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Project Runway Season 19, Episode 11 Recap: Haute Hair –

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This week, our remaining competitors strike up a collaboration with some rising-star hairstylists.
Something I appreciate about this week’s Project Runway: The challenge recognizes how, more often than we as an industry might care to admit, fashion is not about the actual clothing; it’s about the person wearing them. That’s why we get TikTok trends like “Is it fashion, or is she just skinny?” or, to reference tabloid fodder as old as tabloids themselves, “Who wore it better?” columns. Although I’m sure both the judges and designers on Project Runway are deeply grateful for the models who sport their clothes, those models don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for pulling off each look—including those in the category of “disastrous.” This week’s challenge is all about styling, and I hope it’s a PR mainstay. Acknowledging how much a hairstyle can make or break a runway moment is a bit of much-needed honesty.
At the beginning of episode 11, “Haute Hair,” the designers are pulled back into the runway room to meet with Elaine, who introduces them to a cohort of Black hairstylists from the Tresemmé Future Stylists Fund. Our competitors learn they’ll be collaborating with these stylists on an outfit inspired by a signature hairstyle: Think bantu knots, creative braids, or sleek finger waves. With only one day to assemble the aforementioned outfit, the designers start tossing out ideas within seconds of meeting with their salon partners. Kristina wants something Roaring ’20s-inspired; Shantall is channeling ’90s hip-hop; Aaron’s making a rain jacket, and Bones—forever enamored with the Met Gala—is assembling a dress-cum-sari fit for Lady Gaga. Aspirational.
At Mood, they have 30 minutes and $500 for fabrics, and Shantall makes the bold but bonkers choice to blow her budget on white leather. Christian is understandably concerned—who, in their right mind, would make an all-leather outfit in a single day?—but he has other worries to grab his attention: Aaron is considering crafting his rain jacket out of satin. (Aaron, darling, have you ever gotten satin wet?) Christian nudges him, thankfully, toward some eye-catching neon vinyl, and we can all let out the breath we were holding.
At their stations, the designers FaceTime with their collaborators to nail down design details. Bones is manifesting a sentimental heart theme for his dress, inspired by the heart surgery his father underwent. Across the room, Kristina is wrestling—somewhat literally—with a kimono-like jacket that Christian recommends she stray from, considering its similarity to many of her previous designs. And Coral is attached to her leather bustier-jacket, but Christian accurately guesses she’s got little idea how to make it match with her hairstylist’s concept, creative ponytails.
By the time the models sashay into the room for their first fitting, some designers are in noticeably better shape than others. Let’s focus on the latter: Bones still hasn’t settled on the draping for his (admittedly gorgeous) yards of crimson fabric, and Chasity cuts some slashes into the torso of her tiger-print gown that Christian fears are too on-the-nose. Then the inevitable happens: Shantall’s white leather fabric tears at the waist. While she rushes to craft some sort of invisible zipper to hide the error, Christian can’t resist slipping in a not-so-subtle “I told you so.”
The designers are all so stressed that, by the time they return home to celebrate Aaron’s 40th birthday with pizza and helium balloons, Aaron gets only one good whack at his piñata before Coral comes in, guns blazing, slamming it into the ground with a bat like an axe murderer. Unfortunately, things only go downhill for Aaron from here.
The next morning, he realizes the last-minute jumpsuit he’s stitched together is, to use his term for it, a “hot mess.” He spent so much time on his (fabulous) rain jacket that he neglected to remember his model needs something to wear that isn’t 100-percent see-through. He wastes 20 minutes coming up with a pair of canary yellow pants he hates, then stitches a patchwork design on his jumpsuit’s torso that resembles a bizarre superhero logo. Aaron’s flailing at this point, and he’s all too aware of it.
Still, he’s not the only one. Coral, over at her station, is shocked when her model struts in with hair pulled into a series of increasingly wild ponytails, like a couture Medusa. This isn’t at all the sophisticated look Coral was expecting, and she realizes with some horror that her jacket is completely at odds with her collaborator’s hair design. But she has no time to make adjustments, and within minutes we’re headed to the runway. This week’s winners and losers were almost instantly obvious by the time they hit the catwalk, but let’s break them down anyway, shall we?
I think it seems immediately obvious who’s going home this week. Model Precious Lee is guest-judging with our usual cohort, and she has a number of astute observations, especially when it comes to Coral’s design: As individual pieces, the garments are lovely, but in unison they clash. After Bones and Shantall get to pass and enter into next week’s challenge, Kristina and Chasity vie for the top spot, with Chasity eventually emerging as the winner. “It is the most impressive outfit I have seen from you to date,” Nina tells her, and the pride on Chasity’s face is so evident it’s hard not to get emotional watching at home.
That leaves Coral and Aaron on the bottom, but after one of Elaine’s comments—“What’s underneath [the jacket], with all due love and respect, is tragic,” she tells Aaron—we know what’s about to happen. Aaron is sent packing, and Coral bursts into tears, throwing her arms around him as she expresses her shock. Amicably, he replies, “I goofed up.” This line, I feel, perfectly encapsulates who Aaron has become over the course of this season. After his behavior with Bones a few episodes ago, Aaron has matured dramatically, and I think he’s exiting this competition with a much stronger design sensibility—and a better head on his shoulders.
Next week, we get to one of my favorite challenges: editorial. The designers will work with model Coco Rocha to dream up an editorial look and direct a photoshoot around it, and if you’ve never been on a magazine photoshoot set before, let me tell you: Dramatics aren’t exactly uncommon. This should be a fun one.
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