The challenge this week was to create ready-to-wear looks for Lord & Taylor's Spring 2013 line, inspired by the luxury department store's signature rose emblem. The winning designer had their look reproduced and it's now on sale at Lord & Taylor (An idea they no doubt stole from Fashion Star! Michelle's dress is $259, but it has already sold out, of course).
It was clear from the title of Episode 9, "He Said, She Said," that this one was going to be all about team relations. And indeed, watching it I was struck by how each of the guy-girl pairings was dysfunctional in its own way. In fact, I was so distracted by the histrionics of certain male contestants that I nearly forgot to pay attention to their usual sewing/design-related foibles!
Before we get to the looks and what we can learn, let's conduct a little couples therapy — and think about who we would least like to be in a relationship with based on their conduct in this particular challenge.
• Patricia & Stanley — Patricia felt bullied by Stanley's hands-on approach to this team challenge. In her eyes, he was being controlling. But Stanley hasn't lost a team challenge yet, and he wasn't about to start. So rather than taking the passive-aggressive route (like most other designers have in the past with Patricia), he actually forced her to communicate with him, by doing what I always do: calling his partner defensive and then inviting her to answer back to his criticism.
It never works for me. But it seemed to do the trick for them; Stanley smartly reminded Patricia they were on the same team, and that he's looking out for her. Oh, and he reminded her that whatever garment they send down the runway will be judged for its ability to be mass-produced (and sold for under $250). So Patricia avoided undertaking one of her intricate (and time-consuming, so therefore expensive) fabrications and made something simpler for once:
It's not great, but it was enough to keep her around for another week. And as for who would make a better partner out of this pair, I think Stanley is the clear winner. Nothing would fester unsaid with this guy!
• Richard and Layana — Richard just couldn't let go of his ill feelings toward Layana after she criticized him during judging last week (even though he was the first one to turn on a teammate, let's not forget!). And rather than have it out with her and move on like Stanley might, Richard gave Layana the silent treatment for the duration of this one-day challenge. But the silent treatment only serves to amuse when its target cares little for your opinion. (And later when the judges started laying into Richard for his boring maxi dress, you could just picture him adding all their names to his do-not-speak-to list — written in lipstick on his vanity mirror.) Point for Layana.
• Daniel and Michelle — You've got to love Daniel and Michelle for their shared ability to absorb criticism like it's a compliment. When Tim says Daniel's original garment, a cropped jacket, looks like something Joan Collins would wear, he retaliates with a sunny "Who doesn't love Joan Collins!?" (Shades of Michelle, who earlier in this season delighted in a critique that said her country/rock look was hair metallish!)
But when Daniel decided to unpick his cropped jacket, he really started to unravel, which was apparent in the way he shoveled blame pre-emptively on his teammate, saying things like "You can't bring me down, Michelle!"
All that time spent projecting his fears onto Michelle would have been better spent pressing this dress, which I think looks like the new stewardess uniform for Air Barbie:
Michelle neither accepted Daniel's crazytown accusations, nor let them affect her ability to tackle this challenge. Which makes her the winner in more ways than one, and brings us to:
Lesson 1: Mixing fabrics looks luxe, when it's done right.
Michelle's winning look was created from several fabrics: chartreuse silk crepe de chine, sheer chiffon, and leather. It takes skill to sew together two fabrics of different weight and drape — and not have it be puckered or pull at the seams. This lesson is a mental note to experiment a little with layering and adding design elements in another fabric.
Lesson 2: A bad print makes a good design moot:
The judges were divided on Layana's Spring dress except when it came to the print — which they unanimously hated. I think the back is divine, and a second trip to Mood would probably make it a masterpiece. (Perhaps if her teammates had been speaking to her, someone would have suggested this looks a little Mrs.-Roper-muumuu for a full length dress.).
So what did I miss? Who's your current pick for final three?