New York–If the finale taught us anything, it’s stay true to who you are. And make sure your partner is on the same page. AND, try to have a marriage counselor standing by.
For their last project, the three finalists get to select a partner from a lineup of former contestants. As they must create a wide range of nine pieces for three different fashion looks, the designers are going to need the assistance, not to mention creative, technical and moral support.
Rich picks Diego for a few reasons. One, Diego is a master craftsman who can whip up a handbag before you even finish reading this sentence, and two, Rich hopes Diego’s commercial approach will bring more mainstream appeal to his own edgy niche aesthetic. As Rich flailed on a few handbag challenges, this seems like the wise choice.
Nina, another jewelry designer, also opts for handbag backup and picks Kelly for her handbag expertise. Both are fairly commercial and it seems like a good match.
Brian, whose artistic, conceptual visions already won him a few challenges, picks James. A skilled shoemaker, James also seems nice, open to input, and, most important, eager to help his partner rise to the top.
After spending $1,000 at Mood, the designers get to work sketching and assigning tasks to their partners.
It’s immediately clear that Rich and Diego are in trouble. Since this is Livetime TV, not Bravo, Patty Stanger from “The Millionaire Matchmaker” doesn’t pop out of the wings to offer advice (“You should support your partner, not sabotage him!” “You have to respect your partner’s differences!”) , the two are on their own to argue over aesthetics; the designer calling black “edgy” and the assistant labeling it “boring.” Diego ultimately gives up trying to change his boss’ vision and lies on the couch, refusing to help Rich style his model. Nice.
Nina, a jeweler who specializes in wrapped gemstones, finally gets to work with rough-faced stones and she whips up some lovely semiprecious pieces. The problem? Kelly isn’t making handbags fast enough, and Nina is too nice to crack the whip. No matter, Kelly finishes in the 11th hour (with some help from Diego, which rightfully pisses off Rich). She produces an on-trend bucket bag, a pretty whipstitched clutch with menswear detailing and a cool metallic copper leather evening bag with chain metal fringe and slide-through hand strap. While not particularly earth shattering, it all works well and shows her vision and defines her muse (which is herself).
Meanwhile, Brian is in another conceptual frenzy, this time taking us back to the ’80s. In true Brian form, he creates original elements out of resin, and in a sweet ode to his newborn son, stencils the name Oliver on a mustard-colored handbag. On the side, the laid-back James is happily whipping up an amazing strappy, slouchy ankle boot and rattlesnake skin pump. In a measuring glitch, the pump is too big for the model but they swap with another model and save the day.
The leather strap necklace with chain, the strappy boots, the strappy bracelet all work together. The giant rope beachbag strap is fun and on-trend. The resin ball necklace, however, was odd (InStyle’s Ariel Foxman says it best with: “It looks like something is hatching out of it”) but at least he made it from scratch. Love the aesthetic or not, you have to admire Brian’s vision and cohesiveness.
In the end, Rich loses his vision (remember, this is someone who almost made his fiance’s wedding ring out of beetle legs). Attempts to edge-up Diego’s mainstream pieces result in items that look like two designers worked on them. Meanwhile, Rich’s edgiest piece—an amazing axehead pendulum pendant—ends up looking a bit out of place. And his commercial attempts—like the faceted crystal pendant necklace—just don’t fit his aesthetic. The hand-hammered clutch is the best collaboration, but it’s not enough. He is asked to leave the runway. Ouch.
Ultimately, it’s Nina vs Brian (Commercial vs Risky) and the judges debate the merits of each.
Risky wins and Brian takes home the $100,000 prize and the John Frieda hair styling products. Hopefully he gives them to Nina (she of the enviable shampoo commercial hair) to use on her trip to Paris, which is her consolation prize.
All in all a successful season, and we believe Nina came in a very close second. The winner and finalists are all very talented and we look forward to keeping tabs on their accessories careers going forward.
Lauren Parker is the Editor of Accessories Magazine.