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Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 7

Posted By laurareineke 4:12am GMT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Jeremy "Love the layers."

TOP Alexander "Top was very cool."
BOTTOM Dom "Colors too bright for shirt."

TOP Alexander "Polished."
BOTTOM Jeremy - "Messy technique for the top."

TOP Alexander "Love fit of pants and sculpting of top."
BOTTOM Miranda "Donít understand choice of fabric, not fashion forward."


Season 12, Episode 6: Glamping Is In-Tents

Posted By laurareineke 4:59am GMT

It says a lot about our designers' states of mind this week that upon hearing that they'll be treated to an overnight camping trip, they immediately start to brainstorm what sort of bizarre challenge will be thrown their way. "Worse case scenario: We can use our own blood to dye things," Kate says, and I don't doubt for a second she'd do just that.

Tim meets them at a remote, forest-y locale, where sponsor Resource Natural Spring Water has set up a first-class campsite. This not just a camping trip! It's a glamping trip, which is apparently a more glamorous version of camping complete with tents on risers, hammocks, lantern lighting, and a sit-down dinner at a real table.

Access to fresh air and fun activities seems to chill the whole group out considerably. They go rafting, take turns ziplining through the woods, and roast marshmallows over a crackling fire. As it turns out, outside the workroom they're an amiable, funny bunch of people. It's a relief to see them enjoy each other's company after five episodes of exhausting drama.

After last week's hodgepodge of requirements and inspirations, this challenge is blessedly straightforward: Design a high-end look inspired by the glamping trip. They get one day to work and a suggested budget of $300. The workroom is relatively subdued this week as Tim counsels the designers on fabric choice and color. Let's jump right to the runway (featuring guest judge Allison Williams):

Top Three
Alexandria - Modern basics: A long-sleeved zip-up chambray denim jacket with an upper back cutout and draping along the spine, paired with white drop-crotch knee-length pants. Alexandria gets unanimous approval for going out of the box with her design, and she takes the win.

Jeremy - Jeremy transcribed the text of a love letter he wrote to his family in script across the bodice of bias-cut white gown with white button details along the side. The panel is captivated by the romance of it, and Jeremy wins praise for the gown's easy elegance.

Alexander - A deep blue sleeveless floor-length gown with a leather train and handpainted details intended to resemble trees at midnight. Nina likes the drama of it, and Alexander gets kudos for impeccable construction. Zac doesn't seem all that excited, citing the gown's mid-thigh seam as a negative.

Bottom Three
Ken - A moss green wool knee-length dress with structured layering at the chest. Nina points out that seen in profile, the padded chest thing overpowers the rest of the dress; Allison and Heidi think the technique used to construct it might have been better utilized elsewhere. Zac calls it "a squished frog." Further thumbs down are given for the too-'80s styling.

Karen - A billowy yellow ombre dress cinched in just above the bust, accented with a brown belted strap, this one makes the judges frown. They toss around words like "trashy," "muumuu," and "runny eggs," and they call out the dissonance between the look's cowboy vibe and its alleged African safari inspiration.

Justin - In a move better suited for an unconventional materials challenge, Justin accented an airy gray gown with boatloads of dried hot glue. The effect is akin to "a foaming vagina," Nina says. The judges acknowledge that Justin was good to push himself to try something new, but as Heidi says, "At what point are you gonna say, 'I wanted to try something different but it actually looks really ugly, so I'm gonna stop myself'?" Justin is auf'd.

OR IS HE?! Many tears are shed by the rest of the designers, who clearly have a lot of affection for Justin. But then Tim Gunn pops in to announce that he will be using his Tim Gunn Save to keep Justin around for a little while longer. Problem solved!

What do you think? Should Tim Gunn have saved his save for someone else? Was Justin's garment bad enough to warrant his elimination? How do you feel about drop-crotch pants and Alexandria's execution of same? Bonus points if you have any fun camping stories to share. Let me hear 'em in the comments.


Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 6

Posted By laurareineke 4:45am GMT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think were the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Bradon "Love it."
BOTTOM Alexandria "Mess with construction."

TOP Justin "Detail is interesting."
BOTTOM Bradon "Clowny and costumey, strange color."

TOP Helen "Made dead moth theme work."
BOTTOM Miranda "Too costume-like."

TOP Karen "Love use of color."
BOTTOM Bradon "Colors don't read as inspired by environment."


Season 12, Episode 5: Bad, Weird, Funky

Posted By laurareineke 4:36am GMT

The designers convene at Gansevoort Plaza in NYC's Meatpacking District, where Tim announces that this will be their third unconventional materials challenge! They'll also be working in teams again! Poor guys. This challenge is a mishmash of (arguably too many) components, so let me try to break it down. In teams of three, the designers must create a luxe mini collection -- one look per person -- out of unconventional materials; they can choose two of three stores (a vintage wallpaper store, a specialty food store, a home goods/party store) from which to get those materials. The looks can be inspired by the new Lexus IS '14s they're given to drive to find supplies, but that's not a requirement. They have one day to work and a suggested spending amount of $1500 per team.

Ken throws shade like a true professional. He slowly turns to gaze upon his enemies with a stare so icy it gives me chills. Forced to work with Alexandria and Sue, he monotones "I'm living a nightmare" and the disdain just radiates from him. The other, more amenable teams: Helen, Dom, and Justin; Alexander, Bradon and Miranda; Jeremy, Karen, and Kate.

After their shopping shenanigans, Sandro pops back in the workroom for an impromptu apology/goodbye session, which the other designers greet with sighs of relief since they don't have to deal with him anymore.

Tim is unusually sassy during critiques. "This makes me sick!" he says of Team Ken/Alexandria/Sue's insistence on using materials that barely qualify as unconventional. He reminds them that teams who don't push themselves to use weird materials in creative ways usually come under fire from the judges. "How do I keep this dress sleek and modern like the car, and then also embellish the shit out of it?" Kate asks, summarizing the contradictions posed by this exercise.

Team Ken/Alexandria/Sue really struggles in the workroom. Alexandria tries multiple times to make executive decisions for their team, only to be met by Ken's aforementioned steely-eyed negativity; Sue prefers to keep her mouth shut and focus on her work, likely because she's hit often with criticism from her teammates regarding her design process. It's no fun to watch, especially when the other teams generally seem to be having fun and making cool stuff.

Runway show! Our guest judge is celebrity stylist/designer June Ambrose.

Top Team: Jeremy, Karen, Kate
Materials: Placemats, drawer liner, shower curtain packaging, poppyseeds, black rice, coconut shavings, glitter
The judges fawn over this collection, dubbed "futuristic Great Gatsby" by Karen. Most impressive to the panel is the incorporation of so many disparate materials. They love the construction of Jeremy's white strapless cocktail dress, and Karen's mod-looking sheath dress earns praise for its texture. Heidi is surprised that Kate designed the minidress with plunging neckline and shoulder details because it's a color she never uses: black. Nina likes that she can immediately tell how the collection relates to the car. Jeremy gets the win.

Bottom Team: Ken, Alexandria, Sue
Materials: Placemats, drawer liner, duct tape, vinyl curtain covering
This team does itself no favors when they can't properly articulate to the judges any relevent info about their garments, like the type of woman they designed for, where they found their inspiration, or even what each designer brought to his or her look. Zac decimates all three immediately. He calls Alexandria's structured jacket "a cocoon without a butterfly." He thinks Ken's dress makes the model look too wide, and calls out Sue for her uneven hem and tailoring problems. Nina: "It all looks bad, weird, funky, ugly. All of it." Sue's credentials come up for discussion again, and that seals the deal. She and Ken are the bottom two. Sue gets auf'd.

What did you think of this week's challenge? Which team do you feel best rose to the occasion? Who deserved the blame for the Alexandria/Ken/Sue blowup? And now that we're a few weeks into the season, which designer strikes you as most promising? Let me know in the comments.


Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 5

Posted By laurareineke 4:02am GMT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think were the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Bradon "Wonderful teammate."
BOTTOM Helen "Generic, again."

TOP Justin "Necklace didn't look like food."
BOTTOM Helen "Dress made the model look fat."

TOP Alexander "Great to work with."
BOTTOM Helen "Most unoriginal."

TOP Helen "Good display of sculpting skills."
BOTTOM Alexandria "Not imaginative enough."


Season 12, Episode 4: Ties A-Plenty

Posted By laurareineke 4:17am GMT

This week we open in media res on an epic argument between Ken, Helen, and Sandro. It gets so heated that Sandro runs out of the building and hits the camera that's trailing him. Buckle up for some drama! Sigh.

We flash back to the day of the challenge. Tim Gunn introduces Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who with his fiance founded the menswear-based charity and advocacy organization Tie the Knot. Thankfully for the designers (and the judges, and the viewers), this isn't a menswear challenge! Instead, the designers are tasked with creating looks inspired by the ties Jesse has provided. They must incorporate at least one tie into their design. The designers get 30 minutes at Mood, eleven hours to work, and a suggested spending limit of $200.

Workroom shenanigans: Helen struggles after her critique with Tim, admitting that she doesn't handle criticism well; Sue, who over-spent by $200 at Mood, makes two looks because she's indecisive; Jeremy gets the news that his grandmother passed away, and since he won't be able to leave the show to attend the funeral, he seems understandably withdrawn. Tim tries to make Sandro understand that catering entirely to the judges' preferences might get him far on the show, but won't help him succeed once it's over. Sandro clearly just wants to figure out the cheat code that will allow him to bypass the rest of the season and win the whole thing right now.

After the runway show, the judges deem Karen, Ken, Alexandria, Justin, Alexander, Sandro, and Helen safe for the week. But they take a second to scold Helen: Nina suggests that the only reason Helen won last week was because of Kate's influence, a totally valid observation to which Helen takes offense anyway because she can't handle criticism, remember?! Nina and Heidi let Helen know in no uncertain terms that they want to see better from her next week.

Then, despite the fact that he's safe, Sandro demands feedback from the judges. Zac praises Sandro's garment construction but notes (again) that Sandro's taste level is an issue. This doesn't please Sandro one bit. While the judges deliberate, we find ourselves back in the middle of the heated argument that opened the episode. Sandro and Helen get into it over the importance of having respect for the judges and for the "Runway" process. Ken tries to intercede, which only serves to make Sandro crankier. As we saw in the beginning, Sandro runs out, hits the camera, and escapes.

Meanwhile, the judges make their decisions:

Top Three
Bradon - A crop top made of hand-stitched bowties in shades of gold and brown, paired with tweed shorts and a jacket. Bradon's craftmanship is fawned over by the whole panel. Jesse thinks it's a homerun. Zac calls it "a labor of love without looking labored." Bradon gets his second win of the season -- and uses his time on the runway to propose to Josh, his partner of 18 years. At the end of the episode, Bradon videochats with Josh, who, inspired by the Supreme Court striking down DOMA and Prop 8, coincidentally proposes as well. A heartwarming moment, for sure.

Dom - A black-and-white striped dress with colorful striped bowties pieced together around the neck and right shoulder. Nina calls it "adorable" while Zac and Heidi compliment how seamlessly Dom arranged the fabric's pattern. It's not the winner, but Dom has officially caught the judges' eyes with this one.

Kate - This combo of an open-backed tunic with belt details and a modified-tuxedo-stripe pant gets the judges' approval for its wearability and sexiness. Kate seems to be on a roll so far this season.

Bottom Three
Miranda - Houndstooth extravaganza! A cropped houndstooth jacket and houndstooth pencil skirt offset an emerald green top. The judges are bored, calling into question Miranda's decision to leave her model's midriff exposed and the minimal incorporation of bow ties. They emphasize that they need to see more from her than pencil skirts.

Sue - A black jersey dress with bowties assembled on top of it like a sort of kelp exoskeleten. Heidi is in disbelief: "What a mess! It's so crazy. I don't understand it. It's memorable, but it's kind of like 'What was she thinking?' memorable." Zac calls it "Octopussy" and Nina is reminded of Sigourney Weaver in "Alien." Thumbs down all around.

Jeremy - A bright orange lace top with a high-backed collar and long sleeves, plus a pair of brown pants. The panel agrees that despite the solid construction of the garments, its overall effect is more akin to (in Jesse's words) "a really gorgeous 68-year-old actress receiving her Kennedy Center honors." Acceptable, but old.

Because of Sandro's outburst, he's out. (It's not totally clear if he withdrew from the competition or if the producers disqualified him.) That means Sue, Miranda, and Jeremy survive to see another challenge. How do you feel about Sandro's departure? Do you think one of the bottom three designers should have been eliminated anyway? Which look was your favorite? Let me know in the comments.


Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 4

Posted By laurareineke 4:13am GMT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think were the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Bradon "Love the top."
BOTTOM Kate "Boring."

TOP Justin "Dress was very cute, great silouette."
BOTTOM Alexander "Neckline needs editing."

TOP Sandro "Inner construction of the gown is great work for one day."
BOTTOM Miranda "Look has been done too many times."

TOP Alexander "Loved the rainbow ties."
BOTTOM Bradon "Fabric was ugly."


Season 12, Episode 3: Cranky Kitsch

Posted By laurareineke 4:30am GMT

Tireless Heidi Klum wakes the designers up at the crack of dawn to send them off on a jaunt to Coney Island. It's a rainy day, which is no fun, but the challenge parameters are pretty interesting: The designers will hand out samples of Yoplait Frozen Yogurt to people on the boardwalk, then ask them to describe the experience of eating it. The designers will then choose three of those words to inform and inspire their looks. As for the materials? The group will have to play boardwalk games to win their fabric in the form of giant stuffed animals, inflatable toys, and other Coney Island ephemera. Another unconventional materials challenge, yay!

But then Tim announces that it's also a team challenge, which bums everyone out, especially Kate, who's probably still stinging from a whole season's worth of team shenanigans. The pairs are decided by button bag: Alexander and Justin, Alexandria and Dom, Bradon and Karen, Helen and Kate, Jeremy and Ken, Miranda and Timothy, Sandro and Sue.

The workroom is evenly divided between teams working well together and teams embroiled in conflict. Sandro and Sue are a mess from the start; he's argumentative and controlling, and she doesn't feel like battling his ego, so she ends up working as his assistant, essentially, in the interest of completing their garment on time. Meanwhile, Miranda has little patience for Timothy, both as a designer and a person. When he overhears her unkind complaint session in the sewing room, he runs away to cry with his stuffed unicorn in a closet (literally). There's a lot of conflict and a lot of tears, and sometimes it's funny (like when Timothy dramatically sobs "If you know me so well, HOW DARE YOU?") but other times it's just sad (like Miranda crying over the conflict she instigated). Fortunately, the other pairs have a much more nuanced understanding of how to communicate effectively in a team setting.

Our guest judge for the week is Fashion Police co-host Kelly Osbourne. To the runway!

Top Two
Kate/Helen - A sculptural red mid-thigh strapless dress accented with rosette details, made out of sombreros, a kite, and stuffed animals. It's "sombrero Saturn chic," according to Zac. Kelly says she can imagine young starlets fighting to wear this on the red carpet. Kate graciously says that Helen should get the win, and the judges agree.

Alexandria/Dom - A sort of monster costume inspired by Japanese street style. It's youthful, casual look reminiscent of a sweatshirt dress, made out of stuffed animals. The front pocket looks like a monster's mouth and the crooked shoulder wrap has eyes sewn on. The judging panel praises the fun vibe this gives off. Nina calls it "an Instagram moment" and Zac likes that it's inventive. Alexandria and Dom are safe.

Bottom Two
Alexander/Justin - Made almost entirely of balloons, this look is an utterly bizarre mix of styles that I don't even know how to describe. Zac immediately complains about how much is going on in the garment: "There's kelp on the bottom, she has dorsal fins from her hips...she has seaweed on her bum. It just looks like a hot mess." Heidi wants them to edit; the panel agrees the look is much more palatable sans vest and weird peplum bumpers at the waist. But Alexander and Justin are safe for now.

Miranda/Timothy - A blue racer-back dress with a high-low skirt and a woven yellow vest. The judges don't respond to this one at all. Nina compares it to a bio-hazard warning and the consensus seems to be that the look, while technically complete and wearable, is boring. (The palpable crankiness between Miranda and Timothy during their judges' critique certainly doesn't help to sell the garment, either.) His vest is lackluster and this is his third time in the bottom, so Timothy is auf.

Which look was your favorite this week? Do you think Miranda and Timothy shared equal blame for their losing look? Are you sad or relieved to see Timothy go? Let me know in the comments.


Designers' Choice: Season 12, Episode 3

Posted By laurareineke 4:27am GMT

Exclusive! The Season 12 designers pick who they think had the Top and Bottom looks each week!

TOP Helen/Kate "Did a great job on their outfit."
BOTTOM Miranda/Timothy "Does not work well with others."

TOP Jeremy/Ken "Looks cool. Interesting."
BOTTOM Miranda/Timothy "He left his teammate halfway through the challenge."

TOP Sandro/Sue "Great technique."
BOTTOM Miranda/Timothy "Left his teammate; only made a vest."

TOP Helen/Kate "Great graphic use of sombreros."
BOTTOM Miranda/Timothy "Didn't work as a team. Bad design concept."


Season 12, Episode 2: Dripping With Diamonds

Posted By laurareineke 4:41am GMT

We're greeted this week by an armored truck full of burly men with guns, who escort a series of black suitcases into Parsons. Minutes later, the models take to the runway dripping in jewels ($30 million worth, according to Heidi) of all shapes and shades: necklaces, earrings, and bracelets adorned with diamonds, yellow diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and more.

The challenge: Create a look that's glamorous enough to walk the runway alongside jewelry of this caliber. The designers are chosen by the button bag to pick which jewelry they'll base their look around. "I'm not inspired by money," says Timothy, who has perhaps forgotten that he's participating in a competition with a prize package worth half a million dollars. "We have to pick the prettiest diamond, and I think that's very superficial." Again, that's big talk for a dude who's trying to make a career out of fashion design.

The designers will have one day to complete their looks. "My bowels just drop," Alexander announces. Okay!

During critiques, Tim tip-toes around the fact that Kahindo's silk charmeuse fabric is sort of hideous, and he tries to hint to Helen that she might not have time to properly complete her ambitious design. He asks Timothy, "Where's the design? Right now, this is one big hot mess." As the runway show will later prove, Tim's concerns are on point.

This is a weird episode for Sandro, who seems to be all over the place emotionally. He has a great moment at Mood when he nonchalantly asks Alexander ("Red Hair") why he's planning to go so couture with his garment. (Alexander: "Because it's a million-dollar necklace. What am I gonna use, plastic?" Sandro: "That's a good point, actually.") Sandro and Ken argue loudly in the workroom, but there's no real point to it other than a clash of ego. (It's so loud and so pointless that Justin disables his hearing aid to escape it.) Sandro makes a fuss later on when he can't figure out how to use the fabric steamer; he physically pulls a crew member out from behind the scenes to demand assistance, then pouts when the crew member leaves him to fend for himself. Even later, Sandro sweetly comes to Helen's defense on the runway, and in a moment of zen advises Timothy to focus less on explaining his gown and more on accepting the judges' feedback. I thought I had this guy pegged last week, but now I'm not so sure.

Runway time. Heidi, Zac, Nina, and Tim are joined by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Eric Daman (Gossip Girl, The Carrie Diaries) for a runway show that's halted midway through to allow for a weepfest from a distraught Helen. Fun stuff.

Top Three
Kate - A Marie Antoinette-inspired pale grey asymmetrical gown with a see-through boned bodice. Heidi says she knew it was Kate's work right away, and Kate also gets praise for her fabric choice and her model's styling. Zac: "This is the strongest work that I've seen you do." A solid win for her.

Dom - A casual, flowy, green-and-white-print gown. The judges love that it's youthful and that it complements the emerald necklace, but Zac and Nina both call out Dom's choice to style the model with a printed bandana. Eric says he "could see it on the red carpet in Cannes as well as on a beautiful young Southern debutante." Safe.

Sandro - A knee-length fishtail dress with an exposed midriff and black lace detailing that frankly looks like something a stereotypically Russian James Bond villain might've worn, but it somehow manages to land in the top. Eric thinks the lace is overdone, but Heidi admires the bust; Zac and Tim both voice concerns over Sandro's taste level, but Nina seems to dig it. Safe.

Bottom Three
Timothy - A blue velvet gown with white accents and a racerback detail on the front, this one befuddles the judges, who don't understand why Timothy chose to make a high-necked gown for a challenge based around a necklace.

Helen - This brown and beige gown suffers from poor construction, ratty-looking shredded detail at the hips, and sad bust cups. Nina thinks it's a case of a decent design gone wrong. While Heidi and Zac appear more critical, they all agree to keep Helen around for another week.

Kahindo - A sleeveless sheath dress made out of a fabric Zac compares to sand art. Nina thinks it's boring, Heidi thinks it looks too "off-the-rack," and Eric doesn't think it works with the jewelry at all. Kahindo says her intentional was to keep things simple. "Too simple?" Nina asks. Yep, too simple. Kahindo is out.

Which design do you think best matched the expensive jewelry that inspired it? Do you think Kate deserved the win? Was Kahindo's simple design really worse than Helen's poor construction? What was your favorite moment this week? Let me know in the comments.