As this week's episode kicks off, Alexander is still feeling thrown off by the blowout with Ken last time, and Kate is sick of being in second place. This time it's the HP challenge, meaning they get to design a fabric. There's an extra twist this time, in that they will each be paired with a young innovator, who will serve as muses for their looks. Both the winning designer AND the paired innovator will get an HP technology suite as the prize.
Helen gets to pick first, and pairs up with the paint/print artist. Kate chooses the 17-year-old computer scientist, who is working on way to encourage more women to enter the field. Justin will be inspired by the charity-involved Miss USA 2012. Bradon picks the BMX rider, Alexander the pastry chef, and Alexandria the magazine editor. That leaves Dom with the president of Kiva, the microfinance organization.
Then they all get to actually meet their innovator muses and discuss their work. Helen really hits it off with the artist, as he seems to remind her of her fine-artist parents. They work together on a piece, based on a photo of her, that she gets to keep. Alexander actually has to decorate the cake with the pastry chef - and then take it back to the workroom with him! He's not feeling very inspired by the process.
Since it takes time to print up the fabric, the producers always have to come up with some way of filling the gap. This time, they've simply set it up so that their innovator interviews take up the first part of the day, then they design the fabric, so it gets printed up overnight and they sew the next day.
Kate designs a white-on-blue print composed of flowers and lines. She keeps saying that the print is like "binary code" but based on the design she seems to be confused with "bar code." Alexander takes the chocolate strands on his cake as inspiration and makes squares full of rayed chocolate streaks. Dom is drawn to the indigenous prints created by some of the women who received Kiva loans, plus the global interconnectedness of the whole thing, and makes giant black and pink chevrons. Bradon evokes the BMX activity through NYC with an abstract black and electric blue plaid. Alexandria continues the "abstract menswear" trend with a pale, scribbly windowpane. Justin is inspired by Miss USA's love of her work to make a ghostly, smoky print with hidden sign language "love" signs. Helen does a print of stars on white.
At this point I noticed that Kate had gotten a lot of screen time already in the episode. Not a good sign at this point in the season.
The next morning, they get to work on garments. Helen is struggling mightly and annoying everyone with constant requests for help. Dom urges her to just get something done so that Tim can give her guidance instead.
Tim's visit is, as usual, intercut with clips of the designers making comments of their own in the interview booth. We learn that Dom doesn't understand Bradon's, Bradon doesn't understand Kate's, Helen doesn't understand Alexander's, and Justin doesn't understand Alexandria's. Tim professes himself perplexed by Bradon's, who then decides to ditch the long skirt he was planning. Alexander has put a giant white cross on the front of his dress, which Tim pegs as clerical - but Alexander (last name Pope) won't be dissuaded. Bradon comments that "[his] last name is McDonald, and you don't see me making dresses out of french fries."
Helen is still struggling mightly. She's afraid to even cut into her custom fabric. Dom is doing her best to pep her up. Alexander and Alexandria kvetch in the break room about how Helen's process always seems to involve peppering everyone else with constant requests for help, reassurance, hand-holding, etc. Alexandria describes as Helen's "usual fit." Once she actually makes something, and gets it on her model, she starts feeling much better about it. Meanwhile, Kate is having fit issues, of a different kind, getting her dress on her model. But finally everybody gets a look out the door.
Bradon makes a bomber-style jacket from his semi-plaid, over a stretchy tube dress. Justin makes a fairly blah, gothy-even-though-it's-white, gown. Kate makes a busy, flippy dress, in which the print is entirely shrouded by a transparent white layer. Alexander's can only be described as a chocolate nun, or perhaps when you see the revealing back as something that Willy Wonka's arm candy (hah!) would wear to a red-carpet event. Dom's graphic dress is really cool looking. Alexandria's outfit is strange and messy, with a weirdly hanging wrap skirt and raw-edged leather vest. Helen's minimal look is composed of a short top and a very high-waisted skirt.
Since we're down to seven contestants, only one person will be in the safe middle - and that's Alexandria. Then the judges tease that one OR MORE of the rest will be out. I suppose we do have Tim's save to make up for...
The judges adore Dom's dress. Since Dom is known for working with print, they feel this was her challenge, and she lived up the expectations. Even the styling was good. The details of the print placement are great, and it's global without being too costumey. Zac Posen says he would wear it if he were a woman - of course, not that he couldn't wear it as a man, but I guess he's no Marc Jacobs.
Bradon's gets lots of love too. It's cool, the dress is very sexy yet versatile, it's an updated classic. Zac thinks it's his best work all season. Helen is also in the top. her decision to make it two pieces was a good one, and the combo of the figured print on white with ivory solid fabric gives it an interesting vintage versus modern feel. The shoulder is interesting, and it could be "1930's pinup" or "star-spangled hipster."
That leaves Justin, Alexander, and Kate in the bottom. Justin's is good from the waist up, but the bottom is drab, depressed, and not modern. Alexander's is neither sweet nor sexy, and is serious when it should have been light. Heidi thinks the white lines look like masking tape left on by accident. Kate tries to talk up the whole "digital dots of information" of her design but the judges are just giving her looks like (-_-). The shrouding layer makes it look like she fell into a kleenex box, and the look is just not about the print any more.
Backstage during deliberations, Kate is already freaking out because she's sure she will be eliminated - especially since they said they might "auf" more than one.
Dom is named the winner! So Kiva will get the additional technology suite. Bradon and Helen are safe. Alexander is out, Justin is in, and poor Kate has to be in suspense the longest. Alas, she is indeed out as well. Many tears are shed, and she says it hurts even more the second time. So close and yet so far!
Next week, it's the final elimination challenge that will decide who gets to show at fashion week.