Our fashion critic reviews ‘Making the Cut’s’ winning looks: ‘A shrug at best’

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The setup for Amazon’s new fashion-competition reality show, “Making the Cut,” is tailor-made (pun fully intended) to move merchandise: a posse of fashion-insider judges (which, in the premiere episode included designer Joseph Altuzarra and fashion editor Carine Roitfeld); a slickly produced runway presentation (this one with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop); and a contestant pool of already established designers. So it’s hardly surprising that the winning look from Friday’s debut episode was sold out by Monday morning. But what happens when you strip away the garment’s backstory and cleave it from the designer brand’s DNA — both of which were richly developed over the course of the one-hour-plus episode? How does it come across from a pure fashion-on-the-runway point of view?

That was the question floated by the folks on the Television desk, for whom we’ll be writing capsule reviews of each episode’s winning item after they’ve been revealed — and posted for sale on Amazon’s “Making the Cut” page. (Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know what designers or items made the cut in the first two episodes, stop reading now.)

Episode 1: The two-hour little black dress

The runway-to-retail item from the first episode was a take on the little black dress by Berlin-based designer Esther Perbandt that would doubtlessly have had legs at retail whether or not you’d seen the designer’s rally from a near-meltdown to whip up the frock in just two hours. (Perbandt’s been in the business for a decade and a half.) A lightweight, midlength dress with a deep-V neckline and a hem that hits just above the knee ($64.90, currently sold out), it’s a good example of how disparate inspirations can be pulled into to a simple, straightforward garment — in this case subtle references to both the Japanese kimono and menswear, the latter specifically by way of a wide, cummerbund-inspired belt that seems to disappear into pockets on each side. Because the belt cinches in the front but leaves the back of the dress loose, it helps give some shape to the otherwise relaxed silhouette but provides for a good deal of flutter and flow as the wearer walks — an aspect of the dress that was very much in evidence as the model made her way down the runway. The takeaway: a utility player with broad appeal.

Episode 2: Skinny pants, a peplum vest — and a sporty white surprise

Perbandt sewed up the win for the second episode as well thanks to a haute couture-inspired pair of trousers and a black peplum vest. The first of those — high-waisted, skinny-legged pants ($44.90, some sizes still available as of this writing) with a side-seam detail that called to mind tuxedo trousers — certainly keyed into the designer’s now-familiar DNA: black, black and more black with inspiration plucked from menswear. But without a front-row seat to the garment’s inspirational lightning bolt (Perbandt saw a fellow contestant standing next to a woman in a wedding dress outside the Louvre, and melded the two looks), the perfectly serviceable pair of skinny black pants would be, well, just another pair of perfectly serviceable skinny black pants.

The top that completed the runway look ($54.90, currently sold out) is described as a vest, and while that technically might be the case (a close-fitting, waist-length, sleeveless garment), thanks to the V-shaped back detail, side straps and pleated peplum waist detail that fell just south of the hip socket, it looked a little bit like the vest had taken up with an impossibly shrunken Goth cheerleader’s uniform. That being said, it did look pretty fierce coming down the “Making the Cut” runway, and, it’s likely it would have a similar effect out on in the non-reality-TV real world. The takeaway: A split decision — the peplum vest has a point of view even if it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, with the skinny pants earning a shrug at best.

Episode 2 ended by sending a second runway look to retail — and highlighting an important fact about the show’s format: some episodes may see more than one designer sent packing, some may end with no one leaving at the end, and there may be episodes in which more than one designer’s wares are offered for sale. That’s how designer Ji Won Choi’s sporty-looking white mini-dress ($49.90, currently sold out) made this episode’s merchandise cut, at the behest of an Amazon Fashion executive who took in the show, which also unspooled in Paris — at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs to be precise.

From afar, it calls to mind the iconic Hervé Léger bandage dress. Upon closer inspection, that turns out to be a result of turned-seam detailing (putting the usually hidden seams on the outside of the garment). Those raised seams add a fun visual detail at the shoulders, and add a sporty tennis vibe to the dress overall — an effect heightened by styling them with white platform sneakers. The resulting athleisure-meets-couture aesthetic reminded us of Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label, particularly the garments in his ongoing collaboration with Nike. This is noteworthy because Choi, who admittedly has a thing for stripes of every stripe, has collaborated with a sports giant herself — Adidas — on a capsule collection of shoes and apparel. The takeaway: Choi’s dress for the win. Game, set, match.


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