The final five designers stunned with their butterfly-inspired avant-garde looks.

By Stephan Lee
Updated October 04, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT
Lifetime

After seeing Kate get the unexpected auf so late in the season, the remaining designers were more desperate than ever to survive the final stretch and make it to Fashion Week. Heidi perfectly articulated this statement with a beautiful metaphor: “That sausage is dangling right in front of your nose right now. Or is it a carrot? I’m German, I like sausages better.” And that, folks, is how we know Heidi truly possesses that undefinable quality that makes a star.

The designers ventured up to Long Island’s Sweetbriar Nature Center to spend some time frolicking among the butterflies. Tim and Billy B of L’Oreal stood amid a butterfly tornado to present the challenge, which had to do with butterflies and butterfly makeup and butterfly-inspired couture… but really, it’s just the avant garde challenge. (Yay!) That’s all you needed to know.

The designers chose their butterfly muses in characteristic ways: Dom was attracted to the cross-bred butterflies because of the kaleidoscope of colors and patterns; Justin was drawn to the albino because of his own outsider status; Alexandria focused on the dark, sad aspects of a beautiful thing and chose a black, deathly-looking one; Bradon just let inspiration wash over him; and Helen basically chose randomly.

After breaking the GoBank to buy the most luxe fabrics possible, the designers began to struggle in the workroom, especially Bradon and Helen. Bradon got a slow start, rolling up his pieces of off-white silk to create fabric noodles without knowing exactly what he was going to do with them. Helen broke down, as usual, and Tim won kudos by not coddling her one bit. Speaking of Tim, he was particularly brilliant during his consultations this week. He set Dom free to use as many wild prints as she wanted, and he gave Bradon’s unconventional ideas his vote of confidence.

NEXT: Ghosts of fashion disasters past…

The designers ran off to fit their avant garde looks on their models, and when they returned to the workroom, they met a big surprise. At first, before the commercial break, I thought the producers had either set their work on fire or, even worse, forced them to trade looks with each other. The designers’ reactions were that intense. But then it turned out that every losing look of the season had been arranged along one wall of the workroom. Tim had the designers choose one to upgrade as a surprise SECOND CHALLENGE. Alexandria perked up at the news because she was sure some of the other designers wouldn’t be able to handle it. Oh, if she only knew…

Then came the moment where we had to reach for the tissues. Justin broke down when it was his turn to choose. He ended up picking his own losing look that he’d almost been sent home for — just the memory of almost being sent home made him lose it. Normally, my cold, dead heart would have thought he was being melodramatic, but it turned out to be a meaningful moment.

Later, after hours of work, Alexandria broke down, too, proving that beneath the put-on arrogance and robotic affect lies a human being. We don’t know much about Alexandria, but it was endearing to see her talk to kids from Camp Couture, where she teaches children how to sew. It was a little sad that it wasn’t family, but still, a warm moment.

Time for the super-size runway! After a rather average season in terms of talent level, it was great to see some amazing looks this late in the competition — that’s why we really keep watching this show. In other news, Emmy Rossum was on hand to guest-judge. Super-random.

DOM

Avant Garde: Dom didn’t hold back her love of prints, and it paid off. The jacket was beautifully constructed and fit great even on Emmy. Nina adored the exuberance and color, and Heidi was impressed that Dom had made three crazy loud prints work in one look.

Transformation: Dom upgraded Jeremy’s god-awful losing look to great effect. You could still see the original design, only Dom’s version was something a non-comatose woman would wear.

NEXT: Is Alexandria a one-way monkey?

ALEXANDRIA

Avant-Garde: It’s certainly better than Alexandria’s look last week, which I thought was auf-ful, but the whole shredded aesthetic felt been there, done that. The judges agreed except for Heidi, who was alone in loving it.

Transformation: An improvement over Miranda’s dorky plaid look, but not by much. Heidi and Zac didn’t care for it, although Nina surprisingly loved it. Everyone could agree that the styling was horrific. Zac put it best when he compared the model to an “Avril Lavigne backup dancer.” Ouch. I mean, no one’s less relevant than Avril Lavigne.

HELEN

Avant-Garde: In my opinion, this dress was worse than Alexandria’s avant-garde look. Zac and Nina had seen this technique a million times. Emmy didn’t like the color. A loud color does not an avant-garde look make.

Transformation: I actually liked Helen’s version of Kate’s terrible jellyfish skirt even more than the judges seemed to. Nina and Zac appreciated the refined simplicity.

NEXT: Two stunners…

JUSTIN

Avant-garde: Wow. Just when I was starting to doubt Justin, he really pulled out a great look. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t flawless, but the first impression was stunning. Nina called it the best work she’d seen from Justin.

Transformation: Hallelujah, Justin found the cure for foaming vagina!

BRADON

Avant-garde: Holy wow! This spiny-caterpillar ensemble has to go down as one of my favorite Runway pieces ever. It’s grotesque, organic, creature-like, yet beautiful. I agreed with Nina that each angle of the dress held a hidden surprise. Zac lauded Bradon for creating art that Lady Gaga would wear. I completely agreed with Zac that the look elicits an emotional reaction.

Transformation: I thought Bradon’s reboot of Sue’s placemat dress resembled an apron too much for me to be wild about it, but the judges adored it. Nina almost looked like she was about to cry when she saw the shoulder detail up close.

Finally, Heidi did that cruel thing she always does at this point in the competition where she asks each of the designers who they’d bring to Fashion Week. I’m glad none of the designers wimped out by not answering, but basically everyone chose their friends in the competition, and no one picked Alexandria. Helen was a little ridiculous when arguing why she deserved to go on: “I need to show the universe my new look.” Mm-hmm.

Bradon got the much-deserved win, and Dom was also put through to Fashion Week. The judges decided not to eliminate anyone tonight. Even though I thought they could have, in good conscience, gotten rid of Helen or Alexandria, I didn’t mind the decision one way or the other. It’ll just make advancement that much more competitive at the next step.

Did you love Bradon or Dom’s avant-garde look more? Should the judges have eliminated someone?

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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