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'Fashion Star' Recap: Getting Caliente with the Buyers

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fashion star elle macpherson
Contestants Sarah Parrott and Orly Shani with host Elle Macpherson on 'Fashion Star.'
Tyler Golden/NBC

Now that we're in the fourth week of Fashion Star, the underwhelming reality spectacle aimed at making a fashion star out of a nobody, we're asking ourselves: Is there anything that Jessica Simpson doesn't like? Not surprisingly, she's a fan of both the good and the bad, whether it sells or not.

Granted, there's been a ton of sales. Host/supermodel Elle Macpherson, channeling Axl Rose circa now in black leather pants and black feathered shoulders, says that more than a million dollars have been made from sales. That's still the only attraction to the show: attainable designs rapidly available online and in stores.

This week, the designers are asked to create a high-end look and a counter low-end look with mass-market appeal. Such emphasis of both markets shows that the designer has versatility. As mentor John Varvatos tells the designers during his studio visit, both looks must have a common thread.

As Simpson makes her rounds, she tells Orly Shani, who doesn't consider herself a high-end designer, that her high-end looks low-end and vice versa. Shani takes her advice and swaps the looks. Sarah Parrott, an H&M favorite and our personal pick to be the first Fashion Star, is having a mini-breakdown in the studio as she attempts to make a red dress look high-end.

On the runway, Shani presents high-end first via black "Hollywood" pants that convert from high-waist to low-waist by simply folding them down. All right, obviously this girl loves her "two-for" inter-changable looks, but pants that folds up and down at the waist scream "maternity wear." Her low-end look is a drappy, loose-fitting "slouchy" trouser pant that can also be adjusted with the drawstrings at the sides. Parrott shows two dresses: a high-end, red v-neck and knee-length dress, plus a low-end white short dress with defined shoulders and exposed sides and back.

"Well, I've been in trouble for wearing high-waisted pants," Simpson says during the judging, recalling her infamous fashion faux pas (and facing another one with her current low-cut dress). "But I can see a tall girl wearing these pants, and a shorter girl." Richie says Parrott's dresses are "cool" and "sassy." "You have to have a great body," Richie says of the white dress. "I can see someone like... myself [wearing that]."

During the buying session, Shani gets no offers. Not a surprise to us. Saks buyer Terron E. Schaefer says, "Orly, the pants had nothing in common. They look like they were done by two different designers." Parrott, predictably, gets an offer only from H&M. Both dresses are now available, retailing at $30-$40.

"Great colors and great fabric," Nicole Christie, buyer for the chain, says. "We believe you, Sarah." We smell a job offer.

The next three up are Ronnie Escalante, Ross Bennett and Luciana Scarabello, whom we have yet to properly meet. At the studio, Bennett is elated at his own talent as he works on a vintage dress, although he is alone in the sentiment. "Ross is the guy in school that you wanted to beat up," Nzimiro Oputa says; Richie, however, calls his dresses over the top and very "Scarlett O'Hara."

"When I get into designing I guess I am very stubborn," Bennett says. "Maybe it's a Southern thing."

While Bennett congratulates himself, Scarabello is off arguing with her pattern-maker, who should perhaps replace her as a contestant. "You are making me look bad," Scarabello tells him. "I need him to interpret my designs and not change it."

At the runway show, Escalante shows a high-end long, aqua strapless gown that looks more like an average prom dress, as well as a shorter, low-end dress in navy blue and black. "I love the long dress," Simpson coos. "I like the way it was cut. I really like it, am I crazy?" No comment. Escalante gets no offers.

Scarabello shows a high-end long, gray, silk, high-waist dress with a beaded top. There is also a low-end, shorter version in lavender. Neither lands with the judges. "You are competing against designers who know exactly who they are...and I still don't feel that way with you," Richie says to Scarabello, speaking as the voice of reason. "Sure, it was cute and fun, but that's not what is going to win this competition."

Macy's and Saks both make an offer to Scarabello. Scarabello replies to Schaefer by saying "Gracias" and he then says in Spanish, "Finally, we can both now speak in Spanish." Ewww. The last thing we want to see is a young woman with tousled beach hair and green eye makeup flirting with a gray-haired man in a three-piece suit.

Saks takes the dress for $60,000, giving Scarabello her first buy. The dress is now on sale at Saks for an outstanding $225 (not worth it).

Bennett shows a pair of strapless, polka-dotted, poofy dresses filled with tulle, the type easily found in any 1950s vintage shop. "I can see Katy Perry rocking that," Richie says. Adds Simpson, "I'm not Katy Perry but I would wear it to a garden party."

"That's exactly what I was going for," Bennett says. Sure!

Schaefer calls the designs "dated" and something you'd see in Grease. Ouch, but very on point. Again, Bennett gets no offers.

Next up is the most-hated part of the show: The lightning round, in which we see the only winning piece and not the other two losing items. Perhaps producers are doing us a favor by skipping over the uneventful segments, but then again, we'd love to see designers get ridiculed for their hideous clothes on national television.

The trio includes Fashion Star favorite Nzimiro Oputa, Nikki Poulos and Edmond Newton. Poulos, who designs a swimsuit and resort wear collection, is doubting her abilities to design high-end wear.

"I have never used lace," Poulos says. "I don't even wear lacy underwear." Richie tells her during her studio visit that she should design what she knows, which is odd because the buyers say the contestants should take risks. Regardless, Poulos shows a fabulous, contemporary, multi-colored maxi dress with flowy sleeves and an open slit at the top. H&M buys it for $60,000, and it is now on sale for $35. Oputa and Newton get no offers.

Next up is Barbara Bates, Lisa Vian Hunter and Kara Laricks. Bates credits herself as being a high-end designer who has kept in business for more than 25 years, and she creates a new type of garment called a "vess," which is a cargo vest-dress. It's as revolting as it sounds. Hunter is especially moved by this week's theme of high-end clothes because one of the last things she ever did with her mother before she died was shop with her at Saks; she designs two coats, one in a red and black print and the other in yellow. Although the coats aren't completely innovative, they were definitely the highlight of the show along with Poulos' maxi dress.

Laricks' signature style (womenswear with men's detailing) is designing two types of jackets/blazers: a high-end black tuxedo jacket with long tails and a shorter, low-end gray jacket. The gray jacket seems a lot more wearable than the high-end version. At the judging, Richie says she couldn't tell which one of Hunter's coats was high-end and low-end, saying, "I think that's a good sign. I think you accomplished a great coat in both markets."

"I love the yellow," Simpson says. "Me too," Richie says raising her hand. Yet even with that endorsement, Hunter gets no bids.

"Saks Fifth loves the spring coat, but I wasn't a fan of the yellow," Schaefer says. "And I'm surprised that Nicole and Jessica would wear yellow."

"It's very Mia Farrow," Richie yells back. "It's Rosemary's Baby. It's cute."

"I really love both pieces," Simpson says about Bates' "vess."  And apparently so does Macy's, who takes the dress at $50,000. "I am so impressed with the evolution you have made," buyer Caprice Willard says. We beg to differ.  Both dresses are now available ($80-$100) and, annoyingly, look nothing like the original pieces on the show.

"Kara, you are on a freaking roll," Varvatos says about Laricks' jackets. "You have figured out the high-end, low-end right off the bat. They are great-looking. Home-run, grand-slam, out of the park." Schaefer agrees with Varvatos, and takes the jacket at $70,000. It's on sale for a whopping $400! "I think you are a fashion leader," Schaefer says. "You are not a follower. I compliment you on the style and color, and we really want you at Saks Fifth Avenue."

Time for eliminations! We finally get a sense of how the mentors and judges go about picking who they'll save and who gets kicked off: Schaefer says Bennett is in a "time warp" and says the mentors love Hunter.

"Ronnie has not gotten an offer," Richie says about Escalante, plus calls Newton "random." So the final three in jeopardy are Hunter, Escalante and Newton.

"We have to compare you to who we think is the best," Richie says. "So this person better bring it, and that person is Ronnie."

Hunter shakes her head in disagreement and we do, too. Escalante being saved is beyond ridiculous. Just because the kid has interned at Zac Posen doesn't make him better than Hunter or Newton. In fact, Escalante and Bates are tied as being the worst designers on the show. But the buyers see it differently, and sadly, they kick off Hunter.

Now we're off to buy Poulos' dress at H&M (if it's still available). Alas, it's sold out!


LAST WEEK: LMFAO Hogs the Runway

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