It was a gelato- and von Furstenberg-filled challenge for our Project Runway All Stars last night, but no amount of gelato could cheer us up after that judging disaster.
Joanna Coles is just as upset as we are about all of this.
Because there are three of us Project Runway lovers, and because we're assuming you watched the show too, instead of straight recaps for this series we're picking and choosing the parts we want to talk about most each week. First though, the episode stats:
The Challenge: Create a look—in six hours—inspired by a gelato flavor and also by Diane von Furstenberg, although no one wanted to admit it.
The Winner: Michael, for some reason. Did you see his dress?! COME ON!
The Loser: April, with a cheap-looking blueberry mess. There goes one of Kelsey's final three picks.
And now, our highlights/lowlights/predictions. Be sure to chime in in the comments with some of your own!
When Michael's washed-out, over-draped pile of a dress won the runway over Mondo's cantaloupe caftan dream, I screamed in disbelief at the TV louder than I have since that one thing happened on The Wire. Are you KIDDING me with this decision, judges?! My dislike of Michael aside (although I don't like Michael), he makes a barely-different version of the same drape-y dress just about every challenge. Mondo, on the other hand, continues to push the envelope with his stunning opera gown and last night's oh-so-awesome cantaloupe loveliness. Seriously, I have the opposite body type of the person who looks good in a caftan, and I'm still dying to wear that dress.
Also, let us not forget that the challenge was to make something inspired by a gelato flavor. While Mondo perfectly captured the look and feel of cantaloupe, Michael invoked the opposite of grapefruit. When the best way to describe your gown is "anti-zesty," you've missed the mark in my book (unfortunately, the judges have not read my book). How was this even a contest?!
See? No contest.
The only theory I have, beyond the judges just completely sucking (which they kinda do but I don't want to spend every week wishing for the return of Michael and Nina), is that Mondo was such a favorite going into All Stars that the producers are trying to keep things interesting by robbing him of the challenges he should be winning. Really though, I think they just suck.
What's your flavor?
Though only Michael got a chance to pick his gelato flavor first last night (not that the grapefruit inspired him—he'd have made the same dress if he had Kara's chocolate cayenne), don't you think everyone got the flavor that best represented their design aesthetic? From Mila's contrasting milk and sour cherries to Austin's opulent vanilla Madagascar, each designer came away with a flavor that pretty well matched his or her style. A Project Runway twist that forced them to change flavors mid-challenge might have been fun, but it was equally fun to see the well-matched fruits of everyone's labor (get it? fruits?).
Joanna Coles saying the word "snackaroo" was my favorite part of the episode. Do you think she'd be willing to record it as my ringtone?
The cattiness is increasing with each episode, thanks in no small part to the snarky Jerrell. I've always loved Jerrell, but never so much as last night when he said Michael's sewing technique was "so easy a chimpanzee could do it." Is there any way we could get a chimpanzee in the competition instead of Michael? I bet it would come up with some fresher designs.
Best Muse-finder for next week:
Based on the preview we saw, it looks like the designers will have to find a muse on the street and convince him/her to take off an article of clothing right there on the spot. Though he's not my favorite designer style-wise, no is more likable than Anthony, so my money's on him to literally charm the pants off someone and make it work.
The Fugly Factor
Terrible (extra emphasis on TERRIBLE) judging aside*, this episode was way more engaging for me than previous ones this season. I'm realizing that I'm just a sucker for hideous clothing (and the ensuing critiques), because the more fugly dresses that walk down the runway, the more invested I am in the outcome. And this episode was full of awful designs. We heard the judge's thoughts on Kara and April, though, neither were scolded nearly as harshly as they needed to be. Kara's dress was ugly for more reasons than its insta-pregnancy effect. With colors that sad and cheap-looking, her design looked more like it was inspired by those buckets of ice cream you see at the grocery store, not gelato (take it from me: I used to scoop that stuff for a living and it is both vibrant and expensive). April's dress on the other hand, was boring and poorly constructed. Like, poorly constructed to the extreme. Ridiculously uneven hem? Check. Lack of finishing? Check. Bummer-inducing colors? Check (April's hair was a better interpretation of blueberry gelato!). However, the judges let Kenley's eyesore of a dress that no one outside of Zooey Deschanel would ever dream of wearing walk away.
Additionally, the second biggest misstep of this episode was the judges not tearing Rami a new one for how U-G-L-Y his design was! What was that?!? Five different clashing green fabrics that looked overworked to (mini-) Mood and back? I was getting excited that Rami was finally going to get taken down a notch or two (because please, he's talented but he certainly does not deserve to be on top as often as he is), and then the judges just let that slip under the radar? Along with Jerrell's trying-too-hard mullet dress (All Stars, stop it with the mullet dresses!) and Austin's wadded up tissue look? Oh well. Even though the judges and I didn't see eye-to-eye, it was still more fun to watch the contestants whip up those foul designs than seeing a whole runway of mediocre outfits.
*Fugly fashion moment: Michael's design looked like a bathrobe. The exception to this week of fug? Mondo. Mondo's design was great.
Tanks, hot pants, and bolo ties (Oh my!)
Fug-induced excitement aside, I am struggling this season to be wowed by the designs. But what has consistently caught my attention episode to episode is the personal style of the All Stars. This week, the three best dressed were clearly Austin, Mondo, and Rami (though, let's be honest: with their mutual love of bolo ties, Austin and Mondo always bring it). Austin's denim on denim was a moment of 90's mid-rise glory. Mondo's hot pants are always a welcome addition to an episode (see 0:58 in this video), especially when paired with his ever-present pompadour and dazzling collection of glasses. However, this week's gold star for fashion, if only for its shock value, goes to Rami and his muscle-revealing teeny-tiny tank top! Was anyone else totally scandalized by it when he first appeared on screen? I'm surprised we didn't see him using the Mood fabric to do bicep curls.
Rami, put it away! This is a family program!
The PR ladies are also pretty stylish, but their clothing usually closely echoes their designs and, thus, aren't terribly refreshing. However, All Stars should consider having Mondo and Austin walk the runway in their outfits for the day. It would add some much needed pep.
Poor April. During her original season, I always liked her but could never find a reason why. Possibly I've just been swayed by her youth and coolness? Her designs have always fallen short and her focus seems too narrow. Her inclusion in the All-Star season seemed odd to be from the start, since her major weakness has always been that she lacks the confidence that more years of designing experience would grant her. I will miss her aforementioned hair though (plus, her goth-ish looks were a nice counter to the bubble gum crap coming from Kenley's station).
Best Muse-finder for next week:
This is tough, because the challenge seems to be as much about finding a muse as it is talking them into giving you their clothing. The designer who does the best in gathering inspiration and material will be someone with a clear aesthetic (sorry Kara) and even sharper charming abilities (not your forte, Mila). I can see Rami doing really well in this sort of situation, so I'll put my money on The Gun Show.
Just glue shit together
Kara Janx inadvertently summed up this challenge midway through last night's episode, fretting in the workroom that the designers "can't just glue shit together." Cut to Austin frantically applying whickety-wack to his dress with a glue gun. Yep, there's nothing like a brief yet also meaningless set of time constraints to bring out the All-Stars at their frantic, testy best. To wit: Anthony, dead on as always, griping that the gelato challenge "has nothing to do with being a talented designer. This has to do with being a fast seamstress." And Kenley, still weirdly calm at this juncture, announcing that "I'm not going to try anything new," as though that were likely to be a possibility with triple the time.
Once again, it's not clear what the point of the challenge was, other than to give L'Arte Del Gelato its moment in the product-placement sun. (Which worked, damn it: I was Googling "fruits of the forest" at 10:30 pm and being slightly disappointed that it's just mixed berries, rather than some magical citrus harvested by Hobbits once every hundred years.) It seems like there are ways to challenge the abilities, innovation level, and time-management skills of the designers without ensuring that everything that ends up walking the runway looks like melted ass. (I may differ from Annalee here in that my favorite episodes of PR are the ones—and they're rare, yes, but they exist—where at least half of the garments are well-executed and exciting to look at.) But if you like to see designers frantically running around, fabric flapping everywhere, and people cursing out sewing machines, bobbins, and other inanimate objects, this was the episode for you.
A mentor moment
Joanna's workroom visit last night initially made me nervous. First of all, bringing gelato to the designers was a ridiculous gimmick, both because they clearly were in no position to stop working for a minute, no matter how delicious the incentive, and because frozen treats and fine fabrics do not mix. Second, maybe this is just her style, but I found her critiques a little too close to interviews at times, rather than the genuine reactions we get from Tim Gunn. (It probably didn't help that Anthony's responded to Joanna's question about creatively interpreting the challenge with a reply so canned that Miss America would probably tell him to wipe the Vaseline off his teeth and try it again with some sincerity.)
But though her workroom style is stilted, Joanna's critiques seem to really resonate with and make sense to the designers, and she's quickly becoming one of the best things about this season. She cautioned Austin to lose the bridal notes and play up the fabulousness, asked Mondo how the hell one accessorizes an orange caftan (with a gold rope-buckle belt, obviously), and cautioned Mila against being too literal, which, yeah, points for trying , Jo. Also, I'm assuming she took one look at Kenley's dress and just decided to ignore its existence entirely.
The ladies are not faring well this season, are they? The female contestants have comprised about 80 percent of the bottom-three designers thus far in the competition; all of the designers sent home thus far have been women. The male contestants, meanwhile, have comprised nearly all of the top-three looks in each episode. It's worth nothing, I think, that while the male competitors in this All-Star season were among the strongest in their season, most of them ending up in either the final three or final four, almost none of the women were among the final three or four in their respective seasons. Laura Bennett, I know you're busy writing sewing books and raising your 28 kids, but you are missed.
Kenley and Jerrell need to either step it up or each start sucking a lot more, because both are making essentially the same dress over and over and I'm bored with it.
Michael's surprise face is beginning to rival Taylor Swift's. Yeah, we know, you had no idea your garment was so good. (P.S.: It wasn't.)
Diane von Furstenberg is always a welcome guest judge, anywhere, anytime. It was amusing to see how much she and Isaac seem to loathe one another (she's clearly on her hot-dog escort Tim Gunn's side here), and she also had the weirdest and most delightful one-liner of the evening when assessing Mondo's creation: "If it were on the cover of a magazine and the magazine was called Cantaloupe, you got it!" I want in on the ground floor of Cantaloupe magazine, by the way—if ever a fruit needed a higher profile, it's that one.
Nothing against guest judge Miranda Kerr, but my feeling is that models and actors tend to be more or less useless as judges. Yes, their jobs depend in large part on looking good, and if they're high-profile enough they can help a designer's career, but their knowledge and opinions are almost never constructive or big-picture–based. As von Furstenberg helpfully noted about Kerr's judging last night, she only cared about how the garment would look and feel on her own body, at her own "industry event." Can we get Simon Doonan or someone up on this panel?
Best Muse-finder for next week:
I think Mondo will be the best muse-finder, because people will recognize him and do whatever he asks them to. Wouldn't you? Also, he'll probably be wearing another pair of adorable hot pants, which is never a mistake when you're asking someone for a favor.