Project Runway – Season 12, Episode 2 : Million Dollar Runway

Nina, Zac Posen, and Heidi, with special guest Eric Daman, are back to look witheringly at your fashion design.

The designers are greeted by armed guards and make various stupid remarks about the police, the military, and being afraid of guns. I’m sure the former soldier bit her tongue so hard it bled.

The big reveal is that the models are wearing gazillions of dollars of precious gems and the models must design a dress as a showcase for the jewelry.

While on the surface this sounds like an awesome challenge (ooo, sparkles…who doesn’t love sparkles? besides Timothy, of course), I sense a flaw. The perfect showcase for show-stopping jewelery is a simple, dark, cocktail dress or gown that will not compete with the main attraction. You could ask the designers to create something “inspired by” the jewelry but that would call for some less conventional jewelry. I guess, in a way, this is the challenge part of the challenge–design something interesting that compliments the jewelry.

Once again, Timothy, that special little Sustainability Snowflake, is back on his high horse about the jewelry. Although instead of discussing conflict diamonds or the environmental damage of mining, he’s talking about how the jewels are too pretty. Yeah. Credibility, you no haz it.

At least Timothy’s poor model from the last challenge will get a designer that let’s her do some hair and make-up…and wear shoes! Never before in the history of Project Runway has a person been so happy to see that button bag!

Let’s go shopping! Yay! The designers get their first trip to Mood where they find out that they have $4000 to spend over the course of the challenges. Interestingly, they are given a suggested budget of $300 to guide them. Since they don’t know what challenges are coming up, I think that’s only fair. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants, though, if the suggested budgets add up to more than $4000? BWAHAHAHA…

Timothy is digging through scraps despite Tim’s suggestion that he go check out the organic fabrics. Did anyone catch his total?
Back at the workroom, Russian Muscle (Sandro) and Ken are fighting about lord only knows what. Alexander (supervillain name, “The Flamer”) says Kate is making a Vivienne Westwood gown and I have to agree.

Tim comes for his critique and muses that Sandro may be going too retro (how about too tacky?) and that Helen may run out of time.

Tim again attempts to coral Timothy’s most empty flights of fancy, saying that his ideas work in the conceptual sense but do not come through when concretized (Translation: “Interesting idea but your dress sucks, Snowflake”). Timothy seems to know who he is as an activist but not as a designer. Wanting your designs to be sustainable is fine but what, besides that, do you want to communicate? If you just want to talk about sustainability, design a pamphlet, not a clothing line. He needs a design concept that he can then execute in a sustainable way. I love, by the way, that he’s wearing a whooping crane shirt. Classic.
Helen is giving out advice but then finds herself running out of time.
Once again, No-Sew Sue is freaking out about not knowing how to re-thread her machine. Dom is super gracious about helping but Sue is so rude. Ugh.
Sandro is coming up with nicknames for everyone and says “Amish is going home.” I’m not sure Sandro has seen this show before.
Kahindo says she is designing a dress Michelle Obama would wear. Michelle Obama is a style icon, no doubt. However, this dress seems more “press conference” and less billion dollar necklace, not that Michelle would get all showy with the jewels in this economy.
Helen is, rightfully, afraid of being compared to Kate as they are both making corset and bra cup bodice gowns.Over in hair and make-up, L’Oreal dude informs Sustainable Snowflake that L’Oreal is actually great with sustainability, which Timothy just accepts. I’m not even sure at this point Timothy has a clear idea of what he means by sustainability.Sandro puts a bra on his head, which is shown without comment and makes about as much sense as Timothy’s ideas.

Last minutes before the runway and Sandro is screaming abuse and expletives at anyone in firing range because he can’t work the steamer.

Million Dollar Runway

Heidi reminds everyone that the initial scoring will be “anonymous”…except Heidi was there when the designers chose their models and necklaces so, yeah. Really? They couldn’t have had Tim come out with the button bag?

Okay, then, let’s start the show!


Justin LeBlanc: This is exactly what I would have expected from this challenge. The gown is well-executed, beautiful even, and somewhat evocative of the famous “Madame X” Sargent painting…but so very conventional. The touches of blue at the hems of the bottom two layers is nice but overly subtle. He needed some “pop” here. In a color, this might have been a contender.


Ken Laurence: There’s a little more design going on here but it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. I love teal but the fabric and color combined with the design take it over into Mother of the Bride territory.

Alexandria von Bromssen (Anyanka):Pretty but, again, very standard. This looks like something I could, would, and have bought for formal wear.

Miranda Kay Levy: I do not like the belly strip or the back of this dress at all. The design, fabric, color, all scream cheap, cheap, cheap, like a lost baby chick. This easily could have been bottom three for me.

Alexander Pope (The Flamer): This is very Hollywood boudoir. It certainly isn’t boring and it is well-made. I’m not sure it was the right choice for this challenge but I bet it woke up the judges and I could see a certain type of actress or celebrity wearing this on the red carpet. Dita, maybe?

Jeremy Brandick: I don’t understand the love this is getting on the Internet (and from some of the other designers). Sure, it is safe, I agree with the judges. Still, the top is yawn, if well-constructed and fitted, and the bottom is a the tulle dust ruffle / puff of smoke. Tulle is incredibly hard to pull off without it looking crafty or costumey. Maybe if the colors were less drab or he used a different material for the ruffles…as it is, it looks like a crafty high school decided to zhuzh up the boring prom dress she borrowed from her cousin.

Karen Batts: This is a drop-waist, electric blue, poorly fitted, sloppily executed, puddle of meh. If her chest weren’t sprouting wings and the front seam wasn’t puckering, it would be just alright. As it is, it could have been on the bottom, easily.

“No-Sew” Sue Waller: This looks…like it got caught in the sewing machine. The draping on the bust is tacky but at least flattering. The ruching up the seam that comes from the slit…ugh. This doesn’t even reach the level of taste of Russian mafia wife. This is a tear-away stripper dress. No-Sew Sue should have been sent home for this.


Bradon McDonald: There are times when I wonder if the judges are watching the same runway as us folks at home. This was gorgeous. It was perfect for the model and it fit like a glove. It was glamorous and sexy. He even made a wrap that had some design to it. It was simple without being bland. I thought he might win again but he didn’t even make Top 3.

Precious Gems: Top 3

Sandro Masmanidi: Russian muscle is going to be walking the tacky line until he is auf’d…and sometimes he is going to jump right over the line and spit on it. I think this is an interesting dress and he certainly has construction skills. It is not to my taste but I could definitely see it as “fashion.” Sandro says he had the vintage rubies so he went with a neutral color scheme. Heidi, not shockingly, thinks he piled it on but it works. Eric points out a few places Sandro went overboard (a little too much lace detailing in fishtail back). Nina likes that he went short and used an unexpected fabric. Zac warns him about wrinkles to justify Sandro’s temper tantrum and points out that the peekaboo sides do take it into trashy. Personally, I would have just bumped it from the top 3 but I am glad the judges had a chance to talk about it.


Dom Streater: Dom uses a print to give her dress an unexpected twist. Personally, I think it is a little “Barbie matchy matchy” with the emeralds but I like the overall effect. I do think the fabric was a little shiny and and cheap looking–but given that they have to use what they can find, I think it was an interesting direction. Nina thinks it looks young but says the green hemming is a but overpowering. Heidi thinks it looks hip and happening but she and Zac nitpick the styling of the headband. Zac calls the headband too beachy but, personally, I think it gives it a Josephine Baker chicness.
Kate Pankoke: Kate’s design is dramatic and definitely compliments her jewelry. It looks better in motion on the runway than it does standing still, when it becomes a little droopy. It is also a total Vivienne Westwood knock-off that Helena Bonham Carter has already probably worn. Kate wisely spins a story about Marie Antoinette fleeing Versailles…but not before grabbing her jewels. Heidi says she knew it was Kate’s because of the corset…a similar design to one Kate made for her fragrance challenge. This may be a compliment but it is also a warning–don’t go to this trick again, honey. The other judges like the iciness of the color and Zac could see it in a perfume ad. Kate is, of course, the winner…but I still think Bradon’s was better.
More Trash Than Treasure: Bottom Three

Timothy Westbrook: This is much better than I expected. Not good, by any stretch of the imagination but I could have also seen this one as possibly being safe. Later on, Tim also tells the judges that this is 1000 times better than what he saw in the workroom. Zac recognizes the velvet which doesn’t seem to be a pro or a con. The judges hate the racer back front bodice. I think if he had lifted it a little so it didn’t look sagging, it would have been interesting. Nina and Heidi are becoming as bra obsessed as Joanna Coles, though, and wonder what undergarments she could wear with this gown. The judges also don’t like the necklace over the velvet but that does not bother me. My concerns are what is going on at the waist…there is some strange seaming there…and the strange points on the hem at the back. He was on the bottom last week and his sustainability schtick gets old, fast…but this was not the worst thing I have seen–not this week and not from him.

Helen Castillo THIS was the worst thing I saw this episode. I get that the judges saved her maybe because she at least understood the challenge and more likely because she had a breakdown when her gown came out but…this was horrible.
Helen says she DOES formal wear and bridal wear so she has no excuse for this crime against fashion. She says she never did bra cups before which does not speak well of her supposed experience. Okay, fine. So, if you have a wheelhouse of formal wear, why choose the time you have to make a dress in eight hours to try something new? And why not take a look at an actual bra…maybe the one Sandro had on his head?…and figure it out.
Zac says she was overambitious and there is no “bibbity boppity boo” that will come save you in the workroom. Nina says the the design is interesting but she didn’t deliver.

Oh, really? You THINK? Look at that back. Look at the horrible ruching she tried to hide with that sad little ribbon. Again, I get that she at least understood the challenge. Even perfectly executed, however, the gown was fairly standard and the colors were ugly. This isn’t an amazing gown that flopped due to time-constraints, this is an okay gown that crashed and burned because a designer who was supposedly working in her element didn’t have the skills.

Kahindo Mateene: Poor Kahindo suffered from the “blind scoring.” Once she ended up on the bottom with the Sustainable Snowflake and Crying Tattoo Girl, she was a goner. Kahindo designed a perfectly serviceable dress but unfortunately there wasn’t that much design to it.


The main design element is a rather unambitious opening in the back.

Kahindo put herself at risk because she just didn’t get the challenge. The dress plays down the jewelry while distracting from it. I am sure there was a way to have an urban tribal element in a stunning cocktail dress but this just wasn’t it.

Heidi calls it an off the rack dress but the way Kahindo used the shape of the patterning shows some skill. Eric points out that the color works great with the model’s hair but not with the necklace.

During the closer look, Tim lifts the hem to show the judges the original fabric (which Time had suggested Kahindo cover with the chiffon). Nina takes the fabric choice as a sign of bad judgment.

I didn’t hate the fabric as much as the judges did but I do agree the dress lacked drama.Most importantly for Project Runway, Kahindo lacked drama…so she’s out. Too bad. I’m not outraged that this dress was auf’d, although Helen’s was far worse, but I would have liked to have seen more from Kahindo.

Tune into Project Runway Season 12 on Lifetime at 9/8 central.
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  1. Danielle says:

    Helen deserved to go home, and Kate’s dress makes her model look like she has a deflated boob. No justice this week, at either the top or the bottom.

  2. linda rand says:

    My opinion, Helen should have gone home!!
    It ‘s OK that Kate won this challenge, but she better heed Heidi’s
    subtle warning.
    Bradon’s dress was striking, but the dress bling shined more than the real bling.
    The Madame X reference was perfect for Justin’s dress.
    I love the nicknames for Timothy and Sue.
    As always, enjoyed your critique.
    Looking forward next weeks’ episode and your review.

    • Candace says:

      Great point about Bradon’s…though that may be part of the problem with the challenge itself!

  3. [...] Yes, there is a bustle and train attached to a skin-tight short dress but considering there are no lace, peek-a-boo stripper panels, I call it an improvement. As usual, his construction is impeccable. The bow ties just look tacked [...]