Message in a Bottle

In this blog, we confess our love for Prince William, contraband street scarves, and grunge, and most of all this week's episode.

Before I even begin, this entire episode had me thinking of this.

So I thank you user Irollerdudek for uploading that video, which played intermittently whilst I was writing this entire blog. Charlie's dance haunts my dreams.

Plaid: So. Hot. Right. Now.

I refuse to travel without my buffalo check dress (my roommate calls it's my security blanket, but people in other cities need to see it). Kate and Wills are getting a Tartan for a wedding present (I got them a panini machine). I've even spent the morning accumulating all the Burberry knock-off scarves in Manhattan to swaddle myself in Andy-style for the remains of the day.

This was what I like to call an onion challenge. It's layered and it made me cry profusely. Time capsules. The past, but modern. But also cohesive with all those other pasts. 9/11. And plaid! Iman you are a cruel mistress.

I'm also pretty terrified most of the designers don't understand how the past works. C'mon Ro. Even if you're not a history buff, you've seen Apollo 13 right? Nobody was rocking shoulder pads while crying for Tom Hanks.

House of Emerald's decided to pump up the volume, while House of Nami's went straight metallic. Both houses were uber-neutral, which is a little snoozy. I wanted someone to go serious kilts. The fashion show could have begun with tiny Jeffrey carrying a bagpipe down the runway, cloaked in some sumptuous Ralph Lauren equestrian plaid--preferably wearing his Lil Kim wig.

Darling Dominique has found her muse, in handsome-haired David, and she made some sort of Harajuku/Soul Asylum look. But while she was getting her "Runaway Train"-on in between flirts, David's jumpsuit proved the opposite of the Seinfeld-ian theory. If he was trying to design  something that Michael Jackson's grandmother could drive her Caddy to Albertson's in, I suppose he succeeded. Folks need something to wear while they grocery shop for pepper jelly and Saltines in (that's what my gran buys).

Also at Nami, we must address how much I love every time Calvin puts a dress on. Boy can prance, and gets more lovable as the weeks go on. If this is the hell that here go came, I'm into it. And you know what, maybe I'm destined to be a drunk homemaker, but I liked that wacky top he made--Iman! Betty Draper or I could totally rock it while ignoring Sally and smoking cigarettes.

Cesar, on the other hand, has no time for drag. He's helping Ro and Golnessa, and churning out dresses like mad. His origami-hand-painted napkin dress grew on me and then soared to the top of my heart, just like the paper airplane it vaguely resembled. The rest of the house really brought their game up too, Jeffery's cape was divine, and Cindy's coat also made me want to smoke cigarettes (but I won't!). 

I'm no judge, but I have to say I was more into Nami. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for gray (it's my favorite color) and romance, and maybe it's because I knew if they lost, we would lose Ro and his asymmetrical haircut forever. Nami can't survive on one good 'do alone!

But he had to go. It was meh to the 100th power. The bottom looks like something you'd wear to a job interview (not here), while the top was boo-zare (nice volume, but the plaid tucked in there was like, "Suprise, I'm bored"). Adios sweet haircut.

But at least he did leave a little easter egg for us. Did anyone else notice that Ro was wearing a yellow jersey for someone named Andre ("What happened to ANNNNDRE?")? Methinks that was no accident, and probably bad karma to align himself with that cryer.

What about you guys? Are you mad for plaid? Sad for plaid? Glad for plaid? An emotion that does not rhyme with plaid? Comment away.

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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!

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