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Fashion Star, Episode 6: Diversity Is Key

Designers who can design for people other than themselves are destined to be successful. Think of Vera Wang, known for her daily uniform of leggings and tunic top, running multiple labels that include everything from wedding dresses to tailored pants. Or Victoria Beckham—although she originally modeled her eponymous line after the simple body conscious dresses she likes to wear, this year she shot to super-stardom by debuting shifts in playful prints. And the Olsen twins, who are mini masters of marketing: they oversee several successful brands.

The winner of Fashion Star is going to create capsule collections for three very different stores. This means, in a very short period of time, the contestants need to cultivate a signature style and then diversify it. To test this, the judges told the remaining nine competitors to create something outside their comfort zone last night. And, as I predicted in my previous recap, this made for the most interesting episode yet.

Without their old habits to fall back on, most of the designers really stepped things up. Jessica's "Southern Boy" Ross tossed aside his conservative ways for a set of slinky vintage lingerie and Luciana, who consistently gets bids from Saks Fifth Avenue, outdid herself with an unbelievably cute cropped jacket. A flowy maxi dress was a wonderful surprise from Kara, proving she can make more than just menswear for women. And, despite his rocky start at the beginning of the season, Ronnie impressed the buyers at Macy's with a scuba inspired swimsuit that's right on trend for summer.

The high risks also led to some spectacularly bad results. Resortwear designer Nikki gave men's pants a try with super short printed trunks and Orly received criticism for sending yet another "twofer" down the runway. The worst was probably Barbara's tragic attempt at boho—an overworked floral dress that probably gave Nicole Richie nightmares. In the end, that disaster sent her home.

I think this challenge was a game-changer: the extra degree of difficultly pushed the designers to another level. The buyers seemed to think so, too, purchasing the highest percentage of clothing yet: five out of the nine pieces. Click through the slideshow below to buy them for yourself.

Nicole Richie told Ross that she'd rather see him "design stripper clothes" than another tailored vest. We like what he came up with instead.