The Shoe Kerfluffle
It’s the final day, and Wendy is still agonizing over shoes, trying pair after pair on a hard-to-fit model. In the midst of her anguish, James (just James, no last name provided) from Dollhouse shoes arrives with a corrected pair of rhinestone heels for Kara Saun. Not only does he deliver the shoes, he has advice on how to avoid those nasty snags. And to make it even worse, he sits down and helps her prepare the shoes she already has so that they won’t snag on her long dresses.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a sore point with Jay and Wendy were they not having shoe problems of their own (Jay mentions that he only budgeted $9 per pair for his shoes), but they are trading dark looks at the sight of Kara Saun enlisting the sales rep to help her.
We take a karma break; Wendy’s daughter Finley arrives with her grandma for a visit. While Finley hugs her momma, Wendy’s mom takes a moment to introduce herself to Kara Saun and compliment her on her work. Jay comments that the last person he could stand to have in the room at that moment would be his mother. But his preconceived notions about Wendy’s mom are thrown out the window when she asks him where she can smoke. The next thing you know, the two are out on a balcony, puffing and laughing it up. Wendy’s mom confides that her friends are all hooked on Jay, and he can’t help but be flattered.
Jay has come to the realization that he doesn’t hate Wendy, as he said in a previous episode. Sure, she’s delusional, he concludes, but he has enjoyed getting to know her family, calling five-year-old Finley “adorable.” It probably helps that she’s eyeing and resenting those handmade boots of Kara Saun’s right along with him. But it’s nice to see a measure of peace has been found between Jay and Wendy.
It’s the evening before the show, and the designers are still working out the last details. Jay calls Julia and reminds her to bring her own black shoes. James is still present, working away on Kara Saun’s shoes. Unexpectedly, Kara Saun gets a call from a show producer who tells her that Maggie Rizer won’t be able to attend due to a death in the family. “Everybody has had a fitting but me!” squeaks Kara Saun.
Tim Gunn pays a visit to the group to go over a few details. Afterwards, he takes Kara Saun aside and asks how much of her budget went to shoes. Kara Saun explains that, well, she called James and said she really needed shoes, and somewhere in there a miracle occurred, because her designs for the shoes were manufactured in China but no money changed hands. “Gratis?” Tim asks in disbelief. Yes, several thousands of dollars worth of handmade shoes were passed along to her as a favor.
A few hours later, Tim is on Kara Saun’s cell phone. He tells her the shoes are a breach of her contract because she accepted them gratis instead of using her show-provided budget. “Finally, something happens to Miss F****in’ Perfect!” gloats Jay.
Kara Saun argues that everyone got free shoes from Michael Kors, so what’s the difference? “These are not the shoes I would have designed to match my collection,” Wendy says stiffly. Kara Saun snips back that Wendy didn’t pay for them. Jay is visibly glaring at Kara Saun as she continues to argue with Tim over the cell phone.
Kara Saun gets her contact on the horn and outlines her plan, telling him to not speak, just listen. She tells him to print a dummy invoice for the shoes, but it can’t be more than, say, $5 per shoe or she will be over budget. That’s quite a markdown for handmade designer shoes.
Wendy and Jay are listening to the entire exchange, since Kara Saun seems to have her cell phone set on permanent speaker phone. At the request that she be charged $5 per shoe, Wendy has heard enough. She’s spent weeks being vilified as conniving and sneaky while Kara Saun has been praised nigh unto sainthood.
Kara Saun asks Jay if he has a problem with her shoe situation, obviously expecting reassurance; but Jay says that yes, he does object. He reminds her that it was spelled out in the contract that they couldn’t accept any favors. She points to his sweaters, saying that it’s the same thing, but Jay reminds her that he designed them and paid someone else to knit them for him. That’s right, the knitter was paid, Kara Saun. Not bartered for future consideration on your next movie set.
Kara Saun isn’t interested in Wendy’s opinion, but Wendy is determined to get some payback for Kara Saun’s lecturing on her morals earlier in the week. She points out that equating a $5 shoe from a sample sale to her precious footware is egregiously unfair and “not above board, Miss Perfect.” Kara Saun insists she’s not listening several times as Wendy continues on, calling her morally corrupt for thinking it’s okay to bend the rules if it benefits her. Kara Saun replies in a too-sweet voice that Wendy can make herself look better all she wants, it’s not going to bother her. Even Jay is shaking his head in disgust at Kara Saun by this point.
The morning of the show, there’s a few panicky last-minute moments. Wendy is intimidated by the chaos, and befriends a hip-looking production assistant in response. The hipster is smitten by her “Longshot” t-shirt, and the two strip down and switch shirts. Um, where is Wendy’s husband again?
Tim Gunn isn’t impressed with Kara Saun’s “magical” invoice showing she has paid $15 per pair. He comments that the amount wouldn’t cover the import taxes from the sweat shop in China where they were made. Meanwhile, Kara Saun’s family has arrived, giving her a big boost in morale. Jay’s family and friends get a few minutes with him, but he’s missing half a dozen models and is in crisis mode. Two of the headphones have broken and he’s had to break out the crazy glue.
Tim comes back with the invoice in hand - magic or not, it’s not going to fly. She can either put the models in new shoes, no shoes, or they can wear the shoes but the judges will be told not to factor the footwear in her evaluation. Kara Saun complains that she’s penalized for having good taste, and that she’s pretty much stuck with the third choice. Elsewhere in the chaos, Jay is seen giving his models last minute advice on their walk, telling them to be “very normal. Very German.”
The final judges for the competition are the ever-present (and ever-vital) Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and one new addition: actress Parker Posey. Kara Saun emerges from backstage to introduce her “Fantasy Fly Girl” collection, a cross between aviation and technology. She was inspired by Howard Hughes’ belief that passion will make you crazy, but is there any other way to live? If passion takes form in never cutting your toenails, I’d say yes, there are other ways to live.
A saucy beat fills the speakers, and the first model appears in her red and brown leather aviator suit. We watch as Kara Saun’s creations glide down the runway, showing undeniable elegance and great attention to detail. The rhinestone problem was not fixed, as the models in the two dresses containing the metal-like fabric are visibly hiking their skirts off their shoes. There’s an apple green dress with barely enough fabric to flesh out a bikini, and shorter skirts paired with tall boots. Kara Saun’s collection finishes with two pieces in immaculate white. The final dress is clearly a show stopper, with white fur, a long skirt and gorgeous details. The crowd applauds her work enthusiastically.
Next up is Wendy, who describes herself as a “mom from Virginia” but doesn’t tell the audience the theme of her collection. To a sedate soundtrack, Wendy’s first creation hits the runway - a rust-colored peasant blouse under a moss-green satin jacket teamed with greenish-brown pants. It’s attractive except for the long blouse, which seems to catch in the model’s crotch as she walks. The rest of the collection is all over the map - a short green velvet dress, an orangey-brown pant suit, a long red velvet dress, and most strikingly, a sheer see-through dress in barely-there black that needed pixelation to appear on camera. From sedate to sex slave in sixty seconds! Wendy’s final piece is a dress with an interesting bodice that is strapped so tightly and awkwardly onto Melissa that her chesticalogical region is practically bumping her chin. It was a good effort, but falters for being so disjointed. At least we get to see Finley again when she joins Wendy on the runway for the final walk, looking adorable.
Jay is bringing up the rear, but he doesn’t waste time on introductions, saying he prefers the collection speak for itself. Right away the collection seems like more of a show than the previous designers’ - the soundtrack is intriguing, the girls are nothing less than surreal as they glide down the runway in their headphones. Jay’s collection starts with layers in shades of gold, topped by a quilted wrap. Next, we see one of my favorite elements in Jay’s designs, his ubiquitous circles, dotting a skirt and coordinating with a gorgeous floor-length scarf of varying colors and textures. An elf-like model appears in shades of green, looking tough and urban - it's a startling juxtaposition. Next we see a grouping of blue silks quilted together to form a darling dress topped by a crocheted blue wrap. The theme of each outfit mating varying shades of one color continues through the collection.
My favorite comes in the form of an entire outfit of silver: a short skirt of several layers of texture over metallic silver leggings; a casual jacket slipped off one shoulder; and a pair of shaggy grey boots. There’s no way he paid $9 for those boots, and they make the outfit. Another favorite is a simple burgundy minidress worn with a long coat; when the model turns, a stunning quilted design in shades of dark red and blue is revealed. It’s a gasp-out loud moment.
Jay’s final dress is obviously the completion of his Grammy dress, which did not come to fruition in the minuscule time span they were allowed during the previous challenge. The layered, textured skirt is back, beginning in flaming red at the waist and gradually darkening with each layer to almost black at the ankle. Instead of a matronly bodice, he has created a high ruffled collar that immediately plunges into a revealing neckline. I don’t like it exactly, but it has an undeniable impact. Some of the audience members spontaneously burst into applause as the model passes them.
Various veeps are interviewed after the show. Tamara Mellon, President of Jimmy Choo, thinks that Kara had a handle on what the modern woman wants, while Carson from Queer Eye was taken with Jay’s collection. Former contestants Daniel and Alexandra think the win will go to Kara Saun; Nora sticks loyally with Jay.
The designers meet one last time on the runway in front of the judges. All three are smiling - it’s clear that everyone is happy with their own performance. We’re reminded what the prize is: a one-year contract with Designer’s Management Agency, a fashion spread in Elle, a mentorship with Banana Republic, and $100,000 to start their own label.
The models Melissa, Jenny and Julia are brought out, since their fate is dependent on the designer’s competition. For the models, a pictorial in Elle magazine is at stake.
We learn that Jay did all the quilting in his collection, which he feels reflects his heritage. Michael Kors criticizes the exact color matching of his headphones and gloves, saying it is a little DTM - “dyed to match.” Nina Garcia contributes that she thinks Jay gets overly complicated at times. Wendy is asked to explain her theme, and she explains her inspiration was based on her country home in all its lovely fall colors. She loses points by describing her dresses as demure - but gains a few brownie points for making the judges laugh, I guess. Has she forgotten her see-through creation fit for a strip club? “What’s going on with the boobies?” asks Michael..
Michael Kors asks if by Howard Hughes, did Kara Saun mean the movie The Aviator? She says that yes, she did, but that more importantly, she felt a personal connection to the glamourous fabrics of the twenties. Michael commends her on her command of designing, saying her dresses fit her models so precisely they look like they are taped on. Parker Posey gushes that her dresses would be fit for the Oscars. Kara Saun is beaming widely at the praise. The mood comes down a bit, though, when Michael calls the clasp on Jenny’s midsection “completely Gucci.” Kara Saun protests that she’s putting the same design elements that she’s always used into her collection, but Michael still finds the high levels of Gucciness disappointing. She is also criticized for managing to put a well-known professional model “who can walk in anything” into a dress in which she could barely move. “The minute she turned that corner, man, you lost the whole dress,” Michael tells her.
The designers file out, leaving the judges free to deliberate. Wendy is dismissed immediately as not being a serious competitor, although Michael praises her tenacity. He also says she is too willing to listen to their advice when she should be listening to her own heartbeat. If they wanted that kind of competitor, why did they dismiss Austin for sticking to his own style? But I digress.
Parker Posey praises Jay’s collection for having irony and not taking itself too seriously. Nina Garcia agrees, but adds that his work is artistic and coming from him; she can’t wait to see him explore that depth. Kara Saun is praised for being professional and consistent; her clothes are praised for being perfect. Her professional, coolheaded, upbeat manner is admirable and will lend itself well to dealing with clients.
The designers are called back, and almost instantly, Wendy is dismissed . Heidi’s piped-in voice (taped long after that evening, no doubt) says that Wendy’s line has commercial appeal, but that it lacked consistency. She’s out. Finley and Melissa are both waiting for her with hugs.
Jay and Kara Saun are left to sweat it out. Jay is told that his line was wonderful: artistic, out there, and yet, still Jay. Kara Saun is told that her designs were amazing, and her execution was flawless. “Jay ... congratulations.”
The judges praise both designers, but say that Jay’s voice is completely original. Kara Saun leaves to find her family waiting for her. She’s disappointed, but takes comfort in the thought that her family was able to witness her first professional runway show.
Jay is, amazingly for him, at a loss for words. Heidi brings Julia out to celebrate being a bi-product of the win. “I’m so f****in’ happy,” sobs Jay. “Project Jay, that’s all I’m saying!” he vows.
If you’re still reading this, you’re one sweet yet tenacious son-of-a-gun. Thanks for reading my recaps this season. firstname.lastname@example.org.