Designers go head-to-head in a high-fashion challenge inspired by birds

By Kate Hogan
Updated October 07, 2011 07:00 PM
Credit: Richard McLaren/Lifetime

When Heidi Klum told the Project Runway contestants they’d have to “spread [their] wings” this week, no one would’ve guessed she was being literal.

But designers met Tim Gunn in the workroom, and were greeted by four live birds – the inspiration for Thursday night’s challenge.

The remaining six were split into teams of two and tasked with designing garments based on the bird assigned to their team. But Tim soon threw in a twist: teammates would actually be working against one another, creating their own looks. One team member would end up on top, the other in the bottom three. The winner would have his or her look featured in a L’Oréal advertorial – and win $20,000.

After a quick trip to Mood, everyone got to work. Anya and Laura were creating designs based on a raven; Josh and Bert drew inspiration from a green-and-yellow parrot; Kimberly and Viktor created looks around a white cockatoo.

Bert hated his green bird, so began designing a dress that hid the color and was instead based on the animal’s claws. Laura decided to go in a different direction and make pants and a jacket; Viktor went Grecian with a white one-shoulder column dress.

Kimberly struggled, though – choosing to go with a silhouette she’d never tried before, she felt she was losing time and perhaps incapable of completing her garment. After she accidentally sewed through her finger and found a stain on her dress, she had a mini-breakdown in the bathroom, and opened up about losing her mother, brother and stepdad at a young age.

Tim Adds a Twist

Naturally, Tim had to throw a wrench in everyone’s plans: designers would have to create a second high-fashion look, also inspired by their birds. Feeling uninspired, designers returned to Mood totally stressed and seething.

Back in the workroom, people struggled: Josh scrapped his first dress design, Tim told Laura to scrap one of her creations and told Kimberly her clothes were looking too costume-y. But sensing she’d had a bad day, he gave her a big hug. And good thing – after Tim left and Kimberly fitted her model, she threw her first dress onto her worktable in frustration and it ended up burning on a hot glue gun. (Can you say Murphy’s law?)

With three hours to go, Kimberly was forced to finish her second dress and start a totally new one. However, it began to look suspiciously like Viktor’s – a fact he didn’t appreciate. While she worked, Tim came back to add yet another twist to the challenge: designers would only be showing one of their two high-fashion designs. Relieved but frustrated, they edited their looks and prepared for the next day’s runway show.

On the Runway

Guest judge Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein joined Heidi, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia for the runway show. Viktor presented his long white gown with chiffon “feather” detailing, followed by Kimberly’s new garment, also a white one-shoulder gown, this one detailed with pearls and a leather waistband. Bert showed a gray dress with a pop of blue and green inside the skirt, and Josh sent a short, orange, one-shoulder frock down the catwalk. Anya presented a cocktail-length black dress with exaggerated shoulders to Laura’s tailored feather-trimmed black jacket and fitted pants.

The judges were very impressed with Anya’s dress, which Heidi called “fashion-forward, cool, edgy.” Nina even called it her favorite Anya outfit ever. Laura, though, was criticized for taking the challenge too literally – and making pants that were too tight. Meanwhile, the judges called Bert’s dress “disappointing,” but loved Josh’s well-draped orange frock – minus the extra flower detailing the over-the-top designer insisted on adding. They also ended up loving Kimberly’s white gown, despite its technical flaws, and told Viktor his was too literal, as well.

Anya ended up winning for the second week in the row, besting Josh, who was angry – he hated the fact that Anya won despite having to sew her model in and out of her dress. And though Laura found herself on the bottom, it was Bert who was sent home for his off-base gown. Heidi assured him that he was a great designer, though, and he didn’t seem too upset to leave the show – he even shared a hug with onetime enemy Josh.