Contestants suddenly became the surprised stars in their own tearful reunions on episode 5 of Project Runway SA.

Lerato and Gert surprised the remaining 8 Project Runway SA contestants with visits from the most important women in their lives at a popular Joburg restaurant this week. Tears flowed and hearts glowed as mothers, sisters and besties embraced the stunned designers.

But that heart-warming surprise came with a challenge. This is Project Runway, remember? In celebration of Women’s Day, the designers had to create a high fashion look for a Destiny Magazine photo shoot … inspired by the amazing women in their lives.

The designers had 15 minutes to sketch their look, R1,500 to spend at the fabric shop, 30 minutes to find all the fabric and trimmings they needed, and only 2 days to make their garments. Yes, high fashion in just 2 days…the challenges are definitely getting tougher.

Gift balked at the high fashion concept, but decided to go for a powerful look. Gugu was going for strength and drama, Jaimie was aiming for a “floral situation”, and Kireshen dived into all shades of red because the colour symbolised strength and love to him. But then …he wasn’t the only one going for red.

Kentse felt under scrutiny, especially when Gert told her he was worried that she may have started out strong and won the first two challenges, but now it felt like she was holding back. He wanted her to pull out all stops this time around.

With just a few hours left to go, you could almost hear the fabrics rustling into place amongst the zinging of machines and the squabbles over chairs and scissors. The tension was running as high as the optimism.

Gift said he was feeling “very talented, hey”. Jaimie said he would wear his own skirt, and Sihle described his dress as a “big, juicy red apple”. Yes, his garment was red too. “It’s opulence darling.”

But would the judges agree?

Guest judge Destiny Magazine Editor-in-Chief Sheena Adams said she was looking for high fashion designs that were “deeply personal” and would make women feel “powerful and invincible”.

While Kireshen and Stephen were safe, Kentse found herself falling short. Even though she was ultimately safe with her jumpsuit design, Noni said that her very distinctive aesthetic could actually be limiting her.

Sandile won the challenge for the first time with a Zion-inspired high fashion look that Sheena said struck a powerful and feminine balance. “I found it royal and regal,” she said.

Gugu and Gift were in the bottom two. Gugu with a power suit (also red) that Rahim said looked like “the joker stepped out of a deck of cards and onto the runway.” And Gift with a piece that wasn’t high fashion at all and left Noni feeling “underwhelmed” because his work was becoming too similar.

But there was another surprise in store for the contestants. Lerato was thrilled to reveal that both Gugu and Gift were safe. A non-elimination week! “I’ll see you next week.” the glamorous host smiled.

But for how long will the smiles continue? Some of the designers choose to leap out of their comfort zones in a TRESemmé-inspired challenge … and the cracks are starting to show.

It’s all happening on Mzansi Magic, DStv Channel 161 at 21h30 next Tuesday. Project Runway SA is presented by Mzansi Magic and Ndalo Pictures, in association with 4th STREET. The production partner is Rapid Blue (Pty) Ltd and sponsors include Edgars, Kelso Beauty, TRESemméMenlyn Park Shopping Centre and Lexus South Africa.