Last week, the designers had to put up with the scourge of the out-of-doors. This week, they’re also making clothes for life outside, but with a completely different bent.
Two vans arrive to take the designers to “an unlisted address uptown.” Turns out they’re going to Harlem to meet up with the legendary Dapper Dan, whom Hester succinctly and accurately describes as someone who revolutionized hip hop fashion. Dan is a petite man in large Edna Mode glasses with his name rhinestoned on the sides. Obviously I am utterly and completely obsessed.
The Challenge is the create a fresh version of luxury streetwear. There’s no Mood trip; the workroom is loaded up with fabrics and they’ll have one day only to create their designs. Dapper Dan will not be judging, but he will be checking back. Reading between the lines I’m guessing Dapper Dan was like, “Honey, I’m busy making the future happen with Beyonce. But I’ll pop in and give a thumbs up.”
Tessa is making her first pair of harem pants. I love how much she’s pushing herself this season and I love that every time she goes outside of her comfort zone it’s an absolute flex. Obsessed. Garo, who sees a communication between his club kid designs and luxury streetwear, decides he wants to “elevate streetwear to my level” with a corseted design made of a patterned fabric. I have my doubts but also what do I know? My streetwear is a tragedy.
This week, Jamall is making a high neck brocade quilted sheer dress with an Elizabethan collar. He sees the act of putting black bodies and a streetwear aesthetic in the context of the Elizabethan world as a political act. It reads, at least in intention, as similar to the project of Kehinde Wiley’s work. If he can pull this off it will be very exciting. And, not for nothing, it’ll be nice to get a break from puffer looks this week. (Though he does plan to quilt much of this look as well, perhaps simply to vex me.) However, when Christian comes in he is really not feeling it. He says it will feel like a tea party dress and he’s not picking up the large concept or Jamall’s insistence that it’s a bomber jacket dress (which does sounds like a lot, tbh).
Sebastian, who is from Colombia, is a little confused by the concept of luxury streetwear that Dapper Dan has pioneered. Between you, me, and the editors, I think Sebastian is talented enough to pull it off. However, as the day proceeds, he starts to fall apart, doubting his idea and his process. It’s fascinating that streetwear is such a foreign concept to him. Now I want to go to the streets of every nation and really dig into what people are wearing.
Meanwhile, Rakan’s design is based on “the farmer’s woman” who is “coming to the city to sell her vegetables” in his native Syria. Apparently these iconic rutabaga-shilling ladies wear drop top pants and architectural shoulders. Love it. Give me all the veggies. Call Michelle Obama because I am going green!
Bishme is from Baltimore (represent!!! Hootie-hoo!) and he’s using the Baltimore Woman as inspiration. In the opposite of the way that Sebastian doesn’t quite get the idea of luxury streetwear, the minute Bishme says Baltimore woman, I know exactly what he’s talking about, I love her, and I’m asking her for directions to Lexington Market.
Christian announces midway through the day that this is another Flash Sale challenge, meaning that America will get to vote for the fan favorite look on Bravo’s Instagram and the winning design will be manufactured to order by Ninetheenth Amendment and sold on Bravo’s website.
The designers have only half an hour with the models but midway through the time, Christian comes upon Rakan, Jamall, and Lela taking a break to eat. Rakan and Christian have a sass off. Christian’s like, “I don’t eat for three days when I’m making a collection.” Rakan responds, “Yeah, I can tell!” Which Christian reacts as a read but really Rakan is just saying he’s skinny. Regardless, I’m not sure that this sass is earned. Rakan will have egg on his face instead of egg on his plate if this design doesn’t fit the model tomorrow.
As they near midnight, Rakan and Tessa take a look at Sebastian’s concept which they describe as Nightmare Aladdin. It’s a suede-looking bodice with puffer sleeves and gold damask pants. It is giving me major Pirate QUeen vibes. Would I wear this on the street? Yes, absolutely. I am the Pirate Queen of Baltimore. But is it luxury? I have questions.
Dapper Dan is touring the studio. He’s loving Hester’s design, Renee’s gloss on the tux Dap wore the day before, and Bishme’s Baltimore look. He is less enthused about Jamall’s look, but he’s more contemplative rather than critical. Hope remains alive.
This week’s guest judge is Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row. She was personally recommended by Dapper Dan and for good reason.
It turns out, Sebastian’s Pirate Queen look has been toned down but it’s still a little Esmerelda chic. Nevertheless he’s safe.
Instead, our final six are Bishme, Venny, Garo, Kovid, Rakan, and Jamall.
First the good news: Bishme, Venny, and Garo are in the top three. Venny serves up a black fitted jacket with a mini skirt. Nina calls it the most authentic that they’ve seen in his work. Garo’s houndstooth, club-kid inspired corseted jumper earns high marks. And everyone goes gaga for Bishme. His model is serving Miss Baltimore Club 3000! The top note is a sparkly track jacket that is blowing me away. Elaine says this is the best tribute to Dapper Dan’s legacy.
In the end, Bishme, my Baltimore boy, is the winner! Buy that jacket, y’all! Shoutout to our embattled mayor caught up in a children’s book controversy! Buy a crab cake a Faidley’s!
In the bottom: Rakan and Kovid again, plus Jamall for the first time.
I must say, when I saw Rakan’s model I was like, okay, give me all the vegetables. He wasn’t sure if it’s street style and neither am I, frankly, but it’s fierce. The judges aren’t totally committed to a vegan lifestyle right now, however. They observe that it does not have pockets which Brandon notes is crucial for streetwear. Elaine says it looks cheap. Rakan is not having this. I don’t think he’s long for this competition for attitude reasons alone.
Jamall laments that his look is completely unfinished. Brandice says she can’t see a young black woman wearing his design down the street, despite his desire to pay homage to the culture. It’s painful to see a stumble this big.
However, though the judges go back and forth with each other a lot, it’s quite clear that Kovid’s journey has come to an end. He puts together culottes and a vest that are meant to pay homage to the three cultural communities that welcomed him when he first moved to New York. The designers think the different aspects of the look clash. Kovid feels like he’s not being understood. And when he is finally eliminated, he’s gracious and says this is an opportunity to go on to something more, something different. It’s a beautiful exit for a truly lovely designer.
Who I’m rooting for this week
BISHME! HOMETOWN REPRESENT! Give me that jacket in size extra smedium please!