'Project Runway' Season 19, Episode 2 Recap: “#Streetwear”

·9 min read
Photo credit: Bravo
Photo credit: Bravo

Might I suggest draping yourself in a warm blanket before we begin? Things get a lil’ icy in the Project Runway workroom this week—courtesy of some hair-raising ignorance and a patchwork vest—so, before we unpack, let’s all assume a comfortable sitting position. The good news? Wisdom Kaye, TikTok’s reigning fashion king, is this week’s guest judge. The bad news? Before we can witness his taste-making in real time, we first must endure a lot of shouting. (Do remember, friends, this is a Bravo show. There’s precedent.)

Episode 2 starts with our drained designers dragging themselves back to the runway, where Christian informs them of this week’s challenge: streetwear. They’ll have two days to make a high-fashion three-piece ensemble that would stand out on the sidewalk; ideally, the look will be characterized by comfort, wearability, and oversized proportions. Our fashion-week hopefuls have a few hours to sleep before they drown their insecurities in coffee and get to sketching.

But when the erasable pens come out, so do the claws. Haitain designer Prajje wants a Black model for a design inspired by his home country, but by the time he scoops up a model card, all that’s left is white-guy Tyce. Prajje expresses his frustration to fellow competitor Meg, aka last week’s “juicy b*tch,” and she, a white woman, attempts to explain to him, a Black man, why putting Tyce in Haitian streetwear is so problematic. “It’s cultural appropriation,” she says several times. “I feel insulted on your behalf.” She monologues at considerable length about how hard it is for Black people—and also herself as a plus-size white woman—not to see themselves reflected on the runway. Babe, I hear you; I really do. I’m all for body positivity, but maybe let’s take a beat?

We get Prajje’s response via audience-facing interview: “Oftentimes you find people in support of our issues as Black folks, they kind of come off as if they know what our troubles are and they’re our saving grace. I am feeling uncomfortable a little bit, but she’s going and going and going.” Already I’ve hit my Apple Watch’s daily exercise goal with the effort of my full-body cringe, but Meg is, as of yet, blissfully ignorant.

Photo credit: Bravo
Photo credit: Bravo

At Mood, the designers have $300 and 45 minutes to pick their fabrics, and before long Christian’s making his devious prowl through the workroom. He critiques Zayden on an oversimplified hoodie-jacket. He reminds everyone, “There are so many streets, you guys—Sesame Street, what about the yellow brick road?” (I mean, there is a model for Big Bird couture.) Finally, he makes his way to Darren, whom you might recall had a cigarette-related sequin meltdown last week. This week, however, he’s plugged in, stitching away at a jacket inspired by Gen Z.

“I don’t know if you know about TikTok e-boys,” he tells Christian, who strains to stifle a visible eye twitch. The designer who’s assembled fits for Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya appears briefly cowed, but Darren—who’s already established he’d like to shoot his shot with our host—is on a roll. “He lived that vibe; he was that kid!” We get some delectable flashbacks of Christian, circa his season 4 win, with his hair in an iconic (and undeniably e-boy) asymmetrical mop. Unfortunately, we have no time to appreciate these images, as the camera’s been lured back to Meg.

At this point in the episode, she’s pretending she invented the term “shacket” and waving her ally get-out-of-jail free card beneath Christian’s nose: “There is only one race, and that’s mankind.” But after Prajje and Coral switch models so Prajje can present a Black model in his Haitian outfit, Kenneth realizes he, too, would love to represent his culture with an Asian model. Who’s the only person in the room with an Asian model? It’s your girl, Meg!

Photo credit: Bravo
Photo credit: Bravo

Kenneth politely asks if she’d consider switching, and immediately you can see the pieces spinning in her head like the math meme. She realizes saying no could pin her as this season’s Karen. She also does not want to say yes. When he asks her again if she’d be up for a trade, she loses it: “I think it’s f*cking bullsh*t that you’re doing this now. I respect the race thing”—say it with me now, OOF—“I will do it just for that factor.”

Sweet, baby boy Kenneth responds, “If you don’t feel comfortable, we don’t have to do this.”

“Stop talking,” she snaps. (At this point, my shoulders have climbed so high I know I’m going to have a migraine in the morning.)

Meg’s new model, Trevor, is visibly frightened, but it’s Prajje who refuses to bite his tongue. “Girl, that was fake as f*ck,” he says. “I lost so much respect for you for that.” She demands to know why, how, what could she possibly have done wrong, but as Prajje walks her through her missteps numerous times, their voices crescendo and climb octaves with every word. Perhaps the best part of this entire sequence is Zayden, who’s forced to endure the two designers as they finger-jab and squall over his sewing station. Bones, for his part, summarizes my feelings nicely: “I want to take everyone to a pet store and let them rub some animals.”

Photo credit: Bravo
Photo credit: Bravo

Meg storms off the set, strips away her mike, and, soon enough, drops out of the competition entirely. Via interview, she attempts to explain her absence as the result of a mental health crisis, which is a perfectly legitimate concern. But there’s no denying what happened on screen: A supposed ally was caught in a compromising position, and, like so many women before her, she chose to bristle and fight rather than listen and adjust. Sure, trading models halfway through the competition was an inconvenience. But one worth making Kenneth weep? One worth derailing a shot at winning Project Runway? It’s hard to swallow Meg’s defense of “standing up for myself” when that defense seems so callow. The fashion industry needs allies pushing for diversity, but when allyship takes a form this twisted, all it leaves behind is rot.

With Meg gone, the designers can sharpen their fabric scissors and focus on fashion. After a quick scurry to the, ahem, Tresemme Hair Salon and Maybelline Makeup Studio, all can finally relish in runway day. Let’s break down the fits:

  • First is Darren’s look, a pink punk jacket paired with a plaid skirt and distressed mesh top. The e-boy influence is evident, but the artistic finesse? A wee bit lacking.

  • Katie shows off her fabric-design talents with a mixed-pattern ensemble that’s a whole lot of something. Trouble is, the cropped pink pants with fur vest and collared shirt scream Kindergarten picture day rather than New York runway.

  • Prajje’s Haitian-inspired outfit pairs baggy trousers with a stunning yellow jacket, hand-painted with an image of Erzulie Dantòr, the Haitian goddess of motherhood.

  • Chastity makes a comeback after last week’s lackluster design. Her all-black asymmetrical organza jumpsuit is chic but still slick enough to look street-ready.

  • Next, we get the ensemble of my dreams from Aaron. His model’s in a reversible (!!) cropped jacket with ruched bib overalls and a white ribbed top. In ‘70s-esque yellow sunglasses and a shag haircut, she somehow looks ready to enjoy both après-ski cocktails and a Brooklyn garage party. Magnificent.

  • Sabrina showcases a bright and boisterous dress with a turtleneck collar, puffed sleeves and a floor-length fringe belt.

  • Y’all know I adore Kenneth, but his look is not doing it for anyone. As Elaine later puts it, the patchwork vest and harem pants are giving “soccer-player crossing guard.”

  • Kristina’s design fuses a bucket hat, ribbon-cuffed top and wide-leg pants for an elegant look with gorgeous movement.

  • Then we have Shantall’s model, dressed in a halter-neck crop top and matching black pants with a yellow polka-dotted windbreaker. It’s not anything extraordinary, but it does feel street-ready.

  • Octavio goes for something more avant-garde with a striped top, mesh faceguard, ruffled skirt, and highlighter-colored shoulder pads. The overall effect is bizarre—but in an intriguing, delightful way.

  • For the second week in a row, Anna has one of my favorite looks. She pulls off a *moment* when her model, dressed in a floral two-piece bodycon jumpsuit, drops her ruffled skirt to display leggings underneath. We love a reveal!

  • Tyce comes down the runway in Coral’s all-black zip-up jacket and pants, accented with macrame and leather. It’s clean, sophisticated, and undeniably street.

  • Sitting in the audience, Bones shimmies in appreciation to his “Martian, galactic, tribal” look, which combines a peekaboo crop top with a removable skirt and baggy shorts.

  • Last but certainly not least is Zayden’s Trayvon Martin-inspired design: a tank and joggers with matching belt motifs, as well as an oversized camouflage coat spray-painted with the words “Say Their Names.”

Photo credit: Bravo
Photo credit: Bravo

The judges have a number of favorites, including Zayden’s coat, Aaron’s reversible jacket, and Prajje’s painted fit. They dock others for ill-conceived concepts: Darren for too many ideas in one look, Katie’s for an unflattering silhouette, and Kenneth’s for poor construction. Ultimately, Prajje pulls through with a win, and no one—yes, no one!—has to trudge home and pack their bags. I guess that’s what happens when another contestant blows up their own runway. I wish Meg the best, but I’ll be glad to release my shoulder tension and take a few ibuprofen tonight. That was a long one, and Project Runway knows it. Next week we can likely expect lighter fare, especially given the theme: all things Halloween.

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