It’s sink or swim as the remaining five designers ferry off to New York City’s Governors Island in search of design inspiration and their last shot at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. In the end, one of them will walk the fashion plank.
The Challenge: Create three looks inspired by the art and architecture that abounds on the slip of an island that sits just 800 feet off of Manhattan. While assigning the challenge, mentor Tim Gunn adds the stern admonishment: “You must show range.” In other words, Anya Ayoung-Chee better not make another resort caftan and Josh McKinley needs to lay off the studs.
The Making-it-Workroom Drama: The designers cruise around the island in individual golf carts snapping pictures and sketching ideas. Ayoung-Chee is inspired by Storm King’s exhibition of Mark di Suervo sculptures. Kimberly Goldson, too, is fixated on the iron monstrosities. “Princess” Laura Kathleen likes some iron wrought circles. McKinley, for his part, is into a canon and stained glass windows and is going for a “fragility meets strength” aesthetic. And, Viktor Luna just wants to make another pair of cigarette pants and make Nina Garcia drool over one of his perfect jackets.
After the requisite trip to Mood fabrics the designers return to the workroom where Gunn arrives with his velvet bag of dread. Cue the dramatic music: Through the swinging workroom doors comes the unpaid day laborers: eliminated designers Bert Keeter, Becky Ross, Bryce Black, Olivier Green and Anthony Ryan Auld. The cast-offs are about to get more face time as design assistants. Green is unhappy about working for free, but at least he isn’t complaining about DD cup breasts anymore. Through a button draw each finalist chooses a partner. The teams are; Ayoung-Chee and Keeter, Kathleen and Auld, Luna and Green, McKinley and Black, Goldson and Ross.
Despite the reunion it’s unusually quiet in the workroom because everyone wants to win. Or they’re just sick of each other.
What a surprise: McKinley is making snide remarks to Black about “beauty queen” Ayoung-Chee winning $20,000 in the L’Oreal for-the-birds challenge. Imagine how he’s going to react when she’s crowned the season 9 winner in two weeks. (Not that we really know who wins, but really, is there any doubt?)
Meanwhile, Gunn is worried for teams Goldson and Kathleen. He thinks Laura has put too many black circles in her frocks and Kimberly has gotten island sculpture confused with Lady Liberty – or a goiter.
The Guest Judge: Heidi Klum introduces “very special guest judge,” actress Zoe Saldana, whose presence is considered such a coup, she’s allowed to makes a grand entrance via the runway. Funny, Kim Kardashian didn’t get to do that.
The Deliberations: Before the judges’ decide their fate; the finalists are asked who they would choose for a Fashion Week nod. Interestingly, no one recommends Goldson. Everyone mentions Ayoung-Chee. Ayoung-Chee, clearly fatigued by McKinley’s accelerating disrespect, specifically mentions that he should be out. “He’s very singular,” she sniffs.
Who’s In: After some pretend “Should we pick three designers or four?” drama the judges decide to give Ayoung-Chee, Luna, McKinley and (after making us wait until after the commercial break) Goldson the honors.
Who’s Out: Although they flipped over her circle gown, Kathleen gets the heartbreaking pre-finale ‘auf for failing to wow the judges with all three of her looks. Stylelist is not surprised. Despite her weepy pleas for a place at Fashion Week, Garcia has questioned Kathleen’s cheap Barbie designs all season. Nina hates cheap.
Of course, you’ll never see it on television, but Kathleen actually did get to show her collection at Fashion Week. Hers was the first collection revealed at the “PR” decoy finale show, which featured the collections of nine contestants interspersed with those of the real finalists. Although we were rarely blown away by her competition designs, her runway show was one of the best. She mixed gold metallics with black for a sophisticated, dramatic and complete collection that was beautifully accessorized and styled. In our notebook, she was a winner. Stylelist can’t help but think as her looks came down the runway, someone winced with regret.
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