A menswear challenge leaves several designers struggling – and produces some pretty ugly results

By Kate Hogan
Updated September 23, 2011 03:00 PM
Credit: Richard McLaren/ Lifetime

With a warning from Heidi Klum that “image is everything,” designers set out to New York’s Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday’s episode of Project Runway, and learned of their toughest challenge yet: making menswear.

With the help of Garnier’s Peter Butler, Tim Gunn introduced the Sheepdogs, an unsigned Canadian band that landed on the cover of Rolling Stone this August following an online vote. The up-and-comers needed a signature look to “take them to the next level,” per Tim, so contestants were split into two teams. Olivier, Viktor, Kimberly and Josh were Team Untitled. And Laura, Anya, Bert and Anthony Ryan formed Team Harmony. Each designer would have to style one band member head-to-toe. The team’s four looks didn’t have to be cohesive.

Anya and Kimberly were particularly nervous about the challenge; neither had ever designed menswear. But Olivier, who specializes in the field, seemed to have a leg up. So after learning the Sheepdogs like suede, denim, boots, everyone dashed to Mood and got to work.

What happened next was just a whole lotta ugly. Bert and Laura dyed fabrics purple and red, respectively, and everyone seemed to be working on a brown and orange palette that just seemed like stale ’70s garb. The Sheepdogs came in for an initial fitting, suggesting changes and trying on pieces. Once again, Olivier found himself frustrated with the “real” size of his client, while the bandmates themselves seemed slightly alarmed by the outfits. Everyone found themselves short on time, with Anya in particular worried about finishing her garments.

On the Runway

In a Runway first, there wasn’t a runway show. Instead, the Sheepdogs wore their new clothes while performing for Heidi, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and guest judge Adam Lambert. Team Harmony presented first: Anthony Ryan designed a fringed, yellow sleeveless top and white pants for bassist Ryan Gullen; Anya made jeans and a brown tunic for drummer Sam Corbett; Laura crafted red jeans, a fringed jacket, tie-dyed tank and scarf for guitarist Leot Hanson; and Bert made striped purple pants and a dyed top for lead singer Ewan Currie, putting braids in the guy’s hair for extra flair.

Meanwhile, from Team Untitled: Josh designed white pants, a tank and fringed jacket for Gullen; Kimberly gave Corbett an orange bowling-esque shirt and brown pants; Viktor made a fringed pleather jacket, torn jeans and western-tinged button-down for Hanson; and Olivier created a paisley shirt and cream pants for Currie.

Not surprisingly, the judges were underwhelmed. “I don’t see swagger,” Michael told Team Harmony, before Nina called their looks “expected” and “so literal.” Laura’s outfit did earn props from Adam and Heidi, though Nina thought her jacket looked like a ladies’ piece “from a mall.” Opinions were neutral on Bert and Anthony Ryan’s looks, but Anya was ripped apart for an outfit that channeled Pocahontas.

On Team Untitled, Viktor won raves for his detailed jacket and flattering denim, and Josh earned some praise, too. But Kimberly’s top drew criticism from Michael – “I think he looks like Peter Brady at an autumn harvest,” he joked – and Olivier got in a lot of trouble for a look Heidi called “boring,” a low blow since he was the only designer with menswear experience.

After declaring Viktor the winner – though he didn’t get immunity, his look was featured in a Garnier advertorial for Marie Claire and Rolling Stone – the judges narrowed it down to Kimberly and Olivier, ultimately eliminating the shy menswear designer for his lack of effort.