All On The Line S1E4: Gemma Kahng

Posted on April 20, 2011

Meet (or re-meet) Gemma Kahng. After the bad taste last week’s designer left in our mouth, it was a refreshing change of pace to have someone charming, talented, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the game.

Except we have a complaint. We enjoyed every minute of the episode, but talented, well adjusted, charming people producing pretty things does not a snappy recap post make.

Thank god for this guy, who provided just enough creepiness, obnoxiousness, and low-key villainy to produce some drama for the episode. We almost felt bad for the guy because he really seemed blindsided by the whole thing, but then Gemma said she’s fired him dozens of times and any minor sympathy went out the window. Gemma seems smart and capable, but that was one creepily dysfunctional relationship.

In fact, if the show is to be believed, that dysfunctional relationship – and apparently many others, just like it – may have been a major reason why her star had fallen so far.

Her designs had some spark to them.

But Joe was right to point out that there was something a little depressing and off-putting about them; nothing that indicated the talented and talked-about designer of a decade or two before.

But Dr. Joe knows what he’s doing and that, coupled with the way he identified with Gemma because they came up together in the industry at the same time, gave this episode a feel-good tone that managed not to be too reality TV treacly in the Extreme Home Makeover manner.

At first we thought it was odd to take her to F.I.T. and then later to a couple retailers.

We would have thought it obvious that a designer like her would have an understanding of both the retail side and the historical side of fashion.

But the scene with Norma Kamali – who looks FABULOUS, by the way – demonstrated what this was really all about. It wasn’t to educate her about things she doesn’t know; it was about reminding her of things she might have forgotten. Nobody understood that better than Norma Kamali and we thought that scene was sweet and kind of inspiring.

It’s notable that Gemma is the first designer on the show to bring absolutely no drama at all to the buyer’s meeting. They tried to wring some drama out of her former employee showing up, but we never really found the idea of him crashing his way through security guards onto a closed set to be particularly credible. Nope, Gemma knew what she wanted, knew what needed to be done (thanks to Dr. Joe) and just… did it.

And how sweet and fabulous were the ladies from Kirna Zabete? We want to sit down with them, order drinks, and talk about dresses.

Hit it, Gemma:

We really loved the shape of this. A super-urban and stylish look.

As noted by the ladies, her seaming work really is amazing. This jacket’s quite a bit more interesting from the back than the front.

We LOVE the shape and the sleeves, but we’re not entirely sold on the collar.

We thought this had an amazing shape and the proportions were almost mathematically exact.

Love the jacket, love the skirt; don’t love the bustier at all.

A deceptively simple gown with a beautiful shape and drape.

We adored this coat. We suspect it looks better in person than it does under that sallow lighting, but we still thought it looked pretty, whimsical, and even a little nonsensical (“It’s not practical, not waterproof, not warm…it’s perfect.”), while being stylish and head-turning to boot. It really is an amazing piece.

To no one’s surprise, the ladies bought the collection lock, stock and barrel (and you can pool your nickels and buy the pieces on Kirna Zabete’s site). It was so strong a collection and the buyers so effusive in their praise that there wasn’t much tension to the story, but it had a happy ending for a person who seems to have truly deserved a happy ending.

And Joe is just the sweetest mentor a struggling gal can have, isn’t he?


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