Sunday, January 8, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars Episode 1: The Comeback Special!


          Washed up.


                   No talent.

What we need is a COMEBACK SPECIAL!

Elvis would have been 77 this year...

Just like Elvis in 1968, the Project Runway franchise is renewing itself with an All-Star Challenge.

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire...

In reality, this was something the producers dreamed up at the last minute, so besides rounding up whatever Project Runway alumni were available, they cobbled together a new supporting cast.

Auf Wiedersehen, Heidi.  Hello, Angela!  What we especially like is that Angela is not afraid to get out there on location.

Angela is not afraid of a 99 cent store!
And an all new judges panel.

It helps that Georgina Chapman is married to the producer and Isaac Mizrahi has nothing better to do.

a new mentor!

Joanna Coles, Chief Editor of Marie Claire Magazine.  She considers the contestants as graduate students, so she is more of an advisor than mentor.
The original Project Runway started organically, with Heidi Klum and the producers asking their friends and people they knew if they would like to judge.  It just so happened that a fashion editor (Nina Garcia) and major designer (Michael Kors) agreed to judge.  And they found Tim Gunn, who was already connected to Parsons and worked with students before.  But this is an "all-star" show. These folks have been through the process already and many are designing clothes for clients and customers as a result.  So it is appropriate to have them come before two major designers (even if they were chosen because of their availability) and have them advised by a fashion editor.   By now, they should know how to be editorial.  (I can't believe I just used that sentence as if I understand what it means....)

One thing I noticed right away was that they were mixing it up with the sets.  The opening was filmed in some sort of reconverted church.  The new workroom was also snazzed up.

That's right, Laura Kathleen.  A Neiman Marcus accessory wall!  Don't you wish you had been an all-star?
Touch pads and sergers and Neiman Marcus!  Oh my!

This week's challenge was an "unconventional materials" challenge.  The twist was that each designer was to use their runway showcase piece (shown at the start of the show) as their inspiration.  These were pieces each designer spent weeks making prior to the show.  To recreate this piece using unconventional materials was an added part of the challenge.

The guest judge this week was pretty guy, Ken Downing, who does something important at Neiman Marcus.

Not since David Bowie in the 1980s have we seen a lock of hair do so much on a forehead.

There was the usual drama of poor choices in materials, glue gun accidents and more than one designer doing the same thing.  Let's see how everyone did.


Kenley Collins and Austin Scarlett chose bath materials.  Kenley used bath mats.

Yes, Project Runway fans, that is a bath mat adhered to the front of that nice model.  We're not exactly sure how she managed to make that happen (perhaps she used the Brother serger!) but there it is, in all its bath mat glory.  I'd like to think that if some of the bottom people hadn't been so dismal, she would have been called out for, well, sending a bathmat down the runway.

Oh, and nice fascinator...but you were upstaged in that department.  More on that later. burned your garment with the glue gun.  You should know better than to glue gun a plastic shower curtain.  And while I thought he should just make more holes, he expertly managed to patch his up.  It was a knotted shower curtain with steel scrubber accents.

Mopping up the competition!

Oh, the drama when two designers have the same idea...then proceed to trash talk each other.  "Oh, my mop dress is better than your mop dress.  Your mop dress is so....moppy."

Here was April Johnston's take:

The fit is nice, but the bottom is sort of choppy.  The fringe is too expected, I think.

Here was Michael Costello's take:

Of the two mop dresses, this one was my favorite.  He used the mop fibers as material and as ornamentation at the neckline. The neck strap is unexpected.  Even the slight slit in the skirt is a nice turn.  The dress is sophisticated and well designed.

The Colorsafe...

Rounding out the designers declared "safe" this week, we have three colorful entries.

Kara Janx used some sort of roping on the bodice, bag material for the skirt and some of those dryer clamp things on the belt.  Pretty conventional look for Kara.

Anthony Williams sent this purple dress with gold candy wrapper accents down the runway.  He also used a fabric type of material for the outfit.

Rounding out the safe designers was Mila Hermanovski.  She used her trademark stripes, but with a pop of green.  I think the material just didn't lend itself completely to the sorts of outfits she designs.  It will be interesting to see if her strong, unbending aesthetic will sit well with the judges this season.

On the bottom.

It's always disturbing to see Gordana Gehlhausen on the bottom of a challenge.  She has such incredible technique.  But she tried to do too much with this outfit.

"Everything in the American dollar store is so inexpensive.  I used kitchen scrubbers, a plastic hose, little squares of tissue paper and lots of stickers."

And Sweet Pea...

Only because you were outdone by a little pixie from another planet, you were safe this week.  Had it been me, she would have been sent packing.  Committing the dual sin of using fabric-like materials on an unconventional materials challenge AND boring the judges warrants the boot.

Even the fancy Neiman-Marcus belt treatment couldn't save this outfit.
But both Sweet Pea and Gordana and even Kenley, had folks noticed her bathmat, were safe this week because of a little woman who just can't shut up about her clothes.

This polymorphic outfit is designed for a garden fairy who blesses the flowers and birds.  You can see the birds on her blouse, which represents her heart--wings beating and the flowers on the boy shorts, which represents fertility.  The writing on the wings is a verbal blessing for all of you! 
Seriously.  Elisa Jimenez is still talking about this outfit.  And somewhere Ken Downing is having nightmares about it.

Ken: If you have to talk this much about a garment, I'm not interested in putting it in my store.
Isaac: I'm not sure you can stop her once she gets on a roll.  
I mean, you could see this coming.  Look at her drawing.

I actually thought the outfit was pretty good for what it was.  On her season, she was booted during the unconventional materials challenge--the candy challenge--for making a very literal Gretl dress (Hansel and Gretl...) So I thought that this outfit was fine enough.  If other designers got a pass for using fabric like materials, why shouldn't she?  There was no dock for dresses that had no practical use in daily life.  The fit on this was good and the design was solid.   Perhaps Ken was just scared off by her.  We'll never know.  Goodbye, sweet Elisa.  We'll miss you.

On the top.

I wasn't as impressed with Jerell Scott's dress as the judges were.  Perhaps it was how it moved down the runway that captured their eye.  I thought it was nice enough, but I would have put Michael Costello in this position for good use of materials in a surprising way.

Even looking at the back, which is quite complex and interesting, I'm still troubled by the fabric hanging down in the back, which does nothing for me.   Actually, Jerell's tunic is a much more interesting treatment of an asymmetrical hemline.

So it ultimately came down to a battle between Rami and Mondo...and frankly, if this season ends up being Rami vs. Mondo, that in and of itself would be worth watching.  Score one for Rami this time, for being more visually interesting.  But Mondo gave him a run for his money.

From fascinator (which Georgina adored) to shoe, there was not a sour note in this look.  Yes, it was all black, but it fit perfectly, had high style and moved a bit down the runway.  Everything was thoughtfully done, not just plopped on for effect.

And how cute is Mondo?  Seriously.

Rami Poppins does not get 7 years bad luck for opening an umbrella inside.  Perhaps Elisa gave him one of her spit blessings.

"I do so much more than just life weights and drape."
Rami Kashou had the unfortunate distinction of being on the same season as Christian Siriano.  It's a damn shame.  Had he been either of the last two seasons, he would have dusted any and all competition. So he's definitely got something to prove here.  This outfit is so evocative of Alexander McQueen and so visually arresting that the judges felt it had to win.  It is not styled as impeccably as Mondo's outfit, but could definitely walk on any runway.

Well done, Rami and Mondo!  You are both saving the Project Runway franchise.

Before I depart, we have a mazel tov to deliver this week.

Project Runway All-Stars judge, Isaac Mizrahi revealed on the Wendy Williams Show that he got married last week in New York.  He thought it would just be a nice, legal formality, but when the judge called them up for an impromptu ceremony, he broke down in tears.

Yes, getting married is a big deal and I'm glad that Isaac and Andrew got to experience it.

Mazel Tov to Isaac Mizrahi and Andrew Germer!  May you have many happy years together!


  1. I know I am going to enjoy this season...especially because I enjoyed Mondo and Rami on their respective seasons. Some I definitely do not consider an "all-star"...particularly April, Elisa, Anthony, and Sweet Pea (what can I say...I didn't enjoy them back on their seasons, and I'm sure I'm not going to enjoy their goods this time around either). But, to each his own!

  2. I think you called it - a showdown between Rami and Mondo. Can't wait! I also liked Michael's dress better than April's, which I sort of hate admitting because I think April is so much more talented.

  3. Wasn't the gold accents on Anthony's dress from gold mini safety pins?

  4. Excellent critiques! And yay for Isaac!