It's Unconventional Challenge time! Some designers make dresses worth licking. Others gave us toothaches

By Stephan Lee
July 27, 2012 at 04:42 PM EDT
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After last week’s boring strut through Times Square, a place where actually fashionable people would only brave if Anna Wintour sent them a personal invite to the Condé Nast Building, we were blessed with an UNCONVENTIONAL CHALLENGE! As can be expected, this year’s Unconventional Challenge brought out the best and worst in the designers. They took a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar—owned by Dylan Lauren, daughter of Polo-peddler Ralph—to gather materials for a sugar rush-inducing dress. Usually, I expect the designers to use as little fabric as possible in this type of challenge, but since they were working with sticky materials, a little muslin went a long way. I know models aren’t like us normal humans, but some of them might have traces of body hair and sweat glands, which never mix with cotton candy.

Some of the designers were good about choosing legitimately unconventional, non-thread-like candies. Sonjia grabbed handfuls of Gummi Sharks, and a couple of people scooped some candy LEGOs. Surprising to absolutely nobody: This year’s dark and dour designers made a beeline for black liquorice. Come on, it’s a candy challenge. Can’t we take a break from the joylessness, just for a moment?

Side note: Did anyone else get Katy Perry music stuck in their heads while the designers were running through the colors and swirls?

Back at Parsons, the designers got busy glue-gunning and hammering their candy. Or in Lantie’s case, dismantling Dylan’s Candy Bar rain boots, Dylan’s Candy Bar laptop cases, and Dylan’s Candy Bar umbrellas. Way to take the least creative route possible. Honestly, Lantie’s attitude about the challenge bugged me far more than Gunnar bitchiness ever did. Tim rightly told her that re-jiggering already-made fabrics was the last thing she should be doing. Lantie said, “There’ll be a little bit of candy. Probably not a lot. Whatever.” That line would have been cute coming from April Ludgate, but not from a 48-year-old up-and-coming designer.

Andrea also had an unpleasant consultation with Tim, who said, “I don’t have the adequate words to tell you how completely underwhelmed I am by this.” Oh no she didn’t! Tim was probably a bit too harsh, but he had a point — Andrea used a bunch of sheets of Candy Buttons that were glued together sloppily, and even though she used an unconventional material, she used it in the most fabric-y way possible. Andrea was so upset she had to tell the producers to stop rolling the camera, Behind the Music-style. But like a big girl, she went back to her table and cut up her “Victorian candy bar clerk” apron.

Elena also had a dramatic time in the workroom — she strikes me as a dramatic type in general. She dropped some hot glue on her thigh, which is indeed painful, but she really milked the moment, acting like she needed a Silkwood shower and calling herself “tired,” “defeated,” and “hit by a bus.” Chris wasn’t particularly sympathetic: “WHY ARE YOU WEARING HOOCHIE SHORTS TO WORK?” (I’m so glad I’ve never had to say that to any of our EW interns).

NEXT: Hold onto your skivvies. I’m doing screengrabs of EVERY runway look of the night.

First of all, what the hell was Heidi wearing? The judges railed on Lantie last week for her snakeskin bibs, but Heidi’s snakeskin scrubs weren’t any better.

Again, I’m disappointed that Katy Perry wasn’t the guest judge for a candy-clothes challenge. Dylan was a decent judge, even though it seemed she wanted every look to be a walking advertisement for her products. Michael, on the other hand, was on fire with his comments.

Maybe I’m just on a sugar high, but a lot of these looks — even the butt-ugly ones — made me a little giddy. That’s just what the Unconventional Challenge does to me.



You know, I was hard on Melissa last week for her color palate of choice, but this look was monotone without being flat. The top, with its liquorice leather straps and silver wrapper clasps, was impressive only because it was made out of candy. The skirt, on the other hand, was beautifully worked.


So Nathan’s foiled chocolate and candy box dress is straight out of the “California Gurls” music video, but how non-costume-y can you get in a candy challenge? I can’t believe the skirt weighed 20 pounds. Almost as heavy as the product in the model’s hair.

Andrea (main photo)

You know, I think Andrea pulled this one off. Sure, it didn’t make incredibly creative use of the material, but I thought the Dot placement was artful and visually pleasing. Glad Tim made her clean up the sloppiness. As Chris said, “I’d play Twister on her.”


I liked the unusual green and orange one-shouldered overalls, but the other pieces are total throwaways. It’s a good thing Alica threw out her chocolate-as-dirt idea, because that would have just looked like doodie — although I’d support it if she’d done Oreo Dirt infested with Gummi Worms.


As far as turquoise, aquatic dresses go, this one pales in comparison to Sonjia’s.


Shocker of the season: Dmitry wasn’t excited about the candy challenge! I imagine anything related to sweetness and children is repellant to our saturnine ex-ballroom dancer. The color scheme was unappealing, but the movement was great. The jellybean fringe reminded me of something from Dancing with the Stars, without the sequins and runny spray tan.


Everything Kooan has made so far looks like bulletproof vests from a mushroom planet. As of yet, he hasn’t taken Nina’s advice to be less “funny.” His entire persona is still cartoonish, but I’m not sure if he’s more anime or Boondocks.


From a distance, Chris’ dress looked rather run-of-the-mill, but up close, it looks like it’s made of crushed quartz and amethyst. For the rest of the season, any shot of Chris will be closely followed by a shot of Gunnar rolling his eyes. Thanks, editors!


Meh. Raul bragged that this hippy denim look didn’t look like it was made of candy, but it didn’t look like much of anything else, either.



The color scheme was a bit boring, but I agree with Heidi — it’s great when the designers create a pattern out of nothing. Michael compared it to a woven Raffia dress, and Dylan said she’d want to display it in her store windows.


What a spectacular dress. I completely agreed with Dylan — it looked great from every angle, especially the back. Nina called it perfectly made, adorable, and “Judy Jetson meets mermaid.” Feed me that Gummy Shark bib, please.


As fabulous as Sonjia’s look was, I agree that Ven’s was the clear winner. Dylan was disappointed by the use of only two candies, but who cares. The liquorice lines were beautifully placed, and the crushed hard candy created gorgeous pastel hues. Between this week and last, it’s clear that Ven Budhu is the one to watch.BOTTOM


Candy foul! Not only was this boxy dress drab and poorly designed, it was making a mess and dropping pieces of its hideous self on the runway. The judges couldn’t control themselves. Heidi compared it to her kids’ pasta art, and Michael hilariously called it “Rigatoni Mad Max,” which made Gunnar guffaw. I can’t believe Elena kept defending her work. When her model turned around and more candy fell off the back, I thought it would have been better of Elena just admitted she messed up. The arrangement of the piña colada Twizzlers offended Michale so much that he started seeing old man’s eyes at the boobs and a mustache at the crotch (so unfortunate!). Speaking of ugly patterns that make you hallucinate, I wonder if Michael’s ever read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.


Patricia Fields was last week, hon. Buffi made a dress inspired by Sex and the City, which is irrelevant to begin with, but I agreed with Heidi — that hideously clashing skirt looked like a disposable tablecloth. I really hope Buffi figures herself out. I like her and want her to stick around, but we haven’t seen her do anything close to great yet.


If Lantie were ever to sell this outfit, Dylan’s Candy Bar should sue her for trademark infringement. Seriously, she made the exact same mistake as last week by essentially re-styling pre-existing looks. Plus, she has the charisma and imagination of a corndog, making excuses about a lack of time. The editors, for once, didn’t even try to build suspense. We knew from the beginning of the episode that her stank attitude and lack of ambition would get her sent home.

What did you think of the candy challenge looks — were they delicious or a sticky mess? Who was more stunning this week: Ven or Sonjia? Was Lantie the right choice, or did Elena deserve to go home for her completely joyless, drab piece?

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.
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