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Fashion Star, Episode 8: Building a Brand

I spend the majority of my days staring at various fashion advertisements and editorials on the computer, so designer clothing takes on a larger-than-life persona for me. Then, when I finally examine things in person, I feel a little like I spotted a celebrity and he/she was shorter and more normal looking than I thought they'd be. (This is usually quickly followed by a "why doesn't this look the same on me as it did on Kate Moss?" moment in the dressing room.) Because the truth is that shirts, pants, dresses, shoes and bags are just that: shirts, pants, dresses, shoes and bags…no matter how well-made they are. What makes them desirable is good branding.

Last night on Fashion Star, the judges tested the contestants' marketability by asking them to create a campaign image featuring this week's piece. It was an extremely pivotal challenge, because the images presented what a single garment never could: a representation of their brand as a whole. For the first time since the show started, I got a clear sense of what each designer stood for and whether I would ever shop their line.

The first two advertisements were my favorites: a sparse picture of an androgynous model styled by Kara Laricks and a clean-cut, All-American shot from Nzimiro. Although Luciana's spread wasn't my taste—a glammed up woman running through the woods—I thought it was a good interpretation of her aesthetic and thus, a success. (Saks thought so too—the buyer placed a big fat bid her dress.) Orly's shoot had a playful, candid feeling and while she didn't sell anything, I thought the final product was really fun and interesting. Another strong image was Ronnie's: his piece was fairly simple—a blue sheath with a plunging back—but he added interest with a bunch of bright red balloons. Resort wear designer Nikki disappointed the mentors by presenting a head shot but it was Jessica's "Southern Boy" Ross who went home for his poorly styled campaign with a dated-looking field jacket. Four of the seven pieces made it to stores. Click through the slideshow below to shop them now and to see the campaigns for yourself, click here.

Another cocktail dress with an interesting print this week. Looks like Luciana has developed a signature piece!