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Episode 4: High Looks, Low Looks, Good Looks, Bad Looks

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Another Wednesday, another Fashion Star recap. This week, NBC's Dancing With Project Runway opened with another itty-bitty recap boasting just how many previous buys have already sold out and how more than a million dollars has already been spent procuring these fresh new designs straight from network TV.

With that, Elle MacPherson emerges—her hair thankfully down this week—to introduce the next challenge. And, it's a high/low moment: Each designer will be creating a high-end look as well as a lower end diffusion of said garment to showcase simultaneously. The high end, designer pieces would be available for Saks Fifth Avenue; the low end dreck with mass appeal for H&M. Meanwhile, Macy's could, theoretically, buy both.

A lot was made of Sarah Parrott's previous successes in that introduction: Sales every week to H&M with each garment instantly selling out online. Classic reality show foreboding—will we get the craziest bidding war in Fashion Star's epic four-episode history or will Parrott finally stumble?

Neither, same shit, different week: Parrott is just not getting high end—despite assistance from mentor John Varvatos, who basically has to explain to the fledgling designer that brands can offer separate designer and mass market lines. She's also borderline hysterical in terms of the fit and construction of her newest garments. Not to worry, colleague Orly Shani talks her off a ledge—just "use safety pins, use belts!"

She ends up with a structured dress—the posh version is white and tiny and has some sort of cut-out, the cheap-o is red and longer and whatever (above). Nicole Richie on the high: "It'd look great on someone like myself;" the low is "nice." And it's clear Varvatos thinks his advice fell on deaf ears. Nonetheless, H&M offers $60,000, with buyer Nicole Christie calling it "really commercial" and assuring Parrott that H&M "believe[s] in [her]."

Shani—Parrott's showcase-mate—is also having issues doing high end. Enter mentor Jessica Simpson who, looking at Shani's sketches, thinks the high-end one looks less expensive. (Simpson clearly knows high end.) The designer swaps the looks, declaring that her high-waisted trouser with its collapsible waistband is "posh." That demotes her slouchy parachute trouser with hideous disgusting drawstring cuffs to cheap. Unsurprisingly, neither sells; bonus—Simpson brings up her fattest pant debacle! "Well, I've gotten in trouble for high-waisted pants!"

Oh, and the runway show was paparazzi-themed with snapping photographers, velvet ropes and a disturbing cover of Duran Duran's "Girls on Film"—all just too stupid to even make fun of.

Next up, to Rihanna: Ross Bennett, Luciana Scarabello and Ronnie Escalante. Bennett, who apparently lives in either a total time warp or amongst a gaggle of tattooed rockabilly girls with penciled-in eyebrows and roller derby memberships, designs two ridiculous strapless party dresses with tulle and polka dots and sweetheart necklines and plunked-on cabbage roses. Richie thinks it's all "a little Scarlett O'Hara." But Ross is undeterred—hyper-confident in fact, calling the dresses "so freaking good." The other designers are less enthused and rather annoyed ("shut-up, Ross"). Though Richie can see "like a Katy Perry" in the shorter one and Simpson might "wear it to a garden party," there are exactly no offers. Terron Schaefer, of Saks, even calls it all "really dated" and says it belongs in Grease. Too bad no costume shops are represented on the buyers panel.

Scarabello, who decides to construct "a beautiful gown" along with a corresponding, lower-end party dress (above), is having major issues with her pattern maker—who is "making [her] look bad." She worries that "everybody in the studio is laughing at her," as this clown questions her every decision. So, there's that; but also: Said pattern maker is wearing a yellow ribbed stretch sweater with short sleeves. Just fire his ass! The gown comes out too short, but both—beaded with bib fronts—are pretty cute. Varvatos approves of the shorty; Richie still doesn't get Scarabello's aesthetic; and both Macy's and Saks open up bidding at $50,000. The shorter iteration ends up at Saks for $60,00—yay for Scarabello's first sale!

Meanwhile, Escalante produces two teal chiffon dresses: A gown featuring a brooch-topped slit and a paneled party dress. Both are humdrum, and Varvatos admits that he no longer sees anything in Escalante. Simpson, however, loves it—she loves the dopey brooch, loves that the contrast color is "slimming." "Am I crazy?" Yes, Jess, a little. There are no offers, and buyer Caprice Willard warns: "Should [Escalante] make it to next week—[he should] go with abandon," and "take a risk."

Totally glossed over: Nikki Poulos, Edmund Newton and Nzimiro Oputa. Poulos, who doesn't "even wear lacy underwear," is confounded by the high end as well. No matter: Her print maxis inspire a mini bidding war and end up at H&M for $70,000. Newton designs two hideous, shiny, chainmail gowns that Schaefer almost sees as "something Russell Crowe would've worn in Gladiator." No sales (no kidding). And Oputa didn't sell for the very first time: No-one wanted his anorak or moto.

Unlike many of our designers, Barbara Bates knows high end—but she's excited to do mass market. Her "cargo dress"—it's sort of a vest-dress—leaves her feeling confident. And for good reason: Simpson loved both looks (above), as does Willard—who offers $50,000 to get both looks in Macy's. Bates: "I feel like I can—breathe!" It's her first sale!

Lisa Vian Hunter is less lucky: Her lightweight overcoat was deemed "too Paddington Bear" by Varvatos and there were no offers. That said, Richie thinks the fact that no one could see the difference between the high end and low end jackets was "a great sign." She and Simpson love the yellow one which appalls Schaefer—why would anyone ever wear yellow?

Finally, Kara Laricks—who we love, shows along with the requisite dance routine and a Katy Perry soundtrack. Laricks designs a high end waistcoat with tails as well as a mass market cropped tuxedo jacket (above). The looks are basically universally loved. Varvatos says she's "on a friggin' roll;" that the looks are a "home run, grand slam." Despite the outporing and interest from both Macy's and Saks, the looks go to Saks for only $70,000. Schaefer deems Laricks "a fashion leader." "We really want you at Saks Fifth Avenue." At this point, MacPherson declares that Laricks has, thus far, sold $230,000 worth of designs so far.

And that's that—next up, the buyers and mentors separately discuss who they want out. Richie on White: "It just goes random;" Schaefer on White: "No." Schaefer isn't generous with Bennett either: "He's in a time warp."

Vian Hunter, Escalante, and Newton end up in the bottom three; and the mentors opt to save Escalante (yeah, no idea). Richie knows it's a risk, but says they'll be "pushing, pulling, punching, squeezing—whatever we have to do to get" Escalante on the right track.

Citing a lack of innovation and trendiness, the buyers then sack Vian Hunter. Newton's utter lack of taste goes unmentioned.

Next week: The final ten battle it out in their first team challenge! In the meantime, get shopping! Click here.

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