Looking to a Studio 54 past most of them never consciously experienced; the designers must once again find their groove in the fashion era that was the ‘70s.
And sew it goes:
The Challenge: Using a scant $100 worth of material, the designers must create revival frocks inspired by ‘70s era fashions, yet modern enough to resonate with the contemporary fashion consumer. Mentor Tim Gunn hangs on the word, “S-O-P-H-I-S-T-I-C-A-T-E-D” as he assigns the task.
This Episode’s Gratuitous Product Placement Bonus: Is brought to us by the show’s accessories sponsor Piperlime.com; which will manufacture and sell the winning look on its site. So naturally, the challenge is introduced by Heather Archibald, the web portal’s head buyer, allowing the cameras to pan to the Piperlime accessories’ wall. Again.
The Making-it-Workroom Drama: Sprinting through the aisles of Mood fabrics in search of vintage-inspired prints, Anya Ayoung-Chee drops the envelope containing her shopping cash. Gunn invokes cruel-seeming show rules and informs her there’s no bail out; she can stitch with plain muslin or go all fashion bum and beg her fellow designers for spare change. She stands at the counter with black mascara smearing her pretty cheeks and comes up with $11 and change. It’s enough to buy a scrap of fabric, a zipper and a few buttons. (We’re thinking the former Miss Trinidad & Tobago would have done better with a tin cup and her beauty queen smile on the streets outside Parsons.)
Back in the workroom most of the designer’s offer Anya some fabric scraps, but not Viktor Luna. “Bottom line: this is a competition,” he says.
Bert Keeter reminds us that he is 102 and spent the '70s designing duds for Halston. Since the majority of the contestants were not even born in the '70s, he’s got the referential advantage. Laura Kathleen turns to fashion “grandpa” and asks questions about legendary disco Studio 54. “Was Diane von Furstenberg really there all the time?” she wants to know. “Oh, everyone was there,” Keeter says wistfully. The clueless looks he gets when he mentions model and one-season “Charlie’s Angels” actress Shelley Hack is his muse for this challenge are priceless.
Mean boy Joshua McKinley pouts because he doesn’t get the ‘70s. He was born in the ‘80s. And although we’re still mad at Luna for not coming to Ayoung-Chee’s aid; we have to agree when he snaps: “Neither did I, but I watch movies.”
Gunn arrives to announce the designers are getting $50 and more time to create a second look.
The Runway Show: Features lots of Piperlime platform shoes, some patterned sacks posing as maxi dresses, the butt cheeks of Keeter’s model and a halter top that looks a lot like the starter’s flag at the Daytona 500.
The Guest Judge: Wannabe actress, socialite and Piperlime “guest editor” Olivia Palermo joins the panel. Palermo comes off as fashion uppity for someone whose credentials consist of a stint in the accessories department at Elle and on the reality show, “The City.”
Who’s In: Everybody loves a comeback story and Ayoung-Chee deserves her win if only for her perseverance. Yet the judges actually love her “full-on glamorama jumpsuit” and correlating look. Surprise time: Palermo is sooooo infatuated with Keeter’s simple cream sheath dress, Piperlime has decided to sell that too. Meanwhile, Luna rounds out the top three. The judges seem to think it’s a fait accompli that he’ll be getting a Fashion Week nod.
Who’s Out: Testicular cancer survivor Anthony Ryan Auld is given the ‘auf for two ill-conceived looks that make his models look like they are “part of a sister wives cult.” If the brutal critique was not bad enough it’s hard to watch this Southern gentleman get cut when McKinley – who is also in the bottom two - stays. Their deliberations are bizarre: The judges are livid with McKinley for producing ‘80s looks that Heidi Klum says are “two of the worst outfits I’ve seen in a long time.” His garments that include a “pair of psychotic ill-fitting plaid pants” that Kors protests “go against every fashion law of nature.” At least Auld got the era right.
Gunn’s tears as he says goodbye to Auld, whom he calls an “excellent designer,” are the real deal. Sometimes fashion just isn’t pretty.
Stay Tuned: The remaining designers are going to the birds. Literally.
Photo: One of designer Anya Ayoung-Chee's winning looks in the Piperlime-sponsored '70s themed design challenge. Courtesy of Lifetime.