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Mondo Guerra Recaps 'Project Runway' Season 10, Episode 5: The Marie Claire Challenge

Drama ensues as the competitors face the dreaded team challenge, during which one designer makes enemies thanks to her outbursts and fits of rage and another refuses to cooperate with his teammates.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Thursday's episode.]

This week, the designers punch the clock to create a look for the strong, powerful, sophisticated woman at work.

Nina Garcia joins Heidi Klum on the runway to reveal the Marie Claire team challenge. The designers must divide into two teams to create an editorial capsule collection that still works in the real world. Each team must also direct a photo shoot to accompany their runway presentation and the winning team’s looks will be published in the newly launched magazine, Marie Claire at Work.

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Since there are no leaders, the teams are named based on their number of teammates. With the help of the dreaded button bag, the competitors choose their teams. On Team 6, we have Sonjia, Elena, Melissa, Dmitri, Alicia, and Raul while Team 5 is a boys-only-club with Nathan, Ven, Christopher, Fabio and Gunnar.

In the Workroom

From the beginning, it’s clear that some designers consider “team” a four-letter word. Raul is as negative and difficult as ever with his refusal to cooperate with his teammates. While the rest of Team 6 is aiming for a modern collection in a black and blue color story, Raul is determined to stick with his outdated ideas and fabric selections. Is it just me or is Raul toxic?

Elena’s aggressive attitude isn’t helping to ease Team 6’s tensions either. Her outbursts and fits of rage are dragging down the rest of her team’s morale. Despite the drama, Team 6 decides to split up the garments’ construction based on strengths -- Melissa and Dmitri will each create a dress; Raul and Elena each tackle two tops; Alicia is working on two pants and Sonjia sets out to construct two skirts.

At the other end of the workroom, Team 5 seems to be working in relative harmony -- well, everybody but Gunnar. Gunnar can’t get a word in edgewise with his teammates and struggles to maintain his point of view. They’ve chosen to incorporate a colorful floral pattern into an otherwise graphic black and white collection. Unlike Team 6, each designer on Team 5 is responsible for his own look.

After one day in the workroom, the designers meet Tim Gunn and photographer Tom Hines for the photo shoot portion of the challenge. Elena continues to make enemies as she barks orders at her teammates, the L’Oreal crew, and the photographer. While I’m shocked at her complete lack of professionalism, I actually agree with Elena that the props were unnecessary. The minimal, clean background really let the clothes take center stage.

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On the Runway

Marie Claire editor-in-chief and Project Runway All Stars mentor Joanna Coles joins the judges’ panel this week (yay!), then it’s time for the runway show.

Here are my thoughts on the teams’ collections:

Team 5

My biggest complaint about this collection is the use of that floral print -- it just reads “old lady” to me. The looks overall did not make a statement for a strong and powerful woman at work. I’m surprised the judges weren’t more critical.

The only look I really liked was Fabio’s. His dress, while simple, was actually very editorial and wearable. You could style it in many different directions and it still succeeds. By far the best look from Team 5 for me. My only criticism is the way the dress gathered on the sides -- it could have been a better fit.

Nathan’s girl looks like she got her pantsuit in a twist on her way to Bingo. The drape on those flowing pants is an interesting idea, but the execution was unflattering. Christopher achieved a cool effect with the floral print on his skirt, but haven’t we already seen this technique from him before? And speaking of déjà vu, Ven sends yet another version of his drape method down the runway, this time in black and white. Yawn.

Gunnar wasn’t feeling the love this challenge, and it was reflected in his garment. The top of his dress made his model’s boobs look lopsided and untamed and the use of the floral print as inserts seemed like an afterthought. This look was a swing and a miss.

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Team 6

This collection definitely had modern and editorial touches, but lacked cohesion. Still, I thought Team 6 had stronger looks overall and the black & blue color story is very on-trend.

Melissa went beyond black and produced an eye-catching, vibrant blue dress. It’s a well-constructed look with a lot of interest, but for me it was just ok. The zipper detail in the back looked suspiciously similar to Ven’s dress from the previous challenge and I’m not sure this is a look most women would choose for the workplace.

Elena’s big-shouldered, long-sleeve black top was confusing, but her sleek jacket was pretty good. Alicia showed off her tailoring skills with her high-waisted wool pants and skinny trousers. Sonjia produced two well-made skirts -- the blue pencil skirt fit like a dream and I thought the drape on the striped skirt was unexpected and cool.

Dmitri’s dress was constructed well and I liked the color blocking. However, I’m on the fence about the cutouts and exposed zipper in the back. I think a hidden zipper would have made the look more refined. For all of Raul’s hot air, his designs fell flat. His ruffled bib blouse was overdesigned and fussy while his shiny gunmetal top was unremarkable. Not cute.

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The High Scores

Melissa: The judges all agreed that Melissa’s dress was a strong look. Nina called it a “showstopper,” and Heidi named it her favorite of the day.

Fabio: Michael Kors praised the ageless demographic of Fabio’s dress, stating that he could see it worn by a young woman in her 20s or a seasoned pro in her 60s—he just didn’t like the headwear. Joanna likes the headpiece, however, and thinks the dress looks easy to wear.

Christopher: Heidi loved this look and Nina thought it was modern and could fit in well on the pages of Marie Claire at Work.

The Low Scores

Elena: Heidi said she doesn’t hate a lot of things, but she hated Elena’s big-shouldered top. The judges agreed that her obsession with the exaggerated shoulders is unflattering.

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Raul: Michael called one top boring and the other unattractive. He thought the execution was poorly done and Heidi called Raul’s designs “horrible.”

Gunnar: Michael thought it was an unfortunate use of the fabric and cut poorly. Joanna thought the model’s breasts looked like two puppieswrestling in a sack.

The Judges’ Decisions

Team 6 wins the challenge and will have their designs featured on the pages of Marie Claire at Work. But since both teams’ scores were tied, the designers are judged individually.

In the end, Melissa was named the winner while Raul was bid auf wiedersehen.

For me, Fabio had the winning look. I love his graphic use of the black and white and the interest he created with the different front and back. This dress might be unexpected at work but I felt it was more appropriate than Melissa’s. Still, I think her win was well-earned.

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I’m glad that Raul went home (again). He was difficult, selfish, and insecure. Raul talked a big talk, but his designs walked a wimpy walk. I think the judges made the right decision. But Gunnar dodged a major bullet this week -- his dress was a disaster.

What do you think? Was Melissa’s dress deserving of the top spot? Was Raul’s second chance cut short too soon? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Denver fashion designer Mondo Guerra earned a runner-up finish on Project Runway season eight then went on to claim victory on the debut season of Project Runway All Stars. In addition to an upcoming guest editor position at Marie Claire, Mondo has also launched I Design, a new HIV/AIDS education campaign with Merck. To learn more about Mondo, visit mondoguerra.com.

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