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Episode 2: Less is Less

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Last night's Fashion Star, Episode 2—started with a bang and sort of ended in a whimper. Clocking in at one hour, the show seemed to go by in a flash—at least compared to last week's 90-minute premier. In addition to being shorter, it seemed like a lot less happened. There were no fun introductory segments; there was no need to go over the layers and layers of game rules; there was just a lot less.

And yet, it seemed like each segment was extremely abridged or glossed over entirely: basically, if you don't sell your look and you don't totally bomb you get like three seconds of air time. Even big winners and big losers were granted, at most, one comment from the panel of mentors and one comment from the buyer's nook.

Perhaps it'll get meatier as designers get booted and each contestant has more time to shine. Or, perhaps the network audiences care a lot less about process, backstage antics, and commentary than they do about those glitzy fashion shows/dance routines—this is on NBC rather than Bravo, after all.

The hour opened with a micro-recap of last week and possibly/probably forced optimism regarding episode one's wares—"many have sold out already!" This is "your chance to buy the hottest new looks in America!" And, yes, some items have sold out—at least online, but just how blockbuster the sales have actually been is a mystery. We do know ratings weren't exactly top of the pops, however.

Next up: We find out that designers are working with random customers (in addition to mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos)—seeking real-life feedback from potential wearers before editing and showcasing. The process may or may not have significantly altered the clothes but it did illustrate that some contestants are a bit over confident (we're looking at you Ross Bennett).

Suddenly—Enrique Iglesias is blaring and last week's most-ignored designers get their 30 seconds. First, Lisa Vian Hunter, who sells her womenswear in her eponymous California boutique. Her looks are vintage-inspired—some might call them overly prim. And Varvatos—who seems alternately scandalized by sluttiness or yawning from buttoned-up boredom—tells her as much. And she takes his advice, adding a little skin to her easy-to-wear day dress (above). The tweak works, and Simpson declares: "Every sorority girl would wear it; their mom's would too." Caprice Willard from Macy's offers $50,000 for the look.

Then: Ronnie Escalente—a California-based designer whose former stints include working under Zac Posen and Ralph Rucci, as well as some time in the U.S. Navy. He shows a tunic top with an overwrought peekaboo back. It doesn't go over well and exactly no offers flood in. Escalente sort of sets the scene for the rest of the episode—i.e., moving through a series of unsold designs extremely quickly.

Well, not entirely: You remember Kara Laricks (a former fourth-grade teacher) who last week showed another person's clothing accessorized with a deconstructed tie and collar? Despite fretting over inexperience with real customers and her disappointing turn during week one—the designer's over-sized, belted dress (above) is universally praised. H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue enter a bidding war with H&M opening up at $50,000 before Saks tops out with $110,000. Nicole Christie, from H&M, waves a white flag: “I do like that dress. I'm going to let it go." Kara, emotional: “I don’t have words to describe how this feels.”

Next up, to a Ke$ha soundtrack, is Bennett, Oscar Fierro, and Orly Shani. Bennet creates a beautifully tailored bolero that's a little heavy on fuss. Despite being advised by the mentors to lighten up his fabric choices, he holds fast—he argues that his charms are more important than seasonality. You all can guess how that plays out: there are no offers—especially from Saks (who Bennett was clearing aiming for). Terron Shaefer—of Saks—goes on to describe the dress as “too Dallas.” It’s fair to say he means both the city and the television show.

Meanwhile, both Bennett and Shani hit the confessional for a tear on Fierro. Bennet: “This is Fashion Star, not the Oscar show;” Shani: “I wanna take his top hat and bleep-bleep-bleep-expletive.” We do, too. Fierro, arrogant as usual, denigrates Shani’s design work asking what on earth she can possibly know. “She’s a bartender.”

Speaking of the bartender: Hot on the heels of selling her convertible mini to Saks, Shani designs a convertible maxi. Is it a skirt? Is it a dress? What is whatever it is being converted to? We couldn’t tell you. And no-one wanted it—despite a positive audience reaction to models ripping off chunks of their outfit mid-catwalk. Willard notes that she should design with customers in mind—there are no runways in stores.

And speaking of Fierro: Another slutty, one-shouldered dress that is also maybe a top? Simpson is consistent in that she’s basically totally ridiculous: “I'm not over the moon about it—but I did give birth to [Fierro] in my dream!" Varvatos totally hates it, remarking that "they're 3am. They're hootchie." To which Fierro responds: "That is who I am!" There are no offers, which results in the designer having a hysterical, violent crying tantrum backstage.

At this point it’s worth noting that the models have been cycling through a sort of abstract, out-sized revolving door thing plunked in the middle of the catwalk. It’s hilarious.

Once again, Luciana Scarabello is a mere footnote; likewise Nikki Poulos and Edmond Newton. No drama and no sales equal no time—moving on.

Nzimiro Oputa—the menswear designer, former engineer, and Detroit native who sold his blazer to H&M last week—shows kind of a wonky sports shirt with frayed edges and a weird little pocket at weird little angles (above). But, hey, everyone loves it and each buyer bids. The shirts end up with Macy’s and goes for $70,000.

Meanwhile, Lizzie Parker—who blames her dull color palette on Seattle’s weather—isn’t too passionate about her bat-sleeve blouse. The blouse doesn’t sell, and Christie warns that both bold color and seasonality are important. Schaefer, on the other hand, is clearly bored. He asks that she not show them another top. Barbara Bates, however, is excited about her design—a very cute zipper front shift dress. Her feedback is positive, and Varvatos loves it. Alas, she also receives no offers. The buyers ask her to describe her customer. She calls her a mature yet trend-aware woman—which seems like a no brainer. Finally, Schaefer mentions that he would have like to see the zipper go all the way down—like a tunic. Bates: “Hey, if you bought it, I'd've done anything you wanted!

Finally, Sarah Parrott, shows a wide leg tuxedo trouser (above), which she develops in the eleventh hour. She started with a skirt—a boxy, unflattering one with an odd waistband. Despite feeling like “a stressball,” the last minute flip paid off. The mentors are both shocked and happy with the change and Simpson says she “pulled it out of [her] hat. That’s what a designer is.” (Because Simpson clearly knows what a designer is.) For the second week in a row, H&M bids on Parrott’s work—offering $50,000. Christie declares: "It's a very chic pair of pants;" "a tuxedo for daytime."

And that was it—the buyers choose Fierro, Bennett and Parker as the least successful of the crew. Fierro’s attitude is called out; likewise Bennett’s aiming and missing at Saks. The threesome emerges. Naturally, Fierro dances out—fluttering his massive yellow scarf and acting a fool. The mentors, citing Bennett’s style and passion, keep the dapper Texan off the chopping block. Back to the buyers, who—thank god in heaven—kick Fierro to the curb.

Weird: Parker hugs Fierro, hard (she is easily twice his size) and tells him he’s her fashion star. Weirder yet—and delusional—“if I inspired one person to be all they can be, I've won." Two episodes under his NBC belt and Fiero’s already got his the More You Know PSA.

Four designs made it online last night and to stores this morning. The details are all right here, allowing you to buy every last one (or at least whatever's left).

· Fashion Star [NBC]
· All Fashion Star [Racked]