Project Runway season 17

Episode One

Project Runway season 17, back on the network that launched the franchise, Bravo! Bravo, indeed. Lost Karlie Kloss caught my ear when she said, “Our mentor for this season is Christian Siriano.” And next season, will it be someone else?

They started with a runway show that consisted of a look from the past by each designer. A fine way to start the season. Some looks were stronger than others, clearly. I hoped that we’d find out that was the actual challenge: that the judges would choose a winner and loser purely from what they had saw. But no.

The real challenge: the four judges presented a photo about a moment when they became who they are. The designers were assigned a judge and they had to do a look inspired by the photo and the story. Let’s review who the four judges are, shall we? The divine and irreplaceable Nina Garcia. Supermodel (and host) Karlie Kloss. Fashion designer Brandon Maxwell. And Elaine Wentworth, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue.

I loved the lighting in the workroom, it’s so much more flattering than on previous PRs. And the penthouse apartment also seems more highbrow than we’re used to.

Many of the designers seem quite stupid. We’ll see how that pans out.

Karlie and Christian visited the designers on the second day and announced that each challenge would be voted on by viewers of the show and the fan favorite look and the winner of the challenge would be manufactured by 19th Amendment and sold on the Bravo website. Another new thing for this season: the designers have to take photos of their looks and put them on Instagram.

I was pleased/groaning to see that thirty minutes into the show, they had covered many elements on the Project Runway Checklist:

1. Display of false bravado.
2. Tears shed over death of a family member.
3. Meltdown, anxiety attack.
4. Mention of camel toe.

My favorite moment in the episode was when Cavanagh Miss Blonde Upper Crust 2019 cast aspersions on the other designers for helping out poor, flailing Frankie. She said that in this business, you have to do it yourself, no one else can help you. And yet, five minutes before, she had asked her model to hand-sew part of her garment!

ON THE TOP
Venny: really, too much going on, and the feathers weren’t a good idea, but they liked that he had so many ideas, and they liked the tailoring.

Renee: Brandon said it had a “quiet strength.” Yes, one of the strongest looks of the day. She’s currently my favorite person on the show. Marvelous design, and she has a strong whiff of Laura Bennett, with her “don’t suffer fools gladly” hauteur and her nine freaking children.

Tessa: I have to quote what Nina said. “This looks does not look like a $250 look. This looks expensive. This looks luxe. The cut of that pant is superb. The fact that the tunic has a pocket - - makes me crazy.”

ON THE BOTTOM
Cavanagh: too basic, can’t see the amount of money she spent or the amount of time she had. Not an epic fail, but very far from good enough.

Lela: if it’s going to be so simple, it has to be perfectly executed. Which it wasn’t.

Frankie: she had a big teary explanation for why her garment was so awful, how the measurements didn’t match the actual model. Her fate was sealed when the picked a bit of the garment to demonstrate something and it fell apart in her hand. Zoinks.

Tessa was the winner. I didn’t know who would be sent home - - they’re both good TV! Cavanagh was sent home. Frankie needs to pull herself together. Does she think she’s gonna get an Emmy? 

Episode Two

They were sent to A. Human, a “fashion line” in Brooklyn that imagines a world in which making body modifications is as easy as changing your clothes.  The designers were split into five teams of three (chosen by a sharp new button bag).  They were assigned a body modification (skin feathers, horns on the shoulders, etc) and each designer was told to design an outfit highlighting the modification.  The three looks would need to be cohesive (of course).

 

Go figure - - Tessa and Hester were leaders of their teams, and kind of a pain in the ass!  Christian was rather ruthless in his workroom critiques.  Speaking of, I’m not 100% sure he’s going a great job as mentor.  I’m keeping an open mind, but I have my eye on him.

 

Drama, tears, accusations in the workroom.  As usual.

 

ON THE TOP

Team Neck Ruffles.  Brava to Tessa for acknowledging Sebastian in the construction of the skirt, and the bag.  His dress was amazing - - a fascinating concept and impeccably executed.  And bravo to Sebastian for acknowledging Tessa as the leader.

 

ON THE BOTTOM

Team Feathers.  Whoa, Nina said that Renee clipped her model's wings.  Thanks to whatever writer wrote that line for her.  Ugh on Kovid crying on the runway and calling out to his mother and grandmother.  It’s a shame that he made a bad prom dress.

 

Of course Sebastian was the winner.  And au revoir to Frankie.  She seems like a sweet girl, but her skills really aren't up to the PR experience.

Episode Three

Kovid starts each day meditating, and it felt so invasive to watch him meditating. I didn’t like that. Nadine busted some heads in the apartment because she was the only person washing dishes. Word!

The challenge was to make an outfit using one print from head to toe. The look had to be daring and editorial. There are a few designers who I feel like I’ve never seen before! Like that guy from Syria, where did he come from? Syria, clearly.

Lots of doubt and anxiety at Mood, because this challenge, more than others, is really rooted in the fabric choice. I was excited for the runway show, I’m mad for a good print.

Celebrity stylist Marni Senofonte was brought into the workroom - - it sounded like Christian said that she was going to be a styling advisor for the whole competition, did I hear that right? Or is it just this challenge? She had a one-on-one consultation with each designer. She encouraged the designers to go BIG since this was an editorial challenge. Tessa, a self-described minimalist, was freaking over having to use a print. So of course she chose a print that had a HUGE repeat, like about three feet square. What the hell.

Sebastian, he is so gorgeous - - I want him to stay in the competition for a long time just because I want to look at him every week. Is that selfish? Or just shallow? Nadine was super controlling with her model, criticizing the way she walked. There’s an expression along the lines of, “Someone who can’t dance blames the floor.” I saw it on a poster sometime in the 90s. Oh wow, there’s this cool new thing called Google - - it turns out it’s an Iraqi expression: “Those who can’t dance say the floor is sloping.” Wow, I’ll never again have an unanswered question, never in my whole life!

Marni came back into the workroom when the designers were doing the final fittings with the models, and I don’t really like her advising the designers on retooling their looks and choosing their accessories.

Guest judge: designer Adam Selman, Rihanna’s go-to-guy. OK then!

ON THE TOP
Kovid: they loved the boldness of the print and the chance he took with the construction. And they liked the mask. 

Sebastian: so delicious, it definitely didn’t look like it was made in a day. That stitching technique was unbelievable. I love that he said that he’s been making money cleaning houses! The judges were aghast. 

Hester: they loved that it was so clearly an expression of her personal style. Nina said it could go into Elle immediately.

ON THE BOTTOM
Garo: he was so sure that he’d be on the top or safe because of the ambition of the construction (that mitreing doesn’t happen by itself), but the judges thought the print was too bold and the whole look too much. 

Rakan: the print was so subtle it was almost indiscernible, and the way that he tricked it out in the construction, it looked so messy. 

Nadine: oh no she didn’t! She more or less said she was disappointed to have a plus size model, and oh yes, she got a look from the model when she said that. Thank you for the judges for telling Nadine that she needs to be aware of what she’s saying when the model is standing right next to her. Nadine was super defensive, she said, “I just didn’t know that this look was SO BAD.”

The winner was Hester. She promised that she would do something really weird in the next challenge, since she’d have immunity. Nadine spent a lot of time in the green room saying that she was over it and ready to go home, so I was expecting them to keep her just for the drama. And she did something I don’t believe I’ve seen before, in all of the seasons of this show - - she walked off the runway before the judges were done talking with her. Whoa.

 

Episode Four

Karlie met the designers in the green room and told them in their next challenge, they would be going to the place where fashion began. She advised them to bring a raincoat and pack warmly. They hope that they’re going to Paris, but we know from the teaser in the previous episode that they’re going camping. Kovid, of course, is excited to meditate in the forest. You go, girl.

Christian explained that fashion started in the outdoors, back in the days of our prehistoric ancestors. “Hm, it’s kinda chilly out today - - this might be a good day for my Fendi mink chubby!” Something like that. It’s the unconventional materials challenge. The judges would be looking for two things: how well they use the materials and how well they execute the concept of “survival chic.”

Christian said GO and they were given 20 minutes to forage for materials. The designers display varying degrees of ingenuity and blockage. Hester put her pile in the middle of the area and walked away to gather leaves and crap. And then she was shocked that people took stuff from her “pile.” Yes, I put that word in quotes. Clearly other people were placing their materials in a more defined manner. Thankfully she convinced some of the other designers to give back some of “her” stuff. Yes, I put that word in quotes.

Snaps to Tessa, she built her own freaking loom!

Marni showed up and she and Christian steered Hester away from making a coat dress and steered her towards making a gown. Because you hear the words “survival chic” and immediately think red carpet, right? They encourage the designers to use something besides fabric-based materials. I know I say this every season, but have these people never watched the show?

Sebastian, bless his heart, had never had a marshmallow roasted in the fire. Rakan told his story about leaving Syria in 2011 and having to go through “hell and heaven” to get to the US. Is it just me, or are they spending more time telling their life struggle stories than they were in previous seasons? Remember season two when we didn’t know Chloe’s life story until the freaking HOME VISIT at the end of the season?

The second day ended and it was 38 degree outside! That is cold, people, to be hanging out outside. And then the day of the runway show, of course they had hair and makeup there in the great outdoors! In tents, natch. And yes, it was raining. Thankfully the runway and seating areas were covered, but I imagine it was still cold and breezy. Maybe that was why they had no guest judge.

ON THE TOP
Hester: the judges were impressed with her use of the materials and her signature playful vibe.

Renee: they loved how tricked out it was, and yet how chic. Nina was crazy for the enormous water bottle.

Rakan: very high fashion, beatifully put together, wonderfully thought out.

ON THE BOTTOM
Sonia: wow, so many things happening for the first time this season - - Sonia forgot to trim the front of the mylar skirt so her model tripped and stumbled as she started walking down the runway. Karlie and Sonia rushed to the runway to help her. I don’t think I’d seen that before. Apart from that issue, the judges felt like the whole thing was too sloppy and voluminous.

Afa: they just didn’t like it, too many loose ends, and the model was shaking with cold. I felt bad for her.

Kovid: lumpy and not pretty. Unfinished, unattractive.

The winner was Renee. The whole look was very empowered. Afa was sent home, no surprise because Kovid is such a kook. Afa had a sweet and teary goodbye on the runway.

 

Episode Five

The episode started with the designers kibitzing and eating breakfast. Rakan got a text from Karlie, asking them to go downstairs for a trip uptown. They were driven to Harlem where they met up with hip hop designer Dapper Dan. The challenge was to make a look of luxury streetwear. Something I haven’t mentioned so far this season - - the winning designer, each time, has the option of choosing their model, and each time, the designer has chosen the model they had in the previous challenge. The other designers are assigned models randomly.

They were bypassing Mood in this challenge, they had all of their available materials in the workroom. The designers were going in all different directions, all inspired by Dapper Dan and their own personal community of origin. Christian announced that this challenge would be a Flash Sale Challenge - - they would photograph their looks and the fan favorite would be manufactured.

I’m bothered by how hands-on Christian is in the workroom. He busted Rakan and Jamall for eating and hanging out with a model rather than working, and then went over to Rakan’s model to ask what he had done. Isn’t it up to Rakan to decide how he should use his time? Is it fair for Christian to micro-manage him?

Funniest moment of the episode: Sonia had a little rant talking about how busy they are, how they don’t have time to eat, relax, or use the bathroom, and they cut to Kovid lackadaisically sewing something and saying, “I miss my Mummy.”

Dapper Dan visited them during the final model fittings. He was full of encouragement for some and full of silence for others. The designers took their photos and we went to the runway.

The guest judge was Harlem designer Brandice Daniel, who Dapper Dan chose to judge.

ON THE TOP
Venny: Nina said it was his most authentic look yet, and that the model totally owned it.

Garo: they loved the corset, loved the vibe.

Bishme: Nina loved that the outfit said something and meant something. Brandon said that if he saw her on a street they would need to call an ambulance because he’d be having cardiac arrest.

ON THE BOTTOM
Rakan: Brandon said that he always felt like he was on a road trip with Rakan, but this week he didn’t understand where they were going. Hester, in the green room, made the interesting point that Rakan is a good designer but is never interested in the parameters of the specific challenge, which is why he’s always on the bottom (BTW she should write me a thank you note for articulating what she was trying to say).

Jamall: so sloppy, so thrown together. Brandice said that she can’t imagine any young black woman wearing it. Jamall’s lame ass excuse was such weak sauce, and Brandon’s retort was so scathing, I have to quote both in full:

JAMALL: I’m very like terrified of the question you guys ask. “Who is the girl you’re designing for? Who is this person.” Because my work is a lot about me, and my emotions and who I am and my identity. And I’m still trying to figure out how to articulate myself.

BRANDON: You are 23 years old, so regardless of this competition, you are not supposed to know who you are. BUT - - you do fundamentally have to know how to make clothes.

Kovid: oh no she didn’t! Nina said it looked suburban. I thought it looked like Target. On the bargain rack.

Vishme was the winner. I was surprised that Kovid was sent home - - I was sure it would bee Jamall, his look was such a middle finger to the judges, so sloppy and unfinished. 

Episode Six

The episode started with the designers kibitzing and eating breakfast. Rakan got a text from Karlie, asking them to go downstairs for a trip uptown. They were driven to Harlem where they met up with hip hop designer Dapper Dan. The challenge was to make a look of luxury streetwear. Something I haven’t mentioned so far this season - - the winning designer, each time, has the option of choosing their model, and each time, the designer has chosen the model they had in the previous season. The other designers are assigned models randomly.

They were bypassing Mood in this challenge, they had all of their available materials in the workroom. The designers were going in all different directions, all inspired by Dapper Dan and their own personal community of origin. Christian announced that this challenge would be a Flash Sale Challenge - - they would photograph their looks and the fan favorite would be manufactured.

I’m bothered by how hands-on Christian is in the workroom. He busted Rakan and Jamall for eating and hanging out with a model rather than working, and then went over to Rakan’s model to ask what he had done. Isn’t it up to Rakan to decide how he should use his time? Is it fair for Christian to micro-manage him?

Funniest moment of the episode: Sonia had a little rant talking about how busy they are, how they don’t have time to eat, relax, or use the bathroom, and they cut to Kovid lackadaisically sewing something and saying, “I miss my Mummy.”

Dapper Dan visited them during the final model fittings. He was full of encouragement for some and full of silence for others. The designers took their photos and we went to the runway.

The guest judge was Harlem designer Brandice Daniel, who Dapper Dan chose to judge.

ON THE TOP
Venny: Nina said it was his most authentic look yet, and that the model totally owned it.

Garo: they loved the corset, loved the vibe.

Bishme: Nina loved that the outfit said something and meant something. Brandon said that if he saw her on a street they would need to call an ambulance because he’d be having cardiac arrest.

ON THE BOTTOM
Rakan: Brandon said that he always felt like he was on a road trip with Rakan, but this week he didn’t understand where they were going. Hester, in the green room, made the interesting point that Rakan is a good designer but is never interested in the parameters of the specific challenge, which is why he’s always on the bottom (BTW she should write me a thank you note for articulating what she was trying to say).

Jamall: so sloppy, so thrown together. Brandice said that she can’t imagine any young black woman wearing it. Jamall’s lame ass excuse was such weak sauce, and Brandon’s retort was so scathing, I have to quote both in full:

JAMALL: I’m very like terrified of the question you guys ask. “Who is the girl you’re designing for? Who is this person.” Because my work is a lot about me, and my emotions and who I am and my identity. And I’m still trying to figure out how to articulate myself.
BRANDON: You are 23 years old, so regardless of this competition, you are not supposed to know who you are. BUT - - you do fundamentally have to know how to make clothes.

Kovid: oh no she didn’t! Nina said it looked suburban. I thought it looked like Target. On the bargain rack.

Vishme was the winner. I was surprised that Kovid was sent home - - I was sure it would bee Jamall, his look was such a middle finger to the judges, so sloppy and unfinished. 

 

Episode Seven

Isn’t it nice seeing the designers hanging out in the apartment, making breakfast together, supporting each other, enjoying themselves? It doesn’t feel that way in the workroom!

This was the second time they had a letter or similar delivered to the apartment. Am I the only person who thinks of *America’s Next Top Model* and wants someone to shout out, “TYRA MAIL!” They met Karlie and Brandon at a photo shoot, had a group photo taken, and had a champagne toast to celebrate being in the final ten.

The challenge: they chose lucite bags filled with objects and chose their models. I don’t think anyone was surprised to hear that the two curviest models were last to be chosen. Tessa, who was the second to last designer to choose, mentioned that she was worried about the curvy aspect and Brandon told her (and everyone else) that their job as designers is to make their client feel beautiful, whatever her shape. Later Tessa regretted mentioning her worry. Duh. One other note: the key word to the challenge is ELEGANCE. I’m disappointed that no one quoted Mrs. Vreeland on the subject - - she said, “Elegance is refusal.”

Jamall was feeling blocked and Christian encouraged him to forget about the pattern he was making with muslin and take his fashion fabric and drape it directly onto the dress form, and see where it took him. He’d never worked like that before and what he came up with was really wonderful. I was pleased to see Christian saying something helpful!

Oh dear Lord. Hester made a filmy transparent top for her model and two green pasties to cover her nipples. She used fabric glue to affix the pasties to the top and through to the model’s skin. Oh no she didn’t. Apart from this being offensive, in what universe is it elegant?

ON THE TOP
Lela: Nina loved the gown, but like me, she didn’t like the extra piece on the shoulder. I didn’t see it as toilet paper, but yeah, I can see that! 

Jamall: I didn’t like the way it was bunched up at the waist, but I liked the use of the fabric and the fabric itself. 

Venny: lovely dress, but the straps in back looked cheap and slapdash.

ON THE BOTTOM
Bishme: Brandon said that the judges told him to show restraint, but there was way too much going on with the skirt. They liked the drape of the blouse, but not the fabric. 

Hester: I don’t think a designer with immunity should be on the bottom, someone else should have that spot, someone who could be eliminated. I like what Brendan said about her having a sense of humor but it being rooted in well-made clothes - - but then this didn’t do that. 

Sonia: Brendan said she didn’t look like a DJ, she looked like she was in the background at a Kenny G concert. Ouch! The dress was a big nothing.

Jamall was the winner. He should write a thank you note to Christian, STAT. And Sonia was sent home. 

Episode Eight

The episode started with three of the designers going after Tessa, asking why SHE wasn’t on the bottom in the previous challenge. Oo, that is cold!

 

The challenge is to do a three-look mini collection for a celebrity going on vacation. Three looks:

 

  1. Something for the beach.

  2. Something to wear around during the day, shopping, maybe an elegant lunch.

  3. Something for evening.

 

Their client was Morena Baccaran, who was going to Brazil, her home country. They also need to come up with three unique hairstyles.

 

Karlie chose names out of the button bag, and those designers would choose the designers to go on their teams. Tessa chose Sebastian and Lela. Hester chose Garo and Bishme. The leftovers were Jamall, Venny, and Renee. I was very excited for this challenge, so many interesting elements. As expected, some designers took charge and became full on bossy, others rolled their eyes and were over it. The Mood visit was full of Oh No She Didn’t.

 

Continued drama in the workroom, with some designers getting up in other designers’ grills. Christian pointed out that all three teams were using the same colors.

 

How sweet - - the designers went out on the patio and played in the snow. That was a highlight of the season, it was magical. Karlie visited the workroom and told them that she needed to miss the runway show to go to a freaking wedding. So Marni Senofonte took her place in the judge’s panel, and Baccaran was also a guest judge. Oh, and Elaine stood in for Karlie as host.

 

My impressions:

 

Team Disco Queen: Hester’s swim look was cute. Bishme’s look was a little ordinary - - Richard described it as “off the rack, not off the hook.” Garo’s evening look was little too voluminous.

 

Team Carnival: Jamall’s swim look was odd. As Christian said, took much like a dress. The blouse in Renee’s day look was good but the pants were not good. Venny’s evening look was NOT evening.

 

Team Rio Holiday: Sebastian’s swim look was wonderful. Tessa’s day look, was it made in twenty minutes? Lela’s evening look was nice.

 

And here's what the judges thought:

 

ON THE TOP

Team Disco Queen. They thought the swimsuit was marketable, loved that it was reversible. The liked the movement of Garo’s dress and the cincher. They liked that Bishme made white pants, they cleansed the palette.

 

ON THE BOTTOM

Team Carnival. The swimsuit was too complicated and not functional as a swimsuit. Brandon said that she would drown and then bring out a few fish in the goofy extra bit between the legs. Renee’s pants were dreadful. Thank you Morena for pointing out that the evening look was not evening.

 

Wow - - Hester was the only designer to have won two challenges, and now she’s won THREE. Totally setting her up to come in second for the whole season! Oh ouch, Tessa was a wench on wheels in the green room, she told Hester that she didn’t like her look. Hester said she didn’t care about her opinion, but will that last? Renee was sent home. I felt like Venny’s dress was a bigger failure. Whatever.

Episode Nine

The designers arrived in Brooklyn to see patches of yellow bricks on the pavement and some over-the-top men’s costumes in the workroom. We then had three levels of introductions: Christian introduced the overall theme of the challenge, the great musician and fashion icon Sir Elton John - - he introduced (a video clip of) Taron Edgerton, who is playing Elton in the upcoming movie *Rocketman* - - and Taron introduced Julian Day, who designed the costumes for the movie. He gave the designers a guided tour through some of the costumes he had made.

The details: a performance look for the Elton of the 70s or 80s, made for a male model. They were given $400 to spend at Mood and $300 at a trimmings and notions store (aka sequins, feathers, etc). Christian said that the challenge had to be impressive so the designers were bringing back the eliminated designers as helpers. He chose names out of the button bag and it was a flashback to choosing kickball teams in third grade, with the losers left til the end. So humiliating.

Of course the designers went coo coo nutty for the super hunky gorgeous male models. Sebastian was having an emotional time because his father is a big Elton John fan, and he hadn’t seen his father or anyone else in his family in three years. On the flip side, Jamall put on some rainbow platform shoes and introduced us to Candy, his 16-year old white girl alter ego. Nice to meet you, Candy!

It wouldn’t be Project Runway without grumpiness and flakiness in the workroom. Jamall had a make it work moment when he realized he didn’t have the mesh fabric for his top, so he had to cobble together a mock turtleneck using leftover scraps.

Nina was back this week, and *Rocketman* costume designer Julian Day was guest judge.

ON THE TOP
Jamall: I thought it was too conceptual, too far out there but the judges liked the spirit. Bishme: long and lean, full of attitude. Nina loved that the outfit had a reveal followed by a reveal, it would have the versatility for performance. Garo: holy wow. So exuberant, so beautifully finished. Of course Sonia was cranky that he wasn’t on the runway giving her all the credit. Did she not realize she was The Help?

ON THE BOTTOM
Venny: the train on the pants was a bad idea and the overall effect was cheap. Tessa: looks like a bedazzled 70s couch. Julian said it looked like something Elton would wear during the day - - ouch. Lela: it looked homemade. Nina said it looked like he had lost a bet.

Garo was the winner, but they said it was a difficult decision. I might have given it to Bishme.

Elaine said something notable when they were choosing he loser: “Venny has been extremely inconsistent. And Lela has been extremely forgettable.” They chose the forgettable Lela, who got weepy on the runway (that’s always hard to see). 

Episode Ten

The challenge: to do a high fashion interpretation of the social cause that means the most to them. Elaine went to the workroom to mentor the designers and hear about their causes and their design concepts. Many of the designers had a hard time being vulnerable and bringing their vulnerability into their work.

Halfway through the challenge, Christian announced that they would need to design a second look - - for THEMSELVES! A T-shirt that connected to their cause and their high fashion look. They worked with graphic designers to design the T-shrits.

The guest judge was designer Aurora James.

ON THE TOP
Sebastian: beautiful, and it put the message across. The judges were suitably impressed with the layering of the fabric.

Bishme: Aurora said she would wear it tomorrow. It was a lovely dress, the ruffle had such impact.

Jamall: SO FABULOUS. Though Nina didn’t really see a communication of the message.

IN THE MIDDLE
Sonya: Nina loved that the dress reflected her minimalist point of view. Sonya shared her personal story, which took incredible strength.

Hester: they loved the spirit of the outfit, they felt it did a good job of articulating her message.

ON THE BOTTOM
Venny: the shortcomings of the construction were a problem. He got very weepy on the runway.

Garo: the judges weren’t into it, it just didn’t deliver.

The winner was Bishme. I would have given it to Jamall, I thought that gown was incredible. Venny was sent home. His look was just too sloppy and unfinished. 

 

Episode Eleven

A friend had given me a spoiler that Tessa was sent home in this episode - - I think this was the first time this had happened, where I had watched an episode knowing who was going to be sent home.

The challenge: they had to create an experiential fashion show/display vitrine attended by over 100 fashion insiders. The designers worked with creative consultants to talk through their ideas. They went to Mood, they spun their wheels in the workroom, and the next day Christian brought them to the offices of the Council of Fashion Designers of America where they met with President and CEO of the CFDA, Steven Kolb. He explained their plan for the winner’s mentorship: he described it as a diagnostic, they would do a complete analysis of the designer’s business and give them what they need to bring them to the next level.

The designers worked more on their looks, lived through some more self-inflicted drama, which came to a head when they went to their display environments.

Garo was at the top of the heap, his room was fabulous and he came up with more ideas with the consultant and model. Bishme wasn’t happy with his room, he felt like it was too literal. It looked like Sesame Street to me. But he was able to explain the changes he wanted and he seemed to know what he was doing with his dress.

Tessa seemed oddly pleased, odd because clearly her room was dull and her dress was a mess. And of course she had to criticize the other designers on what they were doing, always very helpful! Hester seemed pleased with her room but was freaking because she had so much work to do on her dress.

And Sebastian, my darling Sebastian. He had a total meltdown, was not happy with the yellow and purple room with the flowers. He tried to explain what he wanted and it was touching that he asked if he would speak in Spanish with his consultant. That seemed to ground him to a degree, but then he left the building in a huff and announced, back at the work room, that he was going to quit. Hester tried to help by saying that clearly SHE was going to be in the bottom! He pulled it together.

They returned to the workroom the next morning and Christian announced that Cardie B would be at the show. The designers were totally Holy Wow about that! She wasn’t an actual judge, the guest judge was Linda Fargo, Fashion Director for Bergdorf Goodman. The judges visited each room, talked with the designers and had a mixture of good and bad comments.

The designers went to the green room and the judges went to the workroom, where they had set up all of the pieces the five of them had made all season. Clearly they were not going to make their decision based only on the current challenge. I’d never seen such an overt statement of looking at the whole season.

The winner was Garo - - the judges were conflicted because Sebastian had the best dress but had an awful room. Garo’s dress was a little more odd, but the room was unbelievable and the dress worked great in that context. And as we know, Tessa was sent home.

Karlie announced the parameters of the finale: $10,000, five months, ten looks.
 

Episode Twelve

Oh how I love the home visits! Christian started in Santa Fe, visiting Hester. Her apartment was, of course, crazy with color and kitsch and her wife was super adorable. Her collection was a mashup of many inspirations. Christian wisely advised her to have one look that’s a solid and more restrained.

Next: Fort Lauderdale to visit Sebastian. His hunky husband stole my heart when he said that he removed the dining room to make his workroom, and that he would do anything to support Sebastian. Christian felt that his collection was a little overworked, trying too hard.

Next: Baltimore and Bishme. He was of course being inspired by Baltimore. And this was the best moment of Christian as a mentor - - he was alarmed that Bishme had made so little, he had one or two finished looks out of ten. He had lots of sketches on the wall, but nothing more than that. Christian said, “OK, tell me which of these you’re going to do next. Great, now what fabric are you going to use? Perfect. That’s what you’re doing tomorrow.”

And finally, Phoenicia, NY and Garo. Garo was inspired by galaxies and black holes, thing that glimmer. His husband was very cute, ditto the dog. Christian advised him to steer away from the costume and think about things that are wearable and could sell.

They got back to Brooklyn, started setting up in their new workroom, and Karlie and Christian came in. I was thrilled to hear Karlie say that they were giving them one final challenge to decide on the final three.

They were brought to the offices of Elle and Nina gave them a tour. She introduced the challenge: she would review the collections of the four designers and decide what was missing. Then they’d have to build a new look that filled the gap that Nina had seen. They also needed to choose two looks from their collections to go with it.

Bishme was having a hard time because it was the day of his sister’s first chemo treatment, so that’s a lot to take in. He kept changing his look and every change made it worse. And Hester had an epic disaster, she sewed through her fingernail and screamed and flipped out like there was no tomorrow.

The guest judge was Steven Kolb from the CFDA. Another first: Bishme asked them to delay the fashion show for a few minutes so he could leave the room and have an emotional meltdown. I felt awful for him, it must have been very humiliating - - and of course there was someone filming him sitting outside crying.

Hester: Nina told her to make a solid look and she made a pink dress that was still totally Hester. The judges loved it.

Sebastian: Nina told him to make something soft so he did a flowy white chiffon gown, it was the perfect complement to the other two pieces. Plus he told the judges that he was inspired by his background as a ballet dancer! Who knew he was a ballet dancer.

Bishme: Nina told Bishme to make an outerwear outfit that was street-based. His hoodie dress was a total misfire, it looked crappy and did not represent his level of skill. He explained to the judges why he was going through such a hard time and they listened to him.

Garo: Nina told him to make a tailored suit, and clearly he was surprised that they had so many criticisms. The fit on the suit was a problem, and Nina didn’t like the cress with the overdress.

Hester and Sebastian were advanced to the finale. The judges were conflicted about Garo vs Bishme and they sent Bishme home.

For the finale: guest judge Diane von Furstenberg! 

The Finale

Christian started the episode by saying that the finale show would be at Skylight One Hanson. Anyone heard of that joint? He also said that Marni Senofonte would be helping with their styling. Isn’t that funny, I had forgotten all about her! And she was such a big deal earlier in the season.

I love model casting. I wonder if they were under any obligation to use a plus size model. Christian also announced that they’d have the option to go to Mood the next morning and given $300 if they wanted to make something new. Hashtag COP OUT! I hate this kind of thing, it’s so Romper Room. And rompers are so four seasons ago.

Hester decided to rise to the Mood bait. Garo Garo Garo - - he had seventeen looks to pare down to ten, and yet he was STILL going to make another from scratch? And Sebastian felt a little unmoored, felt like he had to go to Mood and make something new (or just buy thread?) because the other two designers were doing that.

Sebastian decided to go to Mood and Christian decided to be the devil on the shoulder, criticizing every choice he made. May I say again how much I dislike Christian as mentor? Did he learn nothing from Tim Gunn being his mentor? Marni made her visit and was suitably horrified by the wig that Hester put on her signature model’s head. Hester thought it was Baroque but I thought it was B-52s. And I love the B-52s, but still.

They went for their visit to the guest judge. We all knew that it was Diane von Furstenberg, but they didn’t know that. You think they’d figure it out when they got to the Meatpacking District. I adore DVF, she’s a hero of mine. Sebastian put it perfectly: “I need somebody to hit me in my face to see if this is real!”

They went to Skylight One Hanson, which looked to be in the BAM neighborhood. Brooklyn is getting lots of love on PR this season! Poor little old Manhattan, is she feeling like a bridesmaid, like yesterday’s bialy? One little moment made me queasy: they had a montage of hair and makeup and showed a hair artist squeezing about 1/3 cup of gel into his/her hand and oh dear, I had to sit down. Wait, I was sitting down. I had to lay down.

Of course there were moments of frenzied drama backstage at the show, with the coffee dribbles on the chiffon, the moth holes on the organza, the “Why are you wearing Uggs?” OK I made up the Uggs, but you get what I mean.

Karlie introduced the judges. She and Elaine Welteroth both looked super glam, but were their looks too evening for a daytime event? Or am I a fuddy duddy? Nina and Diane, of course, looked perfect. Ditto Brandon, but who ever talks about what a mean wears.

Hm - - the host or mentor usually announces what order the finale designers will be showing in, am I right? That didn’t happen this time, they just launched right in with Sebastian. That was a notable omission.

I felt like Sebastian’s collection was lacking in oomph, too ready for the department store. The loopy looks were sublime, also the floaty look he added at Nina’s suggestion. But the rest, for my taste it was too restrained.

Garo’s collection was more specific, it had more impact. But that zipper was a disaster. And of course Nina wanted to see the beaded cocktail dress they had all loved from the previous challenge, he was an idiot to have cut that out. Kiss of Death to think you know better than the judges.

Hester! First off, love the disco Moonlight Sonata! And she really Put On a Show, what she does is so clearly an expression of who she is and how she sees fashion, more than the other two, more innovative, more extreme. Not for everyone but to me, it looked like Fashion with a capital F. A capital Eff Yeah!

But I didn’t feel like it was a runaway, you never know who the judges will choose as the winner. I wasn’t surprised they immediately eliminated Garo - - his construction issues were a deal breaker. So it came down to Sebastian and Hester. As is often the case, they had to choose between Clothes (Sebastian) and Art (Hester). 

How sweet that they brought back the eliminated designers for the announcement! I wonder if they went straight into the reunion special.

And the winner was: Sebastian! So beautiful and meaningful that Nina address him as a Latina, and as a personification of the American Dream. I am so happy for him. But we shouldn’t feel bad for Hester, I guess she’s going to have a job for DVF, right? Diane shouldn’t have said that on camera if she didn’t intend to deliver! 

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