'Project Runway' Returns To Avant-Garde Roots, Fierceness Triumphs At Last

Two design teams pumped up the volume, while the others fell short of high fashion.

"Project Runway" was big hair and big drama this week, as the designers paired up for an avant-garde challenge. Using models with everything from crimped waves to faux-hawks, the four design teams tried to create outfits to complement the outlandish 'dos. The result was high-volume skirts, bad attitudes and a couple of fashion don'ts.

This challenge asked the designers to channel inspiration from the hairstyles into two looks: one that was avant-garde and impractical and one that was wearable. Most household-name designers (Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Max Azria, just to name a few) have a ready-to-wear collection, a commercial bargain line intended to mimic their high-end designs. Even more vogue designers, such as Proenza Schouler, Isaac Mizrahi and Vera Wang, have forayed into the world of mass-produced clothing through outlets like Target and Kohl's. But this season has exhausted the commercial look, so I'm glad the designers didn't waste much time on them this week — they were, as Jillian aptly put it, an afterthought. If this really is the best group of designers to pass down the hallowed Runway, they need more avant-garde challenges to prove it.

The Challenge

Tim emphasized the fact this challenge was meant to be ambitious, so it would be executed in teams of two. Translation: Your individual performances this season have been disappointing, so maybe together you will make one Jeffrey Sebelia! Teams were drawn randomly, then each team had to choose one of their two models and select a leader. There was a $300 budget and two days to complete the challenge. It wasn't until the second day Tim revealed that they'd also have to make a ready-to-wear look for the other model, with a budget of only $50.

Some people play well with others, and some don't. "Eenie-meenie-miney, I heart everyone" Sweet P had the unfortunate task of working with Rami, who remains a one-trick pony sitting on his pedestal at this point. Rami's draped design was predictable and dowdy, but I think he knew that and was taking his anxiety as leader out on Sweet P. He mysteriously complained about timing when Sweet P pointed out they were on schedule, and he refused to take her advice or criticism that his design wasn't avant-garde enough — although her suggestion of adding fabric to look like an "explosion from the rear" sounded like she had channeled Elisa's first "pooing fabric" dress. Still, Rami, if you drive Sweet P to cry or chain-smoke again, I'm putting you on my naughty list.

That list, however, is currently occupied by two teams who managed to be unbearable for others reasons. I still don't know how Ricky fell for Kit's vision of a "Little House on the Prairie" apron/ bird's nest. Someone should tell Ricky and Kit that avant-garde means fashion forward, not mid-'70 television series. If that prairie housewife dress really represented the bitch in Kit and the girl in Ricky, they need to suppress those inner selves — much the way Victorya and Jillian tried to suppress their disdain for one another last night. Nothing was bitchier than the passive-aggressive vibes between those two, beginning with their coin-flip for team leader. Even though Victorya took charge, their outfit wouldn't have gone far without Jillian's McQueen-inspired tartan trench. Maybe if they both stopped whining and smiled once the entire episode, I'd enjoy watching them.

Thankfully, Team Fierce (a.k.a. Team Fer-oshe, as in ferocious, as in Christian's diva "alter ego"), the genius pairing of Chris and Christian, saved all the drama for the runway. Their tiered organza gown, whose 45 yards of construction managed to escape the cameras, was part couture, part absurd. In other words, exactly what the judges wanted. Who cares that their ready-to-wear outfit looked ready-to-fall-apart? This is "Project Runway" — we don't want to see the bargains; we want to see the best.

Runway Guest Judge: Alberta Ferretti, fashion designer

Team 1: Rami Kashou and Sweet P Vaughn with models Sam and Lea: Long, corseted gown with layered gray and champagne chiffon, paired with black trousers. Ready-to-wear look of one-shoulder dress with silk and chiffon detailing. Michael thought the commercial dress was more forward than the avant-garde piece. Alberta didn't find the dress dramatic. Bottom two.

Team 2: Christian Siriano and Chris March with models Marcia and Lisa: Long, dramatic dress of layered organza ruffles with oversized neck detail. Ready-to-wear look of sleeveless, silk ruffle blouse and brown pencil skirt. Alberta thought the first look was very couture and executed wonderfully. Michael found it important and exciting looking but said that the ready-to-wear skirt was a throwaway. Top two.

Team 3: Kit "Pistol" Scarbo and Ricky Lizalde with models Marie and Amanda: Patterned corset and layered cotton skirt with satin ribbon detailing down the back. Ready-to-wear look of cotton mini-dress in floral pattern with red ribbon detail at the waist and cut-out neckline. Alberta found the dress cheap-looking. Michael said it looked like Scarlet O'Hara ripped the sheets off her bed to make it, while Heidi found it wrinkly and poorly made. Bottom two.

Team 4: Victorya Hong and Jillian Lewis with models Jacqueline and Lauren: Dramatic black trench coat with long skirt and tartan lining, paired with brown, knee-length pants and sleeveless ruffled blouse with bow closures on the back. Ready-to-wear look of one-shoulder dress with layered fabric detailing at the hem. Alberta loved the silhouette. Nina thought the tartan dress was very cute. Top two.

In designer with immunity: Christian Siriano

Out: Kit "Pistol" Scarbo