Tonight we have an avant-garde challenge, which is either a chance for the final five to let their freak flags fly fabulously or allow them to hang themselves with their whackadoo ideas. I always find these avant-garde challenges a bit hard to judge, simply because the intersection between innovative and wearable can be so very, very small. More than anything, though, I think the judges usually look for stuff that’s more wearable than avant-garde, regardless of what they may claim — which seems patently unfair. It’s not as if truly avant-garde designs don’t have a home in fashion, either. After all, no one thinks Commes des Garcons is a crap label, but Kawakubo has sent some weird ass stuff down the runway (hunchback dresses!) and no one gives her a hard time.
Anyway, let’s get started! Angela Coathanger informs the remaining designers that they’ll be creating an avant-garde look that will make good use of the fact the runway will be lit by a black light. So, avant-garde now means wearing crap that looks good at a rave or in a teenager’s bedroom circa 1970? Oh, and the guest judge will be Pharell Williams, who has worked with everyone and was once voted the best dressed man in the world. By whom? People who wear baseball caps? Sorry, he’s a good looking guy and knows how to dress when he goes to the Grammys, but most of the time he just looks like he rolled out of bed. I would think that’s the point — if you’re Pharell Williams, you can wear T-shirts and jeans anytime you want.
The designers go to the Barbizon lighting and special effects shop to look for crap that lights up. Jerell likes fiber optic lights that look like those horrible Christmas trees I see at Target every year. Austin is going to thread fairy lights through some tule. Mondo thinks Austin has become very high maintenance. I’m not sure why Mondo finds Austin high maintenance, but maybe he just doesn’t like fairy lights.
At Mood, Mondo and Kenley both test their fabrics under black light. I’m not sure if everyone does this, but it’s the smart thing to do.
In the workroom, Austin is taken on a flight of fancy. He wants to be magical! Mystical! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! He’d also like mice and little birds to make his dress for him! He’s making a galaxy of gorgeousity! Which is not a word! I guess this is what Mondo was talking about.
But while Austin is dancing around his mannequin and whistling, Michael is falling apart. He had an idea, then he didn’t, then he made something else. Michael is going to plan B, though it appears to be Plan D or E. He has commitment issues when it comes to fashion, and he needs everything to speak to him. I think Michael is going to get his ass sent home if he continues doing this.
Finally, no one accidentally electrocutes him or her self and it’s time for Joanna Coles to visit. She can’t wait to see their magical, electrifying designs! I can’t wait for her visit to be over. Other than suggesting all models should wear bras, I have yet to hear anything useful come out of her mouth this season.
She visits Kenley first. Joanna likes her design, and so does Mondo — though he notes that she’s just using glow tape, not lights. Are we just going to cut to Mondo’s interview footage every time Joanna surveys the room, because she has no useful opinions of her own?
Joanna looks at Jerell’s design and declares it’s just like Kenley’s, just smaller. Because… it has tape on it? He tells her it will have an ethnic flair and, in short, looks NOTHING like Kenley’s dress. That’s good enough for Joanna, as she was just trying to find a way to fill in the awkward time she had to spend talking to a designer any way she could, even if what she said made no sense.
Joanna thinks Austin’s dress, thus far, is part Elizabethan, part alien. She wonders if it’s too romantic for Pharell. Because he would only want dresses for his talent roster that look like they should be worn by video game characters? Joanna tells him to make it stand out. It’s a CAGE DRESS. How can this not stand out?
Her only concern with Michael’s outfit is that the glow tape ripples. Michael is now freaking out. He doesn’t know what to do! Wait, he’ll go to Plan C. Or K. Whatever.
Joanna tells Mondo he can’t rest on his laurels. She wants him to bring a Mondo-like focus to the challenge. Mondo mostly ignores Joanna, and I can’t blame him.
Models show up and Mondo has nothing for his to try on. That’s okay, because it gives him time to take swipes at what his fellow designers are doing. He thinks Michael is turning his model into an Ewok, which appears to be true. Michael has created a bizarre hat/ponytail holder and a face mask for his model. When in doubt, just throw stuff at your model randomly and say, “Avant-garde!”
Austin Skypes his mom, Debra. Her house just went into foreclosure, because her job was as a real estate appraiser and, like everyone else in the industry, she was wiped out by the real estate crash. He wants to win for her and his family and cries a little. Aw, Austin, I kind of hope some little mice and birds do show up to help you with this challenge after all.
But then, Austin declares that he feel like God must have felt when He created the heavens. I can’t decide if we’re being set up to cheer Austin toward a win or to feel really sad when he gets sent home.
Angela Coathanger invites the designers back to the runway. Our judges are, as usual, Georgina Chapman and Isaac Mizrahi. As expected, our “best dressed man in the world” Pharell Williams will join them. Wearing a baseball hat.
Mondo thinks his dress is a little absurd. Yeah, that about sums it up. The creepy cone bra thing is not my favorite. The knee socks are nice, though.
Wow, this is busy. I don’t even know where to look. I actually like the lights, but the glasses and, wait, is that a floor length skirt? I may need to lie down. This is just a lot.
The jacket is great. And the skirt is cute, too. Hopefully Isaac will think she’s grown. The skirt may be retro, but the jacket is clearly not.
She’s a constellation! I wish the lights didn’t twirl up to her head, and I think it might have worked better with different lights, but it’s not bad at all.
He thinks she has a crazy ninja turtle about her. Why the hell would he think that’s a good thing? She looks like she should be in the bar scene from “Star Wars.” I fear she’ll pull down the ninja mask and reveal she has two mouths or something.
Kenley is up first. Pharell liked the shape of her dress, but wished she had used the lights differently. But he loves it. Isaac thinks it’s divine and thinks she did stretch herself. Georgina thinks she achieved a big sleeve with a full skirt, so job well done. Angela Coathanger agrees.
On to Mondo. Georgina sees him in the design, but thinks he should have worked with his lights a little more. Isaac thinks it looks like chaser lights on a limo and questions whether it’s truly avant-garde. Pharell thinks the boobs are like tail fins on a Cadillac. Isaac thinks she looks like a Teletubby. This isn’t my favorite Mondo moment, either, honestly.
Jerell is next. Georgina likes the movement in it. She looks like a tribal raver. Isaac thinks she looks like she bought some elements at a joke store. Pharell thought the styling was too grandma. They pull up the skirt and everyone loves it immediately — but they can’t give him points for something he didn’t do on the runway.
Austin talks about his fairy lights. Angela Coathanger thinks he should have done a better job of incorporating the lights. Isaac, however, loved it. Pharell thought it was an amazing piece, and Georgina found it romantic. But she worries it’s just lights slapped on a dress.
Michael talks about his creepy ninja. Isaac likes the idea of it but thinks it looks like tape. He hates the chaser lights and the flashing waistline. Georgina thinks the bow in the back looks sloppy. Angela Coathanger likes it, but Pharell thinks she’s more fit for a Comic-Con than anything else.
Austin, Kenley and Mondo are the top designers. Mondo gets points for thinking through his outfit. Everyone likes Kenley’s proportions. Pharell thinks Austin is the silent killer. He thinks the dress itself is sick.
Our bottom dwellers are Jerell and Michael. Pharell thinks Jerell covered up the model too much. Isaac thinks it was joke store. Isaac thinks Michael’s dress has no sign of there being a pretty woman underneath it. Pharell does think, however, she could kick your ass.
Michael’s dress seems like the biggest misstep to me — plus he re-used those weird loops that he sold to Miss Piggy, slapped some odd, oversized chasing lights on them and turned his model into a ninja. Jerell’s top skirt was actually cute — it’s just that everything else was a mess.
Mondo is… safe. Kenley and Austin have a shot at the win. Austin is the winner! I would have given it to Kenley, but it seems like Austin needs a win this week anyway, so no harm, no foul. Pharell declares Austin a star. Austin cries because Pharell thinks he’s a star. And he’s the best dressed man in the WORLD! I think Austin might be more of the best dressed man in the world, but whatever. Kenley is safe.
Jerell is… going home. Michael is safe. Michael covers his face in mock astonishment, because that’s what Michael does. I can’t say I’m terribly sad Jerell’s going home, only because he’s sent some stinkers down the runway lately, but seeing Michael do his Macaulay Culkin “I’m so sad it’s you and not me!” face makes me wish he’d gotten the boot.
Jerell won’t beat himself up for this. He liked what he did, so he can’t be mad. He believes whatever happens happens for a reason, so he’s good. I have to give all of the designers this seasons props for being extraordinarily zen whenever they get shown the door, but I guess that’s what makes them all All Stars.
Do you think it was Jerell’s time to go? What did you think of Mondo’s design? And what did you think of the challenge itself?