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'Fashion Star' Recap: Buyers' Choice Makes a Mess of the Semifinals

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fashion star
Nicole Richie on NBC's 'Fashion Star.'
Tyler Golden/NBC

This is it, folks! The last episode before the world gets its newly crowned, first-ever Fashion Star. How significant will this achievement be? The winner will most likely land somewhere between Kelly Clarkson's level of fame and Jay McCarroll's (he won the first season of Project Runway). So yeah, good luck!

However, out of the six remaining contestants – Orly Shani, Nzimiro Oputa, Ronnie Escalante, Luciana Scarabello, Nikki Poulos and Kara Laricks – there are some heavy-hitters. Shani, Oputa and Laricks have designed incredible lines for H&M, Macy's and Saks. They've got real talent and have a genuine spark about them; we think they should be the final three.

This week, it's "buyers choice," which means Terron E. Schaefer (Saks), Nicole Christie (H&M) and Caprice Willard (Macy's) will have a one-on-one with each of the designers in order to see which of them can produce a full line for each of their stores. In other words, it's like a job interview.

It's also a bit tricky this week because the designers can double their chances of selling clothes by showcasing two different lines. Also, selling this week doesn't necessarily save you from being eliminated, which completely blows. It's like the powers-that-be want to decide who the ultimate three designers will be in the final episode regardless of their selling ability or their talent. Not cool.

It also seems like this week's real theme is Big Hair, as host Elle Macpherson sports a messy updo and Jessica Simpson is lost in a head of curls (think Marge Simpson's sisters). However, Nicole Richie keeps her unruly hair tamed with tied-up braids as her boho spring collection hits the runway (and as her dad, Lionel Richie, smiles proudly). Does this showcase have anything to do with the recent announcement that Richie will soon be selling a line at Macy's? Fishy.

The first two designers are Oputa and Laricks. Oputa meets with Schaefer and is basically told, "Do a safari jacket for Saks or else." Oputa is extremely uncomfortable with this look; however, since it is buyers' choice and he hasn't sold to Saks yet, he has no say in the matter.

"I have so much faith in his potential to make it the finale," Simpson says. "He is so good with details and is the only one who has sold both women's and men's apparel."

Laricks, who has only sold to Saks (not bad at all), is told by Christie that the buyers would like to see a range in her clothes. This means they want more sex appeal, and Laricks finds it difficult to ramp up her garments, which consists of men's detailing on women's clothing.

"It's hard, but there is sexy in me," Laricks says to Christie.

At the fashion show, Laricks shows a loose-fitting sleeveless dress with a collar in various prints. We wouldn't say this dress is sexy or quite flattering, as it sort of looks like maternity wear, but it is playful. She also shows a trench coat with floral lining aimed at Macy's and Saks. Oputa shows casual trousers and the much-wanted safari jacket for Saks. He actually pulls off a modern version of a safari jacket minus the drawstrings – though that's a bonus in our eyes, the mentors' facial expressions seem to say otherwise.

Both Macy's and H&M bid equally on Laricks' dress and she chooses on H&M (on sale for $24.95). As for the trenchcoat, both Saks and Macy's make bids and Macy's takes it. (It's sold out now.) Now Laricks has sold to all three stores. Oputa makes no sales for either line. Huge mistake by the buyers; both of his lines were outstanding.

"You really listened to what we talked about, but there were some inconsistencies," Schaefer says to Oputa.

The next two are Shani and Scarabello. Willard tells Scarabello she would like to see what a woman wears to work, since she has shown more of an evening look in the past. Did Willard forget about the blazer she already designed? We guess her collections aren't memorable.

"How do we feel about the ‘two-for' nowadays?" Willard asks Shani.

"It's kind of a dirty word," the designer replies.

Willard goes on to say they would like Shani to produce something more structured with her multi-use signature approach. Both Shani and Scarabello, perhaps unknowingly, design crop jackets that will surely look terrible on the runway.

"I feel like some people aren't pushing themselves," Shani says. "Luciana is designing the jacket that got bought two to three weeks ago but putting a ruffle on it. The thing that is frustrating is that people are recycling stuff but they're being bought. So that makes me think maybe I'm the idiot."

Far from it. In fact, the people who have been recycling, like Scarabello and Escalante, will most likely go home. Sure enough, as Scarabello's shorts and cropped jacket hit the runway, a wave of boredom hits us. The cropped jacket with ruffles is kind of hilarious, though; it reminds us of dressing up in the seventh grade for an after-school dance. Not sure why the mentors are nodding with approval. The high-waisted skirt with patterns comes across a whole lot better and looks like something Macy's would sell.

Shani's structured dresses, on the other hand, are amazing – particularly the white, knee-length, sleeveless item with black on its sides (added to emphasize an hourglass figure). The blazer and wide-leg trouser is almost perfection. We love the lace at the opening of the back of the blazer, and the pants are completely modern and chic.

Richie says she loves Scarabello's jacket but not the skirt. What? "As far as what the buyers wanted to see," Richie says, "sometimes the buyers have no idea what the eff they're talking about." Well, we do agree with that.

Simpson and Macpherson both voice their approval on Shani's pants. Saks buys Shani's black and white dress and H&M buys her trousers and jacket. "You killed it," Christie says. "I got goosebumps when those trousers came down." Scarabello gets zero bids for both lines.

Next up: Poulos and Escalante.

"To be a honest, I'm not a fan of tailoring," Poulos says after being told she must design separates with structure. In other words: enough with the maxi dresses!

Escalante is told he needs to design something else aside from evening wear. "All the buyers said the same thing: that they want to see a different side of me," Escalante says. We think everyone watching has been saying that since day one.

"He is the one to watch right now," John Varvatos says. "If you would have asked me two or three weeks ago, I would have said Kara, but we believe in Ronnie. We think he has what it takes to make it to the end." Now why would Varvatos say such ridiculousness?

Escalante shows first. His suits feature a low-neck jacket with double lapels and wide-leg pants, sort of what a woman would wear if she were inspired by Tilda Swinton. As far as his menswear-inspired dress is concerned, we think Escalante not only took cues from Laricks but also from Shani. Poulos shows two silk, striped, short one-sleeved dresses and now we really believe it when she says that she hates tailoring. This lady cannot escape loose-fitting dress-making. However, her high-waisted pants and top are to die for.

"I think Nikki did a great job," Varvatos says of Poulos.

"You are one classy dude, I have to say," Simpson says to Escalante. "I really think you are a front-runner in this competition." We beg to differ.

Poulos gets no offers for the pants, but Saks takes the dresses. We are baffled. Macy's takes Escalante's suit and a bidding war ensues over his dress. H&M wins the dress, and Willard says it will be their biggest hit.

"You guys amaze me every single week," Richie says as the six designers face the mentors. All three mentors give the designers a standing ovation. Then come the waterworks: first Laricks, then Escalante, then even cool-headed Oputa starts to cry, which makes Macy's Caprice start to cry.

Laricks is the first to be sent into the final three. Poulos is out (expectedly). Escalante is in the final three? We're speechless. Out of Oputa, Scarabello and Shani, we cannot believe that only one of them gets to go on. Forget Scarabello, but between Oputa and Shani? Insanity; we love them both. We really thought it would be Laricks, Oputa and Shani to be the last standing, but now only Oputa goes on.

If Escalante wins and becomes the first-ever Fashion Star, we will revolt. Our money is on Oputa, but Laricks will probably win. We'll just have to wait 'til next week and see.

Last Week: The Contestants Get 'Out of Africa'

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