did little to inspire the designers in this menswear challenge. Poor Tiki — one of the greatest running backs in NFL history and the designers' commentary is all about spandex. Leave it to resident "straight man" (his words, not mine) Kevin Christiana to pretend to give a hoot about the football player-turned-TV correspondent, who asked the designers to create an outfit for him to wear on the "Today" show. Tiki wanted the designers to pay particular attention to his thick neck, small waist and big butt, and while he didn't ask for a suit, it's not like you see Matt Lauer strutting around on camera in hot pants (shame, isn't it, Chris?). Tim said they would have $150 and two days to complete the look.

Back at Parsons, the designers still had that deer-in-headlights look. Everyone but Kevin and Jack admitted they'd never designed men's clothing before. Jack used his experience to lend advice to the other designers (when he wasn't using his rippling biceps to carry Christian around like a tote bag). His idea to take off his flat-front shorts and deconstruct them to make a pattern was resourceful, and he was quick to let Victorya and Carmen share his work. Too bad for Carmen he wasn't also wearing a jacket she could trace that didn't look so "Members Only." Rami and Sweet P were peeved at the collaborations, but I think they were both just insecure about this challenge. Sweet P was a complete mess from the moment she got to the workroom. She was way out of her league and ended up with a Frankenstein-size collar on her shirt. Her panic was probably matched only by Ricky, who surprisingly didn't cry but looked on the verge of emotional collapse at any moment. Unfortunately, what suffered was his attempted four-piece suit. At this point, I don't think Ricky's skills as "just a lingerie designer" are what's crippling him; it's his constant need to prove himself. As Tim so wisely proclaimed, "Ricky is not looking good."

The use of male models in this challenge made for some happy customers at Parsons, but man, the designers uglied them up quickly. Even Tiki Barber's wife, Ginny, who apparently takes great interest in her husband's attire, was too late to help these designs from becoming "giant" failures (sorry). For the most part, she nodded and smiled at what she saw, until she put the death sentence on Carmen's outfit by telling her to start over. As Tim pointed out, there really was no time to change or accomplish anything. Most of the designers ended up with fewer pieces than they intended, but that was less of an offense than those who ended up with poorly proportioned shirts and outfits still held together by safety pins. To borrow a sentiment from Steven on Wednesday night, I'd say this whole challenge was a sinking ship.

Runway Guest Judge: Tiki Barber

Jillian Lewis with model Nelson: Three-piece black suit with three-button coat, pants and tie. White-and-black patterned collared shirt. Safe.

Carmen Webber with model Yaniv: Brown bomber jacket with red patterned lining, tan pants and light-blue draped shawl for shirt effect. Tiki thought the jacket was too short and would highlight his big butt. Naturally, Heidi liked that about it. Michael said the crotch on the pants was "insane." Bottom three.

Christian Siriano with model David: Heather-gray three-button sports jacket with pinstriped pockets, champagne asymmetrical zip collar sweater and pants. Safe.

Kit "Pistol" Scarbo with model Ibrahim: Double-vented navy fleece blazer with blue-and-white pinstriped shirt and tan pants. Nina thought the presentation and execution were fantastic. Tiki said it showed good use of texture and was a versatile look. Top three.

Rami Kashou with model Derek: Tan track jacket with black pants and off-white collared shirt. Safe.

Sweet P Vaughn with model Marcus: Pinstriped pants with three-quarters-sleeved blue collared shirt and multicolored striped tie. Michael thought the shirt was intentionally ugly, not just poorly made. Tiki said it could look good on him if he were taller, but otherwise it was too messy. Bottom three.

Steven Rosengard with model Paul: Brown trousers with dark-gray polo sweater and light-gray detailing. Safe.

Victorya Hong with model Mike: White jacket with black detailing, black undershirt and black pants. Safe.

Kevin Christiana with model Thomas: Pinstriped, silk-backed vest with silk pocket square and matching tie. Light-purple button-up shirt and pinstriped pants. Heidi thought it was more David Beckham than Tiki Barber. Nina said Kevin thought about the whole look. Top three.

Chris March with model Andrew: Black zip-up blazer with black undershirt and trousers. Safe.

Jack Mackenroth with model Jack: Pants with faded pink pinstripes and pink-and-blue pinstriped button-up shirt. Michael thought the shirt was a nice twist on a classic. Nina thought it was safe with two pieces, but Heidi said two perfect pieces were better than two wrong pieces. Top three.

Ricky Lizalde with model Yoneiry: Dark-gray two-piece suit with white pinstriped shirt. Tiki commented that it looked like something his 5-year-old made. Nina thought it was boring, even if it had been executed perfectly. Bottom three.

Elisa Jimenez with model Connor: Ochre velveteen vest with dark-gray pants and brown long-sleeved shirt with rolled hems. Safe.

Winning designer with immunity: Jack Mackenroth

Out: Carmen Webber