Fresh off the heels of his debut collection for QVC, "Project Runway" and "Project Runway All Stars" winner Seth Aaron Henderson is back to launch his new label, SA by Seth Aaron, with an all-new collection this September. Inspired by vintage '20s looks and '50s rocker chic, the line will feature structured silhouettes and intricate detailing in figure-flattering designs meant for all shapes and sizes.
You can get a peek at the items (some of which are available now!) below and over at QVC.com. Be sure to tune in to catch Seth Aaron present the looks himself on Monday, September 8 and Monday, September 15 at 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. EST. Items will be available for purchase on QVC.com and the QVC apps while supplies last.
Congratulations! Big victory for you. Second big victory, really. How does it feel?
I went there to win twice. The thing is, people always ask, "What are you gonna do with all your prizes?" Money comes and goes, deals come and go, but titles are forever. [Laughs] That was my number one goal: to win twice. I'm a huge competitor. That's what meant the most to me, to have two titles. Secondly, it's about business now. It's not about having the public know who I am; they already know that. It’s about building the business. So that's my main agenda: take me to the next level. Which QVC has helped me do.
This season had three winners return to compete, and that wasn't the case with previous editions of "All Stars." Did that change your outlook or strategy going into the competition?
When we [first arrive for filming], we don't know who's going to be there. I didn't know till the day of that Jeffrey and Irina were there.
Did you have an inkling, though?
No, because the producers are really good. They say, "We're going to up the game for 'All Stars.' We're going to bring you back and not tell anybody you’re coming." And so I had no clue until I walked out and saw them and I thought, "Oh, crap." But "All Stars" is different. I get asked if Jeffrey or Irina or I had an advantage but the entire cast is phenomenal and capable of winning. It's not like a regular season where you can eliminate three quarters of the cast in the first episode because they don't have what it takes. This cast, everybody has what it takes. So the game was upped. I had no advantage.
Three designers! Six looks each! Four days! We've reached the finale of the third season of "Project Runway All Stars," which means it's crunch time. Alyssa informs our trio that they'll be drawing inspiration for their final collections from their countries of origin: Elena from Ukraine, Korto from Liberia, Seth Aaron from Spain. And they'll do it in none other than the center of global politics, the United Nations headquarters in NYC.
The finalists chat with the delegates from their countries and do their sketching inside the UN building. For their time in the workroom, they get special help from their old pals Viktor, Christopher and Jeffrey. They also get a last-minute twist: Alyssa pops back in to announce that their collections must include a seventh look, at least half of which must be made from scarves they've been provided. Viktor has to talk Elena off the ledge after this little curveball, but she pulls it together.
The runway show takes place back at UN headquarters, which is pretty cool. Our guest judges are TV and magazine personality Gayle King and designer/"Project Runway" judge Zac Posen.
A vaguely otherworldly-looking collection, comprised of pieces that incorporate all of Elena's trademarks: Bold shoulders, color-blocking, mixed textures, interesting colors (in this case, greys, black, lavender, and pale yellow). Isaac likes the use of leather from knee to hem on Elena's pants. "Those are great pants if they fit," he says, "but they don't fit." Georgina also tempers praise with criticism, admiring Elena's bubble skirts but noting they might've better kept their shape if the fabric had been backed. Alyssa's issueand one that I hadn't thought of before but actually agree withis that Elena spends so much time on the design and construction of the top halves of her looks that the bottom halves often come across as an afterthought. She also brings up Elena's propensity for sticking with the same basic silhouette as a downside when presenting a collection. Elena takes it all in stride. No tears! She lands in third place.
Inspired by Korto's homeland of Liberia, her collection focuses on bright yellow prints interspersed with all-white ensembles. There's lots of love from the panel for Korto's golden opening gown, as well as her pieces' flexible wearability. "Korto allows a woman to be and to breathe," Georgina says, but then admits that this collection is a "bit of a mess," both in design and in construction. Isaac and Zac point out problems with tailoring. Isaac thinks even the structured pieces would look better without the belts. In the end, Korto is declared runner-up, and not for the first time: She came in second during her original season AND during the "All-Star Challenge" special in 2009.
Seth Aaron: Spain
A "very modern, very clean" collection (in Seth Aaron's words) based on a bright yellow, red, and gold color scheme. Georgina praises Seth Aaron's confidence with draping and color, and Gayle admires the back of Seth Aaron's opening look. "To me, the whole thing is a styling disaster," Isaac says, "but the clothes are great." Zac nitpicks the length of the pants in the collection but then he and Isaac geek over the arm hole detail in the short white dress. Plus Seth Aaron's scarf look gets the best reviews of the three finalists'. He's declared the winner! Making him the first "Runway" alum to claim the title for a regular season as well as a season of "All Stars."
I'll admit that of the three collections, Elena's was actually my favorite. All the things I harped on about her work this season were incorporated to great effect here, and her vision and aesthetic are so much clearer to me than either Korto's or Seth Aaron's. But what do you think? Are you happy Seth Aaron won? How much does it bum you out that Korto came in second place AGAIN? Of all the finale looks, which stuck out the most? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading and commenting all season!
Happy 2014, "All Stars" fans! We're back in the workroom for a Ready-to-Wear-focused challenge with our final four designers, Christopher, Seth Aaron, Korto and Elena.
The designers will have two full days (TWO FULL DAYS, hallelujah) to create a look for Michelle Smith's New York-based fashion label Milly. The looks must use Michelle's custom fabrics and retail for $400. The winning design will be sold to Milly's clientele, with profits supporting the charity Save the Garment Center.
In the Fashion District the designers meet with Michelle Smith, who outlines her line's edgy, feminine, "urban tribal" vibe. The fabric offerings seem to suit our remaining designers quite well, actually; Korto gravitates toward a loud colorful print while Elena snags a bunch of neon, and Christopher grabs vegan stretch leather, leaving Seth Aaron to go for polka dots. I'm happy that this particular brand-focused challenge won't infringe too much on the designers' ability to convey their personal aesthetics. "Remember that this will be on the runway," Michelle warns during her critique. "I have to be captivated."
An interesting aspect of this challenge is the constraint of meeting a retail price point, which means designing with the intention of keeping production costs low. Christopher bumps into a problem with this when he attempts to include two separate zippers in his black-and-white look. Seth Aaron and Elena remind him patiently that double the zippers means double the number of production lines, skyrocketing the cost. Christopher frowns and tries to find a cheaper workaround. Part of finding success in fashion is approaching creativity with a bit of a businessman's sensibility, Christopher![Insert Tim Gunn "Make it work!" clip here.]
Our guest judges are Michelle Smith, Kristin Chenoweth, and Nick Cannon.
Seth Aaron - A graphic black, white, and hot pink sleeveless dress with a flared circle skirt. The judges are split on the viability of the hot pink ruffle down the center, and Georgina questions exactly how commercial it could be, but it gives them a lot to like and a lot to talk about. Seth wins, securing his place in the season finale.
Elena - A sleek body-con dress with Elena's signature elaborate structured shoulder, subtle pale-lime-and-white color blocking, and a full-length zipper up the front. (You can zoom in on her smart juxtaposing of mesh and leather here.) Isaac digs the color scheme ("It's like chamomile ice cream") but Georgina says she would've preferred a matte white zipper or no zipper at all. Regardless, the panel is impressed. Elena's safe.
Christopher - A black and white leather dress with a tribal-print detachable sarong skirt. Michelle and Isaac both poo-poo the puffiness of the draped bodice, though everyone seems to appreciate the hard-and-soft combo Christopher was going for by including the sarong.
Korto - A relatively plain belted V-neck racerback dress in a striped print, edged around the top with black leather. "The Democrat in the back and the Republican in the front," Kristin says, and the rest of the panel agrees that the front is a little too conservative for the vibrancy of the back.
As if being in the bottom wasn't bad enough, Korto and Christopher are tasked with creating a brand new look from one or more of their previous "All Stars" designs. A remix, if you will. I'm not convinced this extra challenge is necessary! I'm confident the judges could have made their decision without putting both designers through the extra strain! But I do not make the rules. Christopher's remixed look is a one-shoulder blouse and belted skirt. Korto's is a drapey peplum top and a pencil skirt with a front zipper. The judges are charitable toward both (thank goodness; any further critique would have been even more unfair than the fact that they had to remix new looks to begin with), but ultimately decide that Korto's is good enough to advance her to the finale. That means Christopher's out.
We're finale-bound with Seth Aaron, Elena, and Korto. How do you feel about the final three? Do you think Seth Aaron's look best matched the Milly aesthetic? Would you have preferred to see Christopher advance to the final round? Who do you think will come out on top? Let me know in the comments.
Well, well, well, look who it is! I'm THRILLED to see Nina Garcia, who's always been one of my favorite parts of the "Runway" universe, back to participate in an "All Stars" challenge. I can hear the Nina haters gasping in horror, but seriously, I think she's fabulous. She struts on to the runway to inform the remaining designersKorto, Seth Aaron, Viktor, Elena, and Christopherthat five of StyleHaul's top vloggers (with a combined audience of over 6 million people, no big deal) will be flown in to act as the inspiration and models for our designers' looks this week. The looks have to incorporate the 2014 Pantone Color of the Year (a dusty pink-ish purple called Radiant Orchid) and should be indicative of what the designers think will be a top fashion trend next year.
The gang pairs up with their vloggers (all of whom are bubbly, excited, and game for anything. No divas! What a relief) for consultations, and then the work begins. Viktor flounders a bit with incorporating his personal aesthetic into his garment and Elena struggles to fit her work on a super petite model. Meanwhile, Christopher rebels against including the Pantone color in his design, opting instead for an Army green shade, relegating the Pantone color to an accessory.
Our guest judges are Nina (sitting in for Georgina), most revered "Runway" alum Christian Siriano, and designer Francisco Costa.
Korto - A sleek white pantsuit with foldover detailing on the vest that shows off a pop of the Pantone color underneath. Korto explains that she chose white to get away from the "color on crack" trends of the past few seasons. The panel rags on the choice of accessories, but the vest gets very war praise from everyone, and Francisco is very appreciative of Korto's decision to make pants in a challenge in which everyone else made skirts. Korto's our winner.
Seth Aaron - A very Elena-like black belted sheath dress with leather shoulder accents and seamed Radiant Orchid color-blocking. "It's not a lasting image," Isaac says. "What's the trend?" Francisco asks. Consensus: well made, confidently worn, but nothing new. Still, Seth Aaron is safe.
Elena - A super-structured geometric pink/black/white peplum jacket over a tight black miniskirt. This reads a lot more...constricting, I guess, on the runway than it did in the workroom, and Christian and Nina both comment on the strictness of the shape of the coat. But Elena's work with texture is praised, especially by Nina, who didn't see much of that from the designer during her original season. Elena's safe.
Christopher - A moss green lacey belted trench dress that Christopher calls "new vintage Paris soft military," a wordy description that actually does help clarify the whole look, to me and to Isaac. Nina and Christopher side-eye each other over the lace's debated resemblance to seaweed. Alyssa's offended (and I can't blame her) that Christopher's only effort to incorporate the Pantone color was by adding it as a clutch. He's in the bottom...but he's safe.
Viktor - A white leather jacket over a strapless black dress; the black fabric is torn and shredded a bit to reveal the Pantone color layered underneath. For Nina and Isaac, the jacket muddles the proportions of the whole look, but the panel likes the fabric technique on the dress. Unfortunately, that's not enough to keep him around: Viktor is out.
I'm not sure how to feel about the judging this week. For all of the flaws of Viktor's look, it was still more visually interesting and forward-thinking to me than Seth Aaron's dress. But I'm also much more curious to see Seth Aaron's final collection than Viktor's, and as we hurtle toward the season finale, that has to be a consideration beyond what the designers offer up in each challenge. Seth Aaron could very well be eliminated before he gets there, but I wonder if that was on the judges' minds at all this week.
What do you think? Did you buy Christopher's elaborate explanation for his garment? Who do you think best incorporated the Pantone color? Was Viktor's elimination warranted? Let me know in the comments.
It's a bit premature for me to start singing and dancing aggressively to "Final Countdown," but we've reached the point in the season when no designer is safe from final critique. This is where things start to kick into gear. ("Danger Zone" is actually a better song choice, now that I think about it. Karaoke, anyone?)
Our top sixIrina, Seth Aaron, Korto, Viktor, Christopher, and Elenacongregate to hear details about their next challenge. Elena lets out an endearing banshee shriek when Alyssa announces that they'll be flown by helicopter to QVC's studio in Westchester, PA, to meet with QVC program host Lisa Robertson.
Over the river and through the woods and the designers are in the lobby at QVC, where Lisa tells them they'll be designing red carpet looks for her to wear to the company's pre-Oscars gala. She stresses that the garment must look good on camera, in still photographs, and against a red carpet backdrop, AND that she have the ability to sit, stand, and move in it. "Easy!" Viktor fake-scoffs with a flick of his trusty fan. Isaac pops in to give some vague advice while they sketch ("Go for it"thanks, Isaac) and then the designers head back to NYC.
Things get real in the workroom when Viktor pulls aside Elena and Seth Aaron to tell them that he's HIV positive and has been for seven years. Viktor admits that he's only now comfortable with the idea of living more fully with his diagnosis, which means announcing it beyond the bubble of his relationship with his supportive partner. Viktor wrote an open letter on the topic that you can read here.
The trio gets back to work and Zanna arrives for critiques, which...don't go that well. Zanna announces that the work she's seen is not all-star quality, so the designers grimace collectively and hunker down to make their work more impressive.
Our guest judges are Lisa Robertson and Emmy-nominated actress Elisabeth Moss. Here we go:
Korto - A comfortable-looking, accessible empire-waist gown with a bright orange skirt (with pockets!), metallic sash and beige top draped asymmetrically in the back. The judging panel really likes this one, and Lisa notes that it's definitely a piece that would sell well to the average QVC customer. Korto gets the win.
Christopher - A navy mermaid gown with black leather trim, an elaborate navy tulle skirt and lots of chevron patterning on the bodice. Mondo calls the skirt "tortured" but this dress lands in the top of Elisabeth's and Lisa's scorecards for its attitude and good looks on the runway. It photographs less well than it looks in person is likely why Christopher is only safe this time around.
Seth Aaron - A short metallic gold number with a high-low V hem, black piping and thick black shoulder panels. Seth Aaron is confident, but the judges nitpick the hemline and the the fit on the bum. Elisabeth sticks up for it, citing the shininess and the length as things she likes in a red carpet look. Seth Aaron's safe.
Viktor - A slippery-looking olive green gown with elaborate bust cups and a train. Mondo jumps in to defend all the sorta-weird details that Isaac dislikes, including the (deeply unflattering, in my opinion) wing-like attachments running the front length of the skirt. Viktor's in the bottom, but he's safe.
Elena - A black and purple high-backed tank dress with ripped detailing along the sides and front. Elena made an effort to work with brocades instead of her usual neoprene, but the reptilian feel of the ripped fabric here is still very much in her wheelhouse, aesthetically. (That's a compliment! I like this dress a lot, though to my eye the proportions seem off.) No one hates it, but some of Elena's choices confuse the judges (Isaac calls it "dowdy, but good"), so she's in the bottom but she's safe.Irina - An elaborate leather-flower-flecked gown18 panels, boning, appliquethat photographs well but unfortunately reads WAY too "wedding" for a red carpet challenge. It doesn't help Irina's case that the fabric shows every flaw and that the dress rips up the side just before judging. The judges like the dramatic appeal of it, but everyone agrees that it would render its wearer practically immobile. And, again: too wedding. Irina's out.
Irina is the second contestant to get the boot after winning the previous challenge. Watch out, Korto!
How'd you feel about the parameters of this challenge? Whose look could you see on a red carpet? Whose look would you actually want to buy on QVC? And now that we're down to five designers, who do you expect will make it to the top? Let me know in the comments.
Deceptively simple challenges are my favorite part of "Project Runway," and I got the mother of all deceptively simple challenges this week, in every sense of the phrase.
Marge Simpson herself, matriarch of arguably the most influential TV family of all time on Fox's "The Simpsons," pops up on a TV screen to introduce the challenge to our remaining designers. The gang has to create a dress for Marge to wear on a special dinner date with Homer. The only real rule? No green -- she's worn enough green to last multiple animated lifetimes. Because it wouldn't be a "Simpsons" challenge without a sassy dig, she reminds the designers to take advantage of the accessories on the "Whoever's Sponsoring the Wall Now wall." High-five, Marge.
This task can be boiled down into one directive -- "Design a dress for Marge Simpson" -- but there's a lot at play. The design has to work on a real human model but it must also work with Marge's yellow skin and blue hair. It's gotta be fashion-forward while remaining appropriate for a middle-aged woman on a dinner date. It has to have runway appeal but it also has to translate into 2D animation. See? Deceptively simple. I love it.
Interestingly (or maybe not), the men seem to have the biggest issue in the workroom this week. While Korto, Irina, and Elena quickly settle into a groove with their designs, Seth Aaron, Jeffrey, and Christopher struggle to conceptualize an appropriate garment for a middle-aged woman to wear at a romantic anniversary celebration. Zanna has to talk Seth Aaron down from using polka dots, which sends him on a downward spiral in which he drapes FIVE potential gowns, all of them boring. Viktor, meanwhile, is creating a look that screams "safe" from the beginning: Acceptable and well made but definitely not worthy of a win. He's still stinging from landing in the bottom last week, I think.
Actress Abigail Breslin and alice + olivia founder and designer Stacey Bendet are our guest judges. Onward:
Irina - A royal purple strapless fitted cocktail dress with tea-length chiffon paneling draped from the bustline. Early in the episode Jeffrey calls it a "giant purple nightie" but it walks elegantly down the runway. Stacey thinks it's the most creative, Alyssa compliments the color choice, and the panel is impressed by the different silhouette. Irina wins her first challenge of the season, yay!
Elena - A red gown with a plunging back paired with a quilted black blazer. The dress is beautiful and red is a smart color choice for a character with yellow skin, but the jacket looks oddly bulky, and all of it is, again, so similar to things Elena has already created for this competition. The more the judges over-praise Elena's fine but unexciting work the more I reflexively dislike everything she makes.
Korto - A black one-shoulder dress accented by sheer panels at the shoulders. The fabric has an attractive muted shimmer to it. Everyone likes this dress, especially the sheer panel at the shoulder and the hemline, but it's not exciting enough (and not Marge-enough) to warrant a win. Korto's safe.
Christopher - A floral print strapless belted cocktail dress that Christopher compares to a '50s housewife ensemble but Alyssa compares to a sarong. No one likes the belt and Isaac nitpicks the bubbling at the waist. Stacey's a fan of the print. Christopher's safe.
Seth Aaron - A (yawn-worthy) billowy belted magenta gown. Seth Aaron talks a big game about it but none of the judges are buying it. Their adjectives include "boring" and "lazy" and "rushed." Isaac doesn't like when Seth Aaron insinuates that midwestern housewives deserve boring clothes. "That's the dress of fear, to me," he says of Seth Aaron's gown, arguing that a character like Marge could rise to any fashion occasion.
Jeffrey - A shimmery purple gown with wide pink lapels at the v-neck and a slit up the side, paired with a pearl necklace. Stacey thinks the dress has a "Boardwalk Empire" vibe but something about the pearls and the pastel tone reminds me of both "The Flintstones" and mermaids, for some reason. Jeffrey's choice of shoe is also deeply misguided. "You can't tell me that smart man doesn't know better," Alyssa smirks about the design. After weeks of inconsistency, the judges and Jeffrey have reached an impasse. Jeffrey's out.
Jeffrey and Seth Aaron share a tearful farewell, and that's the end of the road for our third-season champ. I've been disappointed by Jeffrey's output this season so it's sort of a relief to finally see him go.
Do you agree that it was Jeffrey's time to head out? Were you as impressed with Irina's silhouette as the judges were? Do you find Elena's work as repetitive as I do? Let me know in the comments.
Lifetime's premiering a four-hour, two-part Bonnie & Clyde miniseries starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger on December 8 and 9, and that's as good a reason as any to challenge the "Project Runway All Stars" designers to a '30s-inspired couples' fashion competition. The challenge: Design two complementary looks for a young modern coupleone male look, one female lookbased off the 1930s Bonnie & Clyde aesthetic. The designers must work in pairs, but only one person will win the challenge, which means only one person will be sent packing.
The designers are smart about pairing up. Christopher has first pick and he doesn't hesitate to choose Viktor, the designer with the most menswear experience. Strategy! Seth Aaron grabs Jeffrey, Irina picks Mychael, and Korto and Elena get thrown together by default.
I've been watching "Runway" long enough now to be wary of menswear challenges, which often turn out to be more trouble than they're worth. Contestants have a habit of biting off much more than they can chew design-wise, and the limited timeframe is not conducive to properly fitting all the pieces of a good menswear look together on a male model.
Jeffrey struggles with that point here. He's given a male model whose measurements are apparently a year old, which throws off Jeffrey's game something fierce. He yells. He throws stuff. Everyone in the workroom tenses up. During his season Jeffrey was infamously crabby, argumentative, and stubborn, so I bristled at what looks to be the beginning of a proper tantrum. But! BUT! Then he takes a voluntary time-out. When he returns to the workroom, he apologizes to everyone for freaking, then buckles down and gets back to work. And...that's it. That's it! What a pleasant surprise. Maturity is fabulous.
"Runway"/"All Stars" alum Austin Scarlett is sitting in for Georgina this week. He, Isaac, and Alyssa are joined on the judging panel by designer Elie Tahari (One of my favorite guest judges ever! He's so great!) and supermodel Bar Rafaeli. Here we gooooo:
Jeffrey - A knee-length, high-collared grey jacket over trousers. In the workroom Christopher calls this a James Bond villain look and once I hear that I can't un-see it. The judges, though, are all about it. Jeffrey gets raves for the wide-legged pegged pants, but the coat is the centerpiece. Jeffrey gets the win. Yay Jeffrey!
Christopher - A burgundy gown with a tan leather belted harness at the waist and sheer paneling in the skirt. Alyssa is (surprisingly!) the judge to voice my concern with this look, which is that it chops the model up horizontally in a way that's not totally flattering. The rest of the judges think it's gorgeous. Christopher's safe.
Irina - A black jacket with a massive collar and flared zip sleeves overtop a black-and-gold bustier and a golden tan skirt. Austin thinks it captures the spirit of the '30s more than the other designs, but Isaac says the proportions are wrong. There's some back-and-forth about the merits of the jacket, but Elie defends its inclusion, arguing that without it the judges would have felt the look was too simple. Irina's safe.
Seth Aaron - A very elaborate broad-shouldered purple skirt/jacket pairing with lots of streampunk-y leather details. Alyssa LOVES THIS LOOK (all caps is appropriate here, I promise; she's very enthusiastic). Elie thinks it's overdone. "It looks like an old silhouette from that era and we decorated it with pieces of leather," he says. Isaac thinks the leather yoke at the shoulders is good, but that the belt is a little much. Bar: "She's not feminine enough. She's not dangerous enough." And the clincher: "She's not Bonnie." Seth Aaron is safe, though.
Viktor - This look is so Viktor. A navy single-button suit (sans lapels) with fringe at the back of the jacket, black leather shoulder detailing, and a matching bowtie/pocket square combo, this one draws the judges' ire for having too much going on. Elie thinks Viktor is better dressed than the model, which is never good. Austin and Alyssa dislike the fringe. Viktor's safe, but barely.
Mychael - High-wasited black quilted trousers with a gold-and-black zip-up leather jacket. The judges are very frowny about this. Elie doesn't like the mix of leather and gold"It takes it too costume-y"and Isaac agrees, saying he feels like the look is more evocative of the '80s than the '30s. Mychael is out.
I'm sad to see Mychael go! He's a talented, very likable guy. But this is "All Stars" and them's the breaks.
What are your thoughts on this "couples' challenge"? Were there any designers you would've preferred to see work together? Which team's looks worked best as a pair? Do you think Jeffrey deserved the win? Let me know in the comments.
It's not a real season of "Project Runway" until the designers are forced to make fashion (or something approximating it) out of distinctly unfashionable materials, so we find ourselves once again at the Unconventional Materials Challenge. The designers pile onto a bright yellow school bus that shuttles them to P.S. 212 in midtown Manhattan. At first they suspect their clients might be kids, but Alyssa's on hand to let them know that the real challenge is to create "high-impact runway fashion" using materials that would normally be found in a school. This is as good a time as any to lower your expectations.
The group has four minutes to grab everything they think they'll need to create a look. The classroom turns into a ransacked hellscape pretty quickly as they rummage through school supplies. There are crayons all over the floor, rulers being thrown through the air, glitter and pencils as far as the eye can see. The free-for-all continues in the workroom, where the designers discover that this undertaking is considerably more difficult than it sounded at the outset. Elena criest to Zanna, again, because it's all very overwhelming. "This isn't novelas," Viktor says, exasperated. "Stop crying!"
But Mychael understands her pain. "The materials, they just suck," he says. A "make it work" attitude is a major tenet of "Runway," but seriously, there's only so much ANY designer can do with (a) a severely limited amount of time, (b) no real fabric, and (c) stubborn, hard-to-manipulate materials. "Did you have fun?" Alyssa chirps before the start of the runway show. "No," Elena answers sullenly. I feel you, girl.
Anyway, let's talk runway. Our guest judges are hilarious actors Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Urie.
Christopher - A warrior-esque black number made from binders, toy magnets, and scissors. Christopher tries to explain the anti-bullying message behind the look but the judges aren't really here for it. "Who hasn't been bullied?" Isaac scoffs. But the panel likes it anyway. Christopher gets the win.
Elena - Round four of Elena's typical output: Sheath-y, color-block-y, strong shoulders, details at the bust. It's made from rulers, binders, and protractors. The judges really like it. Isaac calls the bust "Mansard roof goes safari pocket" in a complimentary way. Georgina's less impressed but can't deny the garment is good.
Viktor - A geometric patterned dress of rubber bands and thumb tacks surrounded by fringe made from rulers. Michael calls it "timeless." Gabourey delightfully admits that she judges clothing based on whether or not Beyonce would wear it, and that this look definitely fits the criteria.
Mychael - A dress made from construction paper and jump ropes that totally looks like a dress made from construction paper and jump ropes. Gabourey notices the detail in the bustier and Isaac approves of the color scheme but otherwise...meh.
Korto - "Oh, god. Don't judge me," Korto mutters as her look takes to the runway. It's a halter top with a mini skirt made from rubber bands, bean bags, and rulers, and while the top is nicely detailed, the skirt is a mess. Isaac calls out the proportions and Georgina doesn't even say anything, just sort of gestures at it and says, "You know." Korto does indeed know that this is awful.
Jeffrey - Floor mats, folders, and jump ropes make up this look, which Jeffrey says is supposed to be "anime girl in a sundress mid-twirl." "I'm not sure it fits?" Michael asks, perplexed. Jeffrey gets defensive. The judges note that the garment barely covered the model's body and Jeffrey can't argue with that.
The judges hem and haw over the bottom three looks, all of which seem to settle at the same level of bad-ness. Finally Alyssa announces that all three designers are safe.
My real question: How did Irina's look not land her in the top? It's floofy and uber-feminine, perhaps bordering on the arts-and-crafts aesthetic they were warned against, but it also looks like real clothing, which is more than I can say for the other safe look that belonged to Seth Aaron.
What do you think? Should someone have gone home, and if so, which of the bottom three most deserved it? Were you as crabby as Elena was when Viktor cribbed her design idea? Did you appreciate that this was a proper unconventional materials challenge or do you think the designers should have had access to more fabric options? Let me know in the comments.
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.