PR: Textbook Cases

Posted on August 20, 2011

Cecilia and Anya inadvertently demonstrated what you should and shouldn’t do when faced with a design that’s not working. Future contestants: take notes.

Cecilia, honey, this was your first mistake: listening to Nina.

That sounds like a silly thing to say, considering Nina was both the client of this challenge as well as one of its judges. Normally, we’d be right there urging all designers to do exactly what they’re told. In this case, Cecilia was told not do the jacket she originally pitched because Nina thought it would be too much for the look. This rejection of her idea seems to have sent her into a tailspin.

But when you find yourself flailing about in mid-challenge, maybe it would be better for you to stop trying to please the client and instead be true to yourself. It doesn’t always work, but it’s usually a better idea to stick to your guns rather than stay beholden to a design that you don’t love, even if it is closer to the client’s wishes.

We’re not saying adding a puffy-sleeved jacket to Cecilia’s look would have helped it…

But it definitely couldn’t have hurt.

It’s not that this is a horrible design; it’s just that it seems barely designed at all. The color-blocking is just okay. It probably would have worked better with more interesting colors, though. We’re not sure why she didn’t try dyeing the fabrics once she realized the colors were drab, but dyeing on the fly like that is a pretty risky thing to do and she could have wound up with fabric even more drab than before.

And she absolutely should have ditched the whole twisted neckline thing. It’s too heavy-looking.  She must have really been thrown off her game (an understatement, since she openly wished to leave the competition), because the execution here is terrible.

Also, the micro-mini aspects didn’t help.

A jacket over this drab dress would not have pushed it into the winner’s circle, but it would have gone a long way in mitigating the more obvious bad elements of the dress as well as given the whole dreary design a lift. No, Nina wouldn’t have liked it, but the judges always respect a designer who sticks to their guns over a designer who just gives up. She’s marked now, and she’ll have to work that much harder to impress the judges next time.

Worse for her, her little pity party didn’t endear her in the eyes of her competitors, especially when she allowed someone else to go home all the while complaining that she just wants to go home. Oh, honey. You really don’t understand the politics of this thing.

Anya, on the other hand, did things exactly the way Cecilia should have. Even if her sewing skills are the worst in the room, she’s shown a gamesmanship and a determination to do things right that’s served her well so far and earned her the respect of the judges.

Granted, we have no idea what she was thinking when she picked this pile of mustard-colored fabrics. It’s not a color Nina’s known for and we don’t ever recall seeing her wear tone-on-tone like that. Nina’s all about the contrast.

But instead of whining and feeling sorry for herself, like some people in the room, Anya got down to figuring out how to get out of the mess she was in and she did so by taking a bunch of risks. Result?

Knocked it the hell out of the park, we’d say.

Is this perfectly executed and totally Nina? No. Not even close. But the judges really adored it.

And why did the judges adore it, even if it wasn’t what they were looking for? Because she stuck to her guns as a designer and she fixed a problem with great style. Can anyone in the class tell us how that differs from Cecilia’s approach?

Put your hands down. It was a rhetorical question and besides, you look pretty silly raising your hand in front of your monitor like that.

We’ll take the judges’ word that this was a gorgeous color. It looked like a rich brown to us with undertones of the original gold, but the lighting on the runway isn’t always good for color accuracy.

No, Nina wouldn’t wear something this slinky and low cut in the back. But we will say this: Yesterday, a lot of people scoffed at the idea that a fashion editor would wear the same outfit to an industry event as they would all day in the office. They’re not all Anna Wintour, you know. Most fashion editors are hard-working career men and women with fairly typical home lives.

We’ve been to industry events with fashion editors in attendance and it’s not at all unusual to see them in a jazzed-up version of a work outfit; a simple garment with kickass shoes and jewelry that obviously went on at the last minute.

In fact, the last time we saw Nina it was at the Oscar de la Renta resort 2012 show, which took place in the late afternoon on a weekday. The room was full of editors in casual work clothes (except Wintour, who was dressed to the nines). We went up to Nina afterward to say hello. She was wearing a khaki jumpsuit.

Just sayin’.

And while the tailoring on this wasn’t perfect, it was amazingly good. Yes, she got a lot of help in the workroom, but we can’t believe for a second that she did anything but the majority of the sewing for this look. We don’t care how kind-hearted some of them are, no PR contestant is going to sew an outfit for another contestant. Help them figure out some sewing issues, yes; actually construct a garment, no. And no matter how much Hissing Viktor hisses, it’s not cheating to accept help in the workroom. It might behoove Anya to mention to the judges when she does receive help, but she’s not obligated to.

Bottom line: she was in a design hole, made a bunch of risky creative decisions, and whipped up something very stylish and sharp. We said yesterday that this season is mostly without its teacher’s pets so far and many offered Anya up as a way to disprove that. We suppose she is a teacher’s pet, but we hesitate to use the term for someone who hasn’t won a challenge yet. To us, a teacher’s pet usually gets more praise than she deserves, but Anya deserved every bit of praise that came her way this week.

[Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/ – Screencaps:]

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