Fashion Star is this close to being the cause of our early demise. For the third installment of this reality show, producers become extremely clever about putting us at ease and then quickly pulling the rug right from under us. First example: the show begins with an announcer saying, "Here's how it works." Finally, an explanation of the rules of this show! Then host Elle Macpherson – wearing a blinding orange, half-shoulder ensemble – announces a performance by the Super Bowl act LMFAO and some dance group called Quest Crew. We can feel gray hairs start to sprout at this exact moment; what LMFAO and flailing acrobatic women have to do with this week's "Summer Trend" theme is beyond us. But we are certainly waiting for Oscar Fierro – the miniscule, flamboyant character who got booted off last week – to make a cameo as the ringleader.
"What an amazing way to open the show," says Macpherson, trying to exude some sort of expression but failing frighteningly.
The first trio to introduce their idea of summer trends to the mentors is Orly Shani, Ronnie Escalante and Barbara Bates.
Nicole Richie drops in on them, looking more fabulous than ever in a strapless printed top (perhaps to serve as inspiration to the designers). She visits Shani, who's homesick and seems to be having a meltdown. Shani decides her summer trends will be a mixture of prints and bold colors. Richie looks at the plaid print and quickly scraps her look, saying, "It looks a little too Grandpa Tony." Richie suggests she use brighter colors like neon.
"I'm lost in a sea of fabric," Shani tells John Varvatos. "Sometimes with all this stress, that is when the magic really comes out of it," he tells her.
Bates, who hasn't made a sale yet, tells Jessica Simpson she wants to do a shirtdress with a men's collar (think Diane Keaton), along with color-blocking. It's her attempt at a more mainstream look. Escalante, who's been sketching designs since he was seven years old, feels the pressure as well, as he too lacks any sales.
"I know everyone's really excited about what you're going to do," Richie says to Escalante. "You've interned with really great people, and we know you pay attention to trends." She looks at his materials and adds, "This is a lot of fabric, so I just want to see something with a little more construction."
At the runway show, Shani presents three chic, form-fitting, neon dresses in light blue, bright blue and tangerine, with color-blocking at the waist and inside the pocket lining. It's a very refreshing undertaking by Shani, who's been showing her classic "two-for" interchangeable outfits. These dresses, although traditionally cut, have a spark of uniqueness, mainly in the emphasis of the color exuding from the pocket slashes.
The first look from Bates is a shimmery, short shirtdress, a white sleeveless dress with a men's collar that ties in the front (a total rip-off of Kara Laricks' big seller from last week), and a multi-print, black-white-and-red dress. Escalante shows three flowy, halter-top, short dresses, one in red and two others with prints.
At the judging, Richie calls Escalante's show "genius," adding that he used "too much fabric" but she feels that he's on his way. Varvatos tells Shani that she's on track and likes how her dresses are "flirty." Simposn tells Shani, "I am in love with it and I want to make an order in all three colors." Richie loves what Bates shows, saying the "print is excellent" and that she "would be shocked if you did not make a sale this week."
Let's pause for a second and take in the flow of comments by the mentors. By now, we can dissect their roles à la American Idol (the golden years). Richie is Randy Jackson: she knows the fashion market and always has useful criticism, albeit sometimes in a Simple Life sort of way. Varvatos is Simon Cowell: not as cruel, though he is pretty straightforward when it comes to his likes and dislikes. Simpson is obviously Paula Abdul: the nutjob who contributes arbitrary tidbits and perhaps thinks of these designers as her own personal staff who is helping her fill up her closet.
All right, back to the offers. Shani gets a bidding war with both Saks and Macy's. They both go from $70,000 to Saks winning the dress at $120,000 (and it is now on sale for $295). Not surprising to us, Bates gets no offers despite Richie's confidence stance. Escalante, shockingly, doesn't get any offers. We surely thought Macy's would snatch up these dresses.
Next up is Nzimiro Oputa, Nikki Poulos and Sarah Parrott. Oputa attempts to make men's shorts cool by adding details and colors. At the studio, Oputa shows Richie the fabrics and she quickly says no.
"Is it too feminine?" Oputa asks.
"Way too feminine. This screams 'curtain' to me," Richie says, holding up the blue-and-white paisley pattern and popping her head out from behind the cloth.
Poulos, who designs swimwear and a resort line in Miami, says she needs to branch out of her comfort zone and design something different. She opts for a line of jumpsuits. Parrott, who's made sales exclusively to H&M thus far, is hoping to broaden her range, which means she's vying for Saks.
Parrott is different from the rest of the designers; her talent is apparent and she has versatility. Other designers usually play it safe or design looks completely based on what the mentors suggest. More likely than not, it's about pleasing the buyer, which means designers eliminate their sense of uniqueness. Not the case with Parrott, usually.
Even though Poulos said she wouldn't stick to what she knows, which is resort lines, at the runway show we see her loose-fitting jumpsuits are exactly that – something Jennifer Lopez would wear on a tropical vacation. One of the other jumpsuits, in a full flower pattern, is completely retro in a Jan Brady way.
Parrott shows long, flowy dresses. The cut is not very summery but they have a nice air about them, though they're not particularly outstanding. Oputa, who has an advantage here since he is the only menswear designer, exhibits shorts that resemble regular shorts and swim trunks – print in the middle and color at the bottom.
"I have a crush on you," Simpson says. "That was definitely some kind of Hamptons party in the pants. I want my fiancè to be rocking those this summer." (It's a bit baffling as to why Simpson continues to bring her personal life into this show, though mostly understandable that she does; it's her real fame.)
Caprice Willard from Macy's gives Poulos $50,000 for her jumpsuits, saying she likes "the color choice and the print," and that "conceptually it's great." The jersey halter-top jumpsuit is on sale now for $79. H&M gives Oputa $50,000 for his men's shorts, which are on sale now for $24.95. Neither Macy's nor Saks make an offer to Parrott, but her staple H&M sure does for $50,000, saying the dresses are "sexy and elegant."
It's time for the lightning round! This segment means we only see who gets an offer out of Ross Bennett, Luciana Scarabello and Lisa Vian Hunter and skip the clothes by the losers entirely, because somehow Fashion Star has time for LMFAO and not its contestants. It's telling how the segment plays out: by only giving airtime to Bennett's double-pleated women's cuffed satin shorts, we assume that he gets an offer. Sure enough, Macy's and H&M both want the shorts and Macy's wins with an offer of $120,000, which you can get for $59.
Next up are Kara Laricks, Edmond Newton and Lizzie Parker. Laricks, who used to be a "closeted lesbian teacher," says that she still has a lot to prove after her tremendous win last week. During her studio visit with Varvatos, he suggests that she use more color than her usual dark looks. Again, Laricks uses men's detailing on women's tuxedo cropped pants (reminding us of a more contemporary version of Parrott's retro pants from last week).
Newton, inspired by his mother's flowy dresses from the 1970s, designs a lackluster halter-top maxi dress, one extremely similar to the one that Simpson wears during her studio visit with him. Parker, who hasn't made a sale since the first episode, says she needs to incorporate a bit more of herself into the clothes. "I have tattoos. I live in suburbs," she says, adding that she'll include heavy metal in her summer trends looks. What she ends up showing is an awkward, short sheath dress with bits of shiny fabric placed weirdly. Saks buyer Terron E. Schaefer offers Laricks $50,000 for her cropped tux pants, on sale now for $225, saying they are "very sophisticated" and that she's "evolved." Parker and Newton get no offers.
This elimination should be a no brainer, right? Wrong! The designers in jeopardy are Parker, Newton and Scarabello.
Second pause. We are starting to realize that making previous sales doesn't matter: if the designers don't sell during said episode, they're at risk regardless of previous showings and/or ability. Escalante, Bates and Scarabello have never sold a piece. And let's add, for our own sanity, that we have yet to see a full presentation by Scarabello. Having said all of that, the mentors choose to save Newton, which is understandable because he has shown more ability than the others.
So, between Parker and Scarabello, surely Scarabello will go home because at least Parker has the knack for pleasing the buyers and the mentors, sort of – at least more than Scarabello. However, the buyers choose to keep Scarabello and kick off Parker. We are dumbfounded. Seriously, does Scarabello have dirt on the producers? That must be what's keeping her on this insane show.
If we don't see something worthy (or anything at all) by Scarabello next week and she continues forward, we're checking into Betty Ford.