Season 5, Episode 9 Recap: A Touch of Style

Coney Island is rich with inspiration for art: impromptu karaoke on the boardwalk, freak shows, that arcade that Mr. Robot uses as his clubhouse during the off-season, mermaid parades, even Beyoncé on the ferris wheel that one time! And the “Runway” family has been here before, if you recall the Unconventional Challenge in Season 12. But today the competition gets all “America’s pastime” on us. America’s pastime is judging people, right?

Wrong! The designers arrive at the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones and make their way out onto the baseball field. Alyssa and the designers’ models, dressed in Alyssa’s comfy-cute athletic wear line, Touch, are waiting for them. The goal here is to become familiar with her brand because, as Alyssa explains, “The winning design will be modified, manufactured and sold as part of the Alyssa Milano Touch collection.”

The Challenge: With one day to work and $200 each, create a high-end “athleisure” look that will make its wearer feel glamorous whether she’s at a ball game or out to dinner.

The designers are energized by the change of pace and the potential prize. After spending some quality time with Alyssa’s line, they sketch in the bleachers and then head off to Mood, where they grab mesh and neoprene and other sporty materials.

In the workroom, Dom notes that everyone grabbed red and blue fabrics. Plus, Sam and Kini have chosen the same mesh fabric. I understand the need to keep focused on your own look, but this kind of tunnel vision isn’t smart for a competition. It’s why everyone keeps making the same jumpsuits and why Sam can’t let go of mesh and why I anticipate this being the most unsurprising runway of the season.

When Zanna enters the mix she notes that some of the designers seem to have a slight misunderstanding of what “athleisure” means. Sam is doing a basic circle skirt cocktail dress, while Kini and Layana have gone too sporty. She gives them a general warning to think bigger than just staying safe.

When the models come in – all dressed as Sporty Spice – Ken has nothing to try on his model. He starts to panic and unravel. Layana is also worried, as she’s spent the day treating the front of her sweatpants with a time-consuming intricate pattern, but she’s dealing. But Ken has that angry-terrified look in his eye that means he may lash out at any moment. As he rips part of his garment apart Dom innocently asks, “Did you change your mind?” and I have a moment of genuine concern for her well-being.

As the day goes on Ken gets more and more angry at both his garment and himself. And then, like the butler when he realizes you’re declaring bankruptcy, Ken grabs his stuff and walks out, leaving a line of confused PAs and designers in his wake. If I ever dramatically leave a television show, I want to do it in exactly the same way: in distressed acid-washed chambray and sunglasses at night, hailing a cab with my black painted fingernails. So real. So (as Ken would say) “fabolous.”

Most concerned with whether or not Ken will return is sweet li’l Layana, who wants to use his white leather for her top. Gotta love the camaraderie between these guys!

But alas, on the day of runway all is well, because Ken is back in black. Layana runs straight toward him with open arms and cries, “Ken, I missed you!” Actually, no. Scratch that. She says, “Are you gonna use your leather?” He generously offers it to her. Ken explains that he needed some time and space away from his design because he was getting too heated and didn’t want any innocent bystanders to get caught in the crossfire between him and his garment. This is quite the transformation from the last time we saw Ken frustrated back in Season 12. Praise hands emojis all around for Ken’s emotional growth!

Layana, with the help of Ken’s white leather, has made a gorgeous simple top to match her blue pants. But she second guesses herself the morning of the runway, and after deciding the full leather top is too casual she drapes another top made of a dark blue (black?) mesh/leather combo instead.

On the runway Alyssa introduces the human equivalent of an English garden, Georgina; a dressed-down Isaac; and guest judge Kristin Cavallari. You may know Kristin as a shoe designer, an author, the wife of football player Jay Cutler, or the star of teenaged me’s guilty pleasure, “Laguna Beach.”

Top:

Dom: A long-sleeved black turtleneck tube of a dress that hits around mid-calf. You know, the most flattering of lengths. The bottom of the dress detaches and it becomes an actually flattering above-the-knee number. The back is striped to resemble a jersey and there’s a visor. Alyssa loves the detachable bottom, Kristin prefers the look without the additional material, and Georgina appreciates the combination of fabrics.

Kini, the winner: A simple red top, cropped jeans, and a high-fashion take on a sort of oversized letterman’s jacket. The jacket is clearly where Kini spent his time this challenge – part of it is mesh, it’s pleated in the back, and it has dramatic poofy sleeves. Clearly, the judges love it.

Asha: A black play on a sports bra paired with a black skirt made to look like a converted baseball jersey. It’s straightforward and simple and pretty literal. Georgina likes it but doesn’t like the buttons. (She blames her unfamiliarity with baseball jerseys on her English-ness.) Isaac agrees about the buttons but thinks the look is clever, and Alyssa just wishes the top had been something more casual.

Bottom:

Ken: A white lace hooded sleeveless vest with black lace pockets over a simple red fitted above-the-knee dress. Georgina has trouble with the proportions of it and Isaac doesn’t appreciate that this is definitely a look he’s seen before. He says, “She has that stuff already, you know? And she didn’t pay very much for it.” I’m fine with the look considering Ken almost quit over it, and I really like the super-high side ponytail her hair is in.

Layana: A paneled bright blue legging and dark blue (black??) mesh sleeveless top with white leather sports bra-type top over it. Everyone agrees the leggings are impressive but they’re not necessarily right for this particular look or challenge. She probably should have stuck with her original casual top.

Sam: A white mesh on top of a short bright blue neoprene A-line cocktail dress with black lace sleeves and belt. Kristin and Alyssa love the dress but don’t think it’s right for the challenge. Isaac and Georgina would both wear the dress to a game because they don’t compromise on glamour.

So Kini wins with that gorgeous jacket. (We’ll see what this means for the next episode, considering his rival Sam was on the bottom.) And Layana, having been in the bottom one too many times, goes home. I’m going to miss her straightforwardness.

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