This week's challenge is to get inspired by, and create a companion look for, an exquisite piece of jewelry. Disclaimer: I hate jewelry. I think our obsession with shiny rocks is just the single dumbest thing ever. For more information on how I feel about this subject, one only ever needs to read Gulliver's Travels, specifically the section about The Yahoos and see what that great satire has to say about us. But with that being said, I understand how a nice piece of jewelry can be perfectly accented by or even overpowered by a dress, so I tend to like this challenge when it comes around.
So the designers pick a piece, or collection of pieces, of jewelry and head to the workroom to start sketching. It's at this point that things get a little dramatic as Tim comes in looking very distraught and asks for a gather around. He admits he's been feeling uneasy about this all night, and then proceeds to bring Char back and use his save on her. It's a little bit late, but no less dramatic for so being. On the contrary, doing it like this and at this point in the competition heightens the drama of the episode in a very palpable and enjoyable way. The designers spent the beginning of the episode talking about how much they miss Char, Sandy talks about how responsible she feels since she was her teammate in the last challenge. No mention of her feeling responsible since she chose that hideous fabric, but whatever, I guess. And generally, a number of people talk about there being a lack in the workroom without Char. So you get the warm fuzzies of her being brought back, and then you get the gut punch as the realization sets in that the Tim Gunn save has now been taken off the table. Everyone is essentially working without a net now.
But I'm also not totally sure how I feel about the save being used on Char. I know I got some shit for defending Tim using his save last year, but I stand by my thoughts that it was well used then. Especially given the collection Justin turned out in the finale. But do I really think Char has what it takes to even make it that far in the competition? I'm honestly not sure. While I'll agree that she was probably ousted a little bit before her time, I don't know that I'll say she doesn't deserve it, or that she didn't deserve to go home off of the shit show she sent down the runway last time. Both saves thus far seem to have been used out of a deeply moving emotional moment on Tim's part. And I don't want to take anything away from emotion and gut feeling, but it still leaves me questioning how the save should be used. Does it get held onto until someone like Kini or Sean stumble and go home? I don't think so because logic dictates that at this point Kini and Sean shouldn't be capable of stumbling so hard that they'd be sent home, and if they are...maybe they'd deserve it? Should it be used for someone like Emily or Fade who have nice aesthetics, but who haven't been given their due yet and may never be given them? I'm more inclined towards the latter, but now we'll never know because it went to Char. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset about this decision. I understand why Tim made it, and I've got no problem with seeing more from this designer. I just think these are interesting and important questions to ask.
Now, back to work. To aid in the designer's inspiration, everyone takes a trip to the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit at the Met. And my jaw hit the floor. Again, not a fashion expert by any means, so the name Charles James didn't ring any bells for me, but my God those dresses were fucking beautiful. And there's something about a museum doing an entire exhibit on fashion that just makes me crazy excited for some odd reason. Either way, man oh man do I love this.
From there it's off to Mood where Sean and Samantha get fabric in the same color, and the producers have started translating and subtitling Swatch's barks for us. So....you know....there's that. But Swatch is still one of my favorite elements of the show, so far be it for me to complain. The two designers with the same fabric drama has been played out enough on this show for me not to pay any attention to it when it happened. Indeed, the show tries to milk a little more drama from it here, but I don't think they were fully committed and I for one didn't buy it. So no big deal on that one.
Tim's visit also brings the drama in the form of some tough words for everyone. Well everyone except for Sean, but who's counting really? Tim bringing the tough love almost always results in looks getting better before they hit the runway. Or, to be more specific, when good designers hear Tim offering tough love and proceed to follow his advice in a manner that enhances their already solid, but maybe just slight off, vision, it results in looks getting better. Point to fact: Tim admonishes Fade for a tragic neckline on his dress which looks like an elastic headband for the model's boobs. He doesn't panic, but he changes it and comes up with something great we'll talk about in a bit. Korina's made a bold choice with an upholstery type fabric for her jacket, but she's constructed it in a manner that doesn't allow the pattern to matchup. I have no clue why she did so as it's hideous, but Tim points this out to her and in typical Korina fashion she gets her panicked deer in the headlights look before deciding how to proceed. Alexander's neckline is so wrong for the necklace he chose that it hurts, but Tim points this out and he reworks it in a manner that's certainly better. So good things all around, more or less. Let's head to the runway for the bloody aftermath.
Korina: Bear with me for a minute on this one while I venture into sports territory: There are times when coaches take big risks in football by going for it on like 4th and 5 to go moments. It's the kind of decision that's great if it pays off, and is horrible if it fails. That's the same way I feel about Korina's look. Objectively, it’s much much better with the construction issues worked out. The pattern matching up makes everything more pleasing to the eye. And the jewelry is perfectly framed and shown against the dress. But I think it's only really great if she wins and the huge risk pays off.
Fade: This look has a simple elegance to it. I think the fact that he only had earrings to work with dictated what he needed to do, and I think he made the right choice. My guess is it’ll be overshadowed by the extravagant gowns on the runway, but it’s beautiful nevertheless. Everything is designed in a manner that allows the earrings to speak for themselves, and the draping on the back and the redone neckline are just fabulous.
Char: I think it’s beautiful to the tenth degree, but I also think I would like it more in a color other than white. Maybe something that could allow the jewelry to pop just a little bit more. But the cut of the dress is fantastic and I loved it.
Emily: I’ve admitted a number of times that I like Emily a lot. This I’m less sure on. The cut of the dress and the little bubble elements of the skirt portion just don’t sit as well with me. I think it’s pretty, don’t get me wrong, but it looks like a bit much and something I don’t think many women would rush to wear. I’m not a woman, I’m not even a man who wears dresses (sadly) but it’s not a look I respond to all that well. She’s starting to be the designer we look at as being over-designed I think. I like that she went with red to go with the pearls, but I think that red might have been better with a darker pearl.
Samantha: I hate it. I feel bad for hating it, but I hate it. It looks like there are construction issues with the back, the flaps on the hips just look odd, and I don’t see how any of it complements the jewelry at all. She chose pieces that were simple and paired down, so I think she wanted to go a little more extravagant with the dress, but I think I would have preferred the opposite.
Kini: This is an example of going simple for his paired down jewelry without going basic or boring. The movement is breathtaking. He said he wanted to combine hard and soft, and to those ends I would have liked a firmer corset like top, but I think this is beautiful. It's not his best look, by any means, but it's pretty.
Sandy: Here’s another look from Sandy that I actually do like. I think it goes well with the jewelry, I think the back is just freaking gorgeous, and I think her little hip flaps work so much better than Samantha’s that it’s scary. I like it, but I still want her to go home.
Sean: I feel like this dress is made by the neckline (which I love) and the jewelry. I think there’s something to be said about creating a look that’s simple so your jewelry can stand out and carry the bulk of the weight of the entire look, but I also think he’s capable of doing better. It's another beautiful gown from him, but I'm not really wowed by it.
Amanda: NO! Just no! Get off the runway. There’s no way this isn’t the worst look up there. What the hell was she thinking? No!
Alexander: I love this! Which I think might be the first look from him that I can say that for. But here's the thing, I think a lot of my love for it has to do with how he's transformed it from what it was before. The neckline still hides the jewel a bit too much, but it's way better than it was before. I don't like the back which looks way too messy and tacked on, but he had a vision and he went with it. I love the fabric, I love how he manipulated the fabric (on the front), and I love how he took Tim's advice. I'll be in the minority on this one, I think, but I love it.
So it's Sean, Korina, and Amanda in the top three. I honestly don't want to type anymore because that just made me throw up in my mouth. Amanda? Give me a fucking break! I can't handle this for much longer. And it's Kini, Alexander, and Samantha in the bottom. Which, again, I know I'll probably be the only one to say so, but I really love Alexander's look. It could have been at least safe if nothing else, and then you put Amanda in the bottom where she belongs, and replace her with either Char or Fade in the top.
Because here's the thing, the judges actually don't have glowing praise for Amanda to begin with. The girls all like it enough, but no one's gushing over it. Heidi even points out later that this is really between Sean and Korina, so why is Amanda even up there? You expect me to believe that the lukewarm comments they made towards her were better than the comments they would have had for one of the safe designers? And it would have given us a chance to talk to someone we haven't heard from much yet. I'm so over the judging this season.
No one has anything at all positive to say about Alexander's look. Which doesn't surprise me, but to be honest I fully disagree with every point the judges make except for the messiness of the back and the fact that the neckline is still too high. But everything else they rip apart: the fabric choice, the manner in which he works the fabric, and the color of the dress as it goes against the color of the gem in the necklace I call bullshit on. He's one of the few designers to not go matchy matchy with it. He had a red gem and didn't choose a red fabric. I commend him for that. And he had a vision and took a risk, much like Korina did, but I can see how someone would say his risk didn't pay off as much, but still. It's some of the specific things they say about the dress that bug me, because other than a few of the elements, I like it. If the entire critique had been about how it's unfinished, and the back is messy, and you couldn't see the jewelry, then I wouldn't complain....maybe.
But either way, Korina wins, and it's well deserved on this one. Her risk paid off, and by virtue of it's success, she looks like a genius. And Samantha goes home because safe isn't good enough at this point. So as much as the judge's critique of Alexander pissed me off, they still made the right choice on who to send home. This is also the last challenge for which anyone will win immunity, so things are about to get tougher from here on out. But this was also the first really good and compelling episode of the season, so if this is setting the tone for what's to come, I think we can start to get excited again.
--I'm sick of the phrase Stray Observations, so I think we'll mix it up a bit from here on out.
--Char being back leads to her and Amanda having a great connection moment in the workroom. Everyone was so ready to throw her under the bus for her bitchy attitude last week, but now she's been humbled and she's a sweetie. All the more reason to not judge too harshly.
--In talking about Kini's look, Nina says: “Beautiful but not well executed” which I think might have to be the tag line for Kini’s looks at this point.
--I love how the designers aren't allowed to touch the jewelry. It's like "We don't trust you fuckers at all. Keep your grubby hands off our bling!"
--I would do some dirty dirty things to Zac Posen in that suit. Yummy!
--Sean: It's crazy to be on the bottom one day and then on the top two days in a row. Truer words have never been spoken, although it's possible he means that in a different way than I do...
--Lastly, I think I should make mention of the passing of Joan Rivers this week. She certainly had a powerful and distinct voice when it comes to fashion, and for that I'm guessing she'll be missed. I know she made a few statements lately that weren't too positive and painted her in a bad light, but I would at least like to hope that we could look past that to an extent and understand death is a solemn if not respectable occasion.