Another season, another season of Project Runway All Stars.
As per usual, I’ll put in a cut so as not to spoil those who haven’t had a chance to see or take up the entire page for people who don’t care. As if.
Now, is it just us? Good. Then we’ll begin.
We begin with the ritual arrival of the contestants. First up is Joshua from season nine. He feels robbed that he came in second in his season. He is quickly joined by Emilio who actually won the most challenges of season seven, but failed to win the big prize. It happens. In fact, it has happened a lot. After all, Kara Saun won the most challenges in season one, and I believe Daniel Vosovic won the most challenges in season two, and yet the winners were Jay McCarroll and Chloe Dao, respectively. In fact, Jay won his season without ever having won a single challenge. It’s true. He just kept coming in second and third all season long and then blew the judges away with his final collection.
Next to arrive is season six’s Althea. The thing I remember most about her from her season is that she’s tall and blonde with long hair. Yep, still tall, still blonde, still doing her Rapunzel impression. Funnily enough, though, I can’t recall a single design, good or bad. We’ll see if she makes a deeper impression on me this time.
And here comes my beloved colorblind Anthony Ryan! I really like his sensibilities as a designer, and I enjoy his personality. I would totally bake this guy a good old pecan pie.
Suede, alas, has not yet mastered the syntax of referring to oneself in the third person, nor given up the habit. I do, however, like the purple hair he is currently rocking.
And along comes Laura from season nine also claiming to have been robbed just because she didn’t make it into the final four. Well, dearie, that might have something vague to do with why you didn’t win… that and your boring designs.
Adding to the festivities is Poison Ivy who runs straight into Peach and Casanova. Funnily enough, Casanova now works for Ivy… but he didn’t tell her he was going to be on the show. Then again, she apparently didn’t tell him she was going to be on the show, either. Great employer/employee communication, that.
Uli, apparently, also feels wronged that she didn’t win. Of course in her case, I do happen to agree.
Kayne is also back to show us he’s more than just a pageant gown designer. He also does swimsuits. No, really, he said that right out loud. I do hope his taste level has been elevated. Some of the stuff he did showed great promise, but was painfully tacky at the same time. One of my favorite moments ever in the history of the show is when Tim Gunn actually recoiled in horror at a trim Kayne had chosen. I swear he jumped back about a foot and took a holy name in vain!
Andrae doesn’t feel robbed. He feels like he’s now getting a second chance to do everything right. I seriously hope he does.
As everyone embraces and gushes and generally has fangirl and boy moments meeting up with each other, a dark cloud hovers menacingly on the horizon… er… Wendy Pepper arrives. Joshua has his biggest fanboy moment yet, lots of people hug her in delight, and Andrae pricelessly looks like he’s going to faint as he interviews that Wendy is a Disney villainess. I’m gonna go with Cruella DeVille.
Oh, and for the record? Wendy? Also wronged. Just ask her. Don’t ask me, because I’ll just laugh hysterically. And then I’ll bring up her appearance on that celebrity poker show where one guy folded a good hand because he wanted to get away from her before she sullied his innocence on national television.
And then Wendy Pepper starts the reality show cliche ball rolling by announcing over the joyful hugs that she has all the friends she needs, so she’s – wait for it! – Not Here To Make Friends! Three minutes into the show, the hoariest cliche of all reality show cliches has already been uttered.
And to think I used up all the white wine in the house on that risotto the other night. Drat. Maybe I should send Mr. Twistie out into the night for a bottle of vodka to use for ‘making vanilla extract.’ Wait a minute! I have vanilla extract already! And lemon! And cocoanut! I may be able to get sloshed yet.
I may need to. She just told us all to fasten our seatbelts. The last time that line was cool, Bette Davis told us all it was going to be a bumpy night.
Everyone heads to the runway where they are greeted by Carolyn Murphy who may actually make me long for the return of Angela Lindvall. Why do they insist this show be hosted by someone who comes off so very lacking in personality? One of the things that makes the original show is that Heidi has personality exploding out of every pore. She may be completely deranged, but she’s never dull.
Anyway. Carolyn tells the designers this will be the toughest All Stars season yet. Well, with that milestone passed in just the second season of the show, we can all sit back and heave a sigh of relief, can’t we?
The prizes are as follows: a spread in Marie Claire magazine, a year as contributing editor to Marie Claire, an all expensed paid trip around the world to fashion weeks hither and yon, a technology suite and office space from HP and Intel for one year, a complete sewing studio from Brother, and $150,000.00. Oh, and the chance to sell a capsule collection through Nine West. Not bad, I must admit.
With that out of the way, the designers are sent up to the roof to meet Joanna Coles and learn about their first challenge.
Joanna tells them that the judges know all these talented people can work alone, but can they work together? Wendy Pepper emphatically says ‘no!’ I would agree that Wendy Pepper cannot work well with others.
The Velvet Bag of Doom makes its first appearance of the season. Joanna Coles will pull two names from the bag. These will be the first members of the two teams. They will each choose someone for their team, who will pick someone for their teams, and so on until everyone has a team. There are no leaders.
The first names are Kayne and Joshua. Kayne picks Uli, and Joshua picks Peach. Really? All those amazing people to choose from and you go with Peach? Not a good start. Still he explains that he’s here to meet new people and see what they’re capable of. Okay, but you weren’t in the same season with Emilio either, and I think he’s demonstrated much better design and sewing skills than Peach. I’m just saying. Uli chooses Casanova, and Peach picks Laura. Casanova takes Ivy because he loves having a steady paycheck and Laura finally gets smart and snaps up Emilio. Ivy takes Althea, Emilio wakes Andrae from his PE nightmare and take him into his team. Althea decides on Anthony Ryan and Andrae takes the lesser of two weevils by choosing Suede over Wendy Pepper. That means the other team is stuck with her.
Wendy ‘I don’t need no stinking friends’ Pepper reacts to this with dismay. Apparently nobody wants to be friends with her, either, and that hurts her feelings.
So, what are they doing? Well, each team will be presented with a list of words representing attitudes. They can pick one word from the list or come up with one of their own. Each member of each team must make one look with a budget of $250 to fit cohesively into the collection. The winning design will be chosen from the winning team, and the losing look from the losing team.
Team We Got Stuck with Wendy Pepper quickly let Althea choose the word ‘confident’ for them, because she doesn’t know anyone else well enough to trust them to lead, she says. Still a decision is made quickly and everybody just gets down to business.
Unfortunately, the other team has Peach being uncertain, Andrae being… the most painful version of Andrae there is, and Laura being as pushy as Althea but without the authority. The three of them go back and forth saying ‘we have to pick a word’ ‘no, no, we have to pick a word’ ‘no, you don’t get it, we need to pick a word!’ You couldn’t get more crosstalk if you added Abbot and Costello to the mix.
Eventually, though, they manage to settle on ‘bold.’ Drat. I was kind of hoping someone would pick ‘coy’ just to see what they would do. But with that settled, the designers head off for their first trip to MOOD to visit Swatch.
Team confident is going with leather and lace in black with some cream. Wake me up when that’s over. Team bold has decided to go with black and royal blue… like a bruise. Maybe as a caution about what being too bold can get you.
At long last we see the workroom and the Nine West product placement wall.
As Althea whips her team into shape ordering them to be mostly done and ‘in a good space’ at least an hour before they leave, Wendy Pepper interviews that her nickname for Althea is ‘Little Miss Bossypants.’ How second grade of her. Accurate, but second grade.
Meanwhile on Team Boldly Muddled, Peach feels that a single question from Andrae about where the boldness comes in in her design is enough to completely deflate her confidence. Girl, if that’s all it takes, this is not the game for you. Pump yourself up and get cracking.
Joanna Coles comes to do her consult with the designers. She’s worried that Andrae is playing it safe, Joshua might be ‘scary’, and she can’t make sense of the fact that Peach usually designs ‘tennis to day wear.’ I have to admit, it’s kind of a new concept for me. Peach gasps just before going down for the third time as Joanna tells her she seems out of her depth. Laura has tuxedo pants going on, which Joanna seems to like.
Joanna thinks Anthony Ryan’s idea of a white leather bow tie sounds a bit junior. Anthony Ryan, having learned the lesson well from his own season that designers fail to listen to the mentor at their own peril, takes her advice. When Joanna expresses trepidation at meeting Poison Ivy, we get a back story. Apparently Ivy had put every cent she had into starting her business and was volunteering at a soup kitchen because she couldn’t afford groceries back when she first appeared on the show. She says that being under a lot of stress makes one act ‘not in your right character.’ So… stress in your personal life is why you kept accusing Michael of sabotaging other people and talking behind peoples’ backs at a point when nobody in the competition would talk to him because of your rumormongering? Is that also why you are the only member of that cast who has not apologized to him? I’ll need to see some very different behavior from you before I start buying what you’re selling.
When Joanna expresses sympathy for Wendy Pepper being the last one picked, Wendy has headed back to the land of not needing people. She says when something like that happens it ‘empowers’ her to work harder to prove she’s better. I think the word you may have been looking for was ‘inspire’ rather than ‘empower.’ Empower indicates that you are being offered something from an outside source where inspire indicates that you are taking it whether it’s offered deliberately or not. I win a lot of semantics arguments and I pretty much don’t know what it feels like to lose at Scrabble.
Joanna worries that Uli’s spike trim might read ‘stegasaurus’ and calls Kayne’s evening gown ‘Catwoman meets Lady Gaga.’ Damn. I wish I had come up with that one! No words are minced when it comes to Casanova’s black leather and black lace dress. In fact, the word Joanna comes up with for that one is ‘hooker.’
And with that, Joanna Coles is gone.
Models arrive for fittings. Kayne’s dress is scaring me more every time I look at it. And Joshua has me looking for booze again, because he trots out the cliche that he’s here to win. As opposed to all those other people who are just here for the heartburn and free hotel rooms, you mean?
The day ends and the designers repair at long last to that free hotel room, which turns out to be the penthouse of the Night Hotel. Once there they pop the champagne and all drink a wibbly toast to Wendy Pepper. Seriously? Did these people watch season one? Wendy is moved, though still resolved to ‘mow these people down.’
And so we come to the morning of the runway show. Team Confident start the day with a meeting in which they pat themselves on the back for being so awesome and prepared… well, it does look like Kayne is worried about being behind, but the rest of the team looks pretty much like their descriptor. Over at Team Bold, several members hem and haw about maybe being ready if things go okay. Andrae says precisely nothing, which makes me nervous.
Models arrive to be prepped for the runway. Peach product placements that she’s taking her girl to the Laura Mercier makeup room.
Aaaand here’s why I was nervous about Andrae. He’s running around madly, begging Emilio to check for dangling threads and Laura to send his girl on from makeup to hair. Laura says she’ll be happy to help out, as soon as she’s finished with the stuff she still doesn’t have done for her look.
As Kayne desperately tries to get his last bits done, Wendy Pepper helpfully leans over his sewing machine to tell him he’s running out of time, “okay? OKAY?” He sends her off to get shoes on his model.
And of course we get the traditional trashing of other designers’ work segment. Casanova thinks Kayne’s look would be perfect on a drag queen. I cannot argue with that sentiment. At the last moment, Kayne takes a Magic Marker to the rhinestones on the belt he put on his model to make them black. Wow. Uli hates on Suede’s dress for looking like you could pull off bits of the skirt as napkins. Again, I cannot argue. And are those bra cups on the shoulders?
At last everything is as ready as it’s going to get and our merry band head off to the runway.
Carolyn Murphy and her overwrought silver nightie with matching peignoir introduce the judges. Once again Isaac Mizrahi is back to make me itch all over and Georgina Chapman is here being very, very beautiful at all and sundry. In better news, we have two guest judges this evening and I have found both of them to be intelligent, articulate, and not at all boring nor annoying. The first is the lovely and talented Rachel Roy, and the second is the talented and beautiful MONDO!!!!! Peach blows him a kiss for me. Thank you, Peach!
With thirteen disparate designs, I’m not even going to try to describe them all. It’s a top and bottom only kind of deal.
Team Confident wins the day, in part because of a couple of kind of spectacular designs… and in part because of the giant sucking sound coming from Team Bold whose overall level of work was seriously craptastic. Even factoring in Kayne’s scary drag queen lace and rhinestone Beadazzled catsuit and Wendy Pepper’s evening micro mini with the fanged bodice and barely-there flash of lace covering the crotch, there was no hope for Bold.
From Team Confident, Anthony Ryan, Ivy, and Casanova are kept on the runway as the potential winners. What? No Uli? I adored her signature flowing look done in cream with black trims! It had all the ease and elegance I believe the designer of Carolyn’s ensemble was going for and missed.
Still I cannot argue either Anthony Ryan’s or Casanova’s inclusion and admit that part of my mehness – though certainly far from all – about Ivy’s design may be rooted in the fact that I find her so objectionable as a person.
The look in question? Well, Ivy did a cream colored jacket and black leather shorts. At the waist of the collarless boxy jacket and the inner elbows of it’s sleeves, there were diamond-shaped panels of black lace overlaid. Both pieces were well made, but neither showed me anything interesting in the actual design. The drama was entirely a matter of trim, which, while I hadn’t seen it before and felt it was a clever concept… I also felt looked just a little awkward in the placement. I think it was the inner elbow patches I disliked. In short, literally the only innovative piece of the design wasn’t successful for me.
Anthony Ryan made a pair of very skinny cream colored pants that weren’t particularly innovative, but except for a small fitting issue at the crotch which Michael Kors would have called ‘cuckoo’ they were very nice. The top looked pretty vanilla from the front, though cute. It hit just at hip length and in a boxy cut that was perfectly balanced with the pants. Most of the shirt was black, but the cap sleeves were cream colored. There’s a classic menswear collar lined in cream. The drama happens at the back where the entire shirt is suddenly black lace. Here the use of the lace is even more unexpected and it’s not just a trim, either. I want this outfit.
As for Casanova, his black leather dress hits the knee and is body conscious without being constricting. There’s a black lace overlay that runs down both sides of the bodice, up to become a mock turtle neck, and in perfectly placed scallops to create an open back that’s bare but not x-rated. There are no sleeves, but the shoulders are slightly built up with a black and silver trim. Unfortunately, the one on the right shoulder is starting to unravel, but I’m guessing the judges can’t actually see that detail. I think at this point even Joanna Coles would see nary a trace of hooker about it.
The judges begin the inquisition with Casanova. Isaac and Rachel Roy both think the dress needs to be slightly longer for a fresher look. Mondo wrote on his card that there was nothing new about it. Carolyn Murphy find the look ‘wearable.’ Georgina says nothing, but looks great not saying it.
Ivy describes her shorts and jacket as a ‘power suit.’ Didn’t we stop talking about power suits in about 1992? Are they back? Are shorts ever powerful in an office setting? Georgina Chapman is blown away by the placement of the lace, which, frankly, is pretty much the only thing to be blown away or not by in this outfit, if you ask me. She does, however, think the look needed lace shorts, forsooth! Isaac, on the other hand, has not been sniffing quite so much glue. He wants to see Ivy’s jacket paired with Anthony Ryan’s skinny pants. Ivy simpers about how they were working together to make mix and match separates that might not seem obvious. Carolyn Murphy dislikes the jacket, mostly because of the placement of the lace… which is also pretty much the only thing to hate about the piece. She thinks Ivy should have chosen between dolling up the waist or dolling up the sleeves. Rachel Roy loves the lace, while Mondo loves the leather shorts. He thinks they keep the look young.
Georgina Chapman loves the lace on Anthony Ryan’s outfit. She feels the lace back makes it modern and fresh. Carolyn Murphy is thinking like me. She wants to wear this outfit for day with a jacket over it and then whisk off the jacket for evening drama. Isaac does mention the crotch issue, but at the same time says he thinks the pants give a ‘whole new life’ to the concept of skinny white pants. I think I may have spoken too soon about the glue sniffing thing. I don’t even understand what he’s saying. Rachel Roy notes that while there is a fit issue in the front, she loves the cut of the backside. She believes this outfit sums up confident nicely.
And so we move on to the poor schlubs on the chopping block. Those three would be Andrae, Peach, and Suede. I would like to point out that even though Joshua made a bondage fetish outfit that left his model’s breasts basically flapping out in the wind, I happen to think the judges made the right choices as to who was on the block for elimination.
Suede has created a skirt entirely of black and blue napkins topped by a shapeless black bodice with a low vee neck and cap sleeves constructed of layered black bra cups. It manages somehow to look too busy and painfully drab at the same time. I’m not sure how he accomplished that, frankly.
Andrae… I don’t even know how to describe what he made. There’s a tiny black straight miniskirt with blue racing stripes down the hips, a little black cropped tank, and then an odd sheer organza hip length kimono with no sleeves and a heavy opaque blue shawl collar tucked into the waistband of the skirt. I’m not certain, but I think I may see more racing stripes down the side of the tank top. Just standing still on the runway, this is confused and messy.
But winning the award for least ideas worst carried out is Peach. She’s made a knee-length little black dress with a badly puckered square neckline and two tone long sleeves that are sheer black to the elbow where they suddenly turn into blue jersey with sweatshirt cuffs. Every seam is wonky, the only potentially interesting part of the design is the sleeves which I could have told her wouldn’t work in that fabrication, and well, even Peach looks embarrassed to be standing beside it. Not that I blame her.
Suede explains that he was doing the napkin thing on his skirt to try to create a pattern to break up the black and blue solids. Mondo says he thinks there are too many ideas fighting each other in this design and the handkerchief skirt looks ‘sloppy.’ Isaac agrees there’s too much going on, but he would prefer to see the skirt paired with a simple black tank or turtleneck to show it off better. Carolyn can’t figure out what the sleeves are made of. Yeah, bra cups. Georgina starts making sense when she says that this is really two dresses and too much for the eye to take in at once. I, however, would go one step further and say these are two ugly dresses mashed into one. Suede says he appreciates the feedback and will take it into consideration in further challenges.
Carolyn asks Peach what she was thinking when she made her design. I would have had a terrible time trying to say it that nicely. Points for aplomb. Peach, however, does not have that same gift. She explains that the bold part of her design is the fact that she hadn’t worked with these non-sporty fabrics since she learned to sew in the fourth grade. Isaac stops her right there and tells her that when she started, he was hoping she would say something to make him like it better, but it wasn’t happening. Peach flops herself from the waist and says ‘oh Isaac, come on!’ But no. He tells her the best part of her design is the sleeves but they’re so badly done, she didn’t even make that come across. Georgina once again contributes well by telling Peach she needs to advocate for herself and her strengths even in a team situation. Mondo tells her that in their season she was the ‘mother’ of the designers. Now they don’t need a mother. They’re all grown up. Time for Peach to do her thing. I think she needed to hear that.
Andrae explains that his… thing is an evening ensemble in stretch sateen, silk organza, and ‘this blue fabric.’ It does look like cotton or a cotton blend jersey to me, but I could be wrong. All those stripes and the shawl collar? Yeah, they’re supposed to emphasize an hourglass shape. Alas, that only works if everything stays in its place. Nothing did on this outfit. It takes a long time for any of the judges to speak. Carolyn finally goes first and says she just doesn’t get it. You’re not alone, dear. She asks the other judges if she’s missing something. That’s when Rachel Roy asks what it is, precisely. Tank and skirt? Dress? It is a tank and skirt. Isaac says that if it’s supposed to have an X to mark the spot, the fact that it pulls so thoroughly out of plum is a big problem. Andrae apologizes that his intention is ‘slightly muffled.’ Georgina Chapman reminds him that if he has to explain to them what it is, it isn’t working. She says she likes the ‘intention’ but thinks it’s ‘too complicated for the eye right now.’ Rachel Roy is still lost as to how it all goes together. She sees the zipper down the back of the tank and wonders how one gets at it. Andrae explains that the look is separates and the organza piece is separate from the tank.
As the top and bottom designers return to the lounge, they are asked how things went. Andrae says “It’s more fun than ever” and sinks to his knees putting his head on the coffee table. I contemplate treating him to a platter of Parisian macarons. They’re a little gaudy and a little fussy and not to everyone’s taste, but when they work out properly, they’re divine. If you like meringue. Remember, Andrae, next time you have to whip the hell out of those egg whites and have your oven ready at the correct temperature.
The judges deliberate, mostly raising the same points as they did while the looks were on the runway.
The sacrificial lambs are brought back out.
And the winner is…
Anthony Ryan! I think the judges got that one right, crotch issues notwithstanding. I found his design the freshest and most interesting of the three up for the win.
But I still say Uli was robbed again.
And so the winners are gone and only the losers remain. Suede is released from the runway first. He’s safe and counting his many blessings, possibly in the third person.
With only Peach and Andrae left, I feel pretty sure how things are going to go. No matter whose design was quantifiably worse, Andrae tried to defend his while Peach blamed her team and the fabrics she was working with for the egg she laid.
You seem like a very sweet person. Come on over and I’ll bake a homey loaf of bread for you. We’ll have it with butter and jam. Like that humble treat, there are many who overlook your fine qualities while gaping at the more assertive goodies in the bakery. But when the cookies and cakes and pastries make teeth ache and stomachs rebel, there’s nothing like a comfortable, honest slice of bread and butter to make us feel better.
But I still don’t get that tennis to daywear thing.