'Fashion Star' Recap: Nicole Richie's Runway 'WTF?' Moment - Rolling Stone
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‘Fashion Star’ Recap: Nicole Richie’s Runway ‘WTF?’ Moment

As designers stage their own shows, concepts unravel

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Luciana Scarabello, Sarah Parrott, Orly Shani and Ronnie Escalante in the 'Living Department Store Window' episode of 'Fashion Star.'

Tyler Golden/NBC

Week Five of Fashion Star brings the remaining 10 contestants a little closer together with their next mission: to work in groups and present a window display that lures in shoppers. But can these designers work together?

Barbara Bates and Nikki Poulos pair up to create a joint story through their designs. Of course, because Fashion Star is so vague about its rules and logistics (and why should audiences be bothered with how a show works?), we aren’t told how the groups are chosen. Perhaps Bates, a designer with weak designs, could have been paired up with someone with a stronger eye – like Sarah Parrott, who has sold every week. But hey, we don’t run this show.

Host Elle Macpherson, looking a lot more refreshed than last week, says the show has sold $1.5 million in clothes so far. We wonder how this figure is accounted for, considering the show was pre-taped months ago. Again, logistics, who needs them?

Working on a budget and developing a scene with props, Bates and Poulos decide to create a dramatic storyline. Bates, who’s only sold once before, is designing a men’s-inspired, high-waisted dress with a pinstripe bottom.

Now, when she says “men’s-inspired,” we automatically thought of Kara Laricks. It seems as we inch closer to the end of the show, designers who aren’t as confident with their signature looks, or who haven’t made sales like Bates, naturally think that they need to change their entire formula and simply duplicate designs that do sell. Laricks has always been about womenswear with men’s-inspired details, and it works for her because she understands what she is doing. Bates is jumping into another realm as a fish out of water. The mentors and buyers have said time and time again that the contestants need to take risks, but that doesn’t mean copying others in the show – more likely than not, it will backfire.

Poulos, on the other hand, has expanded her beach/resort aesthetic to fit each weekly theme. This time, she is designing long, “sophisticated” and “elegant” gowns. As the two work together, their differences quickly pull them apart. “We still have to create a story,” Bates tells Poulos.

“I hate that whole story idea,” Poulos says, looking flustered. Regardless, Bates comes up with the idea that their window display will portray a photo shoot, which Poulos thinks is a bit cheesy. Bates confides to mentor Nicole Richie during her studio visit that she wants to “bash in” Poulos’ head, even though she says she “isn’t a violent person.” That should be Richie’s cue to step away from the designer.

“Nikki and Barbara are polar opposites,” Richie says, “and I’m wondering how they’re going to tell a story together.”

During the fashion show, the window display features two women, one acting as the starlet (wearing Poulos’ long red dress with a plunging neckline), while the other woman is behind the camera (in Bates’ knee-length, high-waisted, slim dress). Each of Bates’ models walk down the runway acting as the “sexy” secretary types, wearing glasses and their hair pulled up. At the end of the catwalk, they unpin their updos, revealing their true vamp selves. What this hair revelation had to do with her dresses is beyond us and, frankly, is completely outdated.

Poulos shows three vintage-inspired maxi dresses with various prints. All three are outstanding. She is going for sophistication but the dresses could be worn easily as casual or formal, depending on the material. They are gorgeous.

“I love the window,” John Varvatos says. “I can see you had great creative energy coming out of both of you.”

“You look beautiful tonight,” Richie tells Poulos. “You remind me of Jessica in the sense that your chimichangas are on fire.” And for those of you who don’t know: when Richie says chimichangas, she isn’t referring to Mexican food, but rather breasts.

“My chimichangas are always on fire,” Poulos replies. 

Varvatos tells Bates that he doesn’t like that her dresses have so many pinstripes and would have preferred to see them be more playful.

The buyers agree. Terron E. Schaefer, from Saks, says Bates’ fabric choices are odd for a spring collection and declines to make an offer, as do the other buyers.

“Don’t wait for me to be hot and famous later,” Bates laughably fires back. “You can get me now for cheap.” (It’s kind of sad when the biggest fan you have is yourself.)

H&M and Saks both want Nikki’s dresses and a bidding war ensues. In the end, H&M wins the dresses for $80,000.

“I would walk by the window and see that dress and walk into the store and buy that dress,” H&M’s Nicole Christie says. The dresses are now on sale for $19.95 at H&M.

Next up is Ronnie Escalante, who hasn’t sold a thing yet and is supposedly BFF with Luciana Scarabello, another mediocre and uninspiring designer (but we digress). Apparently, producers would also like to deviate from these two altogether because their segment is the night’s fast forward recipient, which means one thing: no sales from the pair, right? Wrong!

We almost throw a shoe at our television set when both designers get offers. Saks offers $100,000 to Scarabello for her black sheath dress with exposed sides,  while Macy’s takes Escalante’s so-called sleeveless low-V sheath dress. Infuriating. The mentors and buyers applaud the duo for their dresses, the designers are elated about their sales and we have no idea what the outfits look like. If you care to get these dresses, they’re on sale at Macys and Saks. But what’s the point? The dresses didn’t get any airtime. The whole point of the show is to brag about an outfit you got that was on television.

Next up is Ross Bennett, Parrott and Orly Shani – probably three of the most skilled designers on the program, who have defined who they are in each garment week after week.

“One of my proudest moments as a designer is having my own windows at Macy’s,” Jessica Simpson says, making it her sole statement of the evening with any sort of significance. “It’s very important to have a concept. It has to be unique and make everyone walk into the store.”

Bennett informs Simpson that the trio loves Gossip Girl and will combine his “classy,” Parrott’s “edgy” and Shani’s “sexy.” For this, Parrott decides to do reverse blazers and Orly wants to do a lace dress but is having issues constructing it. Bennett sticks with his “classic conservative” feel.

“Keep it Southern,” Simpson says with a twang to Bennett.

Bennett also plays director during the staging of their window display, telling the models, “You don’t give a shit about this girl” while pointing to the other model. Orly continues to have a problematic design, explaining that she’s making a dress that she would never wear while taking off the garment, exposing her bra and breasts. She’s made her point and decides to scrap the whole dress idea and design shorts.

“Orly keeps changing her ideas,” Bennett gripes.

During the presentation, the window display looked like the cohesive Gossip Girl theme they were going for. Bennett shows three button-down vests: a very preppy but modern look. “Ross is sexing it up,” Varvatos says during the fashion show.

Parrott designs three loose-fitting, reversible, color-blocked blazers. We love this look. It’s completely a style we’ve seen as of late, but she presents it with a fresh perspective and H&M will surely snatch these up.

Shani presents tight-fitting silk shorts, although we don’t think that was her intention. The shorts come in bold colors and are very pretty – however, the snugness isn’t appealing.

“If I was on Gossip Girl, I would say ‘WTF,'” Richie says, critiquing Shani’s shorts. “Shorts at this stage of the game doesn’t make sense. The fit was just terrible; your model had a wedgeina. I am so confused why this happened.” The shorts get no bids.

“You are representing Texas tonight,” Simpson says to Bennett. Isn’t he always, though? Macy’s takes Bennett’s vests for $50,000 and they are on sale now for $59.

“We are huge believers,” Macy’s Caprice Willard tells Bennett. “I think you are just hitting your stride.”

Although Varvatos tells Parrott that she “wasn’t raising the bar,” sure enough, H&M takes the blazers (on sale for $29.95). “The style is commercial; it gives it movement,” Christie says to Parrott, “but to be the winner, you have to sell to all the buyers.”

“I am trying to figure out what all of you want and still how to be me,” Parrott says to the buyers, practically in tears. This is the most honest comment on this show yet. We truly get a sense of the designer’s frustration from trying to please the mentors, the buyers and themselves.

The last to show are Laricks, Edmond Newton and Nzimiro Oputa, who are working on a nautical theme for their window display. “I think we’re all on the same page as far as color scheme,” Laricks says, adding that she likes Newton’s and Optuta’s energy and they have a ton of fun working together.

Oputa, who failed to sell last week, is looking to redeem himself with this latest collection. Newton, who was saved by the mentors two episodes ago, says he needs to prove to them that they made the right choice.

During the designing process at the studio, Newton decides to trash his original idea of designing a blazer after Richie says to him, “Don’t use hooker fabric” and “Stay away from club rat fabric.” Whatever she means by that, “hooker” and “rat” don’t have positive connotations so Newton decides to steer clear and do something that he has never done before: menswear. It catches Oputa completely by surprise.

“I am afraid for Edmond,” Optua says about Newton designing a men’s shirt, obviously because he has been the only designer to show menswear. 

At the presentation, the trio’s window display of a traveling theme (we think) is a bit dull. It looks as if they are at a bus stop going to nowhere. Oputa shows a casual zip-up jacket with nicely defined buttons, and it looks very crisp and modern. Newton shows three men’s shirts: one in basic black, one in white and one that combines the two color schemes, meaning a black shirt with white on the pocket and upper back. In one word: ugly. Last but not least is Laricks, who shows men’s shirtdresses with a tie that widens at the bottom. Quite frankly, they look like tents. If models look awkward in them, how can a normal person pull that off?

But of course, Simpson says, ” I love the dresses, all three.”

“The black and white looked fun,” Varvatos tells Newton, “but the other two were pretty basic. Right when you were starting to get on track, here you shifted gears.”

“Zamimi, I think you did a great job,” Richie says to Oputa, who’s been nicknamed as such by her. “I love the shoulder detail. It was spot-on.”

During the buying session, Newton gets no bids, but the buyers sure take a long time deciding whether they’re going to buy or not.  We’d like to think they have whole team of tiny executives on their little monitors telling them what to do. Oputa also fails to make a sale.

“Maybe they’re broke,” Oputa says of the buyers.

Laricks doesn’t get any bids as well. Perhaps Oputa is right. Though the dresses and men’s shirts weren’t worthy of a sale, Oputa’s jackets are. The three in jeopardy to go home are Bates (of course), Newton (it’s a given) and Shani (a slight surprise but there weren’t any other options since Escalante and Scarabello both made sales this evening).

So who did the mentors choose to save?

“We love all of you guys, but the world needs a little more crazy, so we’re going to pick Barbara,” Varvatos says, and another of our shoe-throwing fits ensues. Even Bates looks completely caught off guard. There’s no way Orly will get kicked off so, fittingly, the buyers choose Newton to go home.

It’s a happy ending, in a way, but this show is giving us the bad kind of heart palpitations.

Last Week: Getting Caliente with the Buyers


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