I’ve always been a fan of competition reality shows where the contestants have to make something to advance to the next round. Among my favorites is Project Runway. While I haven’t watched every season, I’ve watched enough to know that Tim Gunn is my favorite part of the show and that I often agree more with his assessments of the contestant’s outfits that the actual judges’. So I was excited to learn that he now has his own series, Project Runway: Under the Gunn, in which he is a judge and three previous contestants of Project Runway take over his job as mentors to the contestants.
The episodes follow the standard template of the Project Runway series and use similar challenges: time challenge, stage costume challenge, red carpet challenge, teamwork challenge, etc. However, episode 12 featured a challenge I haven’t seen before: the superhero challenge. For this challenge, the designers had to draw inspiration from various Marvel characters to create an outfit. This challenge was even more special since its outcome was the deciding factor in who could go to the finals.
Apparently this is the second collaboration between Marvel and Tim Gunn, the first being a four-issue comic called Models, Inc. made in 2009 – 2010. In the comic, Tim Gunn and a team of models had to fight criminals of both the murderous and fashion variety, and Tim Gunn donned the Iron Man suit to save Fashion Week.
As for the show’s designers, the four superheroes they could choose from for inspiration were Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Falcon, and Gamora.
Designer Shan chose Captain Marvel and, inspired by the fight-induced slash marks all over her outfit, made a dress/skirt combination with strips of leather over a black and white camouflage-like fabric. The camo fabric was form-fitting, sleeveless, and stopped above the knee. The blackish leather was put in vertical strips all around the torso of the dress, so you could see the camo underneath. There was also a skirt made from the leather in the same design, but it was removable. I thought the dress looked much better without the skirt, since I thought the leather was a bit much. While this outfit didn’t seem very superhero-like to me, or really make me think of Captain Marvel, I thought the dress itself was well-constructed and looked good.
Designer Sam chose Hawkeye, and his outfit, to me, was a big mess. Sam made a shirt and pants combo. The pants of the outfit were black with white polka dots and stripes. The top was a tank with purple shoulder straps and some black and white line/ripple design. The back was open with ribbons hanging down to her feet. Sam spent part of the episode reading Hawkeye comics instead of working, and he said his was inspired by Hawkeye’s rebellious nature when creating the outfit. On the back of the shirt, he painted a dark spot to symbolize the inner darkness everyone has that doesn’t always show on the surface. I thought this was a great explanation for his design concept, and it did make me like the outfit more. However, I can only handle so many different prints in one outfit, so I was still not taken by the outfit.
Designer Asha chose Falcon as her superhero. She made a shirt and pants combination also. Her top was sleeveless and made from a really flowy material that was in various shades of brown, white, and gray. It had a plunging neck and backline. In front, it stopped just above the crotch, but in the back it flowed all the way down to the floor, like a pair of folded wings. It was cinched around the model’s waist with a gold chain. The pants appeared simple, but had slits in the knees and showed a bit of skin when the model walked. I liked this look because it made sense to me that it was inspired by Falcon. I could see where she drew inspiration from his wings and his military-style clothing.
The last designer, Oscar, chose Gamora and was the only one that made an outfit that was very clearly inspired by a superhero. Even if you didn’t know that was the theme of the challenge, you would know a superhero inspired it. It had a cloak with a dramatic collar and only a right sleeve, and when the cloak was removed, the model revealed a shirt and pants set. The pants were just tight and black, but the shirt was mostly backless and had sleeves that only attached at the shoulder. I liked this one the most because, even though it was costume-like, you knew exactly where Oscar was coming from and what inspired him.
As with every episode, this one had a guest judge. In keeping with the superhero theme, the guest judge was Jaimie Alexander, who plays the Lady Sif in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. The judges liked Oscar’s costume and Shan’s leather dress the best, so the debate for who would go to the finals was between Sam and Asha. Since the judges fought each other and couldn’t decide who to send home, it was ultimately decided that all four of the designers got to stay and will show their designs in the finals.
While a little unsatisfying, the Project Runway series do have a history of allowing more than the promised final three to compete in the finals if their fellow contestants were strong enough. Ultimately, this just means that next week I get a chance to see more designs from more contestants. And while it may not be as exciting for me as superhero-inspired high fashion, I am looking forward to seeing which designer will win the competition.