Amy Steele

feminist. vegan. Simmons College B.A. Boston University M.S. in journalism. likes: indie film; documentaries, foreign films; art museums; tea; vegan cooking; literature; alternative music/goth/ Americana/ electro-pop/ folk.

Homepage: http://entertainmentrealm.com

STEELE PICKS: Best Albums of 2017

I’m not on as many press lists as I used to be, so I do the best I can as the C-list music critic that I am. here’s my list of the best albums of 2017, in modified alphabetical order.

Adna, Closure

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Alvvays, Antisocialites

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Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rest

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Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun

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Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice

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Cults, Offering
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Fleet Foxes, Crack-Up

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Gary Numan, Savage (Songs from a Broken World)

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Juana Molina, Halo

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Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life

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Laura Marling, Semper Femina

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The Mountain Goats, Goths

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The National, Sleep Well Beast

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Real Estate, In Mind

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Ride, Weather Diaries

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Saint Etienne, Home Counties

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Slowdive, Slowdive

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Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
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Zola Jesus, Okovi

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STEELE PICKS: Best Books of 2017

As always I’ve read lots of wonderful books this year. At this writing I’ve read 88 books: 72 by female authors; 16 by male authors; 19 by people of color/ diverse books. Not a bad year in reading. Now if only I could get a paid gig reviewing books.

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All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
–Andrea Bern gave up her dreams to be an artist to take a salaried position in advertising. She lives in an apartment in New York. Her friends are getting married and having children. She rotates through lovers. She does drugs. She feels pain while living somewhat messily and unapologetically. She’s in a safe spot professionally and socially which fits her goals and interests. Her work isn’t challenging but it’s steady and consistent. She isn’t committed to any one man and maintains her independence. She’s coping and she’s living a life that makes sense to her. In the meantime, everyone she knows seems to be changing their lives or moving around and doing new things while she remains in the same place doing what she’s pretty much always done. Her brother and sister-in-law move to rural New Hampshire to care for their terminally ill child. Andrea’s mother moves up there to help them leaving Andrea feeling abandoned. This brilliantly written novel features deft characterizations and dark humor. full review.

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A Catalogue of Birds by Laura Harrington
–set in 1970, the novel focuses on the aftermath of the Vietnam War for the Flynn family. Gorgeous writing. Nell and her brother Billy are fascinated with birds: “How they wanted to ride the thermals coming off the water, drift in the currents, creatures of the air. These were the visions that filled their dreams, waking and sleeping. Aloft without the encumbrance of harness and armature, a bird with a boy’s body and sight and consequences, a girl with the skill to dive through the air, skim the surface of the lake, rise with a single wing beat, roll, and play in the sweet pine scent lifting off the trees.”

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
–A beautiful, thoughtful novel about refugees that couldn’t be timelier. Using mystical realism, Hamid tells a potent and poetic story of love and freedom in this potent novel. Lovely reflections on connectivity and choice and circumstances. Hamid beautifully contemplates very human desires to achieve, to thrive and to share oneself in order to make sense of often nonsensical, violent and cruel world.  full review

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Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
–“The interrogation continued for nearly two hours. He wanted to know her thoughts on Shias, homosexuals, the Queen, democracy, The Great British Bake Off, the invasion of Iraq, Israel, suicide bombers, dating websites.” A suberb novel about identity, race, religion, identity, community and family. Isma is a PhD student in Western Massachusetts. She’d put her education on hold to care for her sister Aneeka and brother Parvaiz after their mother’s death. Isma fears that the missing Parvaiz may be following their jihadist father’s path. Into the mix comes the charming and handsome Eamonn, the son of a powerful London politician. Despite their religious differences, Eamonn and Aneeka fall in love. Parvaiz’s religious fanaticism may threaten their relationship. The novel explores the love affair, the radicalization of Parvaiz and how Parvaiz’s religious fanaticism as well as the bond between twin siblings affects the relationship. Beautiful writing from numerous angles.

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Impressions of Paris: An Artist’s Sketchbook by Cat Seto
–A lovely adult picture book. The perfect gift for someone who appreciates art and beautiful things. Cat Seto sketches her way through museums, cafes, gardens, bookstores and the streets of Paris. Recalling her time in Paris through watercolor illustrations, she divides the book into four chapters: color; pattern; perspective and rhythm.  review here.

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko
–An intense mediation on race, culture, identity, sense of place and belonging, The Leavers by Lisa Ko is a gorgeous and thoughtfully written debut novel that should resonate with progressives and allow others insight into the struggles of undocumented immigrants. It’s not that they don’t want to follow protocol. It’s often that they have few choices. It’s the story of what happens when Deming Guo’s mother Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, fails to return from her job at a nail salon. She just vanishes. full review here.

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Lonesome Lies Before Us by Don Lee
–Yadin Park once had a budding career as an alt-country/Americana musician. While talented, his career never took off due to his insecurities, lack of charisma and stage presence and then Meniere’s disease, a debilitating hearing disorder. Being a musician, an artist of any kind isn’t an easy profession. The music industry and the entertainment industry subsist mostly on the youth. It’s easy to age out of the music industry as it places a premium on youth and beauty and not always talent. Of course to maintain longevity one must possess talent. The entertainment industry can afford to be fickle as support then drop artists that don’t pull in money. How long does someone want to scrape by in hopes of quitting the day job? It’s infrequent that someone can do that. As author Don Lee stated at a recent book reading at Newtonville Books: “You have to have a certain amount of luxury and leisure to pursue those arts.” It’s true. While the starving artist sounds romantic, in reality it’s not comfortable or feasible for most people long-term. read my full review.

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Made for Love by Alissa Nutting
–So much to love about this novel. It’s smart, a bit bawdy, immensely clever, introspective and observational. Hazel recently left her tech billionaire husband, Byron Gogol, and moved in with her father at a trailer park for senior citizens. Her father, who just received his mail-order sex doll Diane, isn’t all that thrilled to have a new roommate. Hazel wants to start over but Byron isn’t going to make it easy. read my full review here.

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Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
–It’s amazing sometimes that you read the right book at the right moment. In reading you might feel connected with and find solace in characters on the page. It’s comforting to read relatable characters. Although I’ve never been married and don’t have any children I felt a kinship with Eve Fletcher. She’s figuring out what she wants to do next. Me too. She’s taking a class. Me too. She works as executive director at the senior center. I’ve worked in elder care. read my full review here.

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A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
–In the gorgeous and mysterious 1948 masterpiece Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth depicts a woman crouching on a hill looking toward a weathered farm house. Looking at the painting, one might wonder whether the woman is coming or going. She seems far away and in such a twisted, crouching position with her hair blowing a bit in the wind. I never knew that Wyeth painted this on a farm in Maine. Author Christina Baker Kline creates a riveting story of the artist’s muse. Christina Olson lives a rather solitary, quiet and isolated existence in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine on her family’s farm with her brother. When young painter Andrew Wyeth asks if he can paint the farm, Christina and her brother welcome the distraction and attention. This masterful work of historical fiction—told through first-person narrative– allows readers to feel Christina’s pain, disappointment and glimmers of hope throughout. read my full review here.

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This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin

–phenomenal memoir. many moments and thoughts to which I could relate.

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What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
–stunning novel about loss. “I thought about how every place on Earth contained its tragedies, love stories, people surviving and others failing, and for this reason, from far enough of a distance and under enough darkness, they were all essentially the same.”

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TV news: Project Runway All-Stars new season premieres on January 4, 2018

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The sixth season of Project Runway All-Stars pits rookies [designers new to the Project Runway All-Stars] vs. veterans [designers who have been on prior seasons of Project Runway All-Stars]. Alyssa Milano returns as host along with judges Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman [clearly taped before her husband’s exposure for perpetual sexual harassment]. This season’s mentor is Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire. Guest judges for season six include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Dita Von Teese, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Olivia Culpo, RuPaul and Kelly Osbourne.

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the rookies:

Kimberly Goldson from Brooklyn, NY – PR Season 9

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Stanley Hudson from Los Angeles, Calif. – PR Season 11

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Amanda Valentine from Nashville, Tenn. – PR Season 13

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Char Glover from Los Angeles, Calif. – PR Season 13

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Kelly Dempsey from Boston, Mass. – PR Season 14–  extremely entertaining. plus fun and talented. #teamfannypack

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Edmond Newton from Atlanta, GA – PR Season 14

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Candice Cuoco from Oakland, Calif. – PR Season 14

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Merline Labissiere from Miami, FL – PR Season 14

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the veterans:

Anthony Williams from Atlanta, GA – PR Season 7, PRAS Season 1

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Joshua McKinley from New York NY – PR Season 9, PRAS Season 2

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Casanova from New York, NY – PR Season 8, PRAS Season 2

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Ari South from Honolulu, HI – PR Season 8, PRAS Season 3

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Melissa Fleis from Los Angeles, Calif. – PR Season 10, PRAS Season 3

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Fabio Costa from New York, NY – PR Season 10, PRAS Season 4

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Helen Castillo from Weehawken, NJ – PR Season 12, PRAS Season 4

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Ken Laurence from Atlanta, GA – PR Season 12, PRAS Season 5

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The winner of Project Runway All Stars Season six will receive a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine and a position as contributing editor for a year, and a complete sewing studio from Brother Sewing and Embroidery. The winner also receives a trip to London, England, and luxurious skincare and makeup from Rodial and accessories and styling services from Intermix, to enhance their next collection. The winner receives a $100,000 grand prize to elevate their business and build their brand.

Project Runway All Stars will premiere Thursday, January 4 at 9pm ET/PT.

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new music: Dizzy

Dizzy, “Swim”

How did I miss this Canadian band play Boston earlier this month? Vocals are a little bit Lily Allen, a little bit Lorde; melody is a little bit xx. a little bit Cults. Overall cool, dreamy and a song to play on repeat for hours. It’s that intensely infectious. what an amazingly talented young band. I look forward to hearing more and seeing them play out live. Dizzy is: Charlie, Alex and Mackenzie Spencer and Katie Munshaw

Munshaw said: “Making music always stemmed from my being overly sensitive about everything, so when you’re that close to so many people you’re bound to meet the essential characters that screw you up enough to start writing about them.”

 

 

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new music: Totally Mild

Totally Mild, “Lucky Stars”

such a pretty, heartfelt acoustic song from Totally Mild. It’s vulnerable and melancholic. The theatrical, stark tone makes it particularly powerful and memorable.  The Melbourne, Australia band’s sophomore album, Her [Chapter Records], will be released February 23, 2018. The band has toured with Real Estate, Kurt Vile, Best Coast, DIIV and The Chills and will perform at SXSW in 2018.

Totally Mild is:
Singer/songwriter Elizabeth Mitchell
Zachary Schneider [guitar]
Dylan Young [drums]
Lehmann Smith [bass]

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Her Tracklisting:

1. Sky
2. Pearl
3. Working Like A Crow
4. From One Another
5. Lucky Stars
6. Today Tonight
7. Underwater
8. Take Today
9. More
10. Down Together

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book review: The Faerie Handbook

faerie handbook

The Faerie Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon and the editors of Faerie Magazine. Harper Design| November 2017| 240 pages | $35.00| ISBN: 9780062668110

RATING: ****/5*

“The Faerie Handbook is for all those fairy lovers who want a delicious escape, who see that old-world oak with its moss-grown trunk, who love to read poetry and sip herbal tea on a fainting couch on a rainy afternoon in front of a fire, or walk in long dresses over dewy lawns, feeling the wet grass on their feet and watching the light break over the landscape.”

This striking and elaborate book might be the perfect gift for that fairy enthusiast you know. Popular fairy characters include Tinker Bell (Peter Pan), Galadriel (The Hobbit), Glinda the Good Witch (The Wizard of Oz) and Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood). The Faerie Handbook is divided into four parts: Flora & Fauna; Fashion & Beauty; Art & Culture; and Home, Food & Entertaining.  In Flora & Fauna, there’s a list of fairy world inhabitants with descriptions of dwarves [“Dwarves were a powerful people who would be appalled to know they’ve been named for their allergies, shyness, unpleasant demeanor, or lack of intelligence.”], gnomes, pixies, leprechauns and others. There’s a section on herbs and flowers. On clover: “Fairies are attracted to clover, so if you come across a field of it, be on the watch for a fluttering of wings.” On wild thyme: “A patch of thyme was traditionally set aside in herb gardens for the fairies to live in, somewhat like birdhouses are placed in the garden today.” In Fashion & Beauty, there’s details about shoes, clothes, fragrances, bathing and more. In Art & Culture section there’s a part about Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream— “While Shakespeare drew from multiple sources for the play, mainly folk beliefs and medieval romance, most of the main plot was wholly imagined, which was unusual for him. And his romantic, diminutive fairies almost immediately became a convention of literature.” There are also sections on Victorian fairy painting, changelings and the Cottingley fairy hoax. In Home, Food, & Entertaining, you’ll find recipes for flower lollipops, lavender shortbread cookies, honey ricotta tart, frosted cranberries and fairy teacakes. There are sections on edible flowers, fairy drinks, hosting fairy-themed parties. There’s a section on artist and author Tasha Tudor— “Although the main subject of the books she wrote were her dolls and her beloved pet corgi dogs (regarded in Welsh folklore as a gift of woodland fairies, with markings on their flanks from fairy saddles), the curious blending of the natural and supernatural worlds in her life seeped into her writing and illustrations.” DIY throughout the handbook with instructions on crafting fairy furniture, flower pressing, making a fairy terrarium, making a fairy flower crown, making fairy dust and creating an arbor.

The Faerie Handbook includes four-color photographs and illustrations, silver foil patterning on full book cover, silver foil book edges and a satin bookmark.

Faerie Magazine is a quarterly magazine with a readership of 28, 000 and nearly 2 million followers on Facebook.

Carolyn Turgeon is editor-in-chief of Faerie Magazine. She’s the author of five books: Rain Village; Godmother; Mermaid; The Next Full Moon; and The Fairest of Them All.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

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Project Runway recap: There’s No Business Like Snow Business [S16.Ep12]

Project Runway. Season 16 Episode 12 on LIFETIME. judges: Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen. Guest judge: Katie Holmes. Host: Heidi Klum. Mentor and co-host: Tim Gunn.

Episode 12: There’s No Business Like Snow Business

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Final five: Ayana; Brandon; Kentaro; Kenya; Margarita

As it stands Kenya hasn’t won a challenge and Kentaro has been in the bottom twice in a row.

challenge: create a high fashion winter look

The designers head to the Minus 5 Ice Bar for inspiration in the cold. They bundle up in robes. Seems Iceland-inspired and not all that fun. Tim Gunn leaves them to get a cup of hot coffee.  They have 30 minutes to sketch, two days and $400 to spend at MOOD for the challenge.

They all seem to be designing coats which makes sense. At MOOD, Brandon finds a wax cotton for a distressed look, Ayana wants black with a neon, Kenya finds a herring bone print she likes, Margarita looks at fur and says she wants “rabbit or deer.” UGH.

At the check out, Tim says: “Did anyone purchase fur? We’re a fur-free show.” Yay to that. Cruelty-free would be fantastic but unlikely considering Heidi Klum isn’t cruelty-free and neither are Zac Posen and Nina Garcia. Margarita can’t buy the fur and can’t replace it. Tim then says he feels bad in not stating it’s a fur-free show. So with the other designers okay, Margarita gets five minutes and goes back and chooses an awful faux fur.

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Kentaro continues to charm as he says of his jacket: “It looks like a beautiful whipped cream.”

Tim checks in. For Kentaro’s wrap jacket, he wonders if he should swap out the lavender turtleneck for yellow and both agree it’s too yolkish and Tim suggests using the same fabric and “owning it.” He tells Kenya: “at this point it’s all in the details.” He adds that if she’s able to “infuse some of the underlying pieces with innovation,” she might win. I’m guessing that’s not going to happen. Brandon explains that growing up in Utah they had frigid winters, so he’s created a crop top? Because an open midriff is exactly how I approach winter. Tim tells him he’s exceeded expectations and that he’s a fan of his work. Ayana works on an asymmetrical pea coat. Tim notes it has a “clean 60s vibe.” Ayana wants to paint the fabric and Tim says it looks like a possible Kindergarten project. She shows him a sample of what she intends to do and he approves. Margarita has  long sleeve dress with faux fur that Tim says “It’s Tippi Hedren and The Birds.” So she thinks she’ll make a completely faux fur dress.

The models arrive. Kenya’s excited to work with the other plus-size model Jazzmine. What if Project Runway used ALL plus size models? Ayana says: “Kentaro’s look is simplistic, it’s cool, it’s high fashion.” I agree. The winter white look definitely works.

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Guest judge this week: Zac Posen muse Katie Holmes

Runway notes:

Margarita—oversized bathrobe, Flintstones

Kenya—solid coat and fabric choice. Don’t like the shirt and the high waist pants.

Kentaro—cool jacket. Shorts questionable for winter although I like shorts with tights as an alternative to skirts.

Brandon—cool coat and color. Definitely don’t like midriff exposed for winter.

Ayana—stylish. Great lines.

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BRANDON

–says he hung out in Park City a lot.Zac: “Nice to see a winter version of what you do. It feels luxe. It feels street.”

Nina: “I appreciate the layering and I like your use of texture.”

Katie: “Beatifrul modern take on something traditional.”

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MARGARITA

–wanted to do a coat that feels like fur (maybe because she wasn’t allowed to buy actual fur)

Heidi: “A fur dress can be so tricky but it really works.”

Katie: “I love the way it frames the face.”

Zac: “The jacket is quite classic.”

Nina: “There’s a timeless chicness to a wrap coat. When she opened the coat the surprise effect was everything.”

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AYANA

–inspired by a rebel/outlaw

Nina: “I like that you played with color.”

Heidi: “I would want to have this coat. The undergarment is costumy and childish.”

Katie: “I like the fact that you get a two-in-one coat.”

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KENYA

Zac: “It’s a fun textile. Her coat has some attitude. The blouse and the tweed and the pants doesn’t all sit well together.”

Heidi: “As a total look I’m not like ‘what is that?’ Her torso is super tiny.” i.e. it’s disproportionate.

Nina: “She’s way too cool for the outfit underneath.”

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KENTARO

Nina: “I think you did a wonderful job and it looks very modern, very sculptural.”

Heidi: “This is heaven from head to toe. I love the fabric you used. I love the color. I want to be that girl.”

Zac: “I think this is the chicest snowwoman I’ve ever seen.”

Katie: “You’re telling a story and I really like this story.”

At this point it’s pretty clear that Brandon will show at New York Fashion Week [NYFW].

Heidi asks the designers why they should go to NYFW and who they want to go with them.

Kentaro: “brother” Brandon [of course] and Ayana

Brandon: “brother” Kentaro and Ayana

Kenya: Brandon and Ayana. Because Ayana “always has 1000 things in her brain.”

Margarita: Brandon and Kentaro

Ayana: Kenya –“she already knows who her customer is” and Brandon

It’s announced that they’re all going to fashion week. Tim says, “It’s completely unprecendented.” But then he says to wait for more information and it looks like only three will *actually go.

 

 

 

 

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