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Fashion Star, Episode 7: Listen to Your Mentor

There are a lot of things that make Fashion Star different from other fashion reality shows. For starters, this is the first program that actually sells the exact winning merchandise the same night it's featured. Then, the runway shows themselves: they are over-the-top mega-productions with go-go dancers, contortionists and crazy props. And finally, the judging system. Instead of one panel of experts, contestants receive feedback from two separate groups: the buyers (from H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue) and the high-profile mentors (Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos).

Usually, the mentors interact briefly with the designers in the workroom and then comment on the final product after it is presented. But last night, they turned things up with some seriously hands-on mentoring. During the episode, Jessica, Nicole and John divided up the remaining contestants and worked one-on-one with them. This involved handpicking their assignments—which were tailored to each designer's strength and unrealized potential—and then advising on everything from fabric choice to silhouette.

For those who fully understood their mentor's vision, this extra boost really showed in the final piece. Nicole, inspired by Kara Laricks' hallmark borrowed-from-the-boys style, asked her to make a full suit for women. The result was slouchy plaid shorts, drapey white trousers and a elegant blazer—all snapped up by Saks. Ronnie, who had a slow start in the competition but has been steadily getting better each week, made a stunning evening gown that Macy's loved. And Orly and Luciana each created fashion-forward minidresses that ignited bidding wars between the buyers.

Designers who misinterpreted their task—or blatantly disregarded their mentor's advice—suffered the consequences. When stubborn Southern designer Ross ignored several warnings from John about fabric choice, the final item was over-worked and ill-fitting. Nzimiro's tailored suit was well-made but had too many "tchotchkes," as Varvatos called them. Although Nicole had hoped Nikki's short shift would be "Sixties and mod," the piece was lackluster and Sarah's failed attempt at an "elegant dress" sent her straight home.

Only seven contestants are left, and judging from the purchased items below, the clothes are getting better by the week. Click through the slideshow to shop the winning designs now.

Ronnie looked absolutely delighted when Jessica saw these and declared she wanted his help with designing her bridesmaids dresses. "Yes," he said. "Just call me, anytime!"

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