It's the avant-garde challenge!
Credit: Pawel Kaminski/Lifetime

The bobbin has run out of thread.

That’s my attempt to come up with a sewing version of “s— has hit the fan” because this is a fashion show and, well, the bobbin has run out of thread.

Or rather, Ken has. He’s decided that he’s had enough of Sam’s designs and decides to confront him head-on about it. I said it a couple weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: Designers should spend their time worrying about THEIR OWN designs. Ignore everyone else. Especially this week! Because this week is the avant-garde challenge, and even though the designers have two full days to work (and $400 to spend!), they need all the time they can get to work on their “innovative, experimental, and out-of-the-box” thinking.

Alyssa meets the designers at Agora Gallery, where they will pick a piece of artwork as inspiration for a wearable piece of art. The artists are there to give their own inspirations behind the art, so the designers mingle in the gallery and latch on to their muses.

Sam immediately is drawn to an owl, which the designer calls digital taxidermy. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it does look cool. And it captures a moment in time, something Sam draws his inspiration from. He thinks about how gay marriage has just been legalized in the U.S., and he wants to capture that moment in time with a giant rainbow flag. That’s quite the jump from an owl in a glass case, but I’ll go with it.

Dom sees a mosaic made from MetroCards. Since she likes to incorporate a “mosaic” of prints in her work anyway, she thinks this is a perfect fit. Also a good fit? Emily and Ken with an artist’s works about female empowerment. Emily wants to create a giant sweater coming unraveled to represent the openness in one of the paintings, and Ken wants to do a caged look to showcase a women shielding her pain.

Kini has a similar idea to Ken, where he wants his model to be shielded. But in Kini’s case, it’s with a black bodysuit so the model will look like a mannequin walking down the runway. I have all kinds of issues with the concept of dehumanizing the model for the sake of a piece of clothing, but this is not the time or place for those issues. So moving on…

Because the designers have two days, they work at a tiny bit slower speed than usual, which leaves them tons of extra time to talk bad about one another. Ken thinks Sam is a threat because the judges love him for reasons he can’t figure out. Although I like Sam, I can see where the other designers would be angry that the judges seem to be giving him a pass. BUT doesn’t this happen every season? The judges often just get one of the designers in the way no one else does, including the audience. Does that mean the designers need to gang up on said person? I think not.

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Anyway, at lunch, they start talking about the avant-garde challenges on their own seasons. Ken says he didn’t get to his because he was sent home two challenges before. Kini talks about how both he and Sean won his season; and then the designers talk about how Sean’s rainway dress was boring because it was a simple silhouette, and I, personally, get offended. Just like Sam says, sometimes avant-garde can be about an innovative idea not just something overly dramatic.

Zanna stops by on the second day to give her critiques, and because this is the most time the designers have had all season, she expects big things from their designs…only to be mildly disappointed. Zanna thinks Emily is going too literal with her sweater because she’s pulling the same colors from the painting. She tells Dom and Kini that they need to push it a bit more, and she warns Ken to not go too Blade Runner. But Zanna’s harshest critique is reserved for Sam, who she feels isn’t pulling from his art inspiration enough. Her biggest concern is that the rainbow is cliché and not sophisticated enough. So once she leaves, Sam creates another draped dress — this time with purple encasing the rainbow to tone it down. And the way the room responds, you would think he was designing his dress to personally offend the other designers.

NEXT: The gloves come off

The next morning, the designers take their avant-garde looks to the runway, where they are joined by Alyssa, Isaac, Georgina, and guest judge Boy George. Could they have picked a better guest judge for the avant-garde challenge? I think not.


Emily’s design isn’t necessarily avant-garde, but she wanted to put something down the runway that she was proud of — and she accomplishes that with her sweater dress. It represents the female strength of her art inspiration and incorporates her streetwear edge. Georgina thinks it’s attractive but could have been pushed further. Isaac and Boy George both wish the design was all black, and Alyssa says the shoulders should have been wider.


The art Kini used as inspiration showed a black silhouette and he wanted to bring that to life. Georgina likes the concept, but she says if the look didn’t have the bodysuit, it would just be an ‘80s dress. Isaac thinks the dress is too pretty, and he would like the headpiece if it had been made flawlessly (because it’s bumpy now). Boy George says it’s a “bizarre effect,” and Alyssa says it makes her uncomfortable — which may or may not be a good thing.


The judges aren’t surprised Dom was inspired by a mosaic; and they love the dress but think it’s not avant-garde enough. Boy George says looks for this challenge should either annoy or challenge you, and Dom’s design does neither. Alyssa doesn’t think the dress is necessarily forward-thinking, but she does think it’s a nice piece of art. And then Isaac says, “Who knows what the hell we’re talking about” — which should be the tagline for this season.


Although Sam incorporated the purple fabric for added elegance, he doesn’t change his inspiration story. Boy George wishes he had heard the backstory before seeing the look because, as is, he wasn’t impressed. Isaac, on the other hand, says it’s his favorite look of the challenge. Georgina uses her favorite word, “unresolved,” to describe it, though she does like the direction and thought behind the dress. Alyssa says it’s like a kite caught in the tree — which Isaac says is what makes him like it.


Ken’s look is probably the most avant-garde, and his inspiration is lovely: He depicts a woman who’s in a dark place, but still has hope because she can see out of the darkness (via the hooded neck piece). Isaac thinks it’s great and speaks to him on an emotional level. Georgina says Ken really honed in on his craft here; however, she doesn’t like how the neck piece isn’t attached in the back. Alyssa and Boy George are in love, too.

As the designers wait in the backroom for the judges to make a decision, Ken decides it’s time to unleash on Sam. He yells at Sam for “just draping fabric” while the other designers are pushing themselves. For being attacked out of nowhere, Sam handles himself really well and expresses that he wants this as bad as the other designers. But for some reason, that makes Ken even more mad, and he really lets loose: “You’re a liar. You’re a snake. You rest on this pretty s—, and I’m not talking about your garments… Grab your balls and man up to your s—.” I’m not sure what Ken was hoping this would accomplish? Clearly his beef is with the judges who are putting Sam through week to week, but Sam was the only person he could really unleash on. It’s childish, and I wish he had just walked away like he did last week. But anyway.

Winner: Ken

Out: Emily

Did you think it was Emily’s time to go home? What did you think of Ken’s outburst? Are you ready for Nina to come next week and set everyone straight? Let’s chat below, or find me on Twitter @realdalener.

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