With last year's four finalists, it always seemed a possibility that they could pull another surprise and allow both Rami and Chris to show at Fashion Week.
But the not-so-subtle clues of only having three workspaces in the workroom drove home the point: someone would be going home. Immediately.
Before that occurred, Tim Gunn took us on a mostly New York-based excursion to meet the finalists on their home turf. And it was an interesting journey to say the least.
Christian's apartment was the first stop. His teensy nook of a room - in what I assume is a shared apartment - was the size of a closet and had once functioned as one, according to Christian. So when he said early in the season that he slept on the floor because he'd rather spent his money on clothes, the kid was only half joking. His "bed" is something he waved to hanging on the door (Was it a cot? A sleeping bag? I couldn't tell.)
About Christian's designs... When Tim held up a pair of feathered trousers, I was stunned... could it be? Has the wunderkind misstepped? These pants looked like they were made from dozens of chickens who had met an unfortunate demise. And given Tim Gunn's suggestion to edit-edit-edit, I'm not surprised they didn't make the final cut. The previews for next week allude to Christian losing his mojo, so maybe this is the beginning of a much-needed period of growth and reflection that he is not all that simply because he can out-trashtalk the best of them.
Jillian's collection looked just like plays on the best of the designs she churned out all season - well-tailored coats, with surprising details and femininity all around. (But what's with all the little cutouts on the jacket arms and such?) She must have taken Tim's suggestions to heart regarding her color palette, because the runway shots look less "gray skies" overall than the designs she showed him.
It was sweet to see Tim Gunn meet Jillian's family and enjoy dinner with them. Meeting the contestants' families is always one of the most interesting parts of this show for me. I love to see where people came from, maybe how the way they grew up inspired them one way or another to become what they've chosen to be. This episode was all the more poignant given that two other contestants introduced us to their "chosen families," who seem to give them tremendous strength and feed their creative spirits.
Chris's designs intrigued me from the moment they appeared online. But Tim's analogy of the monkey house with Chris's design was a little over-the-top, but maybe there was a kernel of truth there. Using human hair in such a creative way, as a decorative element on clothing, was certainly gag-inducing if you thought about it too much. But the way Chris did it was so inventive and smart, who could blame him for following through on an idea?
Once they got on with the elimination show, I thought the designers made surprising choices in the three items they selected to compete.
Given Tim's reaction to the human hair business, I was surprised when Chris stuck to his guns - and I have to say I respect him for sticking with his creative vision, even if it was one I couldn't stomach, really. The safety-pin skirt was architectural and inspired. With most of his three designs, the overall effect was one of movement and life, despite the dark gothic with a twist theme (granted, the gown seemed to trip up the last model, and I think that was probably the final nail in Chris's coffin). His designs shimmy'd down the runway, and the details showed he really could design clothing. He has a costumer's sense of the absurd, though, so finding his audience may take some time. I think that's what the judges were responding to when they said his looks were overdesigned... and frankly, I think they couldn't get past the hair.
Although he moved away from the draping, the three selections that Rami made were, to me, a bit disappointing. The teal coat looked over-engineered and definitely sturdy enough to go into battle. The second piece, the dress with the every-which-way fabric dancing across the front looked so lovely, but I would have liked it to be a little longer - the way it revealed the model's leg made her look a little odd or chunky. Rami's last look, the gown, was so elaborate but strange with the circular hip-targets, but I liked the almost Spanish influence and all the ruffled detailing really showed some tailoring chops.
In the end, I could see why the judges went with Rami - and realistically? They wouldn't give it to Chris given his returning status when Jack's health caused him to withdraw from the competition.
But damn... Rami already has a career in this industry, and a showroom - and a following in Hollywood, for crying out loud! (I had the same complaint about Jeffrey Sebelia, so go figure.) Why not celebrate the creativity of someone like Chris, who stands to make a significant career change that could shake up the industry a little with some out-of-this-world creativity and execution ideas?
At one point, Chris March joked about the small size of a room he walked into, noting it was "about the size of my first apartment!" Thinking back to Christian's tiny sliver-of-a-space, I had a glimpse of two futures taking divergent paths. Who knows whether Chris always wondered what would have happened if he'd done something differently, chosen another path.
Farewell, Chris. I really hope we'll see more of you. In Vogue, perhaps?