This year I’m covering season two of Bravo’s The Fashion Show for Charm, but a lot of what I write has to get cut out because of our non-inflammatory language policy. You can view that entry by going to here.
Otherwise, Here Come Hell Go (aka: The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection Episode 1 Recap):
I hate to admit it, but this will be my first season watching The Fashion Show. I’m a long time worshipper of everything Project Runway, and to me, the Fashion Show seemed like PR’s unsophisticated hillbilly cousin. I tried to force myself through one episode last season, and bailed out fifteen minutes in. I just couldn’t get over the lack of polish the show seemed to have—and the sad lack of my imaginary mentor and baby daddy, Tim Gunn.
Having said that, this season promises to be something else entirely. Bravo has tightened up the sails and turned the head ship of their fashion armada around by saying ‘Auf wiedersehen’ to former host Kelly Rowland. Taking her place as head judge is supermodel and true fashion icon, Iman. Designer Isaac Mizrahi is still onboard to play mentor, host, and good-guy judge. Rounding out the panel is returning judge Laura Brown of Harper’s Bazaar and a slew of celebrity guests.
Bravo ups the ante on Lifetime’s Project Runway by offering the winning designer $125,000 furnished by TREsemmé® Professional Hair Care as well as a feature in Harper’s Bazaar. The measly fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine and$ 100K cash prize offered to Project Runway’s winners is a pittance in comparison.
Bravo also shook up the competition by immediately separating the designers into two new fashion houses. Instead of offering individual looks every week, the designers must work together to create a cohesive collection, without stifling their own creativity and individual voice. This entire season will be like the dreaded group challenges on Project Runway hopped up on prison quality meth.
Things are gonna get ugly, ladies and gentlemen.
The first episode opens with twelve new contestants thrown headlong into a surprise runway show. Each designer was instructed to bring a garment representative of themselves and their own style and vision. Greeted with a room full of sewing boxes, a twitchy fashion show producer named Stefan Campbell, and a group of robed models, the designers are instructed to pick a box, which matches them up with their model, and get said model dressed and styled as quickly as possible. Stefan puts particular emphasis on the fact that detailing must be impeccable, as if the designers’ very lives ride on a properly executed hemline.
As far as I can tell, this initial runway show is a way for the designers to pick the weak players out of the herd, because they immediately begin dissecting and digesting their competition like vultures picking at carrion. The looks on the catwalk run the gamut from deliciously decadent to simple chic to just plain fugly.
Several designers, including Francine Simmons, of Newark, DE, and Eduardo de las Casas, 40, of Lima, Peru, are quick to point out that their style is elevated high above the other designers and that they are sure they’re going to win the show. Can you say cocky?
In my experience with reality TV, people with the balls to brag about their prowess this early on in the season are either a) eliminated during the first challenge, or b) genuinely talented and a force to be reckoned with over the entire season. Either way, this kind of artistic editing seems to foreshadow the season to follow.
After the runway show, the designers are told that they have been divided into two groups with whom they will compete over the duration of the show based on the random numbers they drew. Iman stuts onto the catwalk like the superstar that she is, and most of the cast is impressed. Most. Mike Vensel admits that he’s not at all star struck, because he lives in LA and totally sees celebrities, like, all the time.
Iman’s stellar entrance is also the segue into the first challenge. The designers are set with the task of using Iman, her personality, and her career as a muse to design a look that embodies everything fabulous about her. The runway show they present this week, as will all subsequent shows, will be unique and formulated by each fashion house. They are responsible for designing not only the looks that grace the catwalk, but the model choreography, the lighting, and the props. Only one team will be crowned the winner, and only one designer from that team will be named the overall winner of the challenge. Similarly, the losing team will face a judging panel, and one member will go home.
Before the competition kicks off, the teams meet separately to decide what they will call themselves and what direction their collection will take for the challenge. Within minutes, it is clear that one team, the green team, has communication problems, as they squabble over a name. After much deliberation and several diva-licious moments on the part of Calvin Tran, the group settles on the name House of Emerald Syx. I hate to say it, but this name totally makes me think of the incomparable 80s band Styx—probably because of the similar spelling—and that similarity instantly turns me off of their aesthetic. It makes me wonder if they’ll be sending frizzed out hair and multi-colored off the shoulder sweatshirts down the runway on the first challenge.
On the other hand, the other team quickly agrees on the name House of Nami, which is Iman’s name spelled backward. How creative! (But not really.) It’s evident early on that this group is more cohesive than the other, because their communication within the first minutes of the competition lacks the antagonistic tone of their Syx brethren.
Before the designers are able to begin work on their garments, they must meet with lead judge and host, Isaac Mizrahi. Here, they will present their House’s vision via mood books and sketches to the dynamo, and he will offer constructive criticism. Or not. If he doesn’t like a look, Mizrahi doesn’t mince words. He’s not afraid to tell a designer—or a whole House, for that matter—that their work belongs in the fashion dung heap.
Even before they meet with their mentor, there is dissension in the ranks among the House of Emerald Syx. Calvin Tran doesn’t like sharing the spotlight, and he’s not quiet about it. He does want to elect a leader, but his teammates don’t share the sentiment. The discordance shows through their consultation with Mizrahi, where he notices the complete lack of coherence—aside from the fact that they’ve all chosen to create their looks using bright colors.
In their initial consultation, Mizrahi warns the House of Nami that the white palette they’ve chosen to work with is “hackneyed” and that their collection shouldn’t get caught up in too many ideas, because simple, well executed designs are more modern. The highlight of their meeting is the moment when Mizrahi mistakes Ro Tamez, with his ultra-straight, asymmetric hair style and concentration camp physique, for a woman insisting that he could step in for model fittings, dah-ling, if the occasion arose.
Both teams are given a shoestring budget to work with—a mere $100 per person—and sent to the fabric store to find their materials. The House of Emerald Syx finds an exciting print fabric with all the colors they want to work with, while the House of Nami chooses flowy whites for their garments.
The next day, construction begins on everyone’s garments. Bravo cleverly sets up Calvin Tran as a villain for this season by subtitling many of his one-liners, including the memorable “Here come Hell go,” in reference to the way his fellow contestants feel about his work. Not only does Tran isolate himself with his diva antics, he decides to cover up a poorly sewn seam with a cheap-looking diamante trim without consulting his teammates first.
Meanwhile, designer Mike, who really, really creeped me out in the first three seconds of his appearance on the show, ups the weirdo factor by about six thousand by discussing the S&M elements of his garment. Apparently, he feels violent sadomasochistic rope elements in clothes are sexy, and Mike likes to embrace them with gusto. His team is skeptical of the look, and offers him a few words of wisdom, which he politely declines. He’s obviously too visionary to accept help from mere mortals. After all, as he pointed out, he’s seen almost 300 fashion shows around the world.
As the work day progresses, Calvin notices that Cindy and Golnessa’s work seems to look really, really similar, as if they were thinking with one brain. At this point, Cindy reveals that she and Golnessa are actually business partners with a ready to wear collection called Goci. Heh. I got a hinky feeling from their sketches from the very beginning. Calvin may have been right when he deemed this forceful twosome “evil”. If they stick together through every challenge and play off each other’s creativity, they could find themselves at the top of the Fashion Show pecking order.
During model fittings, the designers who are having the most problems stick out like ketchup stain on a pair of white gloves. Twenty-one year old Dominique seems completely out of her element, and Creeper Mike is reluctant to accept help from the well-seasoned, well-liked Dom of the the group, Cesar. Although he is loathe to rid his garment of its noose-like neck of terror, Mike eventually defers to to wisdom of his team mates and opts for a less scary version of his vision.
As the day draws to a close, and Francine is having trouble finishing the ruffles for her garment’s top, and Calvin offers to help. Sure, his motives seem pure, as he declares that helping Francine at the expense of his own garment benefits the entire team. In the end, his work is poorly executed, and Francine ends up ripping out the seams on the ruffles to re-do them herself.
Predictably, it’s a mad rush for the designers to finish their garments before the deadline on the day of the runway show. It’s even more drama backstage before the show when Francine and Calvin clash over the models’ runway looks. It quickly dissolves into a flurry of bleeped fucks and half-screamed slurs, mostly from Calvin. I honestly thought the two of them would come to blows, and Isaac Mizrahi would have to blow a rape whistle to get their attention and break them up. No such luck. Calvin calls Francine a bitch, and the show goes on.
Unlike Project Runway, the runways shows are presented in front of a live audience and the judges, including guest judge Rachel Roy. The House of Emerald Syx shows first, displaying their shrouded models in cuckoo poses that are revealed as sheets are ripped from their bodies. The House of Nami follows, displaying a more refined, well thought out (though thoroughly white and bland) collection.
After the show, the designers gather backstage and wait for Iman and Mizrahi to reveal their fates. He tells them that the House of Nami are the undisputed winners, pointing out Eduardo’s effortless cocktail dress with interesting Grecian drapery and a volume that allowed the barely-there length of the dress to be feasible while maintaining Iman’s fun side.
The judges also adored Cesar’s floor length print evening gown. Initially, Mizrahi was hesitant to accept yet another one-shouldered dress, but the interesting construction of Cesar’s creation piqued his interest. I personally HATED this dress. To me, the print was seemed like an afterthought compared to the stark elegance of the rest of the collection, and the one-seam idea left me cold. Who cares if there’s only one seam holding the damn thing together when the feathers on the shoulders look like a demented cockatoo?
In the end, Iman announces the winner, not by calling his name, but by simply summoning the winning designer’s model to the stage. No one seemed very surprised that Cesar had won. Golf claps all around. Because he won this challenge, Cesar is credited $500 toward the construction of his final collection should he make it to the finale show.
Unfortunately, Cesar’s win meant that the losing team, the House of Emerald Syx, had to face the judges on the runway. The judges contend that some of the individual looks of the collection were quite good, but the entire collection was in no way cohesive.
First on the chopping block is Jeffery. His odd color blocking and poorly designed jacket made the judges question his level of taste. So did I. I can’t imagine anyone walking out of the house, let alone into a business meeting, wearing that kind of loud print on a focus piece like a jacket. His work was out of place and not well received. However, Jeffery is safe. He’ll live to confuse me with his unisex aesthetic another day.
I don’t know where I should begin with Cindy’s aubergine pantsuit. In the real world, very few women could pull off that silhouette, especially since the garment was made with such an unforgiving fabric. Hell, even her model sported a huge wedgie as she walked the runway. Iman doesn’t mince words when she tells Cindy she would wear the front of the outfit, but not the back, because the yellow fabric is overworked. Despite these criticisms, Cindy is safe.
As Tim Gunn would say, Tamara’s outfit is “a lot of look.” Even though she hoped they wouldn’t notice, all the judges saw how tight the dress was. Iman said she “suffered” for the model wearing it. The addition of the fin-like side parts is also unflattering. It makes the model’s hips and bum look bigger than they really were. Good thing Iman liked some of the other details. Tamara is still in.
I think this is one of the garments the judges were referring to when they said there were few good pieces in the House of Emerald Syx’s collection. It’s a simple little black dress, but that’s really it. It’s safe, but not in a good way. The judges urge Golnessa not to get too comfortable with this kind of safety. Obviously, Golnessa is still in.
Oh, poor Francine. Even though Calvin did not deliberately sabotage her, the ruffles he worked on (that she later re-worked) left her dress’s top looking like a sad, limp Homecoming corsage the week after the big game. The judges felt like her work was too youthful for Iman’s sophisticated taste, and Iman even called it out as something one could find in a mall. Ouch. Francine is asked to stay put on the stage as one of the bottom two designers.
Calvin, Calvin, Calvin. What were you thinking? When Isaac Mizrahi told you that he didn’t get the multi-use aspect of your dress during the initial consultation, you should have listened! Instead, you chose to brag to Iman that your clothes are meant to be multi-purpose, because customers want that kind look.
Sorry, buddy. You’re wrong. I may want my bright yellow rain poncho to do double duty by keeping me dry while I change a tire on the side of the highway while simultaneously sending out a signal to other drivers that screams, “Please don’t run me over!”, but I don’t want to have to think about figuring out how my fancy evening gown can work as a combination wrap skirt and winter coat. Nope, but I’m not sold. Oh, and don’t argue with Iman. She’s married to David Bowie, and he’ll use his magical Labyrinth powers on you in the parking lot after the runway show.
Predictably, Calvin is in the bottom two.
The judges are left with a tough decision. Should they get rid of the designer with the bad attitude, or the bad design? Should it be Calvin, with his over the top yellow-no gold-no yellow evening gown, or Francine’s juvenile mall look?
In the end, Iman tells Francine she is out of fashion. In typical confessional style during her exit interview, Francine says that she’s disappointed with the outcome of the judging, because darn it, she’s just better than that.
Whoops, honey. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so cocky at the beginning of the show. Your words will come back to haunt you every time.
The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection airs at 10/9 Central every Tuesday on Bravo.
All images courtesy of Bravotv.com