CAITLIN AND BENJAMIN UP A TREE... (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

Project Runway Power Rankings, week eight: When does helping become cheating?

In the eighth episode of Project Runway New Zealand, the designers had to remake a secondhand bridesmaid’s dress for their models. Henry Oliver ranks the results.

Let’s talk about Caitlin. Let’s talk about cheating. Let’s talk about sharing and ideas and helping.

Caitlin and Benjamin have been tight since the get-go. Benjamin is the best designer in the competition, combining taste and skill with an actual working knowledge of, and interest in, fashion. Week in, week out, he’s the designer to beat. Caitlin has taste too, but less skill and (this is important) less confidence. But together, they make some kind of powerful duo, winning pretty much all the challenges (except when Judy won a couple) and having a ball of a time together. What’s not to love?

Well, the resentment from other designers has been building for a few episodes but reached a tipping point this week after Caitlin won the last challenge. Kerry said Benjamin “breastfeeds” her ideas, which is gross (not breastfeeding, of course, but the metaphor) and Jess shit on her for being boring and ripping Benjamin off and/or relying on his help.

(Quick note here to say that this might be an edited together mountain out of a molehill. Maybe Benjamin and Caitlin only work together a little bit and the other contestants hardly care at all but when it’s put together it ‘looks bad’.)

I mean, it does look like he’s helping her a lot – giving her advice on her designs, helping with construction, offering a critical eye that, let’s be honest, all the designers could benefit from more of. But so what? They’re all talking to each other all the time (though less and less as things get more serious at the business end of the competition) and where would you draw the line? Would the producers ever step in if the ‘help’ got too much? What do you think?

I think it’s fine. Everything she makes comes from Caitlin’s designs and Benjamin just helps make it better. Is that okay? As long as there’s no rule against it, sure!

While the other contestants seem to be getting sick of Caitlin and think she’s undeserving, something like fashion design is a porous process. You take ideas and help where you can get it. And as long as Benjamin isn’t doing so much as you could call it ‘his design’, then whatever. Caitlin’s just doing what she’d have to do in any design job in the world – using everything she can (including the talents of others) to make the best thing possible.

Anyway, this episode was the obligatory bridesmaid refresh challenge. While these are usually super dramatic because the client is some poor bride, tonight the models were the client. And as with anyone with pretty much no vested interest in the result, they were completely redundant, their reactions ranging from “I liked bits of it” to “I love it, please make my favourite designer the winner so I too can go through to the next round”.

Gracie (the woman who usually models for Benjamin) basically walked over and handed him the bouquet (if you’re reading without watching, the secondhand bridesmaid’s dresses were assigned by the model through a wedding bouquet over her back).

Anywaaaaaay…. How’d they do?

CAITLIN VS JESS ROUND 2 (PHOTO: SUPPLIED)

7. Jess

“Slow as shit” Jess doesn’t do well when you have to compete for anything outside the regular competition. She goes hard – which I like – but seems to always be a second behind and her ultra-competitiveness comes off as bitterness. It was a bad omen.

Jess was right, this was a make or break week for her and she broke. To me, it was a pretty close toss-up between Misty and Jess – both who made pretty cringy clothes this week. While Misty was the one who was sent home, I think Jess’s top was unforgivable and should’ve been the end of her. She probably agrees. She “wanted to vomit at the corset back” which is the best thing anyone’s said about their own design this whole season. The guest judge (who was simply called a “fashion guru” and nothing else, though I think he used to work at Crane Brothers but that might be old news) said it was like Jasmin from Aladin. I thought she looked like a Spanish Spice Girl.

Everyone seemed to love the pants though. I think that’s because they look like they could have come from World at some point. I dunno… I was not convinced.

JESS & MISTY (PHOTOS: SUPPLIED)

6. Misty

It’s not that Misty didn’t deserve to go (she did) but I’m bummed because Misty is the first contestant to leave since Lenon that I’ll miss seeing on TV every week. I’ve liked Misty ever since her introduction when she gave a warning to all the young kids not to underestimate her.

Tonight, Misty just took it both too far and not far enough. Too far in the “drama” and not far enough in the, y’know, design. I love the term “taste-level” on this show (much like “flavour profile on Top Chef) and there’s no better criticism of Misty tonight.

So bye Misty! I’ll miss your low-key shade.

5. Kerry

Kerry does Kerry things, though a little bit worse than usual (I’m liking his talking head commentary more and more and his designing less and less). The bow-front is, let’s be honest, horrible. The whole thing is so conservative. I see this on Hope Hicks at a late-summer cocktail party celebrating Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and Ivanka walks up to her and says, “I really like your outfit.”

KERRY & JUDY (PHOTOS: SUPPLIED)

4. Judy

Judy! I almost accidentally left her off these rankings because I couldn’t recall a single thing about her design or her presence in the episode. I mean, she beat Jess to the bouquet they both wanted, so there’s that. Is that something? The judges said she was safe and boy were they right.

3. Peni

Another yawn from me. At least this looks like a real person, like a not-great outfit someone would actually wear. Like, it’s professional but bland. I can’t imagine someone designing it and thinking ‘Yeah, this is it. This could be a winner!’

(Oh, and I really should be deducting points from Peni for saying that professional women who dared not to wear straps looked like they “wanted to have sex with everyone.” That was gross.)

PENI & CAITLIN (PHOTOS: SUPPLIED)

2. Caitlin

Everyone shit on Caitlin this week, but I think they’re just bitter. If she weren’t winning, they wouldn’t care. This looks like if Tom Wolfe were a young woman (oh, and a model). I mean, I don’t love-love this. Call me boring, but it would have been better with both sleeves on for a start. And there’s too much ruffling for my taste. But at least it’s something. It’s like if Kerry’s was way better. It’s got personality. And a point of view. And, despite the assist, it’s not Benjamin’s.

1. Benjamin

BENJAMIN & BENJAMIN (PHOTOS: SUPPLIED)

Benjamin’s back! I’m surprised this didn’t win TBH. Whenever you think “there’s a lot going on,” that’s usually a bad thing, but here there is a lot going on, but it’s all integrated into a cohesive outfit. It makes so many design elements – the wrap, the cuffs, the puff sleeve, the conservative (it were longer) skirt, the fur trim – look like they’re made for each other.

It’s a testament to his skill that this could just so easily have been one of the worst outfits of the night. And even though as much as Caitlin got an assist from Benjamin, Benjamin got an assist from his model. But when you can make something like this in a few hours, who cares?


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