There were not last minute challenges or trips to mood. No surprise extras. Kenya is gone, but she did get to make a decoy collection. Here's what I have to say about that before I get to the final four. I loved Kenya. I'm so thrilled she has had this exposure and hope people across the land offer to throw money at her to make clothes. It was a very wonderful Kenya collection. It was not a winning collection.
For those of you who watched Tim visit a clearly pre-Irma Puerto Rico, and wondered how was there not even a chyron, there is vague mention. Margarita is worried, unsure if her parents will make it. (From all appearances it looks like they missed the show but made it there to hug her afterwords.) She makes an offhand comment that power probably won't be back on for four months that now reads as prescient but her fellow designers seem unsure if it's hyperbole. (I would have considered it hyperbole a few months ago. Even after Flint (and DC and Baltimore). I should know better.)
Tim, in his very Tim way, asks each designer what they heard from the judges, a very wise teacherly way to say, how did you process that? Margarita said she heard tropical is bad. Tim says what you can do with the time remaining is be exuberant and style carefully. Kentaro, with Margarita's help, arranges a more cohesive order for his pieces even though he thinks cohesion is a trap. Here's the thing. He's right. Doing, what, cough, cough, Brandon did, which is choosing one print and then washing out it's color in a few variations is a really neat idea. Doing an entire collection that way, especially when you have a very specific style is really boring. Kentaro's looks do all look like they came from the same brain. Just not the same day. Brandon is not worried, and it seems the designers who have been saying all along that the feedback he's been given has been so non-specific that he's coasting may have come to fruition. He's napping.
Now look, I don't want to hate on napping. They have ridiculous hours on this show, plus he has a small time change. Napping is not a bad idea. It just doesn't say, I am taking advantage of every opportunity to present my best.
Ayana was advised to not be lazy on the hijab, to in the looks she is included it in, think of the next wave of style there too. And to be ruthless about fit. She has taken this to heart.
The morning of the show there is the usual chaos.
Brandon's looks are the flamingo print in various stages of color washout, whites, and a pale pink. (Kenya had similar colors although she had some black.) Everything's very tailored. The tops are mostly oversized. There are a lot of looped edges and ties so that half the clothes look like they are in a state of undress. It's very very Brandon. Brandon has Lyris in an outfit that is remniscent of his first winning outfit with a loose crop top and baggy pants with a bunched waist detail that I am not a fan of but that he has generally gotten good feedback on.
Margarita has gone full tilt tropical, creating prints and sparkles. There are oversized fish, drapey dresses, bell bottoms, bomber jackets, and she has given Jazmin a wrap skirt that halfway down the runway she whips off to reveal a bathingsuit to incredible audience response.
Kentaro's looks all look like they come from the closet of his ballet dancer inspired outfit, such that I nicknamed it in my head ballerina's day off. There is black, white, red, and pale pink. There is tulle. There are bunched details, looser gathered tops over leggings and slim bottoms. There are some long skirts, often with pleating. Everything is impeccable looking, and while things like the tulle tumor ball on the hip are not my style, no one wearing that would look like they didn't have clear fashion sense. The audience is quiet and the judges later say that quiet can mean as much from a Fashion Week audience as applause. They are leaning in.
Ayana's is beautiful. She has taken the hijab and headscarf note to heart and the models are wearing different styles and often have details on the headpieces. She did this a lot throughout the season so it isn't a surprise. There are embroidery details on many of the pieces, there is shine, there are some lace cutouts designed to fall in places where they only reveal the layer underneath. Everything looks expensive as has become the show's shorthand for well made with good quality fabric that looks like it would be from one of the good (expensive) stores. And her final dress has a tulle layered skirt with pockets and a matching headpiece with coordinating embroidery that stuns the audience in delightful ways.
In the judging both Lyris and Jazmin were asked how they felt out there (we're just going to pretend they cut the part where they asked all the smaller sized models what it meant because other wise it seems a little too back-patty). Both are moved to tears that they got to be out there in front of all those industry people. Jazmin is thrilled that she got to have a signature moment.
The judges think Brandon got a little too one note. His argument is most collections are thirty looks and within the chapters of each set there's less variety. This is a point, but I'm not sure it says what he thinks, it says, I showed you a third of what I could have. Margarita's they love and think it is fun and very Latina, and very Heidi. Ayana's they love. Kentaro seems to have blown their minds.
Brandon seems incredibly upset to learn he's out. I think he really really thought he had it and just can't reset quickly enough. Margarita is out, but her family is here and let's hope they are all still safe and happy. Ayana is out. Everyone's family is incredibly proud, including Kentaro's who get to congratulate him on the runway. I will say, I think this year was particularly tough. I had faves. But you could not argue that any of these four didn't present a clear point of view. So, as Tim said to them in his gather round, it all comes down to personal taste and who can predict that.