Its true! The designers and I had only 24 quick hours to build EVERYTHING for the Femme Fatale challenge and everyone was on edge (even the production crew). Cesar had the weight of the world on his shoulders with his "disco vampire" concept for House of Emerald and Nami had Calvin (enough said). And though Tamara went home, it was Calvin who had the dramatic exit during elimination with a tearful (and seemingly very sincere) goodbye to his only true friend on the show. He suggested leaving instead of her because he thought Tamara would benefit more from the competition due to her limited opportunities in fashion (and since he already a successful business and more comforts in life). Some of the judges thought he was faking it, but I thought his emotions were real and raw.
The most fascinating move of the night actually came from guest judge Dita Von Teese. During the breaks, she would kick off her stilettos and would continue standing on her tip toes like a Barbie doll. It was the very keen Iman, who pointed this out to Isaac and I while we were chatting during a break.
Fashion Show #1: Disco Vampires
With Cesar in the house and limited time, Emerald was a lot more together in spirit and vision in many ways—particularly with concept and mood. I think after losing two challenges in a row with such shocking and brutal critiques from the judges, they had no other choice but to try a new approach. The house wanted a disco vampire (disco is more Vamp than Vampire unless you are George Hamilton in Love At First Bite) with hanging disco balls and gelled spinning lights.
But once I saw the direction of the collection during my consult with the house, I knew all those disco trickery elements would make this collection even worse. Sorry to say but the clothes were not moving in the right direction, most importantly and noticeably were Cesar’s cape/gown confection and Tamara’s pleather/stretch pants (Isaac is right about the fabrics this house tends to select…its always off). And the rest of house focused on cocktail dresses (loved Cindy’s dress and Jeffrey’s high-waisted skirt but disco, they were not).
Instead of a discotheque, I suggested that we go deep into the mind of a vampire preparing to seduce her prey by and use elements the were more Hitchcock than Studio 54. I felt a strobe light effect would add both a nightlife and femme fatale mood to give drama and atmosphere to a collection that was borderline overwrought (Golnessa was so nervous backstage her hands were trembling so badly someone else had to cut her fabric). I added Mylar mirrored panels (long and lean, as opposed to round and wide like a disco ball) and a high gloss runway to the set in front of the LED and rear projection screens to reflect more of the strobe and lightning bolt imagery to the stage. The look of the show was dark and mysterious (I remember a brilliant late ‘90s Olivier Theyskens show in Paris were the whole staging was lit to look like a thunderstorm). The music I suggested was a classical, high drama violins and cello mix for a more Hitchockian –Pyscho feel. However, after looking at this collection again, I should have played Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” for a disco seduction vibe.
Fashion Show #2: Film Noir
Nami with Calvin, and without both Mike and Cesar, was a bit deer-stuck-in-the- headlights, which allowed Eduardo to speak up more and take charge. He is now the senior member of the house in both age and technique really (his clothes have been beautifully made so far). Nami, like Emerald, wanted a club scene but more jazz than disco, to create a nightlife environment that fit a sophisticated city girl. I suggested to the house that jazz, though a great image, was difficult to convey as femme fatale as the immediate impression for the judges. So I thought a film noir set and mood would be more fitting. Luckily, they agreed.
The set was stacked with scaffolding and ladders, which I had painted black, for silhouette use only (there was a grip on set during building days who was always on the tallest ladders…I was always mesmerized). The look of this evoked both film set and cityscape. For the film noir mood, I had a reel count down starting with five (for five the designers) and a film strip motif run throughout until the tableau at the end, when I had “THE END” from a ‘30s film appear. As for the runway, I thought a shadowy, yet wet, looking floor would be great, as if the fatales were stalking for their victims through alleyways.
The clothes were better than Emerald’s (yes, Ro’s dress was a bit Dr. Seuss-ish, as Isaac pointed out) and Calvin’s look conceptually fit right in--though he still bullied his new house slightly by insisting on a bold red lip for his model while the others choose not to). I can understand why challenge winner Eduardo felt Calvin should be up for elimination (for the third time in three weeks) because he does not always follow along.
Overall the fashion shows worked, however, I felt the designers (on both teams, honestly) had a difficult time understanding what a femme fatale was as a reference. The houses may feel the staging and sets over power the clothes especially when the judges are critical of the garments. But the true of the matter the clothes needed the exact push to create an ambiance for this 24 hour challenge. Welcome to THE FASHION SHOW designers!