Season 15, Episode 9 Recap: Chapter 9

The designers start out this episode in the workroom rather than on the runway. Perhaps Heidi wasn’t available. Tim walks in with an unfamiliar face and begins his introduction. As usual, all I can think is, “Okay, who’s the sponsor this week?” The last thing I expected was to hear it is AARP (formerly standing for American Association of Retired Peoples, now an organization for the over-50 crowd —for those viewers under 40 who have no idea)! The guest is the SVP of brand integration (whatever that means…basically their marketing person). She announces the direction of the challenge which is “starting a new chapter in one’s life.” This is the cue for the “clients” to enter, and we quickly realize they are a friend or family member of each of the designers. What I think is odd is that several of them are not over 50. If it was not possible to bring in friends or family all over 50, I would have preferred the “clients” be, for example, senior citizens who all need makeovers, a fresh start or change in their look. How fun would it have been to give a 70 year old woman a fresh look? 60 is the new 50! For me, in general the “new chapter” theme seemed like it did not and would not apply to everyone, hence watered down. It quickly became evident that not all the women were embarking on such. I am sure there are many older women out there to bring on the show who have had a big shift in their lives recently (loss, divorce, change of career, retirement, etc…), and could use a pick-me-up.

That said, I love that AARP are generous enough to award not only the winning designer a whopping $25,000 prize (certainly the largest in the history of the show), but also to their loved one! Now THAT’S a sponsor. It’s a feel-good challenge for sure, but again, somehow the “friends” of the designers don’t seem as impactful as their moms (where are the grandmothers?). Again, this is a big prize so I would have liked to see more viable and believable “clients.”

ROBERI produced great, high-scoring work again this week. The dress fit his client, his best friend, perfectly. She is a graphic designer and Roberi selected appropriately arty and graphic textiles and mixed prints successfully (tricky to do well). The colors were gorgeous as well. Everything about this entry was a success. I sincerely hope that these ladies get to keep their outfits!

JENNI on the other hand was eliminated for the sad, ill-fitting look she made her mom. It sounded like her mom really didn’t have any “next chapter” to speak of in her life, and came across as a woman of leisure. I feel that Jenni, being so young, does not have enough practice making clothing for “real” bodies. Even though her mom has a great figure, Jenni struggled with fit and proportion big time. On top of it, the entire ensemble was odd and did not suit her client. The hair and makeup also wasn’t complementary to the type of outfit she was going for, which, as one of the judges pointed out, seemed more like something Jenni would wear, not her mother.

DEXTER’s client was his bestie, an appropriately trendy/edgy girl who looks like she would hang out with him! She had the figure to pull of just about anything, which bodes well for Dexter as he designed a rather futuristic sweater. I like that he chose a dark green instead of predictable black, and a bright color would look too ravey. His entry was safe. Let’s face it, he had it easy with his bestie and basically designing whatever he wanted for her. Not sure she had much say in the matter!

RIK was very touched to be able to make his mom look great. Seems to me this was one of the ONLY examples of a true “next chapter.” She says she doesn’t wear dresses often and is going back to school to further her career and get a better job. So Rik wanted to create something feminine and professional for her. He certainly succeeded! The winning look was not only perfectly suited to his mom, but totally appropriate for where she’s headed in her life. It was clear he put a lot of thought into making this outfit for her, with sweet details such as hand-done topstitching which references their heritage and culture, and the heart appliqué on her chest. Congratulations to two highly deserving people!

ERIN received a low score but made it through. Her super kooky and incongruent dress and coat ensemble which she made for her mother was bizarre. The dress was baby blue embellished (of course) with excessively lacy appliqué work. It was like Anthropologie on steroids. Not really sure who would wear this but MAYBE Erin herself could get away with it to attend a spring wedding. The grey cocoon coat was a total disconnect from the dress in that the shape was super modern, minimalist and plain. And grey. Sorry, but her mom just kinda looked silly in it. (Of COURSE she’s going to say she likes it–it’s her daughter’s design!) I guess anything looks good to her outside of Utah, where she claims the shopping is terrible.

CORNELIUS’ client was his mom and he designed a somewhat kooky printed ensemble as well. However, he was safe and there was a bit of whimsy to it. The fit was rather abysmal though… How hard is it to fit a basic pencil skirt?

LAURENCE’s client was her daughter. I wasn’t super clear on what her next chapter is, but also, again, I felt these “clients” should have been women who have traveled a longer path in life, especially since AARP is sponsoring. Thus, I guess it was somewhat of a throwaway challenge for Laurence since (let’s face it) they aren’t going to give the win to a look for a 20- something. This is the cutest chicest mother/daughter combo I’ve seen in a long time! However, Laurence’s design just kinda fell short for me. “Meh.”

MAH-JING had been estranged from his mother (it sounded like), so it was nice to see him excited to reconnect and do something for her. She is a musician/hip-hop performer and is starting her own record label. Mah-Jing created a strong look inspired by Japanese origami (his mom’s idea), which ended up being cool and edgy and reminded me a bit of Rick Owens. Perhaps it was not the most flattering, but certainly distinct.

NATHALIA’s client, also her mom, has an upcoming trip to Paris as her “next chapter.” So Nathalia designed a black and ivory cocoon coat which was stiff and swallowed her mom’s petite frame up. The pants were not well fitting either, hence she received a low score. I feel similarly about Nathalia as I do about Jenni, that she needs more time and experience to hone her POV as a designer. Hate to say but I think her days may be numbered.

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