An annoying designer got booted on Thursday night’s episode of Project Runway after being accused of cheating during the competition.
We’ll get into that but first, an important point about this episode: Yolanda Hadid served as a guest judge for the challenge in question and was nothing short of perfectly rude. Mainly, this episode addressed the issue of fairness in a reality competition and what constitutes cheating on a show that involves so much borrowing, copying, and style inspiration.
At the end of the previous episode, a designer named Michael walked off stage without explanation in the middle of an elimination round, leaving Heidi Klum to wonder, “Michael, why are you running off the stage?” And, What is happening?!”
Last night’s episode picks up with Michael backstage explaining his reasoning. He’s frustrated with Claire, a designer who wound up winning the present challenge; she participated in the competition with her equally irritating twin sister Shawn, who was Auf’d in the previous episode. Michael reveals to Tim Gunn that he thinks the twins had been essentially remaking garments they already owned and presenting them as original designs. (After it was already known that the twins helped each other in the workroom.)
“If you reference every single one of the looks, it has been a direct ripoff of stuff they have worn, stuff that is in their closet,” Michael tells Tim.
Michael also points out to Tim that Claire had a retractable ruler, which she used to measure her pre-owned garments for proportion and fit and then copied them in the workroom. (That is ILLEGAL on Project Runway terms!)
After returning to the stage, in the clip above, Michael explains again to the judges that all the looks the twins created had been copied. “It becomes to the point where it’s not only a reference or inspiration but a direct design of stuff that they own,” he says.
In defense, Claire, completely dumbfounded, tells the judges, “I don’t think that’s honestly true. There are so many occasions where we see things and absorb them and relay them in different ways.” Yolanda wonders why Michael is so focused on other designers and shoots back, “But are you a judge on this show or are you a participant?”
None of the judges care about the copying because, in reality, fashion runs on creatively executed theft and inspiration. The judges have always had the option of cutting contestants if they felt like their looks were too inspired by outside sources or famous designers because you can’t just copy McQueen and get away with it.
Another designer, Margarita, had spent much of the previous episode complaining that Claire recreated a prior winning top that Margarita made.
When Margarita brings this up before the judges, Heidi argues, “I mean, you’re not the first one to invent that [design] either. I think you guys all borrow form each other...There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Zac Posen adds, “If you focus on what other people are doing, it doesn’t lead to success.”
Yolanda adds, “I don’t think you guys’ focus should be on that.”
The bigger issue for the show’s producers is that Claire used a tool that gave her an advantage over other designers. It’s against the rules for a contestant to possess or use a measuring tape (or pad and paper) in their hotel room—outside of the workroom. “This whole thing about copying Margarita? A total non-issue,” Tim explains to the backstage camera. “But if Claire used a measuring tape or other tools outside the workroom, that is absolutely against the rules and there will be consequences.”
Claire wins the competition and $25,000 anyway because the producers are still trying to figure out whether Claire was stealing. Then in the greenroom, Claire submits to a Tim Gunn interrogation (the clip above) about her use of a tape measure:
Tim: First things first, Claire, is it true that you’ve had a measuring tape in your room?
Claire: I have a measuring tape.
Tim: Is it true that you’ve been measuring garments in your room?
Claire: I have measured a tank top and I have measured the crotch of a pair of pants.
Tim: Alright. Claire, we must rescind your win and send you home.
Claire: Okay. That’s fine.
After weeks of dealing with the twins’ contrived way of speaking, they’re finally out of sight, this one due to a technicality. It’s worth her getting disqualified, if we’re talking fairness. It’s unclear if Claire was aware of the rules and simply felt she could bypass them or if she was just oblivious.
Though Michael and Margarita claim to feel awful about assisting in her exit, deep down the designers are probably happy to see her go.
Claire, who has to pack up her things and leave the workroom, tells us, “I’m very regretful that I even considered the idea of holding onto something that I shouldn’t have had.”