The designer reveals some intensely personal secrets on a very emotional episode
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Lifetime

It was an emotional week on Project Runway: contestants got some much-needed family time, designs were intensely personal and Mondo shared a secret he’d been holding inside for nearly a decade. It was a tearjerker for sure.

But more on the mushy stuff later! The episode kicked off with Heidi Klum informing designers they’d be “starting from scratch” on this challenge. They met Tim Gunn and an exec from HP in the workroom, where they learned they’d be repeating a challenge from last year: creating their own textiles to use in a piece inspired by a moment or memory from their lives. They’d get $100 to buy supplemental fabrics at Mood, too.

Each contestant was given a desktop computer filled with images from his or her childhood. This let us learn a little more about the designers – particularly Mondo, who revealed to the cameras that when he came out to his mom at age 17, he wasn’t allowed to tell his father or other relatives.

He also shared his deepest, most painful secret: he’s been HIV-positive for 10 years and basically kept his diagnosis to himself. It wasn’t only heartbreaking to know he was ill, but to think he’d been suppressing something so painful for so long.

However, he didn’t let his past get him down – instead, he created a bright pattern of plus signs, resembling his positive status. April made a haunting, tree-inspired design that portrayed the emotions she felt during her parents’ divorce.

Everyone’s pattern was somehow tied to family, which felt especially fitting when a flurry of moms, sons and partners walked through the workroom doors. Tim gave designers the day off, and they got to spend time with their loved ones. You could literally feel the sense of the relief in the air.

The next day, everyone returned to work, but several found it hard to focus, particularly Andy, who admitted he’d rather be back with his mom than designing.

On the runway, where guest judge Rachel Roy greeted designers, April’s mini-dress, Mondo’s pants and jacket combo and Gretchen‘s slacks and tank impressed, while Andy, Valerie, Christopher and Michael C. drew some criticism.

Though Heidi and Michael Kors likened Michael C.’s corset dress to “a men’s old-fashioned tie” and Nina Garcia called Andy’s blouse and vest “sad,” it was Valerie who went home for an awkward mini-dress the judges found to be too similar to her cocktail napkin party frock from earlier this season. But the fallen designer had the kindest parting words for her fellow designers, causing many tears to flow.

The battle for the win was between April, whose haunting textile had the judges entranced, and Mondo, whose bright design was a hit. Ultimaetly Mondo won, after sharing his inspiring story – and HIV diagnosis – on the runway.

“That’s the time it was supposed to be revealed,” he said afterward. “I feel free.”

Tell us: Did the right designer go home? Who do you think is going to Fashion Week? And did last night’s episode bring tears to your eyes, too?