Season 15, Episode 5 Recap: Your Mascara is Running

I was going to call this episode “There’s No Crying in Fashion,” but then realized I’d already used that title in a previous season. The episode started off and being makeup-centric, then became team-centric and finally became emotion-centric as there were an exorbitant number of tears shed.

The makeup sponsor, Mary Kay cosmetics, is setting the tone for this two-team challenge. Luis, the Artistic Director of MK, explains briefly how Mary Kay has always stood for empowering the entrepreneurial spirit in women, evidenced in the way the company is structured. My interpretation of the challenge suggests that as a factor in designing the collections. However, often times the sponsor or guest will describe the challenge slightly differently from the way Tim does, and moreover, the way the judges perceive it. On more than one occasion when I competed on “Project Runway” and “All Stars,” I felt there were some conflicting messages sent with regards to the focus of the challenge.

Here, Tim instructs the designers to design a cohesive mini-collection – based on ANY concept- consisting of four looks. They are to pitch the concept to some “mystery” investors who each have $1,000 of “Mood money” to invest. This is where I got excited. I thought, having been through the perils of having my own line, that this was an extremely relevant challenge to being out there in the fashion industry trenches and trying to build your business. Whether it is to a potential buyer, customer, press agent, media outlet, or investor, you have to be able to answer important questions pertaining to your line, target customer, and business model. Many young designers don’t get this and it is imperative for success. The business side of fashion is actually MORE important than the actual product. When the “mystery investors” were revealed, am I the only one who rolled my eyes? What a downer. I was expecting them to be several CEOs, “sharks” and perhaps fashion designers OUTSIDE of the “Project Runway” family. While Heidi, Zac and Nina posed pertinent questions, a fresh outlook from some real investors would have been so much more interesting.

Each team of six pitches to the “investors.” Alex seems like a natural, and is well-spoken and presented, however, the investors are not too impressed with the team’s “advanced career woman” concept. I am on the fence about this. While I feel there is always room for better “career” clothing, and when it comes to sellability, it is not a bad idea, for “Project Runway” it is a bit lackluster. Dexter presents Team Button Bag’s pitch which is a collection targeted at the entrepreneurial yet more free-spirited “tech” professional. Dexter also gave an effective pitch, which apparently was way more effective than that of Team Unity. Here’s where I’m going to come back around to my theory of conflicting directions for these challenges. It seems that both teams interpreted what Luis said about Mary Kay and really clung to the words “entrepreneurial” and “empowering.” This translated into “career” for both teams, however, Team Bouton (advanced from Button Bag) targeted a younger demographic and had more fun with it, which always translates to more exciting, and ultimately eye candy for the judges.

In the end, Unity only received $800 in Mood money, while the investors awarded Bouton with $2200. A real zinger for this challenge is that AT LAST a sponsor is awarding designers with a cash prize. EACH designer in the winning team receives $5,000 from Mary Kay – awesome!

TEAM UNITY seemed to be a dream team from the moment Rik selected his first teammate. I was concerned about the egos in that ensemble, but in the end they really worked well together and were creating a cohesive collection from the start. What went wrong? For one thing, their fabric choices. The use of metallic pewter fabric was overkill and took the career element away from the collection. I was also not crazy about the printed textile the team chose. Was it floral? I could almost like it if it was more abstract and artsy somehow. It almost became a cocktail collection, but not quite, leaving it as neither-here-nor-there and “who is wearing that and where is she going?” for some of the looks. I don’t have a problem with the “somber” color palette, but it did feel a bit mono. A couple more pops of either white, a colored accent (i.e. top under a jacket), or even styling could have helped. My favorite piece in this collection, hands down, was Mah-Jing’s vest, which while dark, had so many interesting pieces and panels to it. I have been a fan of Roberi’s work so far, but the top he made to go under Natalia’s jacket was strange and incongruent with the rest of the collection with that wavy cut edge hem. Look 1 (by Cornelius and Rik) was close but something was off with the proportions for me. I wish the jacket had been longer, more like a menswear tailored blazer. Sadly Alex was eliminated for his metallic denim dress, which to me was a bit ill-fitting and didn’t feel fresh or modern. It’s a spin on the Lanvin/Roland Mouret dress everyone’s been knocking off for years now. Still, the way Alex handled the elimination and the fact act he surrendered himself to the wolves was very noble and respectable and shows much about his character.

TEAM BOUTON, which I thought was going to be a train wreck, pulled through and won the challenge, with Dexter as the winning designer. However, I am still not all that impressed at the collection as a whole. They certainly started off with a lot of weak looks and ideas which were not cohesive with each other at all. Not mincing words here, but several of the designers on this team (in my mind) are some of the weaker ones this season. I could still see that in the results of the collection. I did not care for the acid yellow as such a dominant color. How is Nina calling this collection versatile? Erin, the embellishment queen, seems to be obsessed with yellow. It’s only Episode 5 and this is the second time she’s used it. She also is obsessed with beaded elements, and it was a smart move for Dexter to carry that over to his suit (which, I might add, limits its versatility). Erin’s coat was fun, but I don’t really see many women running out to buy it and it becoming a go-to piece in their closet. But again, what the judges ultimately respond to are the “wow” moments and the runway appeal. The other “wow” moment was Laurence’s leather jacket. Nicely done in such a short amount of time, but I will say I hated it paired with the acid yellow pencil skirt which Tasha made. That look (to me) would have been much more elegant paired with perhaps a beige ponte knit pencil skirt with some leather trim or, hey, even some embellishment. Last, and maybe least, is the beige dress which apparently took two people to make (!!), Jenni and Brik. We have seen it before but it is what it is: the weakest players in the team challenge skate through because their team won, overall. It’s a bit frustrating. Not only was this the weakest look (too short, rather plain), but two people made it. I wonder if they contributed to anything else? Good on you, Brik, Jenni and Tasha, for earning $5,000 for making a plain pencil skirt and a ponte dress!

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