I smell a rat. More later.
We open with Mondo teasing Kenley. “I had a crush on you, then you started talking and I was like, mnn mnnn.” At first he thought she was loud and obnoxious and annoying, but now he thinks she’s loud and obnoxious and annoying and he loves to push her buttons. That was serious button pushing. But she seems amused.
Angela meets them on the runway with a bunch of bags, and everyone picks one. Though Mondo, as winner and first to pick, puts a lot of thought into which bag he picks (it’s bright and sophisticated), it turns out the bags are irrelevant; inside is a card with a season printed on it, so they now are divided into pairs:
Spring: Kara and Austin
Summer: Kenley and Mondo
Fall: Rami and Mila
Winter: Michael and Jerell
The challenge is to design weekend getaway sportswear for their assigned season. Who is your girl and where is she going? They don’t have to use the bag.
They’re competing head to head, so each pair will have one “top four” and one “bottom four”. Damn, I hate when they do things this way. Didn’t they just do this on Top Chef? Oh, wait, the right person went home then. But still, it’s a potential disaster. Especially when the drama has been pretty low key this season – usually they would’ve had at least two team challenges by now. So it’s time to ramp it up, obviously.
Kenley is intimidated by Mondo, and Mila is nervous about going against Rami. Both surprise me. They usually think they’re the most brilliant people in the room.
Mila is sketching a fall weekend outfit for a New Yorker to go to Texas for an art festival. Austin‘s girl lives in New York and has a weekend house where she’ll be checking on her garden this spring. He chats with Kara, and says he doesn’t see her sketch as sportswear, then realizes what he’s saying – “Oh, yes, do that, by all means.” She tells him to make four-pleat pants (which is exactly what he makes, actually) and a baggy top. It’s all very friendly.
Mila calls out, “Hey, guys, we have to get to Mood now” and someone calls her Lady Mila Killjoy. She does have a way of sounding like a kindergarten teacher, even though she’s just doing what some producer is telling her to do, I’m sure, to provide a segue. Still no Swatch sightings at Mood this season.
Michael isn’t sure what he wants, he’s always looking for plan a, b, c, and d, and probably e and f, too. Rami‘s girl is spending the weekend at a wine tasting with her best friend, so he wants a cardigan look.
Jerell starts with his coat, since it requires the most attention. He thinks Michael’s a good designer, so he’s happy to see what he’s got. Michael‘s working with a geometric short jacket with a high arched back. Something about going to the Hamptons and cutting flowers in the garden. Michael, my dear, if it’s winter in the Hamptons, there aren’t any flowers in the garden; it isn’t like Palm Springs. Mila‘s doing skinny jeans (of course she is, they’re probably color blocked too) and will do the pants first. Rami isn’t threatened by her since they have totally different aesthetics.
Kenley‘s girl likes to have fun and she’s going to Miami for an art festival, she wants to be sexy and cute. Mondo isn’t feeling confident; he sees Kenley as stiff competition on this challenge, but he also thinks she’s doing the same thing over and over, designing for herself; “This is a competition, at least try something new.” He says it’s like wrestlemania, or rather, fashionmania. Hmm. Weak wordplay, Mondo. But I love you anyway. He’s really struggling, though he loves his black and white splotchy polka dots.
Jerell and Michael get into it about whether Michael is plagiarizing Jerell’s design. I love Michael, but he has always had a tendency to turn out colors, at least, that other people are working with. I don’t think he does it on purpose. But it happens nonetheless. Still, he’s never copied a look, just colors. He does make several looks for every challenge, so depending on where he stops, one of them might be similar to something someone else is doing. Mila points out he doesn’t regularly do sportswear and he doesn’t ever do winter; that’s a good reason for him to have a paucity of ideas off the top of his head and be more susceptible to grasping on to something that crosses his field of vision. I think Jerell has made ridiculous clothes so far this season and I’m baffled that he’s still there after sending out disaster after disaster, but he’s got a point on this.
Kara sees Palm Beach casual chic, a mom of two kids on holiday, high-waisted coulotte pants. Joanna thinks high-waisted pants are fashion forward and encourages her.
Austin is also doing high-waisted pants in khaki. She says he’s using sportswear colors. He has a print shell and origami ruffles; she’s very excited to see it.
Mondo‘s look is personal. It’s his mom’s 60th birthday, so his girl is going to represent him at her birthday party. He’ll use the polka dots on top. They acknowledge Kenley’s polka dots: “She’s the polka dot queen but I’m the polka dot princess.” There you go, Mondo. That more than makes up for fashionmania. The polka dots are very different, though; his are splotchy rather than geometric; it’s almost cheetah. Albino cheetah. Can you tell I’m making this up as I go along? I mean, come on, albino cheetah? But they are very different prints.
Kenley shows Joanna her simple look, and Joanna thinks a lot of girls would love it.
Mila‘s working on her pants; Joanna says they’re definitely her signature pants, and Mila says thank you. I’m not so sure it was a compliment.
Rami shows her the sweater; the fabric he has for the knit top underneath is the same chartreuse as the sweater Joanna is wearing. She says it’s on trend. I mean, what can she say? She isn’t wearing it with almost-electric blue, though. Chartreuse makes my teeth itch. Mila says it’s hard to look at, there’s too much fullness. That gives me hope, since Mila’s almost always wrong.
Michael explains his silhouette to Joanna; she wants to know where the idea came from. He explains about playing with muslin and cutting two circles in back. He notices Jerell is listening.
Jerell shows her his coat. She says they both have a cowl neck and silhouette. Jerell admits he isn’t happy about it.
This is cool: Joanna holds a “team meeting” like she has at the magazine when tension arises, to air the issue instead of letting it get fester in whispers. She makes it clear Michael may indeed have pilfered Jerell’s concept, and she makes it clear that isn’t really any kind of rule violation. I may have to revise my opinion of Joanna. She acted like a grown up, like a good manager, not like the manager she put forward on the runway back in the Dress Nina challenge. I’m surprised. I’m pleased. Joanna’s stock has been rising steadily with me this season. I’m sure she finds that reassuring.
Best scene of the night: Michael is complaining to Mondo about Jerell at dinner break while Mondo is shovelling huge amounts of spaghetti into his mouth. For a little guy, he sure eats heartily. Jerell walks in; uncomfortable silence followed by feeble small talk.
Mondo: This reminds me of dinner at home.
Mondo: No. Awkward.
Definitely made up for the Fashionmania remark.
On the day of the show, Mila is still working on her cape, adding leather to the seams. She’s worried about beating Rami; Rami sees bubbling on the cape, and it looks off-balance to him. Jerell is complaining to Rami about Mondo helping Michael picking patent leather boots. Michael’s annoyed that Jerell’s having private conversations about him: “Really, bitch, you want to play like that?” he interviews, which is particularly ironic since he was the tattletale last week when Kenley finished Kara’s pants. Michael is not doing well tonight. Not doing well at all.
Cynthia Rowley is guest judge.
The Spring pair:
Austin: khaki cropped pants, pink sweater, print shell. I’m not sure if “cropped” is the proper term for the pants; they’re not full length, maybe capri – but aren’t those fitted? Or pedal pushers, but don’t those have a slit on the side? Now that I’m looking at the picture, the blouse has some kind of detail, strips down the front. I almost see where he was going – spring, she’s checking on her garden, the flowers in the top are springing out of the beige earth. But it’s… not good. For some reason I flash on the Post Office Uniform challenge: Doris Day. Prissy. Cynthia calls it “so dorky it’s cool;” the high-waisted trousers make it modern. Isaac likes that he attempted a new khaki trouser, and they’re tailored beautifully, but on that girl it’s a little moderate (I don’t know what “moderate” means in this context – average?). She looks like a bore; he wouldn’t want to have lunch with her. Well, Isaac, let’s face it, you might not be the best judge of that. Frankly, I don’t like the look at all, and I’d want to know someone who would wear such a thing. Georgina can’t see a modern woman in it, either; Angela gets small town, going to church. Ouch. Church is never, ever, what fashion wants to evoke.
Kara: Wide white pants, purple v-neck shell, grey sweater; she hopes they appreciate her strong color sensibility and simple chic. It’s nice. I like it a lot more than Austin’s, that’s for sure. It’s not exciting; in fact, it’s the sort of thing I might’ve worn back in my younger, thinner days. Oh, ok, there were no thinner days; make that less fat days. There – satisfied? Angela calls it wearable and comfortable and likes how the pants move and fit. Cynthia sees nothing original at all. Kara defends herself: she’s packing for a getaway, not avant-garde Palm Beach, it’s conservative chic. Isaac doesn’t feel it. The colors don’t work unless she’s running to the store. Georgina likes the fabric, however (so do I, the purple and white is great, the grey, it’s fine, the weight is right) and wouldn’t mind looking like that. But fashion? Maybe as a look in a runway show featuring other more surprising looks, but on its own, with only the color going for it, it looks very ordinary.
In a close decision, Kara is in the high group, Austin in the low.
Kenley: light blue polka dot romper with a Peter Pan collar. She should seriously think about becoming a children’s designer, I think she’d make a fortune. As usual it’s perfectly made. It’s just stupid. IMHO. Which is truly humble in this context, since I seem to have a tin ear for fashion – or would that be a tin eye? A glass eye? That’s it, a glass eye for fashion. That’s me. Cynthia likes it, it’s simple and chic, and she likes that she used no accessories; she’d like to wear it. Yeah, I’d like to see that. Isaac likes it a lot, especially that it’s one piece. Let me say again that anyone who says they’d love to wear a jumpsuit (a romper is a short-legged jumpsuit, after all) is crazy. Or they never pee. Georgina likes it but the polka dots need to be lined up better. I didn’t even notice that, I was too busy laughing my ass off.
Mondo: b/w loose boatneck polka dot blouse, houndstooth shorts, yellow belt. Nice. Not quite enough color to be Full Mondo, but nice. Cynthia complains that different parts are different decades; she really hates the back. Isaac thinks it’s a little junior (forgive me for ripping off Grayson from Top Chef Texas here: like a powder-blue polka-dot romper?); it’s Desperately Seeking Susan (I think he needs to see the movie again), 80s. Georgina finds the shorts unflattering. Mondo admits he struggled. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as they’re making it seem. In fact, I think they’re reaching for reasons to put him in the bottom.
Kenley is the high scorer, Mondo low. Now I’ve heard everything.
Rami: bright blue blousy jacket with suede sleeves, chartreuse turtleneck with a tiny piece peeking out on one side of the jacket, grey skinny pants. Hmmm, not so much, no. I hate the colors. The pants have front piping that looks like those old sewn-pleat ski pants my sister used to hand down to me (which was close to child abuse). Even without that piping, they look kind of dowdy and the grey doesn’t work at all with the blue and chartreuse. I don’t even like the jacket, though I can appreciate the work that went into it. They ask Rami to open the jacket. The blouse, oh wow, it’s a horror. Not just the color – maybe I have an allergy to chartreuse – but it looks like I sewed it. I can’t believe Rami made that. I assume the stitching is some kind of decorative touch, but it’s horrible. The cowards at Lifetime haven’t put up a shot with the jacket open. Georgina says the back of the jacket is gorgeous; she loves the back without the belt. Isaac hates the chartreuse, the neckline is sloppy and there’s too much drapery. Cynthia thinks the diagonal line makes her breasts look lopsided. I agree with all that. It’s really terrible.
Mila: beige/black cape over a red top, grey skinny pants. She’s doing a silhouette no one else has done, the cape. I don’t like the black on the cape, neither do I like the beige fabric; if it had some nap or texture the look might work better. As is, it looks like a duct-taped poly-cotton poncho. Mostly it looks like Mila, and she and I just are not on the same visual wavelength at all. I’ll grant her that she did something different in the cape. And she used color. Georgina likes the red and sees her vision. Angela likes the cape. Cynthia likes the geometry and slivers of red, it’s chic and wearable.
Mila has the high score, Rami the low. I’ll reluctantly accept that. Things are not going well for the A team tonight.
Jerell: big coat in herringbone with cardigan vest and pants. This is by far the best thing he’s made. In fact, it’s pretty terrific. If he can do this, why does he do that other crap? I’m flashing on ANTM, the homeless shelter shoot. One of the models had that exact hair, in fact. Fatima, I think. Georgina notes his and Michael’s are similar, and Jerell actually dials it back: he made his coat and Michael was experimenting and they both got struck by the same creative bug. Smart move, Jerell, you earn some points for that. Of course, who knows what you really said, before they asked you if you’d like to say something more moderate for broadcast. I suspect a lot of this season has been re-shot after coaching. Then again, I’m a card-carrying member of the Tin Foil Hat Club. Georgina likes the tribal bohemian vibe; Isaac loves the coat, it’s gorgeous, but wishes the buttons weren’t on the cardigan (which would make it not a cardigan any more, right?). Jerell shows them how the coat closes, and they love it. It is really cool. It pisses me off, how cool it is.
Michael: Big striped coat, cowlneck, pants. This is pretty terrific, too. I don’t see them as the same thing, though they’re related. They’re both big coats; they’re both dark and patterned; they both use cowlnecks. They both use black and dark grey. But Michael’s looks to me more Park Avenue than Boho. The fabric has some serious fuzzies. The coat looks sleeveless with a half-belt (very much like the half-belt he used on his gelato look – I’m sure there’s a better word for it but I’m not sure what it is – but it goes around in back to capture the top of the coat again, it’s really great how he did that) and a kind of pullover underneath. It’s more structured than Jerell’s. It’s got a square shape, whereas Jerell’s is diagonal and floppier and has a border at the bottom. Isaac loves the belt, but thinks the leggings with the shoes are nasty (uh oh, weren’t those the shoes Mondo picked?); boots would be better. Poor Michael, he doesn’t know from winter. Isaac actually says Congratulations. He thinks it’s a great look. Cynthia says it’s more of an ensemble, like it’s Jerell’s mom, or an older woman. Georgina says it’s very polished and sophisticated. Angela likes it too, but someone has to have a low score. Which is my complaint about this kind of challenge.
Jerell is high, Michael low. I can understand that; they’re both really great.
It’s a sweep for the Bad News Bears.
Back in the lounge, Mondo’s very upset; it was meant to be a gift for his mother. Not the clothes, presumably – I mean, come on, she’s 60, she’s not going to be wearing that – but that he made something in honor of her birthday. “It sucks when it’s a personal story and they dog you.” I didn’t think they dogged him that much, actually. Kenley’s trying to be sweet, I think, by reminding him they didn’t want to even have lunch with Austin’s girl. I’m sure Austin appreciated that. But she had good intentions, which pave the road to you-know-where.
The judges deliberate:
For the high scorers:
Cynthia liked the confidence of Kenley‘s outfit, it had lots of impact. Angela thinks it would turn heads. Yes, it would; I’d stare if someone walked down Congress Street like that. Georgina points out they’ve seen this look a lot, and it’s about time she changed it up. Oh, now you say something.
Angela found Mila‘s look boring. Cynthia thought it was chic and wearable. Isaac didn’t like the fabric, it didn’t look expensive, and of course she had a budget but that’s part of the challenge, to get a good look out of a limited amount of money. Georgina wanted the Helmut Lang jeans to be more Helmut Lang; they were apologetic. And this is a winner, people.
Georgina loves Jerell‘s fabulous coat, though Isaac is still doesn’t like the buttons. Cynthia thought the earthy hippy thing worked for the mood. What does that mean?
Georgina gives Kara an “ok” for her look. Isaac is annoyed there was no style at all. Angela shrugs, she snuck her way into the high group. Another winner.
As to the low scorers:
Isaac thinks Austin‘s pants were the best thing on the runway. Angela doesn’t think he knows how to put a look together. Cynthia is surprised that his intent was completely different from what they would think is cool.
Mondo was not at his best. Cynthia found it ill-fitting and not well made. Wait, is she thinking of the right garment? The blouse was meant to be loose. Georgina says it was a good look, not as good as last week, but good.
The colors of Rami‘s look makes Angela ill. Isaac thinks it looks like a draping project; Georgina wishes she’d never seen the top at all. Yeah, I have to agree.
Michael had lots of drama, says Angela. Not really, it was Jerell who had the drama. Michael was the cause, or victim, of it, depending on your opinion. Isaac says, and this is very curious: design is not his strongest thing, it’s execution of something he’s seen. Wait. He’s used duplicate colors before, though he deliberately changed his design when he saw April doing red, but he’s never made similar outfits. They’ve never had this complaint before. Where is this coming from? Cynthia still holds the heels-with-leggings against him. But he has a good sense of proportion. Still, he seemed insecure, whereas Jerell seemed secure. Georgina has no idea what they’d get if he did a collection. Sounds like Michael’s on a banana peel. I’m baffled, why haven’t these issues come up before?
Jerell wins. Yeah, I can’t argue with that. And no one’s more surprised than me to say that.
It comes down to Rami and Austin…. Rami’s out. Wait, Rami’s out? Rami? Rami Kashou?
Like I said earlier… I smell a rat.
I said in my Preview: If Rami comes in less than second, something’s wrong. Well, something’s wrong.
I’ll grant that he’s turned in a couple of disasters, and this was one of them. In fact, I’ll grant his was the worst look up there tonight. But for any design competition to oust him before the likes of Kara and Jerell – I’d throw Mila in there, too, but I can acknowledge her work might have aesthetic value that I just don’t appreciate, like Roberto Bolero – is a travesty. There’s something wrong with the design of the competition.
But it’s more than that.
If you look at the wins so far (I used Wikipedia), and come up with a scoring system – say, give 3 points for a win, 2 for second and 1 for third, and subtract 1 or 2 points for a bottom finish – here’s what you get:
Mondo: 7 points (one win, two second)
Michael: 6 points (two wins, one second, one next-to-last)
Rami: 6 points (one win, one second, one third)
Austin: 4 points (one win, one second, one second-to-last)
Kenley: 1 point (one third)
Jerell: 0 points (one third, one second-to-last)
Mila: -1 point (one next-to-last, one third)
Kara: -3 points (one next-to-last, one second-to-last)
So if you divide the designers into two groups based on their performance so far, Austin, Michael, Mondo, and Rami have the highest scores: 4, 6, 6, 7. Even if you give 3 points for a win and 1 point for a top finish, and subtract one point for a bottom finish, you get the same ranking. And those four are the only designers who have won a challenge so far. In other words – they’re the leading contenders, pretty much any way you figure. Rami and Kenley are the only ones who haven’t been in the bottom so far.
Is it just coincidence everyone from the “Doing Better” group was paired with someone from the “Doing Worse” group?
And that everyone from the “Doing Worse” group won?
And don’t give me “every challenge is judged on it’s own.” Unlike Top Chef, PR has never explicitly made that claim. Sometimes it seems that way, but often they’ve explicitly asked, “Who do you want to see more from?”
I meant it when I said I was a card-carrying member of the Tin Foil Hat Club. They wanted to shake things up, and Rami paid the price. Kenley made a kiddie playsuit (and one piece when everyone else made at least two, usually three, including coats and jackets), and Kara made what’s on every rack of every department store in the country. Mila, I’ll abstain, because I’m incredibly biased against her (for reasons I still don’t fully understand) and against her style (because I think it’s ugly).
Next week: something about Broadway. And I’m so pissed off right now, if I say more (specifically about “the Chiquita Banana lady”) I might get truly nasty.