January 18, 2008

mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the avant-gardest of them all?

Finally, a conceptual challenge, at least in principle. The designers had to create an "avant-garde dress" inspired by their models' hairstyle. (Not that that connection seemed to matter much during the episode.)

The original meaning of "avant garde" is "the foremost of an army". The word was first used in a figurative sense in the early 20th century in the context of art and magazines. The episode was called "en garde", which originally refers to a position in fencing, but it was very appropriate here, too, as nothing can sink a contestant as easily and unforeseeably as a team challenge.


The "twist" was that they also had to create a ready-to-wear garment that conveyed the essence of the avant garde dress. (Not that that connection seemed to matter at all. Nobody was asked to explain how one garment related to the other.)

The adjective "ready-to-wear" entered the English vocabulary in the late 19th century. The word was later also used as a noun.

Oh, and it was another team challenge. Say about team challenges what you like, in a best-case scenario that extra brain and extra pair of hands can lead to the creation of a more intricate garment. It's more fun to look at four beautifully crafted looks than at eight unfinished ones. On the other hand, team challenges may also lead to complete disasters (lingerie, anyone?).

While two of the designs were striking, they didn't look so much avant-garde as haute couture (literally: "high fashion") to me. They didn't seem "artistic, conceptual, not practical, not wearable" (all adjectives used in the episode to explain the term) to me (except for that odd fan-like contraption that was attached to the winning gown), but the two best designs looked intricate, complicated, labor-intensive, luxurious -- adjectives that I'd rather associate with "haute couture" (remember last season's haute couture challenge?). Michael Kors also used the words "couture" and "soigné" (literally: prepared with great care) in his evaluation of the winning look.

Chris and Christian, "Team Fierce", used 45 yards ofI organza to create a multi-layered gown reminiscent of a streamlined, more edgy version of the "mille feuilles gown" Carrie Bradshaw wore when she fell asleep on her first night in Paris. ("mille feuilles" = 1000 leaves or layers)

Couture -- sure, avant-garde -- not so sure. Not sure either how exactly their gown was inspired by the model's hairstyle, nor am I as convinced as Christian that the hunchback stance was the embodiment of avant-gardism. (It seemed more the embodiment of an attempt at avant-gardism.)

As beautiful as the dress was, it wasn't as original and striking as Team Passive-Aggressive's (Gillian and Victorya, who else) "apocalyptic trenchcoat" ensemble ("apocalyptic" is of Greek origin and originally referred to anything pertaining to the Revelation of St. John),
which was also described as "very couture" by the guest judge.
I wouldn't like to be on a team with either of these two women, but they did pull off a visually strong, impeccably constructed look. As with Team Fierce, the ready-to-wear garment seemed to be an inconsequential afterthought, so why include it in the challenge at all?

Kit and Ricky came up with a costumey dress that was supposed to convey the idea of a bird's nest, but either it didn't succeed, or I'm not enough of an ornithologist to see it. Their ready-to-wear look was as simple as could be, and it was no surprise that Kit, as the leader of the team, was sent home. Ricky was only along for the ride, he may not have contributed a lot to the challenge, but at least he didn't sabotage Kit either.


Things were a little different over at Team Stress. Rami and Sweet P. couldn't agree on a concept and ended up splitting up the work. Rami's avant-garde dress (of course he did the avant-garde dress...) involved a lot of draping (surprise, surprise) and, rather incoherently, a pair of pants (to fulfill at least the requirement of non-wearability?). Sweet P's ready-to-wear look was a flirty gray dress, and it was considered a lot more fashion-forward than Rami's look. It didn't relate to the avant-garde look at all -- which was a good thing.

The judges gave the win to Team Fierce and its leader, Christian. I thought that team Passive-Agggressive's look captured the spirit of the challenge a little better, but I think the two C's were more deserving of the win in terms of working together as a team. Too bad that only one of them could be pronounced the winner. But there really shouldn't be any immunity at this point. Give the winner some other prize -- extra money to buy fabric, more time to complete the design, or something completely unrelated, such as a laptop or a trip to Paris (I'm sure a sponsor could be found...).

Unsurprisingly, Kit was out. There was nothing remotely avant-garde about her design, which was rated not well made and amateurish (from the Latin "amare" = to love; an amateur is someone who loves something but has no professional training). I also had expected something more wow-worthy and more modern from her. Her design looked like a wedding-cake topper. Time to retreat.

Did you see the new slogan on Bravo?
"Bring your game or say Auf Wiederseh'n"! Edgy, eh?

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