Emily Blumenthal: Episode 4 Review
Dear "Project Accessory" Viewers,
Molly starts off the next challenge by saying that everyone should check out the workroom, where Eva is waiting with Andrea Linnett, Creative Director of EBay Fashion. There in front of them are bins filled with contents of a woman's handbag. The designers have to select a bin and are then paired with its owner and have to design a bag to fit her lifestyle and of course, carry her items comfortably. EBay Fashion features a different notable woman every week, and those women, of course, are the owners of the handbag contents and will be the designers' clients for this challenge. If you didn't already know, I am the voice of the people for the handbag designer (with my Independent Handbag Designer Awards and book, "Handbag Designer 101"), so I am just as excited as the designers are to finally have a handbag challenge! Especially since it is a $7.5 billion dollar industry and more profitable than apparel and everything else.
The owners come in and meet the designers. Diego picked the bin that had a gym membership card because he assumed that the owner would be fit, and she definitely was. Diego tells his model, Editorial Director for Style Caster Marni Golden, that he loves texture and skins, and she is down with that. Diego has an edge, since in his atelier in Chicago, he creates high-end bags that are made for each consumer; he was actually the only designer seen measuring his client. Christina says she might have immunity but she is up for trying to beat Diego, so she is immediately trying to accommodate her client, Umindi Francis, owner of the Umindi Francis Consulting Group. Shea's client, Anya Strzemien, who is now the Deputy Editor of xojane.com, is petite. This gets Shea excited, since she feels she can identify with her frame. However, she laments that any bag she makes will overwhelm Anya's tiny frame. Clearly she hasn't walked the streets of New York, where petite women carry bags that they themselves could crawl into and hide. Shea is on #FashionProbation, as far as I am concerned, for the looks she is putting out.
Adrian gets designer Ann Brady, who immediately says she likes stripes. Brian's client, full-figure model Leigh Shoemaker, says that the bin contains just half of her stuff. Brian then throws in a comment saying he would have had to make her a suitcase with wheels, which she didn't find funny and I didn't either. Handbags have gotten larger to accommodate a woman's busy life, and as a designer, he should be aware of that. Leigh says that she doesn't have a good black bag, but Brian comments to the camera that he doesn't want to make her a black bag because it would make her a "biker chick" – let the buzzer go off now, because he is already not listening to the needs of his client. Even with his talent, this arrogance will come back to bite in him in the you-know-what. James' model, maître d' Roz Campbell, said he would make something that is simple and sculptural with not a lot of decoration, which is ironic because that is the antithesis of James' aesthetic. Rich immediately said he was going to make something utilitarian, which pleased his client, stylist Sharon Anderson.
The designers get 20 minutes and 100 dollars to buy their materials from Mood. Diego is looking for fall colors and is going to make a frame bag. Brian said he wasn't going to make a black bag and said he is different from the other designers, since he isn't as worried about pleasing the client as he is about pleasing himself. #REDFLAG I don't even know how to respond to that. Shea is still complaining that she has to make a laptop bag that is BIG, which is actually, next to the diaper bag, the most popular silhouette. Has she not walked down the streets of, say, anywhere? She is saying that she has the hardest challenge when making a large bag is probably easier, since you have more material to work with and the minor details will be less visible. Nina and James both comment that this is actually the first bag they have ever made. And it shows for at least James, who is making a messenger bag and selects a camel-colored nubuck (the non-fur side of the skin, treated to feel like suede), which is a big mistake since it will show everything and is not a durable color or material for such a large bag. Brian is making a leather "boho bag" (what that means remains to be seen) and is not making a pattern #REDFLAG. Rich is making a modified messenger bag and feels out of his element, since he is still wearing his goggles for some reason and asking Diego's advice, and now Diego is the one helping everyone else. Nina said that leather scares her but metal doesn't, so she is adding textured brass. Adrian is spending too much time on the lining, and already I am skeptical.
Eva comes in and says their clients (who are all wearing handbags) are coming in for a fitting and then gives them another zinger! The clients hand over the handbags that they are wearing. The designers are then informed that they now need to create an additional accessory out of that handbag to match the current one that they are creating. Shea is having difficulty with the machines. The fact is, you have to use a different needle when you sew with leathers, which it seems that she doesn't even know, which is why she keeps screwing this up. Nina didn't make a pattern, so she had to actually take her bag apart. Handbag patterns are different than apparel patterns, which most don't even know. The designers are panicking about creating the second accessory out of their additional handbag so much so that James didn't get a chance to do his second piece. That might work for Adrian but not twice.
This week's guest judges are the inimitable Rebecca Minkoff, who has an exclusive line of tech accessories on eBay, and the amazing accessories designer Kara Ross, who is filling in for Kenneth Cole.
Let's just jump into the highs and lows, since there are four of each this week.
Diego created a spectacular doctor satchel handbag and card holder. The bag has feet, which is perfect, and the leather juxtaposed with the skin makes the bag look exotic, as Rebecca agrees. The straps are the right length, and the look is styled on point, not to mention the great tassel piece making the bag look like a true affordable luxury item. Ariel loved Diego's work, which isn't hard to do; this is, after all, Diego's specialty.
Nina created a mini crossbody bag and a stunning rosette ring. Because she had to remake her bag, she added gold panel gussets with a chain handle that can be removed to make it into a clutch. The closure on the bag was totally unique and that of a jewelry designer. I have to say it again: The ring was spectacular, and Kara Ross, who has the best eye for jewelry in the world, agreed. I was definitely impressed with what Nina put out, and the judges agreed.
Christina created a very sellable oversized grommet tote with a scarf-knotted detail where the handles were. The bag is made well, and she made a quick necklace out of the handle of the other bag that her client brought in. The judges love her aesthetic, which is very, very commercial. Considering she worked for Isaac Mizrahi, she understands retail, but I am not blown away, not yet at least.
Brian created a soft leather shoulder bag with different panels side by side on the flap closure. The bag was textural and made with distressed leather, and the judges liked that. I have seen this bag before, though – it was soft and floppy with no hardware and needed a bit more form. It looked like something you would buy from the Brooklyn Flea off the streets, which isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it definitely did not WOW me in the slightest. His cuff also didn't make sense to me, and because of his attitude and lack of respect for his client he is still on #FashionProbation.
Oy – now the bottom 4 and very much, bottom.
Adrian's look was just a hot mess, and sadly, he wasn't the only one. The striped bag without strap was oversized and awkward – it looks like a painful street bag and clearly looks made by hand. Rebecca said that proportions are off and unsellable (well, I added in the "unsellable" part). The bag is too busy to work. The bracelets work. The judges agree that there is a complete lack of taste and his ability to do something that is in good taste is up for question.
James' nubuck satchel detail was just plain cheesy. (I think Kristen from Aspen came back.) The soft material with the orange overlay with the skin detail was illogical, in addition to the fact that the bag will get dirty and has no feet (the four little gold things that go on the bottom of the bag, in case you were wondering …). The length of the bag is off, and it isn't made well enough to hold everything. Molly said she liked the color but then said James knows better, and Ariel said it is unacceptable that he didn't have a chance to make another piece like everyone else. Yes, James did not finish the challenge and really didn't seem to be so stressed about it perhaps because Adrian didn't finish two challenges ago and was still there. Rebecca said his proportions were off and that was just the beginning.
Shea, for all of her moaning, sadly didn't deliver. She created an awkward oversized bag with a bad choice of color. The bag looks like something sold on Canal Street. Ariel said it looks like a carry-on. Kara said that her bag should have been made north-south as opposed to east-west (right-left is what most messenger bags are) in order to be more flattering on a figure, since the bag was actually unflattering on his model.
Rich, who tells us at the beginning that he left his job as a diesel mechanic to become a jewelry designer, basically gave up. The bag is sloppy and unfinished, and you don't need to be an expert in anything to see that the base and the gussets are already falling apart. Rich goes on to say that the bag is poorly made and the worst thing he has ever done. Rebecca said that the execution … she doesn't have the words. Neither do I, since I think I have said enough already.
Who will have immunity and who won't be here next week? I could tell you what I think – but then again, what fun would that be? See you all after Thanksgiving, when I will be giving thanks for well-made shoes, bags and jewelry.