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Bert Keeter Blog

Who Knew Ivana Trump Was Avant-Garde?

By laurareineke Fri., Oct. 5, 2012 ,4:39 am EDT

We are down to the final elimination prior to Fashion Week. I am PRAYING for a challenge that allows the designers to exhibit who they really are as true fashion designers. The last few challenges have blurred any cohesive vision they may have wished to present to the judges. Dance hall costumes and baby clothes don't quite do it.

Heidi greets the designers on the runway wearing — never mind, I'm not going there. She reminisces about this season. From 16 designer hopefuls to these remaining five is quite an accomplishment.

I get excited for the designers when Heidi says she is sending them to a “far, far, far away place." Wow, are they going to Europe or some exotic land? Sorry. The designers are loaded into mini vans and driven about 40 miles to meet Mr. Gunn on the sprawling grounds of Oheka Castle (and by the way, we NEVER get to see a glimpse of its interior). Dmitry should have brought his garden gnome along from the last challenge. It would have lent a whimsical note to this somewhat uptight landscape.

We meet Billy B. from L'Oreal Paris who introduces us to their new makeup line, Electric Fantasie. There are four makeup groups for four "leading ladies." They are the Enchanted Queen, the Seductive Temptress, the Wise Mystic and the Artsy Muse. Aren’t we short a lady?

Mr. Gunn announces that each designer will be given one leading lady to serve as his or her muse for this, the long-awaited avant-garde challenge! Melissa can't contain herself: This is what she has been waiting for all season. Personally, I feel the term "avant-garde" is almost meaningless in fashion today, what with established houses like Alexander McQueen and Rick Owen turning shocking and unusual into the expected norm.

The Remy Martin Cognac button bag holds the names of the five designers. One day I would like to actually see the names on these buttons as they are being called. I'm just saying! The Enchanted Queen goes to Fabio. Next the Seductive Temptress to Sonjia. Dmitry receives the Wise Mystic, perfect for him. Artsy Muse falls to Melissa, also a great match. Christopher, chosen last…hmmm…gets to choose ANY of the leading ladies. I told you we were short a lady or two. He selects the Enchanted Queen. Christopher states he will be head-to-head with Fabio in proving who is the better Enchanted Queen. Take “enchanted” out of the title and honey, it's all yours!

They are given 45 minutes to sit outside in the summer heat, be inspired, sketch, then back into the vans. Almost as exciting as that trip to Europe. NOT! They have two days and $400 for this challenge. Mr. Gunn, with the wave of a finger, emphasizes that this challenge will decide who among them moves forward to Fashion Week. We know.

Dmitry focuses on the castle's architecture for his Wise Mystic. Sonjia has her mind on a sexy Seductive Temptress, revealing and complex. Christopher is turning his Enchanted Queen into a dark and evil villain. Apparently he feels huge hips and an hourglass shape are a sign of evil. I just hope for his sake that Kim Kardashian isn't the guest judge for this challenge. Melissa appears to be doing her funnel-neck-collared-short-cropped-jacket-we-have-seen-it-before look again! No stretch of the imagination there. Fabio, who I feel is the most ethereal of the five, is developing a personality for his Enchanted Queen: Strong on the outside but frail on the inside. Structured but sheer.

At MOOD the designers head off for the most important fabric selection of their lives. This is make it or break it time. Christopher is sure his Queen will out Queen Fabio. Sonjia is selecting a gold lame and emerald green moire taffeta. Very glam and potentially seductive. Melissa picks up the "whining baton" dropped by the sorely missed Elena. She is still moaning over not getting the Enchanted Queen and its dark palette. She doesn't work with "these colors". Awww…poor designer person.

Back at the nearly empty workroom, Mr. Gunn enters and states something about the judges expecting them to produce "two months' of work" in these two days. What the hell does that mean? Please elaborate! (He doesn't.)

Tragedy strikes in Seductive Temptress Land. Sonjia's gold lame fabric was apparently left behind at MOOD. Will we ever know really how this occurred, since the designers hand off their bags to production assistants upon leaving MOOD? How very odd. Maybe there will be a twist in this challenge allowing one more trip to buy fabric? Sorry, no such luck for Sonjia as there was for Anya in Season 9. I am impressed by Sonjia’s ability to immediately re-think her plan of action and move on with the challenge. Good job!

Critique time arrives. Melissa is doing her usual leather components. Nice, but hardly pushing any boundary except repetitiveness! Christopher is working on his foundation, which he appears to be executing extremely well. Mr. Gunn has a somewhat pained expression on his face but makes no comment. Dmitry is working on a jacket and skirt. I like the shape of the triangular sleeve but feel the jacket has way too many details. I agree with Mr. Gunn on this one — I don't see anything remarkable or overly exciting about Dmitry’s look. Fabio is deep in the enchanted forest with his queen. He has a LOT going on. A whole hell of a lot! He receives a not-so-positive critique, but fortunately he takes it to heart and re-thinks his look.

Sonjia is next. With the loss of her gold fabric she has managed to create the beginnings of what could be a dramatic runway look. The emerald green moire taffeta alone with plain nude mesh to control the top is a statement of confidence and restraint. Love it. I just hope she will continue the organic elements from the top into the skirt.

The next day arrives and the designers contemplate what lies ahead. Christopher states "avant-garde is a lot of work...It's a month’s work in two days". Why? What makes avant-garde any different from the next category? It’s drama for drama's sake. Lets get to the workroom. Fabio has reworked his coat into a much more interesting silhouette. Dmitry's jacket apparently didn't have enough details so he is adding a detachable collar. Just three hours to go.

Mr. Gunn arrives for his final critique. Finally the word "epiphany" is uttered. About time! We can't go through an entire season without that word being said! Mr Gunn is amazed at the transformation of Fabio’s drab coat into something “buoyant and sculptural". Not only that, but you can wear it upside down. A total epiphany, for sure. Melissa is on track and on schedule. Mr. Gunn leaves her to work on her to-do list, oddly without comment about her design. Mr. Gunn doesn’t see the avant-garde in Sonjia’s look but rather a "student project." Maybe after looking at all the other crap in the room Mr. Gunn can't see the beauty and restraint in her design. Christopher makes it very clear he has absolutely no idea what the hell avant-garde really means. None! His look reminds me of “Gunsmoke” saloon owner Miss Kitty! Dmitry's look also falls way short of meeting this challenge. It’s more extreme 1980's "ladies who lunch" suiting than anything avant-garde.

Thankfully runway day arrives. Mr. Gunn enters the workroom to once again mention that today is the day the decision will be made regarding who goes on to Fashion Week and who doesn't. No pressure, okay? On the runway Heidi introduces this week's guest judge, Zoe Saldana, who was a guest judge just last season. Is there a shortage of guest judges out there?

First on the runway is Melissa's look with the same vest she did in the baby challenge. Who new she was being avant-garde all along? The floor-length skirt is not particularly well executed or flattering. Next is Fabio's model, who unfortunately removes the jacket way too soon. I don’t love the braided top and sheer palazzo pants. The jacket on a cleaner, slimmer look could be interesting. Not flattering, but interesting. Dmitry is next and now I see who his Wise Mystic inspiration was: Ivana Trump! The wide shoulders, odd removable collar, sheer back "V" on the jacket, the tight-fitting short skirt with nine thousand different hemlines and sheer side panels, and even the French twist hair styling are all classic Ivana at her most Trump-ish. In my book, this is really tacky. Sonjia's emerald and nude gown follows and it is a breath of clean fresh air. The draped green bodice, floating on the nude illusion is modern and minimal. My only critique is that I would have liked a stronger and more unconventional skirt. Now back to Christopher’s “Miss Kitty in saloon funeral attire on ‘Gunsmoke’”. (Who died? Chester or Doc?) While this design is well executed — I actually like the back corset detailing — it is basically a costume, padded hips and all.

Before we get to the judging I have to remark on the huge styling opportunity missed by all the designers by not creating any hairstyles that would enhance their avant-garde designs. Not one look was anything striking or out of the ordinary.

Now to the judging and the final offing! Sonjia with her Seductive Temptress is first to be critiqued. This is one of the looks that would have benefited from a more exaggerated hair styling. Heidi loves the color and the concept. She sees it on the red carpet, as do I. Her only negative is that she'd like to see the mesh match the model's skin color better. No problem. Heidi asks Nina for her opinion. Nina sees green as the color of envy and not temptation. We need a new script writer for Nina. She is way too smart to make such a dumb statement willingly. MK pushes his way in with his usual barrage of cliche comments: "Ice skating costume for Nancy Kerrigan skating through a banquet hall"...no, wait, it’s "banquet napkins and a table cloth that just blew all over her.” And he doesn't know any woman that would want that much Spanx-y illusion on their back. Comedian Kors isn't done yet. Now he’s impersonating an old woman. Not much of a stretch there! Saldana feels it is incomplete. Actually, she would look amazing in this gown just the way it is. Sonjia definitely could have gone further with this technique. Nonetheless, it's a beautiful, modern and sophisticated design.

Next is Christopher, whose description of his inspiration I find really boring and lame. Padding and overlay? That’s a detail, hardly an emotional description of his Enchanted Queen's persona. But he really enjoys it, so I'm happy for him. MK likes the makeup. Heidi likes the nail polish. Okay, what about the design? MK feels it's a little "goth-Victorian" and a bit costume-y. He adds that it's a couture dress in two daaaays! A lot of yapping about the bust being too small from MK and Saldana. Nina feels there are a few to many ideas on this design. They go on and on about the bust being too flat but not one single reference to this design being AVANT-frigging-GARDE or not.

Dmitry’s Wise Mystic lived in a castle (actually, it was Trump Tower). Heidi thinks it is amazing. There are angles she has never seen before. Could there be a reason for that? Saldana feels the sleeves are stunning, but unfortunately they get lost amid the dozen or so other details in this look. The only thing that is troubling MK are the shoulders and the “Vampira neckline”. We all know MK’s aesthetic and this is not it! Saldana nails it with her Chippendales comment. Nina states that the details are incredible and the work impeccable. Where's that new script writer?

Enchanted Queen #2, please step up. At least Fabio has a vision for his queen: Conflicted image and soul. He accomplished it. His overall look is a bit "Lord of the Rings" for me, but I do see his direction. The re-worked jacket is the strongest piece. The underpinning and pants are definitely costume-department worthy. Heidi and Saldana are not feeling this look. MK is not loving the palazzo pant. They flip the jacket upside down t lots of oohs and aahs. Nina loves the jacket. I say let’s see her wear it.

This painful runway critique continues with Melissa's Artsy Muse. Where did L'Oreal dig up these names? I can just see a customer walking up to the L'Oreal counter and asking for the "Enchanted Queen.” Imagine the possibilities! I guess the third time is the charm with Melissa’s vest. MK loves it. He finds the idea of separates thrilling. Say what? The skirt he finds interesting and flattering? No, MK, this is the table cloth that flew out the window at the banquet you were at earlier! The front is too long and the slit opening is a mess. Nina continues this song and dance, stating that she loves the vest and collar. She does recognize the issues with the skirt. Heidi is not drinking the Kool-Aid. She does not know which outfit is more ugly, Melissa's or Fabio's. It’s definitely a toss-up. Saldana likes it. Yeah, she'd look super in this. Maybe in Avatar 2.

Well, I have one or two I would definitely send home. My two least favorites were Melissa's and Dmitry's. Melissa because we have seen so much of this same jacket/vest thing from the beginning of this season all the way through to the end. Dmitry because his design was dated and the taste level questionable. Chippendales? Vampira?

I love it when they are asked who they would take with them to compete against at Fashion Week. Hello, pick the weakest links, kids. You want to win!

Unfortunately, Sonjia is sent home. Her design captures the best qualities of her muse, Seductive Temptress. It’s understated, glamorous, sexy, mysterious. She was totally robbed of her spot at Fashion Week!

The final tragedy is that Dmitry's homage to excess and dated tackiness wins.

Not the judges’ shining hour in this season, by a long shot. Enough said!