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Project Runway All-Stars: Vampires, Safaris, and Therapy, Oh My!

Last week on Project Runway, the three finalists faced their last challenge:  Make a mini-collection of five outfits in four days.  Inevitably, they also faced the inevitable Project Runway “twist”:  Make an extra outfit in the remaining time.  (I put “twist” in quotation marks, because Project Runway does this every season, so it really can’t be considered unexpected.)  The real twist — in the sense of something unexpected — was that the designers had to make the sixth outfit out of leftover fabric from earlier challenges.  Fortunately, they were also given help in the form of eliminated designers Mila, Anthony, and April.  They also got visits and advice from the judges, and Mondo practically had a nervous breakdown.

The four days of prep time are up, and the guys get gussied up for their big show.  All of them are excited and all of them really, really want to win.  Michael feels confident and Mondo believes he deserves to win.

The finalists then go to Gotham Hall in Manhattan, which is the site of the big show.  They are suitably impressed by the gorgeous building, and they check out the auditorium where the runway show will be held.  They also take time out for a group hug.

They then go backstage to finish their preparations.  Each man has his own work space and design area.  Austin quickly gets to work on a metallic red and black dress which isn’t quite finished.

The models come in for their final fitting.  Here, Michael discovers that the sleeves on one shirt don’t fit properly:  One is too tight, while the other is too loose.  Worse, he discovered that another dress was about six inches too wide at the waist.  Whoops.  Mondo is having problems with a pair of leggings.

Joanna stops by to see how everybody is doing.  She seems happy with Mondo’s collection– but gives him a once-over with a lint roller.  Heh.  She isn’t happy to see that Austin’s ball-gown has pins in it.  He plans to cover them up with a sash.

Showtime!  Angela goes out onstage to introduce the judges:  Georgina Chapman, Isaac Mizrahi, plus guest judges Ken Downing of Nieman Marcus and designer Tommy Hilfiger.  The camera pans around the audience, and we see that Nina Garcia is in attendance.

Austin is up first, and he calls his collection “Austin Scarlett.”  His clothes tell the story of a vampire from the 18th century who currently resides in Williamsburg and borrows clothes from Hasadic dandy friends.  No, I’m not kidding.  He actually said that.

His first look is a pair of pink capris with a matching top and a black jacket.  The capris flare out to the sides, making the model’s hips look enormous.  His second look is a short-sleeved dress made of lacquered black lace.  Like the capris, it also exaggerates the hips.  Um, why?  I don’t know too many women who want to look bigger than they really are.  His third look is a knee-length, high-waisted black leather skirt paired with a sleeveless pink top.  His fourth look is the red and black dress that had been giving him fits earlier.  It’s sleeveless and tiered.  The skirt below the knees flares outward.  His fifth is a sleeveless, snug black leather jumpsuit.  It is actually his sixth look and is made from materials used in the “street muse” challenge.  Austin’s final look is a white wedding dress.  The floor-length, flaring skirt looks as if it’s made of tulle or some similar material.  The bodice and asymmetrical overskirt are scalloped.  The model is also wearing a black veil, belt, and long gloves.


Mondo is next.  He explains how his stress and reaction to said stress during the challenge inspired him to create his “Therapy” collection.  His first look consists of a black top with white polka dots and billowing, half-length sleeves teamed with a snug metallic black mini-skirt and  black leggings.  His second look is a patterned, sleeveless black and white mini-dress with oversized pockets ringed with black leather.  His third look is a sleeveless, black and white patterned tunic over a pair of black leggings.  It’s this look that was made from his leftover fabric.  The upper part of the tunic (from the shoulders to just above the breasts) consists of black mesh.  Mondo’s fourth look consists of a patterned jacket of guess what colors, billowing dark pants, and a white top decorated with a Rorschach inkblot.  Mondo’s fifth look is a slinky, knee-length, black and white dress with Rorschach inkblots down the front.  His final look is a metallic black, silver and red sleeveless long dress.

Last up is Michael, who calls his collection “Serengeti.”  The first look is a snake-print off-white one-piece jump suit with billowing pants.  His second look is a long-sleeved, snug mini-dress made of zebra print.  His third look is a long sleeved Little Black Dress with a silhouette similar to the second look’s.  His fourth look is a print jacket with matching shorts.  His fifth look appears to be another jumpsuit– but it’s actually separates.  Both the shirt and the billowing pants are made of the same zebra print as his second look.  His final look is a sleeveless draped white Grecian dress.  It’s also his sixth look and is made from the same material that he’d used in the flag challenge.

After the show is the usual glimpse backstage, where different people talk about their favorites.  Eric Damon liked Mondo’s pantsuit, while Irina from Season 6 enjoyed all three collections.

Then it’s time for the designers to face the judges, who critique them one at a time.  They start with Austin, while Michael and Mondo wait backstage.  Tommy is amazed by what he accomplished in such a short time.  Georgina sees some good ideas, while Isaac says it feels more like a retrospective showing a “best of” over the years, rather than a true collection.  Tommy thinks many of the pieces have a rocker vibe — but the wedding dress doesn’t go with anything else.  Georgina thinks the wedding dress was amazing, but also thinks the red and black ball gown was unflattering.  Ken loves the lace dress, and Isaac says he can imagine the person who would wear Austin’s clothes.  The judges think Austin’s collection feels youthful. Austin later tells us that he feels confident.

Mondo is next.  Georgina likes the graphics, prints, and colors.  Isaac thinks Mondo’s collection was the most cohesive of the bunch.  Tommy was impressed by the first look, but thought the second one was too busy.  Ken loves the Rorschach print.  Isaac loves the metallic dress, while Angela thinks it doesn’t quite go with the rest of the collection.  Mondo later notes that all of the judges had different favorites.  (This is probably good, because it means there was no single look everybody hated.)

Last up is Michael.  Georgina tells him that his collection was exceptional.  Tommy believes it would sell well and goes so far as to say, “it could be in stores tomorrow.”  Ken deems it cohesive.  Georgina cautions Michael to be careful with prints, and Isaac adds that he doesn’t care for the way the prints were mixed.  Tommy loves the draped dress.  Angela appreciates the sex appeal of Michael’s clothes which make them very salable.  Georgina thinks the white dress is both sensual and elegant.  Michael is happy the judges like his clothes.

Afterwards, the judges deliberate.  They think Austin is the most artistic of the group, but his wedding dress doesn’t go with the rest of the collection.  They agree that an Austin Scarlett boutique would work, but he also has too many ideas.

Mondo’s collection showed amazing workmanship.  The judges are impressed by his ability to mix prints.  Ken thinks some of his details can be cartoonish.

The judges agree that Michael’s collection was very cohesive, but Isaac thinks it’s unsophisticated.  He also doesn’t like the prints.  Everybody agrees his clothes would sell, but he may actually be too commercial.  The judges agree that all three men are capable designers.

Finally, the judges are ready to announce their decision.  To soften the blow, Angela announces that the runners-up won’t leave empty-handed:  They’ll each get trips to Paris for two.

Michael is first out.  Angela hands him his tickets and he leaves.  The contest is then between Austin and Mondo– and the winner is Mondo.  Angela gives Austin his tickets to Paris, as the eliminated designers bring champagne onstage to help Mondo celebrate.

Thus endeth All-Stars.  The producers gave it their all, and Angela, Georgina, Isaac, and Joanna did creditable jobs.  Isaac proved to be a happy surprise, as he wasn’t annoying like he’d been on Fashion Show.  He also avoided the sometimes strained attempts at humor that Michael Kors indulged in.

All-Stars‘ chief problem was the casting; not all of the designers chosen struck me as All-Stars material.  Unfortunately, I don’t know if the producers can actually fix this.  Consider:  Aspiring designers go on Project Runway for the exposure.  If they make it at least half-way, it’s probably a case of “mission accomplished.”  They’ve been on T.V. for several weeks, and people have a feel for their style and skill level.  After Project Runway, many designers go on to bigger and better things.

That’s great– for them.  Unfortunately, it means the makers of All-Stars probably had to settle for those designers who didn’t have major projects in their pipelines.  For example, during an episode of After the Runway, Mila mentioned that her latest gig was designing costumes for the latest Star Trek movie.  If she’d been involved in that while All-Stars was being made, she probably would have not been able to participate, and someone else would have been cast.  This could certainly explain why none of the winners took part in All-Stars.  Mondo and Rami were the only runners-up to participate; everybody else had finished third place or lower.

The Project Runway All-Star Challenge of 2009 got around this problem, as it had been a single, two-hour long episode– and therefore much easier for designers to squeeze into their schedules.  Of the eight designers who’d participated, one, Jeffrey Sebelia, had won his season, while three others had been runners-up.  If Lifetime plans another All-Stars season, they are going to have to deal with people’s scheduling conflicts in such a way that they get more top-tier designers and fewer also-rans.