When Gretchen won the first challenge on this season of Project Runway, I don’t think anyone realized the sequence of events that were set in motion. The first person to win is often regarded just as the first of many to do well, but Gretchen immediately started speaking as if she were the authority on all things fashionable and stylish. She gave unsolicited advice and commentary on everyone in the workroom, some face to face and others behind their backs in the confessional. After she won the second challenge her authority seemed to be solidified. Her roommates became her confidants and cheering section, feeling only themselves to be her equal. I found this amusing given her winning design in week two was simply a recreation of a jumper she presented during her casting session.

On previous seasons we have seen there are two types of designers, those who create by pattern and those who create by draping. Winners have come from both sides of that fence and there has always been some level of respect between the designers when it came to those differences. I bring this up because of the winner of episode 4 was Michael C. a designer who creates by draping. Gretchen and her ilk look down their noses at him and question his taste, ability and skills. His process is different and therefore must be wrong. Gretchen declares his incompetence and everyone else falls in line to agree. Given Philip Treacy was one of the judges and clearly has exquisite taste, how is it that Gretchen and Ivy felt justified or capable of questioning his judging of the challenge and who he felt had done the best job. I was stunned, even if you ignore everything said by Michael, Nina and Heidi and only focused on what Philip said, Michael C. still would have won.

Dictionary.com defines groupthink as follows; the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group interaction. I think this is what has occurred this season on Project Runway. Gretchen was imbued with this sense of authority by winning those first two challenges and then despite what she claims, she manipulated the others into groupthink that led to their downfall. This week’s team challenge required each designer to create a look that was related to the others on their team by style and textile. Team Military/Lace were and are individuals who worked together as a team and created a collection that was related but not identical. It was stunning.

Team Luxe allowed Gretchen to set the tone, taste and style of their collection and they were tasked to create what she decided. When Michael C. could not tailor by pattern, he was attacked by Gretchen. Had he been allowed to drape as is his strength, I suspect he would have created something wonderful. A.J. was expected to create within the narrow confines of Gretchen’s vision. Sadly it cost him his place in the competition. I agree with many who say Gretchen should have gone home. A.J. was so unhappy with his garment he kept redoing it over and over and thus only created the one garment. Gretchen is the worst sort of bully, she operates from perceived authority and bolsters the ego of those she wants to control and finds worthy, only to tear down and dismantle those who she sees as unworthy or undeserving. She expects those she has bolstered to follow suit and they did this week, all attacking Michael C. after agreeing in the green room not to turn on each other. Michael’s immunity and his unworthiness in the eyes of Gretchen made him an acceptable target in her mind and once the first shot was fired, the others just took similar aim, save the one lone voice of A.J. who refused to sell out anyone and stood only on his work. I admire him for that but sadly it was not enough to save him.

We can only hope the reality check delivered by Tim Gunn at the end of the episode does the trick and makes them all return to their own minds and steer clear of Gretchen and her advice and opinions. Gretchen is not a bad designer, but she is not the end all, be all that she has come to consider herself; a little humility might do her some good. All this is, of course, just my opinion and worth only my two cents but I felt compelled; probably something like Gretchen was, to share my opinion with all of you. Hopefully you take this just as my opinion and don’t all jump on board with our own version of groupthink. :D