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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blast from the Past

I've been on hiatus due to work pressure pressure pressure, and I just got the chance to do what I've been promising myself as a reward - curl up on the couch with some olive-oil popped popcorn, drink some wine and watch all the eps I've missed.

What a let-down.

Season 9 is totally flat. And here's what's missing: that moment when one of the designers creates something unexpected, something that pulls them out of the pack, shows you a talent and a fresh point of view that makes you lust after their clothes and start Googling to see if there's anything out there you can own. It gives you a sense of possibility, that any one of them could pull a creative rabbit out of a hat at any moment.

Since the S9 designers aren't bringing it, it's time to let nostalgia rule!

Season 1: Austin's Corn Husk Dress

The first challenge in the first show of the first season was genius. It showed us all what we could expect from this new reality competition - creative people making amazing things that most of us could never do ourselves.

Austin's flirty dress made of corn husks set the bar high, even though they dried out.
Season 1: Jay's Chrysler Building Dress

Until this dress, Jay was just a weirdo in the middle of the pack. When he looked out the window during the Banana Republic we'll-sell-the-winner challenge, he drew inspiration from an icon and translated it into this gorgeous dress. It was referential but not too literal, and it showed us unsuspected depths and refinement in Jay.

When it didn't win, women all over American wept, since they wouldn't be able to own the dress.

Season 2: Andre's Gutter Water Gown

Andre was another middle-of-the-packer, albeit a lovable character. His work just didn't stand out, until the challenge when the designers were sent out with a camera to draw to be inspired by NYC. Many of the designers went literal: flowers, buildings, graffiti. Andre took a picture of water running through a gutter and came up with this stunning satin gown. Who knew he had that kind of an eye?
Curiously, several of these revelatory garments aren't challenge winners, including this one.
Season 3: Jeffrey's Couture Gown

Until this challenge, Jeffrey was mostly known for being a jerk and making clothes that could have been sold at Hot Topic, although the judges seemed to find them sort of rock and roll. Just goes to show that the judges should cruise the malls now and then. That could have saved us from their love of Gretchen's Chico's clothes in S8... but I digress.

In the Paris couture challenge, most of the designers tried for refined, but Jeffrey went exuberant. The bright mixed plaids and artfully haphazard construction was joyous and a little subversive - actually kind of rock and roll.
Season 4: Sweet P's Prom Dress

Probably an unconventional choice, but this flattering, sexy-yet-appropriate prom dress designed by Sweet P knocked me out because of the construction. She elevated the halter dress by angling the waistband and adding subtle gathers over the hips that streamlined her model-client's figure.

Season 5: Leanne's Car Parts Dress

For the first part of S5, Leanne came off as an earnest, competent designer with a love of organic fabrics. This garment, made from car upholstery and shredded seat belts, was a total shock. Flattering, witty, sexy and wearable in a crazy way.

When Leanne followed this up with a gorgeous purple gown and cropped trench for the DVF Foreign affairs challenge, she became the front runner. 

Season 7: Seth Aaron's Mom Jacket

The outfit on the little girl is cute, and the "mother's" pants are fine, but that jacket - wow! Not only is the shape very cool, but he also constructed the fabric to produce that striking pattern.

Even though he had a penchant for silly hair (on the model and on himself), you could see that Seth Aaron had an actual original point of view that was both artful and commercial.

Season 8: Mondo's Jackie O Suit

After Mondo put a mustache on his model during the Philip Treacy hat challenge, we knew he was quirky. But it was the Jackie O challenge, which produced some really awful stuff, where he showed he was a master at mixing prints and color to create a vibrant, modern, tasteful look.

I could totally see Jackie O in this, and since then I swear I've seen a lot more women wearing mixed prints since then.

Season 6 is missing, you say? That's for a reason: S6 was the most disappointing, even less exciting than this one.
The S9 designers, for the most part, have been making decent outfits (except for the Sheepdog stuff - shudder). But where's the fashion? Maybe they'll find it in this Sophisticated 70s challenge.

Bert is especially pleased, since the 70s sound like his heyday. I was born in 1960, so I have first hand knowledge of the 70s also. For me, there were a lot of bell bottoms and shirts with zippers and round pulls at the beginning, designer jeans and Quiana dresses at the end, with a whole lot of straight-leg, narrow wale cords, Bastad clogs and even a polyester 3-piece pants suit in the middle. Like any good child of my times, I made many of my own clothes, embroidered my jeans (I put a big Capricorn sign on the back of my jean jacket), did macrame and tie-dyed. Good times!

Anyway, the designers have 2 days and $100 for the Piperlime challenge, with the winning garment sold on the website. They sketch and Tim takes them to Mood.

Drama #1: The Case of the Missing Money
Anya has no pockets, so she tucks her money in her bra.

And she loses it.
Anthony Ryan, who is a mensch, forgoes buttons to give Anya some money.
She ends up with 11 dollars and change.
Anya's in the ultimate make-it-work moment but at least she's rocking a fabulous Drusy ring.
In the workroom, Bert enjoys regaling the other designers with his Studio 54 stories.

Drama #2: Pleatgate
Viktor uses a back pleat on his jacket...
...and then Josh adds on to his shirt. Coincidence? Viktor thinks not!

So, just in case the two-day challenge timeline didn't tip them off, Tim comes to let them know that they have to make a second look.

Your second look must be one piece - no separates.

Runway time! The guest judge is someone named Olivia Palermo.

I have no idea who she is, but she looks at bit like Dianna Agron from Glee.

The PR editors have a blast with 70s graphics.


What we know: She tailors great pants, loves thick metallic fabrics, and has a questionable taste level
How she could surprise us: Something sophisticated, with great proportions

There is nothing 70s about the pencil skirt and circle top, which is ugly to boot. The jumpsuit has a 70s look, but the vest front is so badly constructed that the model just have been embarrassed to walk in it. Between the gap in the front and the the unfortunate shaping around the breasts, that garment is a disaster.

My rating: Bottom 3

Anthony Ryan
What we know: He has afresh way of mixing prints, possibly due to his colorblindness, but his clothes are often boxy.
How he could surprise us: Something sexy or tailored

Sorry, but these are downright ugly. The jumpsuit shows the worst of the 70s, and I don't know where the separates came from.

My rating: Bottom 3

What we know: He makes very nice, simple garments that are often very pretty.
How he could surprise us: Something more elaborate and original
Both these are very 70s, especially the disco sheer top and wrap over sequined tube top and hot pants. The jersey tank dress is very authentic also. What I don't see is any updating.
My rating: Top 3

What we know: She has delusions of a very high taste level, and her work is up and down.
How she could surprise us: I'm not sure she has it in her, to tell the truth.

I don't really see 70s here. The chevron-stripe top is totally 80s (I had a top like this, with narrow leg-o-mutton sleeves - feel free to laugh). I guess the jumpsuit is a little disco - maybe.

My rating: Safe, just because there are 3 looks that are worse.


What we know: He gets the need for a garment to pop, and he's got a sense of showmanship.
How he could surprise us: Show a more refined taste level. Too many of his garments look like costumes.

The flowy skirt is 70s, and the pink and black top could possibly be a nod to the famous YSL Russian collection. I like the lingerie details of the dress bodice, but that pants/shirt combo is absolutely Hid. E. Ous.

My rating: Bottom 3 and auf for the pants alone.

What we know: She's creative and has a nice eye for prints.
How she could surprise us: Something that combines her laid-back sensibility with some glamour

These two garments have a 70s vibe, and the prints are cool, although I think the jumpsuit print and cut could make the midsection on a lot of women look big.

My rating: Top 3, and kudos to her for pulling it out.

What we know: He makes beautifully finished, pretty clothes
How he could surprise us: Something totally original

Both these outfits have 70s references - the slinky wrap dress and the Ralph Laurenesque Safari jacket. The snakeskin updates it. And the tee is very cool.

My rating: Top 3, and I hope this wins so I can buy the pants and jacket - it would make a great interview suit.

On the runway, Heidi calls Kimberly out as safe. With that horrible circle top and the gaping jumpsuit vest, she should thank her lucky stars that Nina has taken a scunner to Laura.

Bottom 3: Laura, Joshua and Anthony Ryan
Top 3: Viktor, Anya, Bert

Runway interrogation:

Heidi finds Laura's print mix appalling.
Nina is disgusted that Laura would wear her outfits.
They love Viktor's suit, but MK says the shirt takes all the 70s sex out of it.
MK reacts to the back of Josh's plaid pants with a howl.
Nina loves Anya's jumpsuit.
Olivia thinks Anthony Ryan should have made culottes or a split skirt. Eek!
Nina doesn't get Anthony Ryan's look at all.
MK says Anthony Ryan's models look like hippie sister-wives.

Drama #3: Josh goes off (again)
Josh claims he can't be expected to know about the 70s since he wasn't born. When the other designers say that they think knowledge of design history is essential in their profession, Josh loses it.

And the winning garment is Anya's jumpsuit:

And Piperlime is also making Bert's dress available:

Anthony Ryan is auf'd. I guess it's time, but he's such a nice guy - it's too bad.

Even Tim tears up when he says goodbye.

So what do you think, will we ever get that stunning garment experience this season? Who do you think will come through?