The pre-fashion-week home visits are my favorites, and it's always a good way to tell who is in good standing and who may be in trouble. There have never been five home visits before, so Tim Gunn had his work cut out for him to make his way all across the country to guide the designers through their visions.
If you remember from the last episode, the judges only *guaranteed* three spots for Fashion Week, so the designers had to show the judges a two-look preview to decide who was officially moving forward. In the past they have done this with three-look previews, and I think that's a better system to allow the designers to showcase a beginning, middle, and end to their collections. A lot of them struggled with choosing two looks that fully represented every aspect of their collections, and it didn't feel like a very fair system.
But hey, they didn't ask me.
Brandon's collection was very Brandon and obviously the judges loved it. I was a tiny bit horrified by his flamingo print (and by a tiny bit horrified, I mean I was yelling at the TV about flamingos for a solid hour.) As far as I could tell, he used the flamingos in every single look, and I would think he might get in trouble for creating 10 of what is essentially the same look with the same fabric. I can appreciate that he treated some of the fabric to create a lighter version of the same print, but in comparison to the other textile work he's done throughout the season it felt a bit lazy.
The first look Brandon showed the judges was a mixed bag. I liked the pants, though a paper-bag waist is sometimes tricky to wear. The top was not as successful, which Zac Posen was quick to point out. If he swaps the top out for a simpler tank he should be in good shape.
The second look was much more successful, and his styling with the backpack was sporty and cute. I like the shapes he's created, but I'm not sure they're original enough to get him to the top. In the preview of the finale episode, it shows him sleeping while the other designers are hard at work doing finishing touches; his over-confidence might get the best of him.
Margarita told the judges she would "bring it," and she certainly did. While her print is a love-it-or-hate-it situation, I loved that she took her inspiration from her family's 80's couch, and she kept her styling chic and cool. In comparison to the other designers she has the loudest color story, which will definitely help her stand out in the pack.
While I completely loathe the hyper-flared pants in her first preview look, I can appreciate their value from a fashion show standpoint. They remind me of Kelly Dempsey's work a few seasons back. She was smart to style the pants with a simple, but beautifully draped top, and overall it was very thoughtful and well presented.
The judges were not crazy about this look, and I felt bad because Tim basically told Margarita to style the look in this way; she wanted to pair the bodysuit with the bomber jacket, and Tim directed her to make a new pair of shorts to tone down the look. While it certainly isn't the most original thing we've seen on the runway, the detail in the bomber jacket is absolutely stunning, and styled correctly I think it could work. As the judges said, she needs to take her designs off the beach and into New York; if she mixes-and-matches her pieces together in the right way, she could put on a great show.
Kentaro is making me nervous. At the home visit he said his design inspiration was based on different aspects of classical music, but in front of the judges he described a Japanese beach, which Tim looked very visibly confused about. Tim also warned him about his level of cohesion, and he would have been wise to take Tim's advice. He currently has a lot of exquisite but disjointed pieces, and it will take some careful edits to make it work as a collection. He didn't help himself with his styling, which Nina Garcia immediately loathed. Given his original classical music inspiration, I was surprised he went in a samurai direction, and I think he will be better off to go with softer, more romantic hair and makeup to suit his clothing.
I have no idea why Kentaro made his first look or bothered to show it to the judges. It looks like it's made out of basic muslin, and the stiff, weird black appendage sticking out of the model's hip has no form or function. I suspect Tim will guide him to scrap this entire look, and I hope he's able to pull off something last-minute that looks more luxurious.
The judges loved Kentaro's second preview look, and I wouldn't agree with them more. The draping is gorgeous and the movement in the skirt danced down the runway. The majority of his collection pieces seem to reflect this same feeling, so if he maintains this direction in his pieces he should be alright. So far Kentaro hasn't shown a great desire or ability to take direction or critique, so I hope he is able to make it work.
After reviewing the entire season's best, I realized that Ayana had more winning looks in my book than any other designer, so I was waiting with bated breath to see her collection. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. She definitely picked her two best looks for her preview; the rest of her collection seems to be filled with drab, dingy grandma dresses. I desperately hope she is able to amp-up her pieces and style them in a way that makes them, well. Less awful. Right now I'm far from impressed.
Ayana's first preview look is very reminiscent of things she made throughout the season, and it's definitely the coolest look in her collection as far as I could tell. I loved that it was monochromatic but still multi-dimensional in texture and shape.
I was surprised Ayana showed this as her second look since the pants are nearly identical to the first look - then again, all she had to show beyond this were really ugly dresses, so I guess this was her only option. The detailing on the top is pretty, but it isn't a very interesting shape and has zero wow-factor. Showing this to the judges also might have given them the impression that her entire color story is this taupe-ey silver, and I don't think they'll be pleasantly surprised by her dirty-looking greens and browns.
And last but not least, our dear, dear Kenya. I really wanted to love Kenya's collection on the whole, and she had a lot of wonderful pieces, but in the end she focused too much on quality fabrication and less on styling and design.
I think Kenya shot herself in the foot a little bit by pairing this crop top/pants look with a flowy, beachy cover-up. The fabric of the cover-up is stunning, but the look was originally paired with a sleek, structured, pearl-embellished jacket, which was a lot more modern and finished-looking. This look left the judges confused about her overall design sensibility.
Kenya also had trouble with being assigned a model who could only fit into one of her looks. Given Kenya's skill in designing plus-size clothing I don't know why she didn't have more options that would fit her, but she was left with only one dress to work with, and an ill-fitting dress at that. Tim advised her to pair the dress with this cover-up, which the judges hated. I would tend to agree - the dress needed something to give it more of a wow-factor, but I'm not sure a soft, flowy cover-up worked over such a structured dress (a similar issue to her first look.)
In the end, the judges didn't feel like Kenya's collection rose to the level of the other contestants and she was not included in the top four to show at fashion week. Unfortunately, I agree with their decision. She had a lot of potential, but she needed more time to develop and receive mentorship to guide her through her styling.
I feel like at this point, it's a given that Brandon will win, and while I respect his designs and appreciate his talent, I don't really want him to win with that flamingo print. If Ayana had chosen different fabrics I think she would still have a fighting chance, and while I love Margarita's color story I'm not sure her designs are accessible enough for the judges to get on board. I don't even know if Kentaro's collection is in the running at all.
All that said, the judges have a tendency to do the opposite of what anyone expects, so WE SHALL SEE!!
Photo credits to www.mylifetime.com