Credit: Tyler Golden

Let’s be clear: this is not Project Runway. There are no catty moments in the workroom, no frantic trips to Mood, and sadly no Tim Gunn. In fact, just to prove how hip and unlike that other show Fashion Star is, we open with sparks, motorcycles, and a lingerie runway show. Host Elle McPherson saunters down the runway flanked by two lingerie-clad models. I’m sure she said something really riveting at the end of that commotion but all I heard was, “America, this is a commercial for the lingerie collection that made me a multimillionaire on a show that isn’t about me — but here, look now. Be amazed.”

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s how it works: Designers present three pieces every night based on a branding exercise. (This week they designed one look in three different ways that showed us their style.) Then, mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos give their feedback. After that, buyers from Macys, H&M, and Saks Fifth Avenue decide whether they want to make a bid. The buyer with the highest bid wins that line, making the designer safe from elimination that week and giving viewers a chance to buy the pieces at that store the next day. If the designers don’t make a sale, they can be eliminated. At the end of the night, the judges can save one designer who is at risk. Then, someone is “not our Fashion Star” and heads home. The last designer standing takes home a $6 million collection. I know. I know. It’s a murky path to a winner, but it gets less confusing as the episode goes on.

Here are the good, bad, and ugly contestants moments:

The Good

–In the first runway showcase, we meet 26-year-old New York bartender Orly Shani. Her line is called “tuc and wes” as in cut and sew spelled backwards. It’s inspired by the idea that all of her pieces are convertible. She’s broke and having pieces that can be turned into many different things saves her money. It’s a smart concept with a cute name. She showed three variations of a fitted high-waist mini skirt that allows you to zip on or off another skirt. Her “zip-a-dee-doo-dah” idea, as John Varvatos calls it, is a cute concept and that she’s able to pull it off without coming off too gimmicky. I have a feeling Orly’s references to being broke are going to make a great drinking game this season. She walked away with a $80,000 offer from Saks and $50,000 from Macys.

–Mom of two Sarah Parrott doesn’t have a design background, but she managed to create three fun shift dresses. Sarah gets $80,000 from H&M and it makes perfect sense. Sarah’s fun colors and well-placed cutouts will fit right in on the racks at H&M.

–Detroit native Nzimiro Oputa sent out a trio of well-tailored sports jackets with a permastanding collar. I can’t say I wouldn’t make fun of a guy with a permanently popped collar but at least it’s a clever little detail. He gets a $50,000 bid from H&M.

— For some reason, we zoom through four designers. We don’t actually get to see their intros or their collections. That shows how much we’re supposed to care about them. All we know is Lizzie Parker gets a $50,000 offer from H&M and a $60,000 offer from Macys. Everyone else doesn’t get an offer so that must mean she was good, right? Well, we’re happy for you Lizzie, whoever you are.

The Bad

–When Kara Laricks says her specialty is androgynous accessories, I’m intrigued. But when she describes her first piece as a collar, attached to stand, attached to a tie, I’m just confused. Seeing it on the runway doesn’t help the confusion — it looks like she’s wear a weird giftwrap — but the skirts are flirty and fun. Too bad, as Nicole mentions later, it was someone else’s clothes. Kara’s risky move to only design an accessory ends up leaving her with no offers.

–According to Ross Bennett from Austin, everyone thinks he’s crazy because he’s a straight married guy who hunts, fishes, and makes women’s clothing for wives of lawyers, attorney and state senators. He has an advantage because he makes his own patterns and sews everything himself. Oh Ross, didn’t you hear? This isn’t that other show. That won’t help you here. Ross’s three variations of the wide-leg pants and semi-sheer long sleeve shirts miss the mark on tailoring. “It looks someone’s grabbing her vagina,” Nicole says. Not a good sign for the guy who says tailoring is his strength. No offers for Ross.

The Ugly

Oscar Fierro’s style is a self-proclaimed “orgy of over the top things.” There are a couple minutes when Fashion Star turns into The Oscar Fierro show. Elle makes a joke. Oscar hops around the stage. Seriously, are there springs in his shoes? Is he some sort of human pogo stick? Ospo, perhaps? Finally, Oscar remembers this isn’t his show and he apologizes to the other contestant for taking time away from her. I have a gut reaction to Oscar’s over the top outfits and screeching and it’s not good. I can’t help it. Bold personalities always get me and I just know Oscar Fierro screen time will be the visual version of nails on the chalkboard. He shows a collection of what he calls ‘butterfly dresses’ that are unremarkable. No bids.

–There’s always one contestant whose confidence will be his downfall. In this case, we have former Aussie model Nicholas Bowes. He has no weakness, or so he thinks. We know his weakness is that he thinks he has no weakness. His motorcycle jackets are embellished with zippers but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Well, except for the styling on his last look. “Why would you put a leather jacket with those shorts? Wow,” Jessica leans over to tell John. I never thought Jessica Simpson would be the voice in my head but she’s right about those jeans. When Jessica and Nicole criticize his lack of originality and questionable styling, Arrogant Aussie says he just doesn’t understand how a mere female could give advice on male fashion. “To talk down to a women in this business….we run the world right now,” Jessica responds.” Quick, someone cue the Beyoncé. Nicholas doesn’t get any offers from the buyers. No surprise there.

Ultimately, the buyers put Arrogant Nicholas, Ospo, and Kara in their bottom three. The judges decide to save Oscar, who immediately starts crying and hopping, of course. Yoshi-like sounds of euphoria are heard back stage.

Then, it’s turned back to the buyers who decide who goes home. They eliminate Nicholas thanks to his inability to take constructive criticism. We all saw this coming. Nobody puts Jessica Simpson in the corner.

As he tries to defend himself, Nicholas reminds us he wasn’t saying that women don’t have a clue about fashion. He was just saying they don’t understand high-end fashion. Thanks for clearing that up. What’s that you hear? Yes, that is the sound of your dating life dying, mate.

All in all, I enjoyed the episode. Fashion Star clearly isn’t going to reward any outside-of-the-box talent like that other show. It’s about wearable brands and that doesn’t always make for exciting runway shows. But once you accept that fact and embrace the thrill of the shopping/runway combo, it’s worth tuning in occasionally.

What do you guys think? Do you have room for one more fashion show in your TV schedule? Who’s your favorite so far?

Read more: