Portland Project Runaway — Hats off to you

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By Erin Flesch, NEAT contributor

This week’s Project Runway 8, Episode 4 recap might be a bit shorter than most, and here’s why: In our humble opinion, it was one of the most unwatchable episodes in recent memory and a travesty given the potential for awesomeness of the “Hats Off To You” challenge. It might also have been the fact that the giant Italian sub we consumed while watching sent us on a nausea-induced shame spiral of epic proportions (curse you Jimmy Johns! Never again).

Now that we’ve got that out of our system (gross), here’s what happened: The episode began with the cause of Ivy Higa’s fainting spell (dehydration). She’s fine and embarrassed and ready to incorporate some hospital gown inspiration into the next challenge.

The next day, Heidi Klum walks out on the runway and we are treated to a mini-show where each of the designer’s models came out wearing an exclusive hat sculpture made by master milliner Phillip Treacy, the man behind some of Lady Gaga’s more than out-there headwear. The challenge is to create an outfit that would be fit to wear with one of Treacy’s awe-inspiring hat creations.

All we can say, is gawd, there was so much potential! And what did the remaining designers choose to do? Nothing avant-garde, nothing fantastical and nothing over-the-top. Instead, yawn-inducing garments ruled the runway. These hats were truly amazing and the accompanying outfits just were not. For shame, y’all.

Kristin Haskins Simms bemoaned her “overly-literal” orchid hat and came up with a heavy black satin accented by hot pink slits gown that was poorly constructed and not at all evocative of her light and beautiful flower topper. Michael Costello was halfway through his burnt orange Dancing with the Stars number (complete with a huge obvious seam running down the front) when Tim Gunn advised him to scrap it and start again. Instead he ended up with a shimmering goddess gown the judges loved and everyone else in the workroom loathed.

We didn’t see a lot of Gretchen Jones’ work until the runway, but we did hear her a lot throughout the episode. Our local gal likes to make her opinions heard. And in this case, everything she said turned out to be, well, wrong. Jones’ praised Christopher Collin’s brocade jacket and leggings combo (he ended up in the bottom three), hated on Valerie Mayen and Costello’s looks hardcore (both of them ended up in the top). For the first time since the season began, Jones did not make the top three. Her American outback/wood nymph feather printed shirt (above right, to match her peasant feather adorned chapeau) and intricate leggings landed in neutral territory.

April Johnson made the judges laugh with her futuristic resort wear (complete with three-layer diaper undies), but they could see where she was going with it, so they kicked Haskins Simms and her orchid mess to the curb. The winner was Costello, who was joined in the top two with Micheal Drummond and his cardboard-chic structural look. All we can say is, no gold stars from us you guys. Do better next time.

Tune in to The Neat Sheet every Friday for PDX Project Runway 8 recaps. In the meantime watch as Portland designer Gretchen Jones explains her “Hats Off To You” design to Tim Gunn: