See these three people? I am deeply concerned about their collective (a) eyesight, (b) taste, and (c) sanity.
You’ll see why at the end of this recap. We’ve got a lot to get through first, though… which we’ll do after the cut.
Last week Mondo edged out Austin for the opportunity to have his design featured in a Broadway revival of Godspell and his self featured in the Playbook. Kara was at long last put out of our sartorial misery and sent home. Now there are six.
Said six meet up with Angela Lindval in front of the United Nations building. We wax poetic about the UN, yadda yadda, and then we get down to brass tacks. Next to Angela is a row of miniature flags. Each flag, natch, represents a country. The designers will each pick a flag and design an outfit around the colors of said flag and information on the country contained in a dossier they will be issued once they’ve picked.
Since Mondo won last week, he gets to go first and chooses Jamaica. He picks Michael to go next, and Michael picks Greece. He picks Mila who picks Papua New Guinea. Hmmm… black and red with touches of yellow and white. Yep, that’s Mila in a nutshell. Jerell goes for India, Austin picks the Seychelles, and Kenley – who get picked last for the team – is stuck with Chile. She’s happy about this because when she gets stuck, she can blame the other designers for picking the good flags instead of herself. Well okay, then.
Designers sketch, go to MOOD, where Kenley passes approval on Austin’s fabric choices… which I think should have been his first clue. Anyway, people buy fabrics and trims and notions, oh my! and return to the workroom.
As per usual, some designers really embrace the challenge while others do pretty much what they would have done anyway if they had just been told ‘make a dress.’ Kenley, Mila, I’m looking at you. And yeah, Michael, too. He did use white and blue, but it was a dress I’ve seen from him before in this competition.
Mondo embraces the challenge and looks for subtle ways to pull it off. He’s making a slinky black jersey evening dress with long sleeves and a fairly open back with a strip of green and yellow colorblocked chevrons down the back. I fall madly in love with the concept, even though I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a little black dress.
Austen is layering colors of chiffon that don’t match the flag he picked. Again, I’ve seen pretty much this dress from him before and this is not his best version, I’m sad to say. I adore me some Austin Scarlett, but using aqua because the flag has both blue and green in it? Not a good idea.
Still, I have hope for him because over in Jerell’s corner… words fail me. There’s black and gold and heavy, bejeweled braids, and a mountain of kelly green chiffon all adding up to one of the biggest eyesores to hit this runway since Santino’s molting turkey skating costume way back in season 2. He’s not sewing, he’s trampling on the Geneva Convention for fabric.
And in Mila’s corner, she’s creating a Frankendress. One side is short and black and sleeveless, while the other side is bright red, full length, and has a long sleeve. The black side has a high collar, and the red a scoopneck. It’s all very, very odd and awkward, but I do have to say that even in progress her work is impeccably done. Even when she does something just plain bizarre, it’s done very cleanly. I appreciate that about Mila.
Kenley is making the same sort of dress she always has. The difference this time? Well, instead of polka dots, the bodice has hearts in their own shadows which gives the effect of purple polka dots to me, and half the skirt will be composed of red and white pinstriped ruffles. Okay. Sounds cute enough. Not necessarily getting what it has to do with Chile, but I’ve seen worse.
Michael’s gown is turning into something halfway between a pageant gown and a shower curtain. Nobody in the workroom says anything about shower curtains, though they do mention pageants a lot. It’s all white at this point and he can’t figure out what to do with his beloved blue velvet ribbon. He plays with using it as piping to the heavier white braid with the heavy white beading on it. I silently counsel him to do that. It’s not going to make the dress great, but it gets the blue in there in a way that might slightly enhance rather than completely drag down the look.
Joanna Coles does her sweep and questions each designer on the burning question of where one puts a bra in their designs. Most of them just say you don’t. Austen has some twaddle to say about open bits at the back causing an ‘is she or isn’t she wearing one?’ controversy. Joanna Coles tells him to be careful because the back of the bra strap is one of the least attractive bits of the garment. True, that.
On reaching Mila, Joanna is so relieved to see something that can accommodate a bra that she doesn’t make much of a big deal about the other wearability issues inherent in the design.
But Joanna does win my heart altogether when she looks at the lumpen, painfully referential steaming hot mess Jerell has wrought and tells him it looks like the dolls one might buy at the tourist center as a souvenir before flying home. Jerell is shocked. He’s horrified. He’s convinced that Joanna is the one who’s confused. He’s sure he can do the ethnic bits of India that appeal to him and ‘still do my own thing.’ Funnily enough, when I think of ‘Jerell’s thing’ (in fashion terms, you filthy minded people!) pretty much what I come up with is texture and costumeyness on an epic level.
Eventually we do get to the runway. The guest judge this week is Catherine Malandrino, who did a collection based on the American flag once. She’s also guest judged on PR in the past, and I found her take on things often quite interesting as well as fairly rational.
We start the show with Jerell’s Indian flag dress. There’s a misshapen bustier in gold on black twisted around itself six ways from sunday. Above that, there’s a sheer black upper bodice and one long straight sheer sleeve. The neckline is the same wide, shallow oval as last week’s train wreck, with a stand-up trim in white beads that pull the neckline into odd directions because they’re too heavy for the fabric supporting them. The sleeve is also being pulled in all directions by thick, heavy, beaded white braid. The skirt is a dirndl shape and goes to about the knees, and features the same gold on black as the bustier. The entire right side of the outfit is covered in an amazingly ponderous swathe of kelly green chiffon. I’ve never seen chiffon look so leaden in my life. When we see the model from the side, we further see that the bustier sticks out about three inches from her chest. He’s finished the look with about half a dozen gold bangles on the left wrist, gigiantic gold earrings, and a headache band which he insists on calling a bindi. Oh, and heavily lined eyes. Yeah, nothing costumey in that!
Oh dear, I seem to have dripped sarcasm all over the floor. I’ll mop that up later.
Next up is Kenley. What can I say? It’s a Kenley dress. It’s very short with long, tight sleeves and an asymmetrical funnel neckline and a big floof of red and white ruffles on the model’s left hip. It’s okay. Her mix of patterns is much better this week than last, and everything looks finished decently. It fits the model properly. Oh, and from the runway the navy blue is reading more blue to me than it did in the workroom for some reason, so that’s good for her. It means she doesn’t have to explain why she used purple instead of blue.
And that’s about what I can say.
Austen, Austen, Austen… baby, no. I see where you were trying to go, but it didn’t get there by about three country miles. The colors are off, the construction is a mess, and the design is, frankly, far from your best work. The top layer of chiffon is a sort of dark turquoise over aqua over soft yellow over white. It’s a pretty palette, but not the one on the flag of the Seychelles Islands. There’s no red, no green, and two blues that aren’t the one in the flag. And then there’s a strange wad of twisted braids at the empire waistline. There is a tiny touch of red in that, but it’s kind of lumpy and heavy and out of step with the pretty movements of the chiffon layers. In the back there’s a floaty ruffle of turquoise anchored by a pair of yellow straps that come to a vee. I like that detail a lot. There really are some ideas in this that could turn into something beautiful. Alas, even if it did that, it wouldn’t really meet the challenge because he got the colors so damn wrong. I comfort myself with the knowledge that as bad as this is, Jerell’s is quite clearly worse.
Mondo’s little black dress is beyond lickable. I’m going on record here: yes there is a little black dress in the world that I love, love, LOVE. This is it. It’s full length and form fitting with an extremely modest high vee neckline, long, tight sleeves, and style that just won’t quit. The seamwork is not showy, but when you notice it, it adds another layer of sexy to the look that you aren’t expecting. When the model turns around, her back is bare on either side of the spine, but down said spine runs this fabulous almost stained glass effect of the yellow and green colorblocked chevrons that fits perfectly into the point created at the bottom of the cut outs. I could see women lining up to wear this dress, doing the chevrons in all sorts of different colors, rolling this jersey dress up into a ball at the bottom of their luggage and just whipping it out to wear to fabulous parties. It’s spectacular design that also fits the challenge parameters perfectly.
And then we come to Mila’s Frankendress. The only thing that has changed since the workroom crit that I can see is a stripe of narrow yellow piping down the front of the red side. It’s impeccably done, but remains quite odd. I’m already calculating in my brain whether she or Austen winds up heaving that sigh of relief when Jerell gets the well-deserved boot.
Last up – and most likely not the least mostly because Jerell’s outfit is so inexcusable on so many levels – is Michael’s Greek shower curtain pageant gown. It’s still white, draped, one-shouldered, very low cut in back (in fact, even Michael knows it’s cut too low in back), with a seven-foot slit up one leg. It’s still got the edging at the neckline of the white, beaded braid. Alas! His solution for the blue is categorically the wrong one. He’s taken it and made a huge Christmas bow on one shoulder, leaving the ends dangling down to hip level… and sewn more beaded white braid to that. None of the concepts are bad (except that bow!), but he’s done them all so much better before. In fact, the smart thing might have been to simply leave out the blue entirely. You’d still have a white, clearly Grecian inspired dress. It still wouldn’t be a winner by any means, but it wouldn’t be so ridiculous.
In the end, Mondo, Kenley, and Michael wind up in the top three. Sadly enough, this is the second week running that Michael is in the top three not because he made something great, but because so many others made something painfully awful. And yes, I’m putting Kenley in that category this week, too. Her dress was fine. There was nothing actively wrong with it…. but that’s what you can say about it. Michael’s dress had some real problems, which he recognized. And yet… there they are.
Yeah, I was unsurprised to see Mondo get his second win in a row, even if Isaac did hate the chevrons down the back with a fiery passion. Considering it was the only direct reference to ‘flag’ or ‘Jamaica’ I don’t really get his hate on for that. It was the detail that made the dress fit the challenge, and I thought it was a cool design detail, too.
Still, Isaac did tell Kenley that she needs to show something new to the judges in the next challenge. I kind of appreciate at least one of the judges calling her on her one-note style.
On the chopping block sit Austen, Mila, and Jerell. I was absolutely certain I knew which way this one was going. Austen laid an egg, true. But there were good points to the design and he’s generally a very strong competitor. I was pretty certain he wasn’t going home. And while Mila’s Frankendress was bizarre, it showed imagination and skill. Jerell? He took diaphanous cloth and turned it to lead. He took lines of a traditional indigenous style noted for its grace and elegance and turned it into something lumpy, awkward, and bulky. He took a flag in bright colors and reduced it to something sad and muddy. His trims were too heavy for the base cloth, his construction was painfully substandard, and his styling was cartoonish.
In short, where the other two sucked, he both sucked and blew simultaneously while taking a metaphorical potty break on a proud heritage. I had already waved bye-bye to Jerell before his model turned to go back up the runway.
And yet, that’s not how it played out.
Austen got a pass, mostly I think on the potential of his design combined with his humble admission to the judges that he’d bit off more than he could chew and he would do better next time, really, if given another chancepleaseohpleaseohplease. Well, that and how bad the other two designs were.
And that’s when the judges sent Mila packing.
Okay, I am not a huge Mila fan. She’s very good at what she does, but she has an extremely narrow design niche, and I don’t think she tests herself as much as she might. In short, I don’t think she’s a truly great designer. I think she has a market and ought to do quite well in it, but her vision is neither broad nor revolutionary. If you’re going to go so narrow in focus, you have to have a truly new and controversial one. Think Fortuny, think Chanel. These two had extremely narrow visions, but they turned the world upside down with them. Mila’s narrow vision is fifty years old, and not a game changer. I’m not sorry in general to see her go.
But compared to the mess Jerell sent down that runway? You have got to be kidding me.