Due to Labor Day travel, I didn't have a chance to watch either of the previous two episodes until recently, so I have a double update (just in time to be ahead of this week's episode...)
In Episode 7, the remaining women reaffirm their desire to have one of the male contestants eliminated next. Throughout the subsequent challenge, though, all of the female designers struggle and feel like they're out of their comfort zone, whereas all of the men feel confident and feel they are all contenders for the win - especially perennial rivals Chris and Gunnar. Several of the designers comment on this gender divide, and Ven wraps it up with a bizarre generalization: "I feel that generally men are stronger designers, and women are more practical." I'm not even sure what that means, and given that Ven has revealed what a thoughtless person he is, I'm not able to imagine any positive connotation for it either.
The challenge itself is the "Lord and Taylor" challenge - that being the store that supplies all the accessories they have to use for styling their looks. The specific setup is that L-n-T has gotten one designer from each of the previous nine seasons to design a look for them - all either cocktail dresses or evening gowns - and the winning dress from this challenge will get to join those as the tenth dress in the collection. They are all actually going to be produced and sold! This means they can't use any techniques that are too hard to reproduce and they have to choose from specific fabrics already given to them, and it has to be able to be sold in the $200-$300 range. Overall, though, very little time is spent talking about exactly how their designs have to be constrained for this, especially in comparison to the Project Runway All-Stars challenge where they had to do something similar.
All the designers make black cocktail dresses, except for Dmitry, who makes a sparkly greige one, and Christopher, who makes a gown with a light pink t-shirt top (covered with the same shredded technique he has done before). Gunnar's take is covered in sequins, and he is sure he's going to win. Elena worked herself up into several freakouts in the workroom and is sure she's going to be eliminated for her harness-babydoll.
First off, Sonjia, Ven, and Dmitry are safe. Sonjia had some rough moments during construction herself, especially when sewing the dress onto her model at the very last minute, and is over the moon at being safe. Ven and Dmitry both felt they were definite contenders and are miffed.
The judges say that of the remaining, there are actually four in the top and two in the bottom. Fabio, Chris, and Mellisa are in the top. Alicia is in the bottom. Gunnar is shocked to be in the bottom as well, but not nearly as much as Elena is to be in the top!
Christopher is named the winner. As the usual judging continues apace, eventually Gunnar is left as the last on the runway, which would normally mean he's out. But since the competition is still short a competitor (after having two quit and only bringing Raul back), the judges decide everyone gets an E for Effort this time and nobody gets eliminated!
This sets us up for Episode 8, another team challenge. Chris, cheesed that the perfect opportunity to be rid of Gunnar fell apart, gets teamed up with Gunnar. Stuck with them is Sonjia. Dmitry and Elena, who have also had their share of clashes, end up together, with Alicia as the third wheel. That leaves Ven, Fabio, and Melissa on the last team.
First, the teams must make "merchandise" using craft supplies, then go and sell it on the streets to raise funds to buy the fabric and notions for the challenge proper. It's sort of like kids running a lemonade stand, since they don't have to reimburse for the supplies...but ah well. They're allowed to sell anything they can come up with - fashion advice, other services, any accessories or "irresistible things" they can come up with. So they all sell T-shirts they've dyed or painted. Team "VMF" makes $800.48, team "CSG" makes $684.00, and team "DEA" makes exactly $500.00.
Now, to the actual challenge. Each team must make two looks for fall, including outerwear in at least one. The team dynamics play out like something from Goldilocks - Team DEA has too much conflict, Team VMF has too much friendship, and Team CSG is just right. Amazingly, Chris and Gunnar are able to tamp down their claws and work together, and overall all three seem able to speak up and collaborate in such a way as to elevate all their work. Team VMF seems to get along well on the surface, but everybody just kind of does his or her own thing and there's nothing special. Team DEA works out exactly like everyone predicts - Elena does her usual freakouts and all three spend their time jockeying for position and trying to have the most visible surface area displayed on their garments.
To be honest I thought all the clothes were boring. They were all safe, neutral, and as far as I could tell have all been from the same collection, across all the teams. The judges like Team CSG best. As is customary for team challenges, members of the winning team have to name which individual should win, and the other teams have to name who should be eliminated. Chris and Gunnar both pick Gunnar to win, and Sonjia picks herself.
On the non-winning teams, Elena and Dmitry of course rehash their every argument in front of the judges, and pick each other to go. Alicia picks Dmitry. Nobody on Team VMF wants to make a pick, but finally the judges batter them down and Ven and Melissa both pick Fabio. Fabio evades the question by picking Ven, because, as he says, he knows there's no way they'll eliminate him.
In the end, Sonjia is named the winner for her jacket, and Alicia is eliminated for her pants (which were largely covered up by Elena's jacket). Next week, it's the digital print challenge, where we are reminded that one of the few things more ridiculous than creating an outfit in a day is creating a fashion print in an hour.