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Season 13, Episode 4: A Suitable Twist
Sponsor challenge! Sponsor challenge! We open at a Red Robin restaurant slightly removed from NYC, where the designers are lined up before an array of male models in slightly oversized vintage men's suiting from all sorts of dark corners of fashion history. Corduroy, floral print, tweeds, lapels wider than a highway, truly misguided color palettes...it's a nightmare, really. A restaurant spokesman explains that Red Robin is a burger joint that likes to look at things with a fresh perspective, and that they're interested in prompting the designers to do the same. Ghosts of Sponsored Challenges Past flash before my eyes. Are they going to redesign the Red Robin waitstaff uniforms? Make clothing inspired by cheeseburgers? Is this going to be the season's awful hot mess of a menswear challenge?! Blessedly, it is none of the above.
Challenge: Create a high-fashion womenswear look using the jacket and pants of a vintage men's suit.
Parameters: The suit must be a prominent part of the final design. Supplemental fabric can be purchased from Mood. As the winner of the previous challenge, Sandhya gets her first choice of suit, as well as the power to assign suits to the rest of the designers.
Say what you will about the fairness of allowing one designer to assign fabric to the others, but Sandhya seems to take the job very seriously. She attempts to assign the suits based on what she thinks each designer would like, which is waaaay more charitable than many of the other contestants would've been; that some of them (Mitchell, Amanda, Sean, Hernan) feel that they were cheated suggests to me that they might be slightly in denial about the kind of vibes their work so far this season has given off. Is it really Sandhya's fault if her impression of their aesthetics doesn't match the way they see themselves?
In the workroom, Hernan whines and whines and whines. His fabric is gross! He can't match the color! Nothing is draping right! Tim tries to counsel Hernan away from treating vinyl like fabric instead of, you know, vinyl, but Hernan remains stubborn as ever. He tries to direct his annoyance at Sandhya, but she's over it: "If you can't make something good from what you've got, then you're not a good designer." That's some Real Talk right there.
Meanwhile, Kristine and Korina go head-to-head with different motorcycle jackets, yawn. Kini, who was given arguably the easiest suit to work with -- a relatively understated grey pinstripe -- finishes with hours to spare. He's some kinda sewing wunderkind, that Kini. My favorite workroom observation is Alexander's take on Mitchell's look: "It looks like he put the awful blue polyester suit that he was given and stuffed it into a Ziploc bag." IT TOTALLY DOES THOUGH.
On to the runway, with our guest judge, teen YouTube star (I know, I know) Bethany Mota.
Amanda - Heidi fawns over the mixed patterns and the fringe; you can see her imagining herself wearing it. Nina appreciates the resourcefulness on display. The judges all agree that this look offered the greatest transformation from original suit to runway look, and in the end I think that's what gave Amanda the edge. She gets her second win of the season and another round of immunity.
Kini - The judges are very impressed. "This is sharp suiting," Zac says, complimenting Kini's use of neoprene for the shoulder. Nina approves of the tailoring, Bethany likes the cut-outs at the sides, and Heidi notices the smart inclusion of the suit's original pockets at the back of the skirt. From the way this garment was discussed I was sure it'd be the winner, but even though Kini didn't come out on top this time, the look cemented his place on the judge's radar. Not a bad place to be at this point in the season.
Alexander - The judges all like this one quite a bit. They praise the flirtiness and volume of the skirt, especially compared to the more structured top. He gets bonus points for showing just the right amount of skin. Zac says it's the best work he's seen from Alexander so far.
Kristine - The panel is flummoxed by the organza extensions on the trouser legs, which Kristine says was a necessity based on the amount of fabric she had to work with. Heidi asks why Kristine didn't just make a miniskirt, to which Kristine doesn't have a very compelling response. Nina says it feels like a "mish-mosh" of too many elements.
Sean - Zac calls it "orthopedic" (also "like peeling skin," which is a gross but fair comparison). Sean tries to defend the awful ragged edges and hemline as intentional deconstruction, but the panel knows better. "It doesn't feel like an inventive use, in any way, of the suit," Zac says. Sean is safe for now.
Hernan - "How do you feel about your look?" Heidi asks, which gives Hernan an excuse to make excuses. He reiterates that his original suit was difficult to work with, and tells the judges that the material fell apart on himi when he tried to get a better fit. Unfortunately for him, the judges get a closer look at the garment and see for themselves how sturdy (albeit awkward) the fabric is. Nina and Heidi point out how costume-y the outfit looks, especially from the front and the side; Bethany says it looks like a popstar's Halloween costume (hah). The judges decide his look was the worst and send him on his way.
This week's real winner, I think, was Sandhya, who strategized her way through to the next round while also eliminating her most obnoxious competitor. "Runway" is primarily as a skill-based competition, so it's not often the designers get a chance to outmaneuver each other directly; I was pleasantly surprised to see Sandhya own her brief window of power so thoroughly. Meanwhile, Kini and Alexander are both on the up and up, and Amanda has won half the season's challenges already. Do you think the distribution of the suits was fair? Was Sean's mummy-bridesmaid look more worthy of elimination than Hernan's bizarro costume? Who do you have your eye on heading into the fifth challenge? Let me know in the comments!
Side note: If there was ever an episode of "Runway" that deserved the Smell-O-Vision treatment, it's this one. Can you imagine? The scent of charred meat and fried potatoes mixing with the moth-eaten mustiness of super old menswear. Delicious.