Monday, November 13, 2006

uli's collection


This is the last of the reviews of the final collections. I've already reviewed Michael's, Laura's and Jeffrey's collections.

My next post will discuss Michael and Uli's collections as part of a more general discussion of the idea of "safari" in fashion. I talk a bit about this below so I'm hoping that post will be blessedly short.

the collection

Although Michael and Uli's collections are very different, they have a structural similarity: both have a neutral base highlighted by four colorful pieces. Uli's colors are rich tones but they have a more muted and earthy feel to them whereas Michael goes for brighter bursts in more saturated hues.

Uli's collection provides some sportswear and evening wear, but the overall conception is for resort. I've broken the collection down into two sections based on the fabric differences -- the silver and leather, and the flowing silk chiffon fabrics.

group 1

This group was a surprise from Uli; indeed it seems like it was a jaw dropper for a lot of the audience. This was Uli's firm assertion that she could make the full range of garments needed for a collection and that she was no slouch when it came to working with neutral colors, different fabrics, and sportswear fashions.

I'm not a big fan of all the silver sparkle but I prefer it to the gold. The thing I like best about all of this sparkly fabric is that I think of it as the fairy dust that Kayne sprinkled on people when he left. The silver material would have been okay except for the third and fourth outfits. They are too much. I would have liked for those to have been a mix of the dark brown and the tan.

The first two pieces (above) are very sophisticated. The last look appears to be too clingy. The fourth dress looks like something you wear when you get out of the shower. The neutral color of the slip underneath reminds me of suntan pantyhose.

I think Uli's shorts are the best by far of all of the shorts in the collections. It would have been nice to have had pants in this style as well. And as I said before, just one or two more pieces in this darker brown fabric might have provided a little more interest in the first half of the collection.

I really wish there had been a picture of the jacket.

I don't know why the tank top is so loose -- how would you wear it? Over a bathing suit I suppose.

I don't know about all this 0-ring motif. It looks like a stylistic mix of s&m and the engineering lab.

group 2

This group represents the fashions we expected from Uli. She gave us what we wanted at the same time that she surprised us with the unexpected.

She did edit herself and we didn't see the rows of gypsy ruffles. Thank god. It is hard enough to wear prints when you are short (like me) but layers of gypsy ruffles -- forget it.

Each garment only used one print and two of her dresses used the same, neutral, animal stripe fabric: Uli was really holding back!!! The two tiger stripe dresses provide continuity in the collection and she could have ended the show with the longer dress, coming full circle since she started with the shorter dress.

I think that collar of the short dress is fantastic. The top of the long dress is pretty on the model but I'm not a big fan of that style. How wearable is it really? I wish that we saw more of that purple/brown fabric that peeks out underneath. It looks beautiful. I wish she'd used more of that instead of the suntan pantyhose slip fabric.

I should note that all of the dresses use shells and other natural materials as embellishments or as fasteners or other elements of the design. They function as jewellery and the effect is stunning.

I think the added length to the blue dress (above) is great and the back is fabulous. However I like both necklines and I think it would have been nice to have had both versions in her collection.

Unfortunately the model (above left) is a disaster for this dress: she has a dreadful slouch. As a result of this bad posture her shoulders are hunched forward and her chest is caved in. Added to this her hair styling is a mess. The overall effect practically ruins the look of the dress. This is the one exception to an otherwise fabulous group of models.

It is a shame that this dress did not stand out better not just because it is a beautiful piece but because this blue color is so important to a collection with an African theme. Of course the blue color is so often associated with the Blue Nile. But more importantly a number of African cultures are known for their different indigo textiles and the various forms of weaving, dying, and wax transfer techniques that have been developed over many centuries. African fashion -- both traditional and modern -- often uses this kind of blue fabric:

Note: the images above are from an online magazine, which has a section on fashion, including fashion shows from around Africa.
Continuing on this note, a sampling of African fabrics (below) demonstrates Uli's understanding of the safari theme as having a color palette that is about more than just animal prints.

That is, the "safari" reference to Africa includes imagery of landscapes and seasons (among other things). A few dresses cannot demonstrate the full range but Uli's skill with print and color gestures towards a broader and more complex vision of the continent.

Changing topics (sorry I can't come up with a transition here): it appeared that Uli's coverup and bikini impressed the audience more than any other outfit. Of course it is always hard to know if this was in part due to the striptease factor. Everyone had to get a little bit of a kick from this reveal:

You have to have the perfect model to pull that off. So to speak.

The fact that the bikini top is part of the dress was a great design feature: it is so much more elegant than other forms of "cover ups." It turns poolside fashion into evening wear!

I can imagine this being the style hit of the season. No wonder Uli was being swamped with orders for her designs at the end of the show. Every resort shop in the world is going to want to carry these in a myriad of sizes and fabrics. I think this is quite the style innovation.

Refreshingly, there is nothing retro about it. In fact it is a look that depends upon the latest technological advances in fast-drying fabrics.

Finally I want to talk about my two favorite pieces:

The first dress is my favorite. The detailing around the collar is exquisite. It is, in many respects a more elegant dress than the final one. The gold and plum layers move lightly which balances the more substantial top of the garment. (Nazri's dress is the opposite, lighter on top and with more fabric on the bottom half.) I like the long sleeves. First of all because even tropical places can get cool during the evening. Secondly, I cannot be in the sun for more than ten minutes without risking sunstroke and second degree burns so I need the full length coverage. But practical matters aside, I think that dress is beautiful. Just beautiful. That's all.

Although I have suggested in places above that variousother dresses could have been the final gown it is easy to see why Uli concluded with the onw she did. It is the signature Uli style. She had to remind us of why she was there and what it was that she does better than anyone else.


Nazri looks great in everything but the flowing layers of that gown demonstrated how she can really work the runway; in a sense Nazri has a kind of effortless grace that is similar to Uli's. She doesn't have to call attention to it and she makes it look easy. I'm also pleased that Nazri got to wear this gown and not the one that Michael made. It was the best gown for Nazri. Uli/Nazri should have won. They didn't. But at least Nazri got to go out in style.

Where did Uli go wrong?

I'm convinced that a key reason why Uli didn't win a number of the challenges, as well as the final challenge is the fact that her work is so effortless and she herself is so understated. Her talent is taken for granted.

Here are three things that Uli should have done to have improved her chances of winning:

1. be more shamelessly self-promoting

There was no attention paid to the difficult labor put into her collection. All of the detailing -- the shells and bone embellishments -- were labor-intensive. Uli, typically, didn't call attention to this. Big mistake. She needed to tell people about how hard she worked. Otherwise they might think that she didn't have her stuff finished and had to send things out to in order to get done on time.

During the season she should have talked more about how she already had a successful business and that lots of famous people wear her clothes. She could have gotten into a celebrity client show-down with Jeffrey. In her interviews she did not talk about how when it comes to working with prints all of the other designers suck. She really dropped the ball when it came to being a blow-hard.

Not for nothing but when it comes to hard luck stories -- she could have milked that East German childhood. That was a missed opportunity. I think she would have given Jeffrey's sob story a run for his money. In addition, perhaps she could have adopted a child from Africa to prove that she was capable of having affection for the young.

2. be more immature in her designs

Uli was the only one who created sophisticated looks for the office. Laura's clothes are evening wear.We all know the profession Michael was designing for! (Actually that isn't entirely true -- but even the ones that aren't trampy are too leisure - styled.) Jeffrey's clothes are too young. His clothes are for school, or a job at Starbucks. Fashion worships at the altar of youth. Clothing that one can wear to a real job is now considered too "mature."

3. be more unappealing in her designs

Clothing that is attentive to women's bodies and to what women like to wear is too appealing and so it can't be hip.

If women like something it means that it isn't fashion forward. The most radical designers are the ones who don't pay attention to women's bodies or what they look good in or what they want to wear. Because, you know, women are stupid.


In the end, after looking at Uli's collection again, in detail, I have to say that it seems clear to me that she deserved to win. It was the glaringly obvious choice. At the same time it comes as no surprise that she didn't. Given the way things went during season three we should all just feel grateful that Vincent didn't win.