The contestants were faced with their most unconventional challenge ever in the third episode of Project Runway SA.

“Yay! A mall! Shopping!” the contestants mistakenly thought when they were welcomed by Lerato, Gert, and Olive Ndebele, General Manager of Menlyn Park Shopping Centre to the biggest shopping mall on the African continent.

But instead, Gert presented them with hardhats (and a wicked chuckle) and escorted them through Menlyn Park Shopping Centre … all the way to the centre’s very own state of the art recycling depot.

And that’s when Lerato told them it was time to create a ball gown, sweeping an arm at the piles of plastic, cans, and paper. “Using any of the materials here.”

The contestants pounced. Piles of well-organised trash went flying as everybody desperately scrounged for something they might be able to turn into a beautiful ball gown. Scramble now, wing it later seemed to be the general game plan – but Gert wanted to see nothing less than “recyclable glamour chic.”

Most of the designers were pretty excited about the challenge, and the workroom quickly became a whirlwind of plastic, tin and paper. But when runway day dawned and Gert ordered the contestants to leave their garments exactly as they were on the mannequins, the workroom looked like a battlefield and nobody seemed ready at all.

The runway, surprisingly, did not look like a battlefield.

The contestants’ recyclable ball gown designs had Lerato purring. “Guys, you gave us a fantastic show. I won’t even lie, it was brilliant … you worked really, really hard.”

Even though Gift was worried that he would land up in the bottom again, it was Gugu and Excellent who found themselves in the bottom two this time.

Rahim told Excellent that his creation looked like a “first month student project”, while Noni felt that Excellent’s rather voluminous gown just wasn’t wearable at all…

And so we wave goodbye to Excellent, the third contestant to be eliminated from Project Runway SA.

And the winner? Gift and his Nubian Queen inspired gown.

Guest judge, the glamorous actress Enhle Mbali Maphumulo, said, “It’s perfect in every single way. I would easily get you to make that for me for the next red carpet!”

Noni loved the touches with the gold lining, and Rahim said that he was beginning to understand who Gift is as a designer. Move over Kentse … Gift is the new threat on the show.

But is this win going straight to his head? The game has definitely changed now, and next week sees strategies and alliances both strengthened and tested as the designers grapple with their next mind-blowing challenge.

Devour every moment 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.