Project Runway All Stars premiered last night, and though a few familiar faces were missing (wherefore art thou, Nina Garcia?) there was plenty to talk about. Let's get to it!
Because there are three of us Project Runway lovers, and because we're assuming you watched the show too, instead of straight recaps we're picking and choosing the parts we want to talk about most. First though, the episode stats:
The Challenge: Unconventional materials from the 99¢ store, and the outfit must be inspired by the signature look the contestants brought with them.
The Winner: Rami
The Loser: Elisa
And now, our highlights/lowlights. Be sure to chime in the comments with your own observations!
Women of a certain age!
I am definitely struck by this season's strong older-lady presence, despite the fact that I'm not necessarily fans of all of them. (For the record: Yay! For Sweet P, Gordana, and Kara Janx, Eh! for Mila and Elisa.) My older-lady love extends to Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, who replaces Tim Gunn as the designers' mentor this round. Obviously, Tim Gunn is the capo di tutti of all fashion-show mentors, and woe betide the impostor who tries to take that away from him. Coles has no intention of doing so: She doesn't even try to coin a catchphrase like "Make it work," and her straight-shooting assessments of the designers' work are serviceable, but have none of Papa Bear's warmth or relatability. Noting that the winner of this season will get, among other prizes, a guest-editing stint at Marie Claire, she says "I couldn't be more excited" with an expression that suggests that maybe she's excited, but more likely she is just plotting to harvest Mondo's life force using only her eyes. That said, JC could really give reality TV's other icy, accented blond bitch, Bravo's Tabatha Coffey, a run for her money.
As for the younger ladies: Kenley's back, has made a pretty hideous prom-y dress, and gives the expected speech about how everyone hated her last time, but screw everyone else because you have to do your own thing, etc. I'm predicting that she throws a cat at someone by episode seven. And I'm not sure if I care either way about April's presence on this All-Star season, since I literally remember nothing about her, but she does provide us with a cool new collective noun when pronouncing her raw materials for the dollar-store challenge "a clusterfuck of mops."
Other insights from this first episode:
Austin Scarlett (who, like Kara Janx, must always be referred to by both first and last names—it just doesn't sound right otherwise) has evolved his look from Yves Saint Laurent to Clark Gable by swapping out his thick glasses for a dapper mustache, which really is evidence of his talent. Mondo, as always, has the best lines of the night, assessing Gordana's dollar-store look by comparing it to a piñata at a Mexican Easter celebration and adding, "I hope her model is full of candy." (That, Joanna Coles, is how you do deadpan.) Of his own look, a kicky cocktail number which comprises black binders and garbage bags, he says, "I really wanted to stay away from predictable materials." But what really makes the moment sing is that he's dressed like an escapee from Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" video.
Also, let's talk about the judges for a second. If you've read Tim Gunn's autobiography (and if you're reading a Project Runway recap, why haven't you?), you know that he is not at all a fan of All-Star judge Isaac Mizrahi, who he called "a terrible, terrible, terrible person." That's three terribles from circumspect Mr. Gunn, which likely means that Mizrahi is evil on a Pol Pot kind of level. So you kind of have to wonder how Tim feels about his Runway being tainted by Mizrahi's presence as judge. I'll give Isaac one thing, though, he's way less distractingly orange than Michael Kors.
Georgina Chapman, head designer at shmancy-dress house Marchesa, is also Mrs. Harvey Weinstein, and since the Weinstein Company owns Project Runway, she…kind of owns the show, a little? In other words, she could probably be super-obnoxious with impunity, so props to her for seeming to take the judging very seriously and having some solid insights. As for the third judge, I wasn't wearing my glasses while watching and I initially mistook him for David Bowie. (He's married to former guest judge Iman, so it could happen!) In fact, it was a guy from show sponsor Neiman-Marcus, and, unlike Joanna Coles, he actually did seem like he couldn't be more excited to be there, so well done, Ken Downing. All in all, it was pretty nice to have a break from Nina and Michael, who after all these seasons could probably be replaced by hand puppets saying "I'm disappointed" over and over, with very few people noticing.
My predictions for the final three are:
Likely to be wrong, since I have a terrible track record on this. But what the hell: Like everyone else, I think this is Mondo's game to lose. Rami and Austin are the other big dogs this season, but are they maybe too obvious as final-three picks? I'm going with Mondo, Jerell, and Kara Janx: Jerell because his aesthetic is polished and consistent while also being a little unexpected, Mondo because obviously, and Kara Janx because I really want her to have learned from her mistakes in season two: Go nuts with your prints, girl! Make a hat for every outfit! Show them what you got! Etc. But feel free to revisit this recap and scoff in a few months when April, Michael, and Kenley pull into the finals.
I'm not here to make candid statements:
If you've watched any competitive reality shows (which is to say, if you've watched any television in the last 10 years), you know that sincerity is as commonly featured as amity. However, this episode seemed especially premeditated. And why shouldn't it be? It's a reality show geared towards fans of a reality show filled with people formally featured on a... (you get the idea). Everyone spoke in catch phrases (Anthony Williams now starring as Anthony Williams!). Michael was eyeing a lampshade in preparation for the reappearance of a well-known prior challenge. Angela historicized this week's challenge and congratulated Austin for practically creating the unconventional materials trope. Speaking of which, that seemed like a great time for them to show a clip of Austin's winning look. Can they not show clips from Bravo-era Project Runway? How will we reminisce? Here's how:
For a contestant who would be unmemorable if it weren't for her saliva, we got a lot of Elisa in the first episode! However, based on the remarks made by the other contestants, it seems like no one watched her season (I'm looking at you, Sweet P & Rami). Are we really that surprised that the woman who "blesses" her fabric claimed her bed via a lipstick mark? Or that she's plugging away at her garment from under the work table? As she was defending her outfit on the runway, explaining sacred geometry and co., I thought about how pleased the producers must have been that the contestant picked for her incoherence was staying true to form. But do her antics really justify being picked over other designers? Oh, you're going to kick her off in the first episode? What a waste (you could have brought back Korto!).
My predictions for the final three are:
Mondo, Rami, and Mila.
Guess who's not coming to All Stars?
Unlike Andi, I have to start by saying that I never thought I'd miss Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, and Michael Kors so much. Maybe it's nostalgia (for three months ago) talking, but I'll take Kors' bizarre screeching sounds and surprisingly down-to-earth industry advice over Isaac Mizrahi any day. And for as many times as I've cringed at Heidi's catchphrases and her over pronunciations of contestant names (see: Casanova), watching new host Angela Lindvall is like watching paint watch paint dry. She is a non-host in every sense of the word: No personality to speak of and no chemistry with the contestants or the judges—couldn't she at least take a page from China Chow's notebook and wear something wacky to distract us? My boredom is only intensified by the fact that I've watched Project Runway Canada and therefore know what an AMAZING host Iman is. If we can't have Heidi, why not upgrade to Iman? What, Lifetime, she was too busy or something?
As far as the contestants go, I'm sure we all have our own opinions as to who we'd have liked to see claim a bed at Flatotel, but where the hell was Korto Momolu, Daniel Vosovic, Uli Herzner, or Santino Rice? And after seeing sparks fly between Joshua McKinley and Laura Bennett last season, I was sure we'd see her in the mix. Maybe Lifetime wanted to keep her and fellow recap blogger Nick Verreos behind their keyboards this season? At any rate, I'd have been happy to sub out a few All Star contestants if only Lifetime would have asked for my opinion.
Austin Scarlett, Haute Couture en Guidant le Peuple
Is it just me, or has Austin Scarlett gone from fan favorite to folk hero? When that glue gun melted through his blue plastic dress it was the gasp heard 'round the world. Maybe it was seeing him help the women of the heartland on On the Road with Austin and Santino, but I honestly kind of forgot he was competing because to me he has become a shining beacon on a fashionable hill, far above the other contestants in demeanor, amount of time on camera, and descriptive language. I hate to say it because I love watching him make clothes, but I think he'd be better in a Tim Gunn-style mentor role than down with the designers in the workroom trenches—that mustache wasn't made for rush jobs. Side note: He looks more like Patrick Swayze with each passing year. Don't believe me? See for yourself:
Next week on All Stars: Austin Scarlett in a remake of Roadhouse!
My predictions for the final three are:
Mondo, Mondo, and Mondo? OK, since Mondo can't be in three places at once I'll say Mondo, Rami, and April. (See my earlier argument about Austin being above the competition and therefore not a contender to win it.) April's style has never particularly wowed me, but the judges and the other contestants seem pretty impressed by her.
Product Placement Count:
Five different brands, 11 out-loud mentions during the show (and it's only the first episode).