Life Finds A Way

From fine art to friendship bracelets, this week's entry covers all the pop culture bases of this week's Real Housewives-themed episode.

We left you all to your own devices last week, so obviously this week had to be a doozie. And return with a vengeance we did, bringing the Real Housewives of Orange County and New Jersey along for the ride.

And what a gift from the Magi (or other non-religious figure), it was!

The House of Emerald was faced with a Sophie's Choice. Which ladies do you choose? The blonde and bright (though difficult in their own ways) ladies of the OC? Or the darker-side of the coin: the personality fueled New Jersey ladies.

In the always apt words of Jurassic Park, "life finds a way," and fate had to work its magic so that Calvin and Teresa ended up together.

The House of Nami was paired with the Jersey Girls, while Emerald celebrated Orange County with champagne wishes and demure dreams.

Once upon a time, I wore a fantastic champagne colored dress to a formal, and it was probably the most fantastic gown I’ve ever worn in my entire life. I bought it at the Honeymoon Bungalow in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so you know it was the pinnacle of style and sophistication. I was a stone cold fox in a Grecian top, and that dress worked, let me tell you. It was a blessed evening of dancing, crushes realized, and looking really, really hot.

But Iman has a point. Real life and photos are a touch different. I looked a bit like Powder in photographs, and, the House of Emerald was foisted with the same harsh reality. Particularly because the color they thought was champagne, was actually some sort of horrific dusty mauve.

And that wasn't the only time things perhaps weren't as one would hope. Perhaps Dominique's steady weeping lulled the designers into some sort of rhythm of ridiculousness that caused the missteps. (Dominique, you know Kelly Cutrone's rules, cry outside) Or maybe the stress of dressing Bravolebrities just broke their spirits. The threat of having a table chucked at your head weighs heavily on a designer's soul. 

But what did worked, worked well. Shoulders! So hot right now. Both Eduardo and Cindy really nailed it with these sort of something on one side details. Eduardo'’s dress was really divine, with it's incredible neck protecting fan on the side. Navy used to be a color that sent me into PTSD fits from high school uniforms, but when done right for evening it's very striking. It's like, "oh did you think this was black, it's not black fools, it's fashion." And Dina rocked that dress something fierce. I didn't miss that donated chiffon even a little. 

Dina also the most hilarious Housewife on the show this week. She was really bringing the zingers. 

Then Cindy's dress was also really incredible. All that pleating! They could sell it at Pleats Please (the Issey Miyake store) as a special edition.

The other highlight for me was watching Jeffrey cut Lynne out of that dress. It was like 127 Hours, if James Franco had been with another person, and not in a life-threatening situation at all. She needed to be free! Free to be you and me! Free to not wear that more modest dress. But Jeffrey shouldn't have scared so easily. Jeffrey, no man that wears that many dresses should back down so quickly. Darling David, it's not easy being green. Choose your chartreuse wisely friend.

About David's dress Version 1.0: A lot of terminology was thrown around. Peter Pan, wings, etc. etc., but no one mentioned the only thing I could think of—Jolly Green Giant. Well actually, Miniature Italian Green. It was frightful. Poor Caroline Manzo looked like she had been out freezing vegetables to package and use for my dinners! It was the biggest Peter Pan fail since this.

But, again, life finds a way. And David soared on the wings of love and Eduardo’s chiffon to a solution. He just covered up that green monster with chiffon! Isaac thought it was super interesting, and so did I. I definitely thought it was plenty great enough to give the lovers in love more time together.

Calvin pulled a Cesar and made two dresses this week. One that was according to Dina, Scores-worthy, which for the uninitiated is a very fine strip club chain in New York City, and the other that was in the same green-on-green collection David thought was happening. Teresa choose stripper in this scenario, and I'm glad she did. Her sassy cape was befitting of her dramatic flair. And of course, that pair got along famously, mostly. I kind of want to make a montage video of them hanging out set to Queen's Best Friend. Get those two some bracelets.

And finally, let's talk about something important: vaginas. There's a running theme of vaginas throughout this season. Vaginas as a time capsule at the museum. Vaginas on David's dresses. Vaginas on David's mind. And now vaginas on Golnessa's dress. It's as though season two was a Georgia O'Keefe painting come to life.

But there's a time and place for yonic imagery, and it seems now was not that time. Golnessa's attempt to cover the, ahem, gaping hole on Gretchen's dress was ill-fated, and it was meet with Nancy Grace-style swift justice. Gretchen deserved better. What would Slade say!

And so it was that GoCi became NoCi, or just Ci. It was bound to happen at some point, but why can't best friends stay together? Why can't Golnessa and Cindy make dresses together forever, while Calvin and Teresa prance hand in hand. Queen blaring in the background. Life rolling onward.

(Aside, if any person can send me a video of Jeff Goldblum's Jurassic Park speech, you'll earn a place in my heart for eternity).

Mommy Dearest

Stefan explains his process for creating the final fashion shows, including an inspiration that almost didn't happen.

So at the end of it all, two designers from The House of Emerald Syx are left standing, with dueling red "tribute" gowns, for the win! With the chaos, twist, and turns thrown at these designers, the message from Calvin, Dominique, and our winner Jeffrey was peace, calm, and self-reflective.

Fashion Show #1: Enchanted Forest

My consult with Calvin was very touching because he spoke very deeply and passionately about his dying lover of ten years. While showing me his collection and mood boards (which only had one beautiful picture of a misty forest), he told me that his finale gown would be a tribute to his partner and to the Gay Men's Health Crisis, hence the color red.

Speaking calmly, he said he wanted his fashion show to reflect his journey through this competition from being an angry person to someone more agreeable (though most would beg to differ). I truthfully never saw Calvin as angry…he's just direct and brutally honest (which can feel borderline abusive at times) in his want for things to be as amazing as possible (though that yellow dress from the first day was questionable). At this moment, Calvin became very childlike to me so I thought to make his show into a fairytale of sorts set in the woods.

Using his personal journey and single misty forest image, I created a montage of woods imagery that started with a dark, foggy, moody, leafless forest and end with a lush, sundrenched, green jungle of life that became the perfect backdrop for his red gown (the back of which was gorgeous). I had the models walk through a path of Kara Walker-inspired trees and low looming fog to the sounds of pianos and music box tunes. For a humbling feel, I had the runway covered completely in burlap, which the art team hand sewed together with thick black yarn…it was well worth it! The details of the runway were beautiful and matched the dreamy elegance of Calvin’s final collection.

He and I agreed that the staging should not be as antagonizing as the zombie, barefoot show from the challenge before, though Calvin may have wanted to do something slightly more aggressive if given another chance. I'm glad we stuck with this tone because I believed it charmed the judges and almost got Calvin the win. Fashion Show #2: City Slicker

Dominique, the last surviving member of Nami, was also self-reflective during my consult with her. But unlike Calvin, her journey ends in chaos. She wanted her show to be all about her a naive, innocent arriving in NYC and entering this competition with beautiful jazz-style music in her head (well, iPod) and leaving with static, noise, and confliction (could David have had anything to do with this?).

I was impressed with Dominique’s ambitious ways during the whole competition and her willingness to try new things, like making her own plaid and deconstructing those umbrellas to create a chic sheath dress. One of the pieces Dominique made that she edited out of her final collection was a tangled wired bustier and ankle cuffs that were a cool, modern touch to her slouchy chic (which I love) silhouette.

Dominique show was the most fun to build because I focused on NYC and the fast-paced vibe here. I opened her show with city sounds set to jazz, which then exploded into techno rhythms. The models were lined up in a power stance behind the LED screen as footage of the subway whizzed by (Glenda Bailey loved this). I then had imagery similar to the of old-fashioned TV static sliced into the all the footage, with the final shot of the TV (and noise) being shut off as the model exited. Her runway was a city sidewalk with grates built in (the choreography was vital here, so the models heels would not get stuck in the grates…kind of like real city life). At the model entrance I designed a wire-filled structure that was inspired by her wire bustier (which never saw the light of day). My favorite moment in her staging was the night surveillance images I sourced with the guy shadowing the model on the catwalk…so eerie, so New York!

Fashion Show #3: Mommy Dearest

Jeffrey's fashion show was the toughest of them all because his journey was inspired by his late Mother’s presence, and I had to be respectful of that. He showed me mood boards of doves and red stains the resembled blood. Then he told me the story of his now famous red gown that was designed with his Mom in mind. After my first consult with Jeffrey, I left with thoughts of heaven in my mind…would it be about angels on clouds and golden gates?

But Bravo exec (and mega sounding board) Lara Spotts, made me examine closely what heaven would truly represent to our Jeffrey. So for my second consult with him (I always had two consult with the designers before the big show), I questioned Jeffrey about his show again (he loves a chic power woman) and what heaven represented to him. While he was talking I noticed a whole other board that he never shared with me with imagery of Buddhist monks and temples. I grabbed the board, and told Jeffrey that his show would be inspired by Buddhism...freedom from suffering, Nirvana. He agreed and went back to sewing (his collection was so far behind to the point that I was worried for him).

I fine tuned Jeffrey’s presentation up to the last minute as to capture the perfect mood for his collection, because I did not see the clothes till the models were dressed. Everything looked stunning on the girls! Once I saw the hair and makeup (Mally did a stellar job) complete I thought his show needed air, so I simplified everything and had the models trot through a grey ash filled catwalk (which captured a smoky, saintly atmosphere) as if they were entering a temple. The ash would also give a more deconstructed look to his pure clothes especially on the clothes with longer hemlines (some still with raw edges). Plus Jeffrey patiently handed painted all the models shoes with white paint (as if he did not already have enough to do) so the chalky ash looked great and modern (very Rick Owens meets Donna Karan).

I had the art team paint the symbol for the word PEACE on the runway and we built a candle filled alter at the bottom of the catwalk for an OM SHANTI feel. As I had the model posed on the stage for a final tableau, I asked our lighting guy to shine one perfectly bright beam of light on the group of girls for a heavenly glow.

And it all worked! Guest powerhouse judge Mary J. Blige could not stay in her seat… she loved it so much. And Jeffrey won!