Season 15 Premieres September 15 at 9/8c

Mila Hermanovski's Blog

It's All About the Shoes

By kim_messina 08/30/2013 04:38AM GMT

For this seasonʼs Marie Claire challenge, the designers take a field trip to the styling closet full of shoes, where Anne Fulenwider, the new editor-in-chief (who replaced Joanna Coles), makes her television debut. I must say she is no Joanna. When I first heard that she was leaving MC to go to Cosmopolitan, I thought it must be because Nina wanted her job! But sadly Nina wasnʼt promoted, and they brought in Anne, who was previously at Brides magazine and Vanity Fair. Is it me, or would Nina not have been a more appropriate choice than a Bridal editor? But what do I know about the editorial hierarchy...?

I digress...back to the SHOES. The designers are told to select a pair of shoes from the massive array in the closet....oh wait, *psych*! They can only choose from a select area within the closet, a choice of about 10-12 pair, it seems. The shoes are to serve as the source of inspiration, and basically the challenge is to design an outfit FOR the shoes. But why didnʼt they have to use shoes from the Belk wall (kidding!)? In lieu of the old velvet bag to decide the order in which the designers get to select their shoes, Tim gives them a fashion quiz! I love this twist as it does sort of separate the dedicated fashion designer from (well, the NOT so dedicated). You really do need to know at least some important moments in fashion history and fashion popular culture to be a respectable designer, in my book. It is important to not only know the significance of fashion movements in history, but also be aware of that which is happening in contemporary fashion and pop culture. Miranda fails and gets to choose last.

Iʼve noticed recently that the show covers a lot more of the workroom processes, which I think a lot of viewers have wanted to focus on more so than "life outside the workroom." I for one am not sad that we donʼt see designers applying mascara, straightening their hair, brushing their teeth, and being prompted to discuss the most recent elimination from their beds. A little is OK, but Iʼd much rather see what is at the crux of the competition: the pitfalls of trying to make an outfit in a day. One of such pitfalls was Bradenʼs struggle. He had committed to his materials and had this technique in mind, but got so hung up on it that he lost any sense of modern style. After his critique with Tim, he had a partial "do over," but was pretty much stuck with what he had in terms of fabric.

KEN, who harped on how unforgivable it was that many "educated" designers didnʼt know their fashion history, selected a high-heeled, strappy, laced black sandal, and to compliment it, designed a top-scoring peplum dress out of what I believe is a black Carolina Herrera reptile cloqué (I swear someone in front of me at Mood today just bought some!). I honestly thought this dress was overpraised, but maybe itʼs because I think peplums need to go away—and this peplum was larger than life (and a bit sloppy)! I did like the sporty styling in the bodice, but couldnʼt get completely behind the dress. However, I do think it complemented the shoe very well; the outfit was believable.

ALEXANDER chose a nude patent Louboutin pump with red stripe up the back, and decided (along with Miranda) he must make red Tartan plaid pants. Unless you are Vivienne Westwood, itʼs very difficult to make red Tartan look cool and not "Talbots." I was concerned that he would have fit issues, but in the end his trousers fit well and it was key that they have an exaggerated fit (in his case, skinny) to be successful. The top he paired with them, while interesting, did not in my opinion complement the pants; there was a disconnect. The top looked like it belonged to a dressier ensemble. He was safe.

MIRANDA, on the other hand, having chosen red Tartan as well, had the last pick of shoes, which appeared to be the last pair available...but from the editing I couldnʼt tell. Nevertheless, she "knew she wanted" one of the ugliest pairs of shoes in the closet the moment she saw them (what does that say?). She then made one of the ugliest outfits to complement those shoes, so hey, I guess she was fulfilling the challenge! Nina was right when she said it looked like Christmas. When I saw the first shot of the shoes and bottom of the pants come out from the scrim, all I could think was "holiday grandma," given the combination of red Tartan with red patent flats, and the fit/hem. A super wide leg would have been soooo much better than this dated, mumsy fit. And why on earth would it not register to Miranda that she should avoid making virtually the same odd cropped tank top she had made before, after she was so supremely criticized for it? And white leather with red Tartan? Yikes. The poor styling choice to "Winehouse" her model didnʼt help at all either! I knew Mirandaʼs days were numbered, and this was just another in a series of uninspiring designs throughout the itʼs an Auf to her.

DOM was second-to-last to pick shoes, but she actually got a pair that were so bad they were good, if that makes sense: colorblocked creepers! At least it was something she could have fun with, and I thought she had a lot of potential since it seems she can do the urban/street/sport thing better than some of the others. However, the choice to make a quilted dress was a poor one. And she tried to select the exact same colors in the shoes, which made the whole outfit a bit too matchy. That didnʼt bother me as much, though, as the silhouette and some of the odd design lines. The dress needed to either be a super fitted/stretch construction, or a cute little boxy/mod shift. Trying to fit her quilted look only made the model look big and begs the question, "Who would wear that?" Dom slipped through though, and is on to the next round.

JUSTIN is safe for his design, and has redeemed himself (at least for now) from his disaster last week, with this all-black edgy look for his multi-colored, printed pumps. This was a surprise coming from him, but maybe itʼs just because Iʼm not sure what his POV is as a designer. I am normally not a fan of poufy anything, especially not hips...but the pant look succeeded because of a successful balance and proportion: super fitted bustier, leather shrug to add strength to the shoulders, and tapered leg.

ALEXANDRIA having won the last challenge, was able to choose her shoes first. She selected the badass thigh-high gladiator sandals (This totally would have been my choice). I think generally Alexandria has been under the radar, and have always thought she is the designer this season who understands what is modern and contemporary in fashion and what the downtown girl wants to wear. Itʼs not for everyone, but I respond to what she designs. The little black dress she made was a perfect balance of simple lines with interesting details. It has an ease to it which complements the shoes which are in-your-face hard. I love that she added a bit of lace as well. In my opinion this is the only look (with Helen a close second) which really looks straight off the runway or like you would see an off-duty model wearing walking through New York. However, Zac called it "pedestrian" (HUH??) and Anne criticized that Alexandria relied only on the shoes (isnʼt the challenge about the shoes?). The styling was perfection as well—from the fab hair and dewy makeup to the bold arm cuff and simple clutch. She was the winner in my book, and I think in Ninaʼs as well, who said it looks just like something she would see in the pagers of Marie Claire.

KAREN created another predictable, safe look which was very matchy to her chartreuse/grey sandals. The jacket was terribly ill-fitting; it was super boxy (not in a good way) and kept falling off the modelʼs shoulders when she walked, a sign of a poor armhole/sleeve/shoulder construction. When the look is that simple, the fit and construction need to be spot-on; hers was not.

BRADEN's choice of champagne colored, embellished flats could have inspired him to do much more than this awful, matronly swing dancer look which landed him in the bottom two. I was sure heʼd be eliminated (the phone call to his fiancé, I thought, surely was the kiss of death), but then again earlier in the competition he was a judgeʼs favorite. I had always been skeptical, as he is more of a costume designer and while he has produced some great work, I feel the last challenge and now this one have shown that sometimes he does not have a grip of what is fashionable. The styling did not do any favors.

KATE was on the right track with designing a black split palazzo pant and white shirt for her surrealist red sandals. When I saw the shoes...and then the pants...I thought, "She could be in the top 3 for this"...but when the camera panned up there was a disastrous top happening. It way too tight and appeared to be lopsided, which may or may not have been intentional. Either way, it failed. If she wanted to push the artsy/surrealist concept, it needed to be pushed further, a la Margiela. Instead the shirt appeared very poorly constructed. However there were worse blunders (and at least she got the bottom half right), so Kate slipped through.

JEREMY whose ego we are seeing rear its ugly head more and more in every episode, selected a pair of "Pretty Woman"-esque over-the-knee black suede boots with gold chain trim. I recoiled a bit when I saw those, and thought right away it could be a runaway train. Still, there was a part of me that thought maybe he would do something more tasteful to balance those boots, since he has good construction skills and if anything airs on the more conservative side with his design POV. Well I guess not! He really did feel inspired to design a look which felt like Shakira-meets-Dionne Warwick circa 1999. The fabrication he was so proud of looked sloppy and cheap. There are some major taste issues here, and an even bigger concern that he was so defensive about the critique (“the judges donʼt know what theyʼre talking about”).

HELEN. takes the win this time, which was surprising to me. I liked her very referential Alexander Wang for Balenciaga/ Margiela look a lot, but it was really all about the cape. I am a fan of minimalism, and it was executed very well. is so rare that a designer wins for a look which is all black and minimalist. The biggest problem I had with her winning, however, is that the look did not complement or seem inspired by the boots. Thatʼs not to say it wasnʼt styled fine, or that they donʼt work at all as a look, but to me it lost the point of the challenge, and in my opinion Alexandriaʼs made a stronger statement and fulfilled the challenge better.

Random observations on Tim Gunn this week:
-Tim totally threw Jeremy under the bus to the judges! For that alone, I thought Jeremy could have been eliminated. Clearly Jeremy is not a TG fave.
-Tim told Miranda after she had been eliminated that he "responded well to her look." Whaaaa?
-Tim used his ubiquitous expression, "The most talented group in the history of the show," to describe this crop of designers. Donʼt you know he says that each and every season? Tim, the BS meters are going off...