Saturday, March 29, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E11: The Benefit of Fashion

Last week, I noted that we finally were moving from a mentor-focused series to a designer-focused series. This is a big relief because it allows us to root for somebody with actual feeling behind the characters. Not to mention, I think we're all a little tired of the mentors. Mondo became a huge dick last week that nobody likes. Anya is rather a hypocrite. And, Nick...well, he keeps having the same revelation of trying to leave his designers to design on their own.

The designers that remain:

  • Asha - The single-episode villain who was a complete bitch to Natalia last week. Distanced, egotistical, and...I hate her because of how she treated Natalia last week. (Mentor: Mondo)
  • Sam - The delightfully bitchy youngster. I kind of love his periodic lapses into snark. Funny, happy, genuinely kind of nice. (Mentor: Mondo)
  • Shan - The married man with kids...who almost seems more feminine than the gay guys. Friendly, gay, and lovely personality. (Mentor: Anya)
  • Blake - Who? How is this guy still around? He wears glasses. (Mentor: Anya)
  • Oscar - The Spanish guy who still benefits from being forced to edit. Hilarious, genuine, and able to take a leader role when needed. (Mentor: Nick)
Seriously, though...who is Blake? Do you guys know? I keep trying to find him and turning up nothing. More nothing than even Natalia. Whatever. He's still here and I don't actively dislike him. I just...he's a big blank slate.

This week, surprisingly, doesn't open with a bunch of morning chitty-chat in the hotel. Probably because Asha would have been left out since she's sleeping by herself. Instead, we're treated to a burlesque outfit, where the men freak out because...women and sex?!  ZOMG. Get your boobies off me! Where's your penis?! Seriously...I don't even know what's up with their reaction, because most of the gay men I know love burlesque and breasts. I mean, it's B&B! What gay man doesn't like B&Bs?

The burlesque is because the Benefit makeup company was started by a dancer who wanted to make her aureoles redder for more tips. Which, I didn't realize was a thing outside of Showgirls. For those of you who haven't seen, during Nomi's revenge scene, her nipples are angrily red. Which, I thought was a bizarre quirk of Verhoeven that went with her revenge nails.

The challenge is a burlesque challenge, right? The female stripper clothing challenge? Right? This oughta be fun! I love when the designers have to design tacky tear-away clothing. But, alas. Project Runway, you tricked me again. You scamps. This is actually the real woman challenge. There are five women who have five real life challenges that they're facing. And, the women have been pre-assigned to their designers. Which...what? Under the Gunn, you're going soft on us.

The women:
  • Brittany: Problem; A semi-new mom on-the-go who also wants a figure flattering outfit to get out on the dating scene. ... (Designer: Shan)
  • Dani: Problem: Supersmall tiny woman who also does pageants. She's adorable. (Designer: Oscar)
  • Ruzena: Problem: A very slim figured geek with flat hair and glasses who dresses like a tomboy. Perfect for the cliched geek-to-hottie story that Hollywood loves. (Designer: Blake)
  • Norah: Problem: Wants a professional look with bright colors that will go from office to night. (Designer: Sam)
  • Erin: Problem: Lost 50 lbs but still has curves. Wants to show it off for her birthday party. (Designer: Asha)
If tradition holds, Sam and Blake are on top because they have women who are closer to model figures. Also, Dani would be on top, but she wants a gown which means that Oscar is going to compromise his usual taste levels and totally go pageanty for her. And, probably over the top pageant which could mean bottom of the barrel. But...we'll see how this show goes because its already thrown me for a few loops this week.

The client pairings get along well, but these designers are generally so timid and without their own vision that most of them get lost immediately. Sam has the idea to create a tight outfit. Shan has to figure out how to make something sophisticated and sexy that shows off a body that also has extra skin from motherhood. Blake...well...what does Blake do?  Does anybody remember? The only designers to keep a version of their vision through even the initial client conversations are Asha and Oscar. Asha because she is told to create something sexy with a lot of bling, Oscar because he seems perfect to create a pageant gown.

This extends to the fabric selection. Sam gets a variety of mis mashy fabrics. Shan gets a sequined fabric that I think my grandmother had in the 90s (she loved bling and things that shined. Asha goes gold. Oscar goes green. And, Blake...well...he gets the most hideous looking print I think I've ever seen on Project Runway. Who made that fabric in the first place? did he get it from the discount rack? Who the fuck is Blake?!

During the mentor consultations, the only people to get any praise are Oscar and Shan. Apparently old lady sequins are hip or something? I swear. Asha is going over the fucking top. Blake is lost...well...its not like we know who Blake is. Then Sam created an awesome bloody nursing outfit...which is more Halloween than fashion.

But, this episode throws another curveball to the audience because Shan's model is allergic to the fabric of Shan's top. She almost faints during the fitting then calls to say that she broke out in hives...which...lovely. Which means that the old lady top is gone, which is possibly the best thing that could have happened for Shan because that top was soooo boring. He ends up making three outfits by the end of the episode.

The other designers are visibly exhausted. And, it's practically like watching a Bataan Death March. Mondo is getting in a fight with Asha's client. Sam and Blake are both lost and tired. I think they switched the usual coffee with decaf or replaced the cocaine with flour, or something. Everybody's just drag-ass. Oscar's the only one who's still summery and bright, practically whistling a happy tune as he's finishing up his pageant dress. It helps that he's fast as hell.

Eventually we stumble across to the runway. I don't quite know how. This week's special guest judge is Annie Ford Danielson, Global Beauty...she works for Benefit.

Team Mondo

  • Asha: Oh god. It's ugly. I can't even deal. First off, the client isn't dark skinned enough to be able to pull off that dark of a gold. You need to be really dark skinned to pull off that color fabric. Secondly, the fit is awful. I know the client is probably bulgy in odd spots because her skin may not have tightened up yet from losing 50 lbs, so its an odd job of hiding and showing things off. But, the fitting of the dress is bulgy on the body as well with wrinkles in all the wrong places. And then there the bandolero type straps that accentuate her boobies and make them very very prominent. It's just...NO.
  • Sam: ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. It would have been a cute dress that reminds you of the dress that Mondo made and lost with in his season. It has the same front print panel with the solid sides. A more generic neckline. And weird sleeves that don't belong with this style of dress. It's not a power outfit for work. And its too somber for play. Maybe as a late afternoon yacht club party? I dunno. I have nothing against this dress, except for the sleeves.
Team Nick
  • Oscar: It's a pageant gown. A very nice pageant gown. But, a pageant gown. Green isn't her color. Its not really fashion, but it is what she wanted.
Team Anya
  • Blake: What? I don't know. He makes his skinny girl look pregnant. The dress looks like a hippy craft session where paint got over a crappy dress purchased from Goodwill...or possibly made out of curtains from a kindergarten art studio. I don't even now. It's terrible. 
  • Shan: Clear winner. It's not perfect. I mean, boy had like 2 hours to make this dress. But, it's the only happy dress of this whole lot. It's summery, fun, flirty, young modern. Clear winner.
So, judging goes as expected, though everybody was a bit gentler on the outfits than they deserved because you don't want to make your fan clients cry. Do you? No, of course you don't. Shan wins because...there's no other option for a winner. Blake goes home because...who the hell is he again?

Stray Observations
  • Yes, Oscar. Your model will look very tall when you have her in 12" heels. ZOMG, did you see the heels she's wearing? They're ridiculous! They make me scared to even think about tottering around in such foolish contraptions.
  • I like how Anya writes down a quote from Nelson Mandela: "It always seems impossible until its done." I didn't know she was a quote queen. I would have liked more of that earlier in the season. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E10: Crossing Teams

If there's one thing we've learned from our years of Project Runway, it's that being a wallflower gets you nowhere. While being a complete and utter jerk doesn't necessarily insure you the win, at least egotism and confidence get you noticed and sometimes a begrudging respect. But, being a pushover with no confidence will get you kicked off the show. I still remember that one season where that one designer said "I should go home" and Heidi was all "You need more confidence in order to survive. You killed yourself by saying you shouldn't stay. Auf Weidersehen."

This lesson gets reinforced time and again, and, spoiler alert, it will be reinforced this week on Under the Gunn. This is also going to be the first time where the mentors are not the primary focus of the episode, creating a story where we finally get to see how the designers work together and how they work in general.

As we open the episode this week, everybody is passive-aggressively bitching about Natalia in front of her, without mentioning her name. Blake: "I miss Michelle. How does it feel to be the top two girls?" "It's another chance to get to prove who we are." *crickets* *Asha sideways glares at Natalia*

Asha, getting the villain edit while wearing a shirt that tackily says "Ohio Against The World," openly bitches about Natalia in asides, constantly throughout the episode. Even before we've made it to the challenge, the editors have inserted Asha's bitchiness, and don't let it up. She must have gone in to the confessional booth 300 times throughout the day to bitch about Natalia again and again. 

This week's challenge is the mini-collection team challenge, to create a spring collection inspired by an over-expensive boho women's clothing store that's found in malls everywhere, Francesca's. They also have the accessory wall. This week's teams are Oscar and Shen (finished + stylish), Blake and Sam (tailored + young), and Asha and Natalia (future + current). All three of these teams might stylistically add up to amazing mini-collections if they can figure out how to work together.

The editors, however, have already foretold that Asha isn't willing to work with Natalia. Nor is Mondo willing to work with Asha or Nick. By the time we hit Mood for fabric selection, even Tim seems to be ready to oppress Natalia out of the series. Later, both Shen and Sam have asides claiming they used to not respect Natalia, but they've come around. But, really...who cares since they aren't teamed with her.

The other two teams work well with each other, with Blake and Sam realizing that you CAN elevate junior with some really good tailoring. Oscar realizes that he sometimes needs some really good editing and Shen can bring a milder eye to Oscar's overdesigning. Both teams collaborate well during sketching, and during Mood.

On the other hand, Asha and Natalia are fighting in Francesca's. They continue fighting in Mood. Asha has decided on a color palette that she hasn't shared/confirmed with Natalia. Asha picks out a whole litany of fabrics, but doesn't fill in Natalia with her overall story. Asha chooses a bunch of fabrics, and runs the team overbudget if they included any of Natalia's fabrics. They can't agree on anything either, because Asha chooses some really fucking awful fabrics. Asha and Tim steamroll over Natalia where she can't get her fabric. When they get to the work room, Natalia wants to cut little swatches of the fabric in order to create a color story, and Asha refuses to let her because she doesn't work like that. It's really brutal how easily Asha's ego and pre-determined hatred for Natalia overpowers Natalia's wallflower nature and lack of confidence. The part that makes me really want to slap Asha is when people comment on her misery and she grins and passive-aggressively says "being positive" when she's being anything but. Her attitude is as tacky, cheap, and fake as her stupid t-shirt.

By the time we get to the mentor critiques, where the three designers come critique the teams in pairs, based on their designers. They stay with their team members. Nick and Anya work well together because Oscar and Shen are really lost at first with some good seedlings that have been lost in an incoherent collection of mundane design. Mondo and Anya critique well because Mondo likes Blake, and Anya is a terrible critic though she knows good criticism. 

But, Nick and Mondo have the same dynamic that Natalia and Asha have. Mondo hates Nick, and he also hates Natalia. He bowls over both Nick and Natalia in order to undermine Natalia and put the onus on her not to be critical of Asha. He also takes time out to say "you need to edit, but I love this Moroccan thing you've got going" in Asha's really awful fabric pairing that will become a dashiki. At this point, Natalia starts designing not to save herself, but to keep Asha from being out. "This isn't about me. This is about a team challenge." Ego, this girl does not have. 

During the final day run-up, Blake and Sam are given some sort of pseudo drama that they have to finish a dress in 2 hours, but they're really good at finishing anyways. The audience really knows that the big trouble team is Asha and Natalia. Asha asks Natalia to do some finishing on her crappy dashiki, just so she can freak out on the runway about how Natalia fucked up her awful thing, and says as much when Mondo comes by. 

*Deep Breaths* It's runway time. The guest judge this week is Sei Jin, from Francesca's. The winning design will be sold at Francesca's, and the designers will win $5,000 for that design. 

Shen and Oscar: Their collection ages a little from 14-year-old to late 20s as it goes on. I wasn't as gaga over it as the judges, though it is solid. Also, the maxi dress fits Francesca's but it isn't quite in the same story as the other two outfits.
  • Design 1: OMG, CUTE! Up close and personal, the overalls seemed rather heavy, but from afar the overall shorts are totally junior cute. which is a bit too young for Francesca's. But, it's well done and the removable overalls are nifty.
  • Design 2: I love the blazer from the front. But, from the back the cutout looks really saggy. I don't get the love because it kind of looks like somebody slashed the jacket. The pieces underneath the jacket, the bright orange knit things are also so hidden by the jacket that they don't get any time to shine, even though they are kind of brilliant on their own.
  • Design 3: It's a maxi dress with pockets. It's stunning, but we've all seen it so many times that it was dependent on its great print.
Asha and Natalia: It's a tortured collection of terrible fabrics, unnecessary 60s retro, and terrible finishing. None of this is what I would expect from either Asha or Natalia on their own. Asha is normally future slut, while Natalia is normally more modern and innovative. That they created such a bad collection of Woodstock-inspired kitsch is telling of how they worked together.
  • Design 1: Natalia look. The skirt is cute. The back is cute. The front is abhorable. It's a simple design with none of Natlia's usual innovation, so her lack of finishing skills comes back to haunt her when she creates something so simplistic. The skirt is so interesting (why pleats?!) and the back straps are fantastic, but the front bust is about as crushed and steamrolled as Natalia.
  • Design 2: God, I hate this look. I hate everything about it. The dashiki is made up of awful felt fabrics, the turquoise doesn't match the brown and the gold, and everything about it is just pure tacky. It's just hideous. I just...I just can't.
  • Design 3: Costume. OMG, does anybody actually wear this anymore? It is pure Woodstock. I haven't seen anybody in this look in decades. 60s aren't revivalist right now. The skirt, however, is interesting with it's belly strap and cutouts. But, it's in service of a look that's so dated it makes me scream.
Sam and Blake: Modern, youthful, and kind of tailored. This is what I expected their ollection to look like. It's kind of expected, and doesn't fit in too well with Francesca's (probably the least compatible of the three collections), but it is within their aesthetic without straying too far from the challenge. It's finished well as well.
  • Design 1: Trendy, young, fabric. It's not junior, but perfect for that woman who wants to look 22. I love the top especially with the strong  red in the back.
  • Design 2: Modern and boho casual. This feels like what Asha's design 3 was trying to be. It's an updated version of the overtly 60s crop top with harem pants replacing the skirt making it far more casual.
  • Design 3: It's a nice semi-evening outfit. The asymmetrical top is interesting, but I can't see many girls wearing it. The skirt is a nice skirt. 
The judging is basically everything that you can see on the runway with your own two eyes. Strangely, Sei Jin takes up Shen's jacket instead of his overalls, and not so strangely also picks up Oscar's maxi dress with pockets because it is a totally expected window piece. 

But, the worst part is what happens between Asha and Natalia. When asked who should go home, Asha doesn't want to be the first to bitch out Natalia in order to make herself not seem like a bitch. But, Natalia doesn't have the ego or confidence to throw Asha under the bus where she belongs for that fucking awful dashiki. Instead, Asha works herself up to tears in order to say how much she wants it and tears tears tears. It's totally fake. Natalia, on the other hand, starts tearing up and throws herself under the bus, saying that she doesn't want Asha to go home because of Natalia. Which, ugh. Natalia's inability to stand up for herself and her lack of confidence was, ultimately, her undoing and she goes home.

Random Observations:
  • Sam's comment of "isn't that a dress that every girl already has?" makes for an awesome friendly bitchy session that Under the Gunn has seriously been lacking in. It's gay camaraderie at its finest...wait, Shen is married with kids?  Still doubtful...
  • When Tim comes in to say that the designers have an extra hour to finish their outfits, Oscar's look of "what the hell? Come on! I've been finished for hours already!" is hilarious
  • Can we see the hair stylist lead make out with Handlebar Moustache Guy? Can they have their own series? Shirtless Stylists! I'd watch.
  • Nick really likes saying "Easy Breezy [random third verb]." It's like a drinking game. If he references Cover Girl's tagline, finish the bottle of wine.
  • Apologies for being so late on this week's posting. I had it all written out, and had clicked save instead of publish. YAY late night writing! LOL  Tomorrow's should be published in a more timely fashion.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E9: "Trouble in the Lounge"

You know you're in for a Very Special Episode when the title of the episode doesn't even reference the challenge. With a title like Trouble in the Lounge, one might think that we're going to some sort of bad girl bar, and the challenge is to make evening lounge wear that borders slutty. Or, maybe a biker leather challenge. But, really, today's challenge has nothing to do with trouble, and it would have to be a fancy lounge.

Yes, dear readers, this is a huge drama episode. And, it actually centers around a designer. We're also back to a Nick-heavy episode. But, surprisingly, it isn't a Nick vs Designer episode. So, it's a new formula!  We're all about new forms of storytelling within the given formula here, as long as it works.

But I get ahead of myself. Thanks episode title. The challenge this week is the periodic day to evening outfit. The outfit has to transform on the runway, in front of the judges. It's all because ladies are fickle as all hell women like choices. If you expect them to be able to choose between scents to decorate their house, how do you expect them to commit to a look for day and evening? I keed. Everybody knows that it is really convenient to go from the office straight to dinner to the theater when you get off work at 5, the theater starts at 7, and your home is an hour (round trip) out of the way.

The designers start sketching, and as they start sketching EVERYBODY starts bitching. Bitching about who? They're all bitching about Natalia. In case you don't remember, last week Natalia had that really interesting weaving thing, while both Michelle and Stephanie (the bottom two) had neon plastic things, where the former was trashy 80s acid raver, and the latter was so completely unfinished. I guess people liked Stephanie over Natalia, on a personal level. Suddenly, all the other designers (except Oscar), and both Mondo and Anya start to gang up against Natalia. They're bitching because they thing that Nick is giving Natalia far too much help and is way too handsy.

Mind you, Nick opens the episode by reinforcing everybody else's opinions. He starts by giving tips and ideas to both Oscar and Natalia, and also spending extra time with Natalia to help her through her emotional battles. The editors chose to make a victim narrative out of Natalia for this episode from the first frame. To me, it seemed to come out of nowhere, but maybe I'm missing something. Natalia seems like a frenetic girl but she doesn't seem mean to anybody. If we're making a hard working but emotional person who doesn't sabotage anybody else into either a victim or a villain, you know we're stretching for plot.

Of course, Natalia breaks down by the first break, in part because the editor has edited all of the people to be angry at her. If you know anything about microaggressions, they do add up. But, they add up especially if 85% of the people in your area are angry at you because they felt you should have gone home.

This is also a Nick's Growth episode that seems like a repeat storyline. Early in the episode he's telling Oscar to make a shirt dress with snaps and how to make it transform. But, by the end of the episode (at least in front of Tim), he's asking the designers to edit themselves. Didn't he already have this revelation? Hasn't he said "OMG, I should really trust my designers?" Namely, in the team episode. How many times can he have this revelation??

Anyways, we actually get some comparison with both Mondo and Anya. Both of them are attempting to disengage from the designers, and not tell their designers that their ideas are shit. They haven't quite figured out how to critique ideas constructively. Anya's critiques are "You might want to reconsider the pants." Or "This would look really boring in black." Mondo's critiques are "finish it off. Super clean." "Back up a little and just let it be more organic." Instead of challenging their designer's concepts, several of which are extremely hideous, they're content to just give tips on finishing. And, in Mondo's case, moral support.

They don't pull a Joanna Coles and say "this outfit is going to look like its a 70s throwback." Or, "That first silhouette looks like a sack and the second look looks like a straitjacket." Even on day 2, when Shan has a too wide cummerbund wraparound, Anya asks "what can we do about that?" without actually making a comment as to why it looks so bad.

There has to be a balance. I know that you're supposed to be playing team captain, but you need to be really really critical sometimes when the designers are going down a wrong road. This is part of being a good leader. Knowing when to encourage, and when you need to yank the wheel to the left.

Through many tears and indifferences, we actually make it to the runway, somehow. Today's special guest is Macklemore...who...ugh. Yeah, yeah, I know...he made a song about gay marriage that was radio friendly and blah blah blah, but I have strong negative fee fees about him that don't belong here. And, why can't we ever get Ryan Lewis? He seems to be the less douchey of the two.

Team Anya

  • Shen: The whole outfit and idea is simple but cute. However, that cummerbund seems slightly off in its proportions, in part because I really don't like that fabric. My mom used to have suits like that in the 90s, which I guess are coming back in, but it never was a good fabric. For the night look, I can't tell if the cummerbund comes completely off or if it ties back around. Imagine having a big ol bump of fabric lumped in your back if you're sitting in a theater?  Maybe it's not that bad. But, I loved the zipper skirt idea. Suggested criticism: "That fabric is recalling Talbot from the 90s, use sparingly."
  • Blake: This is so 70s, when we're all about reclaiming the 90s (I think? Are we still in the 80s?). Anyways, the bell bottom pants are recockulous in how exagerrated the bottoms are. Then, for night time, the model keeps the super long vest which went kind of well with the pants, but now re-emphasizes how short the cocktail dress is. And, really, that's the problem with his concept in the first place. To have a cocktail's dress worth of fabric in your pants, you'd have to be shoving fabric half way down your legs! It's a good idea that is impossible to do. It would have been better with a longer shirt and a pencil skirt. Suggested criticism: "Your dress is skewing 70s with the bell bottom and the fabric choices. Update for the '10s."
Team Nick
  • Natalia: The first look is nice and winter warm for a cold day at the office, especially for some of you people who really like their areas cranked up into the 80s and 90s in the middle of winter. This looks nice and cozy warm for that cold office that you have to heat with a space heater. The finishing of how the knit wool lays on the dress is unfinished, but not in a distracting way. That the knit turns into a handbag (WHAT?!) is strange and bizarre and I'd love it, except where does she put her other purse? And, does her new purse actually hold anything? The dress beneath is kind of off-the-rack but its also fresh and sporty.
  • Oscar: I dunno you guys. I kind of don't like this look. The two front slits for the daytime are a bit trampy high for office wear. And, with the black cape, the outfit is rather boring. But, when she flips the cape, all of a sudden its really trashy Real Housewives ugly.
Team Mondo
  • Asha: No. The extra padding on the jacket adds like 30 pounds to a woman's body, and made this super thin model look pregnant. It's asymmetrical, and unbalanced. And, it serves no purpose as the jacket doesn't turn inside out or do any weird tricks. The skirt is OK in the day, but when it flips for night, (which is the only transformation that I can tell), it looks like she hiked her skirt up to use the bathroom and her slip is on the outside. Suggested criticism: "What's with all this extra padding? You made a model look pregnant. Do you know how hard that is??"
  • Michelle: The daytime look seems like it was inspired by California beachwear, except in a drab palette. It's like a sad grey sack from the front with a brown poopy back. But then the even look is worse since she creates a pseudo harness with these pieces of fabric and string that hang down, making it look like she's got her sweatshirt tied around her waist. It completely doesn't work from either perspective. Suggested criticism: "That's a snoozefest. Do something to liven it up because your color selection needs help."
  • Sam: I really love the evening dress because it is so easy and fresh. But, the daytime jacket makes it seem like she's wearing a smock, and I can't get over how high on the collar and boxy it is. Plus, the colors clash. Suggested criticism: "That looks like a smock."
In the end, Michelle goes home because we needed to even out the teams (cynical much?). Oscar wins because...I don't know. Today's runway was kind of full of ugly today. We've had much much better day to evening transformation challenges, and this was kind of an all around fail. 

The episode doesn't end there! After the judging, everybody is bitter that Natalia not only didn't lose, but was in the top. They think that Nick was helping too much, and it has been too late in the game. While I tend to agree with this reasoning, the problem is that the judges (except for Tim) don't actually see this work manipulation process. In the end, it just comes off like really bitter sour grapes.

Stray observations:
  • Mondo's hair shirt is back. Yay?
  • What the hell is up with Mondo's appropriation of the late 80s hip hop style with the cap, chunky gold chain and sweater?  I guess that it isn't being used at the moment, but its so fucking hipster and crass, it makes me want to slap him silly. It seems fitting that Mondo's appropriation trumped Macklemore's.
  • Speaking of Macklemore, he really didn't have much to add this episode, did he?
  • The way Mondo and Anya ganged up on Nick was really patently unfair. Saying "I think your designer sucks" is not a valid criticism. Sorry, assholes. Then, mocking him for saying your attitude sucks just adds to your mean girls attitude. Blah. I wonder if the producers pushed them into it because it seems rather unlike Mondo otherwise.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E8: "It's an Unconventional Beach Party!"

Today's episode opens with everybody lamenting the loss of Nicholas, and Anya's undermining of Nicholas' confidence. You know, without acknowledging that Nicholas was an accomplished menswear designer, but an amateur (at best) woman's designer. It's all really unfair to Nicholas, especially when Anya is all "I spent 15 hours sitting next to him" without adding "crossing my arms, breathing through my nose, and ordering him around through clenched teeth."

For the previous 4 episodes, the editors of Under the Gunn have been choosing to focus on either Anya or Nick as the subjects of the episodes. Mainly because the winners and losers have come from either camp, especially in the past couple weeks. Unfortunately, that means that we've also been getting a dearth of Mondo.

Luckily, today's episode fixes that, and also shows why we've been having a dearth of Mondo. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First, we have to figure out what this week's challenge is. It's the full-on unconventional challenge, using beach detritus. It's all things like beach balls, chairs, umbrellas, leis, fans, etc. For an unconventional materials challenge, there are a lot of conventional materials. 

During the design process, everybody starts out on wildly different techniques. Natalia starts knitting. Sam is using a bamboo mat to make a jacket. Michelle is using rubber material from beach balls. Stephanie is using flower leis but hasn't figure out what to do with them. There is a wildly different array of techniques, which is a surprising variety even compared to previous unconventional material challenges.

This week, as mentioned earlier, focuses on Mondo and how he leads and encourages, but also critiques. His general attitude is to point out flaws in approaches, but also to push for better choices and to support his designers in their abilities. But, like all of the other mentors, he also focuses on those who need his help most. Later in the episode, Michelle laments that Mondo isn't paying as much attention to her as he is to the other designers, and doesn't know if that's because he trusts her or if he doesn't believe in her. To the viewer, she's also one of the designers who has mildly regressed throughout the season.

In part, as the story goes, Mondo sees potential in both Asha and Sam that was unfulfilled in their portfolios, and so dedicates more time to them to develop their eye. Michelle, on the other hand, had a developed eye in the first place, and so he mainly just bops around because she might not need as much help.

Contrast Mondo to Nick, who was at first completely hands on, and is now trying the Mondo technique of editing where needed (Oscar) but being otherwise encouraging and trusting of his designers (Stephanie). Oscar basically needs to be edited, because, as mentioned in the premiere, he suffers from the Spanish cliche of over-the-top throw-in-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink type of design. Oscar's first two designs totally filled that role until Nick came around and told him to change his direction.

The editors of Under the Gunn are also doing a great job by setting up parallels between Mondo's team and Nick's team. Sam and Oscar both have to make U-turns to great effect. Sam and Stephanie are both suffering from confidence issues. Asha and Natalia are both using unusual techniques with layers and woven type materials to create looks. Stephanie and Michelle are both using rubber materials, and also both getting the least amount of help from their mentors. 

Meanwhile, Anya is widely ignored...because she's terrible. They keep giving her asides, and way more lines than they seemed to give Mondo in the previous episodes. I don't really know why. It's not like she's all that insightful. Maybe it's because she's photogenic?

Anyways, we eventually stumble our way to the runway. Georgina Chapman is back. 

Team Nick:
  • Natalia: Maybe I'm not as critical, but I kind of loved this piece. I liked how it wasn't quite finished and the patterns she made with the knitting, especially up the sides. The back needed a little bit of work. But, what frustrates me is that the dress underneath was made from a beach umbrella, which wasn't that unconventional. 
  • Oscar: Beach mats become a scalloped dress. It's totally super modern and chic. It isn't California beach culture, being more based in the south of France or Italy, but it is fresh. 
  • Stephanie: Ugh. Sad. This is arts and crafts, with her melting plastic flowers to create a kind of young and junior outfit. But, it isn't finished, you can see the white material she used as a base, and it looks almost a bit cheap. Still, I can't deny that it would be an awesome thing for a stage show.
Team Anya
  • Shen: He used a beach umbrella and an inflatable raft. The materials he chose were rather conventional, and the look he ended up with was boringly conventional as well. But, the back rope work is beautiful. That's about all I have to say about that.
  • Blake: It's a vest which looks like it belongs in a minorly stylish version of Swiss Family Robinson, and a skirt that belongs on a not stylish version of Swiss Family Robinson. Snoooooooze.
Team Mondo
  • Sam: He made a skirt from a bamboo beach mat and a bikini top from a beach chair. It's really fresh, alive, and totally California Beach Culture. That being said, the top should get points deducted for being an actual material. Though those points get put back on for the model-suggested pineapple purse.
  • Asha: This feels the modern fresh version of Blake's outfit. It has clean modern lines, a fresh textile stile, and the skirt bounces and is alive. They have the same types of direction, but Asha's just feels alive compared to Blake's dead costumes.
  • Michelle: Futuristic rubber robot hooker. It's the colder, trampier, and more costumey version of Stephanie's outfit. If she had cut off the side wings from the skirt, it would be a clean design and it is finished.
The judges this week can't decide on who wins, but their top 2 are both in Mondo's camp. Mondo has to decide between Sam and Asha, and picks Sam as the winner as a bit of a pick-me-up. I preferred Asha's look myself due to it being more innovative, but I can see Sam as well. And, because the look was unfinished and ugly, Stephanie goes home.

I kind of liked that the judges left the hard decisions up to the mentor if the mentor had to decide, kind of like a team captain. But, making the mentor choose the winner is more like choosing favorites, which is like of lame. The judges needs to make a decision sometimes!!!

Random Observations:

- Yes, Blake, we know you're pale. Say it with me...Sunlight.

- Oscar likes showing off his ripped pants...while he's wearing them. HAH!

- Anya, your critiquing designers that aren't under your mentorship shows just how terrible a mentor you are.

- Blake winning a bonus prize for incorporating a design detail suggested by his model is kind of cool. I hope that he shares part of that prize money with her.

- Can we talk about the non-runway fashion choices? Sam in a long-sleeve shirt with a giant sad hound dog printed on his chest. Oscar is in a rejected outfit from a Sylvester Stallone version of Scarface that makes me shout "It's Lacroix, darling". Mondo in a suit made of a cloudy blue sky. Mondo's confessional shirt that looks like he got a haircut while wearing it. There was a lot of ugly not on the runway today.

- Ugh to the title this week, Can you get any longer and more unwieldy?