Trump Does Seventh Avenue

Textiles can be a brutal business -- from fickle fashion trends to cutthroat competition. What better way to test the mettle of Donald Trump's potential protégés in the sixth installment of The Apprentice?

After Pamela was fired last week as a result of Apex failing in its task at Liberty Media's (NYSE: L  ) QVC Network, the teams took the battle to the catwalk. They first met at the office of Trump Model Management -- yes, it really does exist -- where The Donald explained that fashion was a $90 billion business.

Apparel may be a huge business beyond nudist colonies, but it's been a tough way to make a living as an investor unless you're selling the basics at discount department store chains such as Target (NYSE: TGT  ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) .

But Target and Wal-Mart were clearly not on contestants' minds. Instead, buyers from Bloomies, Saks (NYSE: SKS  ) , and Henri Bendel were. The challenge was to pick a budding designer and come up with an apparel line to showcase at the Avon (NYSE: AVP  ) Fall Fashion Show. Retail buyers were on hand to place orders, and the team registering the most sales won the week's challenge. (John was randomly selected to serve as Mosaic's project manager, while Maria -- who has a minor in home economics [really!] -- headed up the Apex team.)

The teams chose their designers, met with fashion purchasers to get a sense for pricing and then helped craft a series of designs that Trump's models would wear for the retail buyers. Mosaic ultimately overpriced their outfits (déjà vu, anyone?) and wound up with just $7,735 in sales. Apex broke its losing streak by ringing up $22,060 in sales.

John felt confident that Wes and Kevin -- the two delegated the task for pricing -- were to blame. But he picked Kevin and baby-faced Andy to join him in front of the firing squad.

That turned out to be a catastrophic error. Trump was befuddled to find Andy in the room -- instead of Wes -- and indicated that it was just one mistake too many during the task by John, who Trump claims should have taken a more active role in the critical task of pricing. John hit the street. The others went back to the suite.

Rick: Remind me to buy George Ross a new calculator. He said that Apex "more than tripled" Mosaic's showing, and that's just not right. The way it seemed pretty evident that they overdubbed Trump's comments to Kevin in the boardroom, why didn't any of the mathematically savvy editors catch that one? You're making my boy George look bad by keeping that in!

Dayana: He was rounding up!

Tim: I loved seeing the lighter side of Carolyn. She just couldn't keep it together as the guys fumbled through a fabric store trying to piece together their collection of outfits. Raj, especially, was about as out of place as white pants after Labor Day. It's a good thing they had Kelly. Who knew the straight and narrow military man would be able to design one of the outfits and rally the troops for a fashion offensive? I think he's become Mosaic's defacto leader.

Rick: Like most of the guys in Mosaic I'm at a loss when it comes to high fashion. However, when I heard that some of the buyers included Saks and Federated Department Stores' (NYSE: FD  ) Bloomingdale's I knew that Kevin and Wes were barking up the wrong tree when they were typing in figures like $410 into the pricing spreadsheet. The outfits also seemed too out of the mainstream to work. Trump said it best when he said you had to know your market, and these guys thought they could sell It Works cleaning blocks at DeLonghi panini grill prices.

Dayana: Once the models came into the picture, Mosaic was doomed. The boys completely lost their cool and all business smarts. Raj admitted that he was in a "chemical haze" and Andy giggled like a little boy the entire time. Even Trump (Trump!) chided Raj for being such a "hound dog" during the task.

Tim: I can't be too hard on Mosaic, though. Though their pricing was poor the ensembles at least were original. Weird, but original. Apex's choices, on the other hand, were very safe. I think my wife already owns half of what they designed.

Dayana: Exactly, boys. Guess who buys clothes? We do! And the women -- no shy clotheshorses, they -- designed a line with pieces that they and your wife would buy and, more importantly, have bought in some form or another. Go look in her closet and see how many black shirts she has. I freely admit it: We can't help but "need" another one when a designer adds a new collar, cut, cuff, or fabric. The boys, on the other hand, crafted the Libido Line. Their main motivation was to get a hot model topless, and they did as Isaac Mizrahi announced the arrival on the catwalk of "Claudia in a vestlet" sans blouse. Kevin blamed the loss on their choice of a designer. Except for the lederhosen and aforementioned "vestlet," I liked Ilsa's whole edgy deconstructed thing. Too bad the boys priced it so far out of my range. Do you think this week's win signals Apex's comeback?

Rick: I'm still shocked at how they always find someone to single out and bicker with. It's like Lord of the Flies, and every week they find a new Piggy to stick. However, the guys hadn't tasted defeat in a while, and that can cause some serious rifts. Then again, it looks like they are about to mix up the teams next week. Isn't it too early for a merge?

Tim: Not with the way these teams have been going. Elizabeth won't last another week with the women. She's already on the outs. Did you notice the way Maria banished her to meet with the buyers so that they could get the design work done? And Ivana treated her like a six-year-old when she finally arrived back at HQ. Nope, the merge can't come soon enough.

Dayana: They are definitely setting up Elizabeth for a firing fanfare. I keep waffling on the final outcome, but I think Tim's right and that Kelly is starting to take center stage.

Until next week, suite dreams.


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