Dear "Project Accessory" Viewers,
We are now rolling in full force and down for Episode 2. I am sure you all have picked your faves by now, so let the bets begin in Vegas as to who will be the best jack-of-all-trades, since that is what being a well-rounded accessories designer requires.
This episode takes the little Little Black Dress/LBD as the blank canvas. The designers find their way to the SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED store in the heart of SoHo. There they meet Eva and Richard Chai, winner of the CFDA Swarovski Menswear Award. There they learn that they can select one piece of already assembled Swarovski jewelry as their inspiration to create one piece of their own jewelry and also a pair of shoes.
Now, to the average person, this might not seem like a big deal. Jewelry, OK, fine – construction and taste level is up for judgment. But shoes! Shoes require an understanding of math, balance and construction, not to mention which kinds of heels work best with which materials. What's a shoe last? (A shoe last, FYI, is for lack of a better explanation, the wooden mannequin the designers use to create their shoe.) YIKES!
This challenge knocked the socks off almost all of the designers (no pun intended) except for James. James should feel confident, as he is the only footwear designer out of the group, so he has to bring it on – or else his claim to fame will be up for some serious reconsideration.
The designers are given a wall of shoe and jewelry supplies as well as Swarovski crystals to dress up their LBD. After watching the episode, you can see already who is headed for the bottom three, sadly.
Kelly, whom you just want to root for, selects a Victorian choker. After wrestling with the idea of making her own heel out of wood and covering it with yellow leather or using a plastic heel that was available in the bins, she decides to go the DIY route. However, it's Kelly's first attempt at making shoes, and it shows: The heels aren't connected correctly, and the construction was poor, leaving the model wobbling. Props for the canary yellow, but paired with the choker, it is a disconnect from top to bottom. Nadja Swarovski, this week's guest judge, says that the gladiator-"inspired" heel was a hard juxtaposition with the Queen Victoria necklace. The eyeball-looking earrings might be enough to save Kelly, but a cohesive look definitely is not there. I regret to say this, but the expression on Kenneth Cole's face as he looked at Kelly's shoes going down the runway was priceless.
Adrian seems excited and daunted by this challenge. His completed work is really moot to discuss, since he never actually finished his earrings. Ten minutes before the runway, Eva gives her feedback that it seems like the earrings are a bit much since he put crystals all over the dress, so once time was up, he neglected to edit his look. As the judges said, instead of taking a risk and putting something out there that wasn't perfect, Adrian sent his model down the runway in an incomplete look. You just wanted to shout at him, "SERIOUSLY – you didn't finish it?!" Even though the judges gave him snaps for his tie-up ribbon heel with great Swarovski detail (which wasn't so labor-intensive when using ribbons as support and design), he actually didn't finish the challenge.
David was droning on about the goddess woman he was designing for, where she was going and basically what she was thinking about when she looked in the mirror. He seems to have a solid understanding of his demographic, but designing for her, not so much. As Ariel said, the look shouldn't need the narrative to sell, especially if you have to be there to sell it. There was absolutely nothing cohesive about his look and definitely nothing "goddess" about it. The leather cuff with the Swarovski detail was actually not bad when seen in the product shot, but this is about styling, editing and knowing what works, and as Molly said, nude shoes look cheap, especially when they have a mini knock-on heel and closed toe. The hair was poorly styled, and as Nadja said, two powerful pieces cancel each other out.
Nicolina, a.k.a. #Rockstar, after losing it during the time to construct her pieces, regains strength and rebounds with a look that is sellable. Not only does she put spikes on the shoulders of the LBD, she uses a muted gray animal print on her strappy heel – very on-trend. Animal print at this point in the market has become like wearing brown or red, especially since animal-print ballet flats are popping up everywhere. She does, however, throw in some gratuitous safety pins. (WHY?) Maybe for Sid Vicious, but girl, you are designing for people other than yourself, and unless those safety pins have crystals on them, they don't belong. Her choker and cuff do have synergy, with the alignment of the crystals tying in the look with the shoes.
James takes time during the challenge to educate the other designers on Shoe Design 101, with lasts and some of the mathematical balance game that goes into creating a shoe. He creates a jewel-tone color-blocked heel with "just the right amount of #toecleavage" as Kenneth Cole said. Ariel said those heels would walk right out of the store – his point being that the shoe is on-trend from top to bottom. However, James cannot edit. The matching cuff PLUS his "Xanadu" (Ariel's term, not mine) headband made his model look like Wonder Woman.
Brian starts this challenge out with a bang. He creates a polyresin mold to create a completely crystallized wedge heel, and the girls in the studio were swooning. (So was I!) His appeared to be made out of an ostrich (or ostrich-like) leather with an ankle strap. Given that it's the first shoe he has ever created, I am intrigued. However, Brian also needs a styling assistant or something. His effort to be edgy was misguided, creating only one earring to make a statement that was completely redundant if one had looked at his shoes. In addition, the handbag he created may have matched with his geometric inspiration, but it was sloppy and was too light in material to hold the crystals. The handbag was just too much, and Ariel agreed. Less is more, and doing extra credit when the teacher didn't ask can sometimes not go in your favor.
Who will be here next week and who won't?
Oh, please. This one is so easy you can do it with your eyes closed. I am not crazy about this design (the color palette is way too eighties for me) but I love the idea that you can use these techniques to take a plain pair of shoes and make them your own. I used a pair of Christian Siriano for Payless pumps (on sale for $11!), but you can start with any pair you like.
Print out pattern pieces
Pair of plain peep toe pumps
Leather, suede, or fabric scraps
A variety of flat back rhinestones (www.m&jtrimmings.com) 3M 365 Adhesive Transfer Tape (Note: industrial strength double stick tape) (www.drillspot.com)
Clear glue (I used Beacon 527 Multi Use glue)
Size 14 or 16 leather sewing machine needles
1. Make a pattern to cover your shoe's heel, by covering the heel with overlapping pieces of masking tape. Trace the edges of the heel with a pen, Peel off the tape and trim along the pen lines. Use this pattern to trace and cut out a contrasting color of leather, suede or fabric.
2. To adhere the new heel color, cover the wrong side of the cut piece with adhesive transfer tape. Burnish and peel the paper backing. Carefully apply it to the heel of your shoe.
3. Using the pattern pieces provided, cut out two of each piece in your desired material (a single layer of the small triangular piece is sufficient). Using the adhesive transfer tape, adhere the matching pieces together. Topstitch 1/8" from the edge around each shape.
4. Mark the portions of the shapes that make contact with the shoe, apply the adhesive transfer tape to those areas, and apply the shapes to the shoe.
5. Apply the flat back rhinestones as desired using clear drying glue.
For some of my own great DIY accessory projects (including embellished shoes) , check out my new book, "Handmade Chic: Fashionable Projects That Look High-End, Not Homespun."