Sometimes the past wafts into the present like the scent of warm cinnamon and baking bread, a gentle memory that lights a smile for times gone by. And sometimes it’s more like heartburn: it just…keeps…coming…back. We have both varieties tonight. But more heartburn than cinnamon, at least for me (five to one, in fact). It’s an interesting episode; I sense the not-so-subtle hand of producer manipulation in places.
But we get the second Swatch sighting of the season, so how bad can it be?
The challenge is revealed in a series of steps necessary to pimp cars (which have nothing whatsoever to do with the challenge). What is boils down to is this: make a Red Carpet look an assigned former PR contestant could wear to the Emmy Awards. In teams of two.
Yes, teams. I couldn’t help noticing, when looking through the questions the contestants answered for their Lifetime bios (your dream client, when did you first want to design, how do you feel about working in groups) that working in teams was universally dreaded. A few, I don’t remember who, said they thought they could manage it, but no one was enthusiastic, and most were honest enough to admit they didn’t like the idea. And judging from the reaction to Tim’s announcement, they still don’t like it.
They’re assigned teams, clients, and the color they must incorporate into their garment (via key draws for cars; it’s all too silly, really, but it appears to be random). And the fun begins.
Ven and Fabio: Or, You Can Pat Yourself On the Back All You Want, But It’s Ven’s Dress
They’ll be working with Kenley. Hide the cat, boys. Ven is more concerned about Fabio’s possible lack of skill (“he’s not the weakest, but…”) than Kenley’s personality, but Fabio worries she might be a little difficult. Ven learns she loves tulle and crinolines; they can do something red carpet with that. He considers himself easy to work with if the other person knows what he’s doing, but Fabio doesn’t measure up to his standards. I have a feeling very few do. But they end up with a “modern day Grace Kelly” dress Kenley loves.
And I have to give them props: it’s very Kenley, very Ven, and very lovely. I love the pleats, and the full skirt is pure Kenley. But… is it a red carpet dress? It’s street length, more like a cocktail dress. And it wouldn’t work as a long dress at all. On tv, it looked deep blue, but in the Lifetime photos it looks black. The diagonal pleating in bodice and skirt come together very nicely; Kenley looks great, and it looks very much like something she’d wear. I just don’t think it’s a red carpet dress, but I’m not one who knows about these things. Whatever else it is, it’s a top two.
Ven explains he did the skirt, and Fabio did the bodice; they both credit Ven with the overall design. It’s lined in silk taffeta, which is probably why it hangs so nicely. Heidi loves it; Kenley loves it; Nina likes the length, though the guest judge doesn’t. Michael points out it isn’t the dress everyone’s going to rave about, but they held on to their own aesthetic (at least Ven’s aesthetic, polish and modernism; Michael admits he doesn’t even know what Fabio’s aesthetic is. Fabio is viewed as along for the ride by pretty much everyone, instantly awakening my love of the underdog) and combined it with Kenley’s style.
Heidi asks which one of them would be called the winner if the dress won; Fabio fights a losing battle but says he wants to give himself a pat on the back by proposing it should be him. Ven talks about the draping and his technical background that made the dress possible. I agree it was Ven’s dress, but I’m proud of Fabio for standing up for himself when everyone else seems determined to ignore him. [Addendum: it morphed into a strapless rose (!) print at the actual Emmys]
Gunnar and Kooan: They Didn’t Call Her Meanie Irini For Nothin’
The guys are an odd match to begin with (though I’m not sure there is such a thing as a non-odd match for Kooan), but throw Irina into the mix, and this team has catastrophe written all over it. Kooan doesn’t do elegant, but I think Gunnar with his Kentucky Derby float dress from Season 9 probably has enough Red Carpet enough for both of them, and then some. Gunnar thinks he has it harder than everyone else (tee-hee), what with Kooan being Kooan, and in the bottom three that time, and Irina being hard to please. Kooan has a bewildered look throughout the episode; he’s stressed “by trusting Gunnar.” He’s stressed? Gunnar is about to stroke out.
When Irina comes by for her walkthrough, Kooan can’t tell if her inability to understand the sheer and solid gown is arrogance or confusion. Probably both, I’d say; let’s face it, Kooan can be very confusing, and Irina isn’t all that willing to meet anyone half way. Tim thinks it’s borderline vulgar, which is a bigger concern. During her fitting, Irina scolds Kooan for not being concerned about the flaws, and he crumbles: “I feel sad, not happy, I can’t create if I’m sad.” Oh, honey, you don’t have to create, just sew the damn dress. Everyone’s sad. Irina isn’t happy about walking the runway in a dress that embarrasses her; Gunnar is unhappy with the prospect of going home; Kooan is unhappy that his friends aren’t playing nice with him. There’s even a frown-seam sewn into the back of the dress above the butt. And a badly-sewn one at that.
But you can’t see that particular flaw on the runway. I couldn’t see much on my TV, with the glare from all the white, but the picture looks pretty pulled together, aside from a little tightness at the hip and some extra fullness in the skirt. To be fair, it seems like they only got one fitting, on runway day; I’m not sure how that worked exactly. Gunnar thinks it’s “not awful” though Kooan isn’t confident. In a turnaround of mammoth proportions, they’re in the top two.
When questioned, Irina gives them credit for a nice mix of elegant and sophisticated, though she wishes they had more sewing skill. Heidi thinks it’s beautiful, and Irina looks terrific; this is the dress she’d want to wear on the Red Carpet. Nina thinks many women could wear it (really?); Michael loves the silhouette, though in the Little Chat, he says there were fabric issues, and it wasn’t as fabulous as it could’ve been. When asked who from their team would be the winner should the dress win, Kooan immediately points to Gunnar: “I couldn’t make it, couldn’t even think about it.” I love Kooan. Gunnar, by the way, is Making a Statement with his own fashion: he looks like a Boy Scout in khaki shorts and a neckerchief. Take that, homophobes.
Raul and Alicia: I Don’t Do Dresses
Mila is waiting with arms folded across her chest. Still as warm and gracious as ever, I see. If Raul ever cuts that ridiculous curl in the middle of his forehead, I’ll never recognize him; I just can’t stop staring at it. They try to think of her as rock and roll; and, she’s wearing a jacket, which as menswear-oriented designers they cling to like a driftwood raft. Because neither of them do gowns. In Mood, they’re both drawn to a red and black print, so they start there.
Mila shoots that down during her walkthrough; she’s concerned about a print on the red carpet, and Tim agrees; it looks a little pool party, a nice top, but not for this event. Mila suggests using less print to make it more formal. That throws a wrench in the works, since all they have left is scraps of black fabric. But they try.
And, alas, fail, though I don’t think it was as bad as everyone made it out to be. Yes, Mila looks kind of dumpy when she really isn’t. The halter top isn’t cut right; it’s unflattering and unattractive. It’s not well-sewn; the gathers of the waist come above the belt, and the neck in the back is a mess. But I like the piping, and… well, yeah, I guess it is that bad. They’re brought out as one of the two worst looks.
They explain their backgrounds in menswear, and how they brought some structure to the dress; they know it isn’t the best, but it’s ok. Mila tells a different story: she’s got major fit issues, doesn’t think it’s flattering, and wishes they used more tailored fabric. Heidi asks why they didn’t use their menswear skills to make a suit; they felt they had to do a gown. And I agree with that; if they’d sent out even a glamorous jacket and pants, they would’ve been barbecued for that. Heidi thinks it’s boring, with no sex appeal whatever. And whose bad idea was the hair extension? Raul. Nina scolds them for making Mila, normally modern and cool, look frumpy; it looks like they made zero effort. I disagree with that; there’s effort, it’s just not skilled effort.
Then the fatal question: who should go home? Raul refuses to do that. Good for him. But when asked who did the sketches, Alicia points to Raul. But while they’re ripping him apart in their little chat, Nina points out Alicia could’ve stopped it. But that never flies. Especially when both are deficient in the same skill. It isn’t like Alicia is a gown designer who let Raul get away with it in spite of her better instincts.
Christopher and Andrea: Hurry Up, Woman!
Their client/model is Anya. Initially, Christopher is enthusiastic about working with Andrea: he loves her aesthetic, he’s excited to be working with a veteran, yada yada. As time goes on and nerves fray, I’m wondering if those talking heads were shot after the episode to create a story line. Anya doesn’t want her own flowy throw-pretty-fabric-at-a-mannekin-and-call-it-a-day crap. She wants something structured, like it was actually sewn by someone who knows what they’re doing. It says something when you won’t wear your own style. I want to pull her head off. Condemn her to wearing loose flowery prints cut down to her navel all her days. Even to run out to the grocery store.
Anya comes by for a walkthrough with Tim, and is a little worried what with the front and back both being low. Andrea suggests filling in the front; she confuses Christopher, but they decide to use chiffon which seems like a plan. And now the tone changes. Christopher doesn’t know what Andrea’s talking about. She’s going really slow. He doesn’t know how to talk to her because she’s older: “I don’t want to be, like, ‘Hurry up, woman.'” He just wants her to, well, hurry up, woman.
On Runway Day, Christopher accelerates his bad-mouthing. Andrea just finished cutting, she’s just started sewing now. She can’t figure out the sewing machine. She makes a mistake, and laughs about it. She’s lackadaisical. She isn’t taking this seriously. I can see his point here – it’s awful when you’re conscientious and take pride in high-level work and your partner never did mind the little things. It’s a huge difference in temperament, and I can understand Christopher’s frustration.
I have my issues with Anya, but she’s better than that dress. You’d never know she was a Miss Universe contestant. The top has a hint that it could’ve been very pretty if it draped correctly, but it just looks like they wrapped fabric around her. The back looks poorly sewn. They’re one of the bottom two teams.
Backstage, waiting for the Top teams to be judged, Andrea says some things she’ll later regret, like something along the lines of “If I got cut now, it’d almost be a relief.” I just realized who Andrea reminds me of: the mother on Six Feet Under.
Christopher doesn’t try to defend it to the judges; he’s mortified. The three of them chalk it up to an idea that was too ambitious for them to execute in the time allowed. Heidi points out the bad hem, the awkward hooks on the back of the neck. Nina calls it dated and cliché, with the gold studs on the belt making it worse. Michael is disappointed. Then the fun starts: which do each of them think should go home if it’s the losing dress? Christopher coredumps: Andrea is slow, she doesn’t care if she goes home. We knew it was coming. I don’t think it’s necessary to the degree he carries it – they know what Christopher can do – but I can’t disagree with anything he says, and I don’t think he’s wrong to stand up for himself. Surprisingly, Andrea fights back, which is really sad to watch. Kind of like seeing Mr. Rogers kick a street urchin in the balls. I don’t think she’s lying, exactly: I think she’s doing some reconstructive remembering. It’s not a shining moment for either of them.
Buffi and Elena: War and… more war
They design for Laura Bennett. Right off the bat, Elena knows her worst fear has come true, working with Buffi. But they hug and put on a… well, a woebegone face. Buffi: “We haven’t really seen eye to eye, and we have a different aesthetic.” I’ll say. Warrior Cyborg vs Party Girl. They meet up with Laura Bennett; Buffi is reassured by the animal print dress she’s wearing under her jacket. She and Elena both love big shoulders, and the dramatic, so that’s something. “We aren’t normal, run of the mill designers, ” says Buffi. I’ll second that.
In the workroom, Buffi’s ironing pleats and hating Elena for it. Tim and Mila come by; Mila loves the design, but it’s maybe too ambitious; Tim thinks they’ve complicated things. Buffi gets annoyed with Elena’s perfectionist tendencies and tells her to calm down; in a classic retort, Elena snaps, “I’m CALM! DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN” and stomps out, remaining MIA (she’s outside smoking) for long enough to make Buffi wonder if she’s ever coming back. Elena thinks Buffi’s “moving at a snail’s speed.” She does return, revving the sewing machine so it sounds like a chainsaw; Christopher’s over in the corner, looking scared: “She’s escaped from the woods and she’s ravenous and she’ll bite your head off until she gets what she wants.” Elena offers the ever-popular cultural excuse: “In the Ukraine, nobody says ‘please’, you have to be strong, the weak don’t survive.” Gee, Elena, now you’re never going to get that post as the cultural ambassador to the Ukraine. Buffi’s also ravenous – literally starving to death since Elena won’t let her eat supper with the dress not done (how exactly she stops her is unclear).
On the runway, Laura looks like something from Little House on the Prairie. It’s well-sewn, I’ll give it that. And a lot of work obviously went into it. But… dang, that’s Laura Bennett transported back to 1880 mourning for her thirteen children killed in the fields by a marauding band of ravenous wolves. Where did the New York socialite go? I guess the sewing level saved them; it’s the only explanation for this dress being in the middle ground. The judges pull out the sewing skills card whenever they need to; they know where the drama is, and they aren’t letting go if it anytime soon. Though I’m surprised they passed up the chance for an epic cat fight on the runway – hey, maybe they were scared to unleash that?
Melissa and Dmitry: I Dream of April with the Light Purple Hair
Melissa’s psyched; April’s a goth girl, this should work. They are the Who? this episode, given short shrift in the edit, which means they worked well together. In Mood they can’t find silver jersey, so they get charmeuse instead, since those are the only two silver fabrics in all of Mood’s 40,000 square feet. Dmitry is worried, since it’s a difficult fabric. Duh! When they show April the dress, she loves it: “my hair is so obnoxious, it’ll pop against the canvas of that dress.”
I’m not sure “pop” is the word I’d use for this dress. I can see where they were going, and there is a nice liquid effect, but there’s way too much fabric all around; again, the overall look is frumpy. This must be the Year of the Covered Front and Exposed Back. I like the back lapels and tie very much, but the skirt is too flouncy without real shape, and the sleeves make no sense. I can only assume they are Safe because the charmeuse does look well-handled. With so many choices for the bottom two, I guess I can see this being in the middle.
Sonjia and Nathan: Proving Again It Isn’t About the Dress
Valerie? Who’s Valerie? It took me a while… then I remembered. Cray-cray. Started really strong – even Mondo thought she should’ve won the billboard challenge – then did a long, slow fade, slamming the bathroom stall door on a very intrusive camera operator. At last, someone who’s not heartburn – she kept her cool, more or less, during that nasty Season. At least on camera. I seem to recall she made some comments afterwards, but I could be wrong about that. This team is the Who Else? of the episode, with little exposure. Though with all the drama going on around them, I can see why. They just did the job. No muss, no fuss.
And what a job they did. I have no idea why this wasn’t the top dress. Valerie looks terrific, it’s very Red Carpet, it’s got a little sheer insert in the back that changes things up, and it’s the closest thing I saw all night to a dress someone might actually wear to the Emmys. Why are they only safe? Maybe in person the fabric is a little gaudy? I don’t know. I love it. They were robbed.
The lounge holds a lot of confused designers. Buffi and Elena don’t get it. I think they should count their blessings. Sonjia thinks she had the best dress. I agree with her. Elena’s shocked that Gunnar and Kooan are in the top. I think it turned out better than expected, but yeah.
It’s clear from the moment “his” dress hits the runway that Ven is the winner. Addendum: the dress changed into a strapless print on the way to the Emmys, and I actually like it better. I’m more surprised that it’s Raul who goes home. I was sure Andrea was toast. I guess she’s good TV.
But not any more… in the closing seconds of the show, we discover Andrea is nowhere to be found the next morning. Previews reveal a gather-round, serious faces, Kooan feeling sad, and the comment, “They’re dropping like flies.” Given the NY Post article most of us read months ago (CAUTION: what follows could be considered a spoiler if you haven’t read it and don’t want any outside info) it’s not a surprise, though I am surprised it was Andrea; I had Elena pegged for the escape. And I was afraid early on – truly worried – that Ven would be the breakdown, if he didn’t get the affirmation he expected. Now it looks like it’s Kooan – though it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve misdirected us. Does this mean Raul and Lantie will return? I’d be ok to see Raul come back; Lantie, not so sure.
As they used to say back in the good old days – watch what happens.