Barbara Nitke/Lifetime
Stephan Lee
September 23, 2011 AT 07:45 AM EDT

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status
In Season

After a bunch of fake-outs, it’s finally here: the dreaded Menswear Challenge! This recurring Project Runway staple is more feared than the Unconventional Challenge, although maybe on par with the Real People Challenge. But what happens when the designers have to cut clothes for people who are both real and male? Olivier-bot’s head explodes, that’s what.

Olivier-bot is a fashion cyborg — programmed to speak in a fabulous Madonna/Hannibal Lecter accent — sent to belittle those among us who weigh over 120 pounds. When Tim announces that the challenge is to create designs for an up-and-coming rock stars, Olivier no doubt hoped they’d be the skinny-legged, eyelinered, entirely boobless kind of rock stars who can slip into androgynous couture. But no. They’re the Sheepdogs — the unsigned band that was, surreally, voted to grace the cover of Rolling Stone — and, as bearded, Jesus-y musicians of hairy decolletage and beer hips, they kind of fit their name. Even their music threatens to scramble Olivier’s wiring, causing his face to twitch uncontrollably. I have to admit, even though Olivier is almost inhumanly snooty, I think he enriches this show. It’s fun to see him forced to interact with hot-breathed humanity, on the level of an alien learning to fit into society. (For some reason, I keep imagining how funny it’d be if he played Precious’ case worker in the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.)

Anyway, in addition to designing for big, disgusting men (actually, they’re cool and seem like great sports), it’s time for yet another team challenge. Only each designer will be judged separately, and the looks don’t have to be cohesive. So basically these teams are pointless, except to make these eight non-team-players explain to us once more that they don’t like working in groups. The winner will get an advertorial featuring his or her winning look in Marie Claire and Rolling Stone. Sweet deal! The teams, whose names would never fly on Celebrity Apprentice, are:


Laura, Bert, Anthony Ryan, Rihanna (I always forget her actual name, and I like calling her Rihanna)


Olivier, Kimberly, Viktor, Joshua

When the designers get to work, a problem immediately emerges: Some of the male designers, who may or may not be accustomed to making clothes for gay clientele, may be creating overly flamboyant or feminine looks. Bert, who according to Anthony Ryan is so old and dotty he hardly knows where he is, only buys a yard-and-a-half of fabric. I’m no designer, but that sounds like just enough fabric for a tube top, especially when your model is Ewan, the most gargantuan of these massive dudes. Bert’s first attempt is a flowy purple print-and-stripe combo that looks fit for an 80-year-old woman who lives in a Florida timeshare year-round and reads tarot cards for a living. Joshua’s guy’s crotch is overemphasized, and another dude looks too much like a gladiator. Victor is working on a pleather cowboy jacket and is trying to make it extra “crispy,” whatever that means. And oh no, there are accusations of copying designs! Only the design in question is fringe, in which case, it seems everyone’s a loser.

Other designers in trouble: Kimberly complains incessantly about designing menswear. She’s practically allergic to it — “the thought of it sends me into a frenzy” — and it’s yet another thing that Rihanna claims to be trying for the first time, and she’s not the least bit confident. Laura has to switch up her top when her guy admits he’s shy about his chest hair. But the biggest (literally) victim of all: poor, poor Ewan. He’s like the sweet chubster who gets picked on in the cafeteria by the mean fashion bullies (Fashion Bullies should be a TV show, TLC), headed up by Queen Bee Olivier. Ewan looks like a kicked puppy as he waits around in his undies and socks for clothes. Both Olivier and Bert make him try on pants that give him serious moose knuckle, and Olivier — yes, I will call you “ignorant” for hating plus-size folks — just gets angrier and angrier that people larger than himself exist in the world.

NEXT: Adam Lambert doesn’t pull any punches. Also, the judges totally did kinda want the teams’ designs to be cohesive. Liars!

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