Making the Cut Season 1, Episode 8: “Brand Evolution”
After a few whirlwind episodes of Making the Cut, judge Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn met at the Ryotei teahouse in Tokyo for a moment of zen. The designer contestants gathered for a brief tea ceremony before they dropped back into the stress of the competition and the Episode 8 “Brand Evolution” challenge.
This challenge determined which three designers would move on to the final. They were tasked with creating a new design snapshot to show the judges how they had evolved from the beginning of the competition. Their snapshot needed to include two to four looks, with at least one being an accessible look. Each designer would directly oversee two seamstresses in the design studio.
Sander Bos mentioned he had never managed a team of seamstresses. I worried that he might have time management issues or be stymied by the language barrier, but he seemed to work fine.
Esther Perbandt, who prefers to work directly with a team of seamstresses, was excited about the challenge. I could tell right away she was in her comfort zone as she put the team to work quickly and efficiently.
In the scramble toward the end of the allotted time, Jonny Cota needed Esther’s help to construct the last of his looks. Megan Smith seemed to resent it. She pointed out that it was a competition and it was past the point when they should be helping each other. I disagreed with her in this case, and I admired Esther for helping Jonny. Clearly, Esther wanted to see her fellow competitors succeed, which feels more positive than the drama in many other cutthroat competition reality shows today. Do you think competitors should help each other out?
Esther told the judges she wanted to take up space and be among the final three designer contestants. The judges loved her accessible look for the Brand Evolution challenge, noting that the top had great movement. She sent a T-shirt emblazoned with “Top Three” down the runway, and the judges approved. They thought she managed her time well and put herself out there. Esther was the winner of this challenge.
Next, Sander stood before the judges. He said he wanted to invoke the evolution of his brand, and his three looks focused on his past, present, and future. The judges loved his humor and the cheekiness of his looks. They said they felt he was full of new ideas. Sander moved on to the Top Three.
Then Megan was called up. She said she wanted to go all the way and put her own voice into her brand. The judges loved her first look, comparing its edginess to Jonny’s and Esther’s aesthetics. Her other designs were less impressive in the judges’ opinions. The leather pants didn’t fit well, and the judges thought the looks overall were messy. They said Megan missed the central idea of her brand.
Before they made a decision, the judges brought Jonny forward. He explained that he had built up a lot of armor, and he wanted to use this collection to open up and embrace softness as strength. The judges said his looks were unoriginal but sellable. Judge Naomi Campbell said she wanted to see more from Jonny.
Once again, the judges debated whether Jonny or Megan should stay. Both designers argued passionately for why they should stay, but Jonny was more eloquent and drew the judges to his side. Megan did not make the cut, and Jonny progressed to the Top Three.
Interview with the “Brand Evolution” winner
The publicity team for the show has given me access to the winning designer from each episode, for a short interview.
Esther achieved her third win this episode, and I noted that she seemed to be in her element with the seamstresses. “It was so relieving for me to work with the seamstresses because this is the way I usually work, and it makes it so much easier for me if I have a team around me I can trust,” she said. “I know how they work and, yeah, I think you can tell that the process was quicker and the result was even better.”
Working with the seamstresses
Even with the great outcome, I wondered if it was difficult for Esther to work with a team that didn’t speak the same language. “What you can’t tell with words, you just explain with hands and feet,” she said. “I think body language is a language everybody understands. If you can know things and really discuss about it and you have your materials in hand, it’s actually not a problem you don’t speak the same language.”
Esther explained a specific and effective process for working with seamstresses. “That’s why I started to give them really easy things in the beginning, and do it step by step and not like overwhelm them with a whole garment,” she said. “Because then it takes too long for them to think, and this time we do not have. They shouldn’t think, just go right away into action. I prefer to give them like little snippets and come to me more and more often and I can just prepare these little packages, so it really worked out perfectly how I planned it.”
Of course, I had to mention Esther’s Top Three shirt. I admired her for being so bold. “I was super nervous,” she said. “I was not sure if I could dare to do this because, I mean, there was a huge risk. Like what would have happened if I would not be in the top three? Then this would have been a super embarrassing moment for me . . . when we had the Tim Talk and Tim was laughing so badly about it, and he’s like, ‘this is so hilarious.’ That moment I decided, ‘OK, I can do it.’ ”
Help the competition
What about the moment Esther helped Jonny finish his looks? Did she consider not helping at any point? “No, not at all!” she said. “I got some help in the very first episode. Rinat (Brodach), she was sewing the zipper inside my trousers. Sander helped me cleaning up my workplace, because I needed every last second to finish stuff. So I was happy that I had finally the chance to give something back to the group.”
I loved the feeling of camaraderie that Esther’s actions created and told her so. She said she was happy to have been able to help and made this point: “In the end, you know, it doesn’t really influence the judges’ opinion. They like what you do or they don’t like what you do. If there is 20 minutes of help of another designer, it wouldn’t really change their minds.”