There was a moment during this week's panel when Tyra said very gravely, “There’s a good chance that the girl who’s going home today is going home because she didn’t know who the designer was.” A great line, but the more accurate statement would be, “There’s a good chance if you did a decent imitation of this Google Image, you can stay.” Here are our three gripes with the photo shoot and the panel that followed:
1. The judges confused familiarity and mimicry. There’s a big difference between knowing designers’ work and being able to copy their facial expressions or gestures from a photo. Liz, the night’s winner, had no idea who John Galliano was (and she had no problem sassing Mr. Jay about it, either). She looked through the folder, realized she and John were eyebrow soul mates, and went to work. In other words, Liz didn’t lose any points for not knowing the designer ahead of time. She copied what she was given. If they were really trying to test their fashion industry knowledge, wouldn’t it have been better to set up a pre-photo shoot challenge where the models had to match outfits with designers? Maybe? And to respond to Andre’s slam of Jane as a Princeton girl who didn’t do her homework, we really doubt this was the first time Jane heard of Marc Jacobs. She just couldn’t embody him as well as they would’ve liked. That might be a reflection of her modeling abilities, but not her intelligence.
2. The models don’t hang out with Vivienne Westwood on weekends. The judges threw in personal tidbits like, “Betsey’s hilarious!” or “Oh, that Marc’s such a laid back guy!” You might get some sense of personality from a photo, but it’s not like these girls each had a ski weekend with their designer ahead of time. We don’t know — Vera Wang might be last one on the dance floor. But we do know that from her photos, she looks like a quiet, unassuming designer dressed in all black. When Kendal said, “I’m trying to be simple. She’s just real simple,” we understood why she was having trouble getting a sense of what to do when the best help they offered was, “Be confident!” How is that specific to Vera Wang?
3. How were these designers assigned? Let’s focus on just two of ‘em. Chris got Betsey Johnson, a designer even people who don’t care about fashion might be familiar with, given that her spider earrings are sold at the mall, and she does cartwheels down her runways. Esther got Christophe Decarnin. If this were a presidential photo shoot, the equivalent would be Chris as JFK and Esther as William Howard Taft. They both had the same job, but...c’mon. This doesn’t mean Esther’s near-elimination wasn’t justified (and look at how well Ann did portraying a guy), but it’s silly to pretend that some of these designers aren’t also known for being characters. Did Chris get Betsey because of her big personality? Then why did Esther get Christophe? And while we’re at it, did Chelsey get Carolina Herrera because in that white shirt, she could pass for a younger version of her anyway?
Ultimately, they were right about Kendal. She said it herself: “I do feel like I need more experience.” The problem wasn’t that she didn’t look like Vera Wang — she didn’t even look relaxed. We’re just not sure a lack of industry info made the difference. It certainly didn’t stop the winner.