Season 3, Episode 2: The Hall of Biodiversity
Time for a field trip! Alyssa herds the designers into the cavernous Museum of Natural History to present their second challenge. Drum roll: The designers will choose one of ten insects/arachnids to inspire an avant-garde look. The look should somehow incorporate the insect's color, shape, texture, and movement. It's a sign of confidence in these designers that they'll be expected to produce something avant-garde this early in the season (and in ten hours, no less). Or maybe this is a kind of punishment? You decide!
Apparently some of the insects and arachnids are deadly, "So don't open those jars," Alyssa notes. Way to toss off the most important instruction as an afterthought, Alyssa! Elena chooses first, then the rest of the designers scamper off to the Hall of Biodiversity (that's a name that deserves to be bellowed at the top of your lungs in an echo-y room, right? THE HALLLLL OF BIODIVERSITYYYY) to pick their beasts.
The designers get to use their real workspace this week, happily, and it's a good thing it's bigger than Mood because their insects and arachnids come along for the ride. We get a lot of footage of Elena being utterly bizarre, laughing one minute and letting out a blood-curdling scream the next over struggles with her design. We also see Melissa have a bit of a meltdown after Zanna's critique; she chucks her design and starts over with just hours to go. Between Melissa and Elena it's like someone left the kitchen sink running: Tears for years. (I mean, Mychael switches his ideas around after his critique as well, but he's not nearly as shaken up by it.) Everyone else seems more or less confident in their work.
Our guest judges this week are Season 9 champ Anya Ayoung-Chee and prominent jewelry designer and CFDA nominee Jennifer Meyer.
Mychael - His grey and electric-green neoprene dress, based off a worm, has a kind of ripply outer cocoon shell. Everything about this one works for the judges, from the fabric choice (soft and expensive-looking) to the Chanel-like length of the skirt. Mychael gets the win, and he looks pleased as punch about it.
Irina - An elaborate fringe-y gown with a massive poufed skirt that Irina herself compares to a duvet. Alyssa notes that the curves of the skirt mimic the movement of a millipede and Anya likes the mix of textures. Irina was smart not to adhere too closely to her bug's yellow-and-black color scheme; the judges love the drama of the look and the quality of its construction. Irina's safe.
Elena - A warrior-esque black, orange, and yellow zip-up dress with green and red painted details inspired by a grasshopper. This silhouette/design is such a literal interpretation of Elena's BUG and so very Elena (at least half of the looks she made during her season were uber-symmetrical dresses with structured shoulders) that it doesn't strike me as particularly avant-garde, but the judges really like it. Elena's safe.
Jeffrey - In the workroom, Christopher compared this to the leg lamp from "A Christmas Story," and when it walks the runway the comparison seems even more apt. The one-shoulder top is paired with trousers with one red leg, a hood, and a lampshade-esque wrap-around piece. Jeffrey jumps to defend his look against a panel of judges who seem utterly perplexed by it. There's a real difference of opinion here about how wearable an avant-garde look should be. "This is an avant-garde look. I didn't know I was supposed to make an avant-garde outfit," Jeffrey says. "Well, it's clothes, in the end," Isaac replies. Anya: "I think she could be a backup dancer for Lady Gaga. I think your look should be the star of the show." Isaac basically throws up his hands, but admits that Jeffrey's "poise in presenting the project intimated me, a little bit, into liking it more." Anya argues that had Jeffrey not defended his work, the panel would have nothing to say about it. (Sidebar: Anya brought her A-game to the judging this week.) Jeffrey lives to see another challenge: He's safe.
Melissa - The judges like Melissa's black felt dress with spidery straps sheer paneling, but they concur that it's not nearly avant-garde enough for an avant-garde challenge. "I thought it was a very beautiful little black dress," Jennifer says. "There is NOTHING avant-garde about a little black dress," Alyssa counters. Based on her workroom freakout I'm sure Melissa agrees with that criticism, actually. She's safe, though.
Daniel - Lots of brown: Short brown strapless dress, sheer brown paneling, billowy brown train. Daniel explains that he wanted the look to be "armor-esque but docile at the same time." Isaac dislikes the unflattering fabric covering the model's throat. Georgina compliments the attitude of the train but doesn't think that matches at all with the vibe of the front of the dress. Anya thinks the choice of lamé and plastic-y fabrics cheapens the whole look. "If your fabric choices are these," she follows up later, "that speaks to a taste level you can't teach someone." Daniel is out.
I'm a little surprised that Daniel was eliminated over Melissa this week. Setting aside their past work on "Runway" -- based on that criterion, Melissa is the stronger competitor, easy -- I thought Daniel's look better approximated the spirit of the challenge than Melissa's ho-hum black dress with its weird furry backpack. Plus, Melissa was on the bottom last week. On the other hand, I doubt Daniel would have made it much further, so cutting him this soon doesn't hurt much.
What do you think? Should Melissa have gone home instead of Daniel? Do you think Jeffrey's look deserved more praise or less? Do insects freak you out or inspire you? Let me know in the comments.