It was a fashion face-off for all seasons last night for our Project Runway All Stars.
This "who made it first?" coat scene was more dramatic than it looks.
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 Winner: Jerrell and his Coat of Many Copiers
The Loser: Rami (there goes another of our final three predictions)
And now, our highlights/lowlights. Be sure to chime in in the comments with some of your own!
Let's get some business out of the way first. This episode reminded everyone (in case you forgot) that Michael Costello is sort of The Worst. He is incredibly insecure and it shows every time he goes on the defensive... which is frequently since the other designers have eyes and can tell that he's not up to snuff. Why he and Mondo are such good buddies, the world may never know. On one hand, I'm grateful that the show has designers worthy of rooting against, but PR seriously needed to kick Michael to the curb WAY before Rami. What?!
Anyway, about the coat. Michael's plagiarizing past is familiar ground for most fans (quick summary: his fellow season 8 designers thought he plagiarized a whole bunch). It is 100% believable to me that he saw Jerrell's design and mimicked it, since Michael lacks the talent to come up with anything exciting and is weak enough creatively that he latches himself onto other people's ideas (a point so obvious that the judges must not care because they talked about it and didn't penalize him). HOWEVER, I think it is also completely possible that he would have made that coat even if Jerrell hadn't been sitting five feet away.
Here's my thinking: Michael and Jerrell picked out their laughably similar fabrics separately, so there's no copycatting around there. Michael started to design a vest, decided he didn't like it, and scrapped it (a process that the designers, especially Michael, have done many times). Considering the typical weather of his assigned season, the decision to switch to a coat was understandable. And lastly, possibly most importantly, Michael can't tailor to save his life. Everything he sends down the runway looks like he flung it on his model 10 minutes earlier (and we thought Rami was stuck in draping! We were so naive then!). A drape-y coat designed by Michael Costello that he somehow tries to claim is inspired by Jackie O.? Makes sense to me. As I ranted earlier, Michael's problem this episode was how he handled the ensuing conversations about the drama. He acted guilty probably because he is guilty. Guilty of sneaking his way onto an All Star season, surrounded by designers who are, by and large, WAY more innovative, talented, or at least focused than he is.
Even TV history repeats itself
If I'm OK with anything involving Mondo this week, it's that at least the preview didn't mislead me? When he brought up it being his mom's birthday and all that the design meant to him, I rationalized that he must've been crying on the runway preview because he's just so happy to have given his mom the gift of winning a reality show challenge (I'm glad my mom hasn't asked for this, since my talents don't fit into any pre-existing reality shows. Very Minimal Hoarders? America's Got an Impressive Netflix Queue? So You Think You Can Grocery Shop Without a List?). But no. Leave it to the judges to turn such adorable intentions turn into a gut-wrenching critique. And as the judges were unfairly ripping Mondo apart, I couldn't help but think of another time when he was in the bottom group (Season 8's resort wear challenge, "What's Mine Is Yours," for those for you following along at home). Much like this week, the judges slammed him then for his fabric selection and how generally Junior's-y the look was. Come to think about it, designing sportswear for summer sounds an awful lot like resort wear. To really drive home the point of symmetry, the resort wear challenge and this week's challenge are the only times Mondo has been in the "least favorites" end of the runway spectrum EVER, and both challenges fell midseason (episode 7 for his original season, and episode 6 for All Stars). Maybe this is all a sign that this season is truly a do-over for the win that Mondo was so wrongfully denied? I hope so, because I cannot stand hiding under my sweatshirt for another runway.
More like as-sore-ted thoughts! Why did the judges love Kenley's look? It wasn't bad, I guess (in the sense that it was finished and it fit and didn't have a terrible color scheme). But what it lacked in bad, it more than made up for in repetitive, boring, and not at all fashion forward. While all of the designers have a very specific aesthetic that they cling to, when are the judges going to call out Kenley for sending that same redundant interpretation of the 1950s down the runway every week? And Rami! I never loved you but I respected you, which was way more than I could say about those other jerks (I'm looking at you, Kara). His blouse was really awful and I agree that the color combinations made my brain hurt a little bit, but doesn't he get points for having some nice aspects to his outfit? Now that my and Kelsey's final three predictions are shot, it's all on your picks, Andi.
Looks like I'm not the only one bored by Kenley's designs.
Next week's On Broadway prediction:
Logic would dictate that this sort of challenge would be Austin's or Kenley's to lose, since both are basically costuming their models as Gidget or Grace Kelly every week. However, I'm going to take a page from the history books and say that this is the start of Mondo's steamroll to the winner's circle. His designs have flash, a quality important when appearing on stage, and he's more adaptive than the other designers in terms of genre. But I would pick Mondo as the winner of most any challenge, so possibly I shouldn't criticize Kenley's redundancy.
The winter (and spring, and summer) of our discontent.
Head-to-head matchups on Project Runway are always controversial, as their micro nature throws off the overall balance of the judging. What's deemed the lesser look in the two-outfit matchup might not be in the bottom were the outfits judged straight across the runway; likewise, the "top" look of a pairing may simply be the lesser of two dowdy-ass evils. (Ahem, KARA.) But this challenge was an emotional log-flume ride for a few of the contenders, in particular poor Mondo, who was brought to tears by the judges' takedown of his dotty, big-polka-vs.-little-polka look. "They hated it," he said, glooming his way into the backstage area. Part of Mondo's teariness had to do with the fact that the challenge took place on his mother's 60th birthday, and somehow the outfit was meant to be an homage to what he might wear to her party if he weren't stuck in New York in a humid room full of sewing machines and a rapidly encroaching Neiman Marcus Accessories Wall. As mom-related reality-show meltdowns go, it didn't even touch the Top Chef Just Desserts "The red hots were for my mommy" disaster, but no one likes to see Mondo cry. Luckily, Kenley was there to deliver some super-obnoxious words of comfort in his time of need, reminding him that "the judges said they wouldn't have lunch with Austin's girl." Please note that Austin was right there as she said this.
And as for Kenley, at this point I am convinced that she must have witnessed each of the judges commit a murder. There's no other explanation for why, week after week, her polka dots and Peter-Pan collars are deemed acceptable, much less fashion-forward. In the matchup this week, it seems especially rich that Mondo's look was judged to be "juniors," when Kenley's look was clearly "toddlers." It's a powder-blue, polka-dotted romper, people. A ROMPER. My sense here is that Mondo's styling was what hurt his look the most. A less candyish purse and a more sophisticated hairstyle and makeup and there's almost no question his look would have been the more successful of the two. Kenley's real victory here, besides whatever dirt she has on the judges, was that she forewent any accessories. (Because nothing goes with a powder-blue polka-dotted romper.)
History repeats itself, part 2
Kara Janx flashback time! Picture it: Runway judging, 2006. Kara's on the chopping block for making a boring black dress for guest judge and professional beautiful person Iman. She's asked by the judges why she should move on to the final three, and starts talking about how she really wants the judges to see what she can do with prints. Someone at home, possibly me, yells at the television in frustration because, Kara? You already had a really great opportunity to show the judges what you could do with prints. It was called "this challenge." Flash forward to last night's episode. I'm starting to think that Kara Janx just may not fully have a handle how this show works. In defending her boring spring look, she explained convolutedly that her girl wasn't going to wear this outfit at her ultimate fictional destination, just to travel there. Or something like that. Kara, for crap's sake, do I really need to quote Eminem here? YOU GET ONE SHOT.
Like everyone else, I am sorry to see Rami go, because he's definitely among the most likeable competitors in PR history. That said, it felt like on this season he was hiding his design light under a bushel. (And by "bushel," I mean, "enormous pectoral muscles.") It felt a little like he was so eager to distance himself from his Rami, King of Draping rep that he went a little too far in the other direction and became Rami, King of Unflattering Seaming and Bilious Color Combos.
If Austin weren't Austin, that whole Laura Ashley, two-foot-rise, khaki-capris shitshow would have gone home. This was the one time this season where the judging chairs could have used some Michael Kors screeching, "That crotch is INSANE!" Because even in Project Runway's long history of insane crotches, this one was notable.
Mila's story for her "girl" is that she was going to Marfa, Texas for the art festival. Of course she was.
I really enjoyed how Mondo reacted to Mila asking him if he was going to make a knee-length skirt by recoiling and saying "Ew!" What can you say? Dude loves a short short.
Next week's On Broadway prediction:
I would imagine that it's a point of pride for Austin to win this one, and that he may shave his mustache in shame if he doesn't.
All the real girls
Time and time again on Project Runway we've seen the judges dress down designers whose looks aren't "commercial" enough. And since this show is very firmly set in the world of mainstream fashion (hello, guest editorship at Marie Claire), a focus on clothing that might have a shred of mass appeal makes sense. But judges, what exactly is your idea of "mass appeal"? Because SO MANY of the outfits—in the top and bottom—on last night's runway would look HEINOUS on a non-model type person.
Behold, the only two people in the world who'd look good in those outfits!
When I heard Kara tell Joanna that she was making a "high-waisted type culotte pant" I knew we were in for an unflattering ride, but I had no idea how far the designers would go. From Austin's pleat-a-palooza to Mondo's wide, cropped shirt and bulky shorts; from Kenley's polka-dot one piece to Rami's tight, ruched turtleneck—not exactly fashion for the people, folks.
It's a cruel, cruel summer if you aren't a model.
As a short, roundish person, I've learned a few keywords to look out for when I'm shopping for clothes: pleated, high-waisted, ONESIE, cropped, and chartreuse train wreck are but a few of those do-not-buy keywords that showed up on the runway last night. Judges, it's fine if you want to reward designs that exist solely in a fantasyland where everyone is professionally tall and looks good in everything, but don't call it "commercial."
The Ice Queen Melteth
I, like many other Runway devotees, was skeptical of the decision to sub in Joanna "If you wore that to the office I'd send you home to change" Coles for Tim Gunn, Fashion's Most Beloved Man. Though Coles is no Papa Bear, she's proving to be a solid mentor to the designers, giving no-nonsense critiques and withholding just enough to keep them wanting her approval.
She handled last night's coat scandal like only a true Nina Garcia wrangler could, gathering the designers 'round her table to hash it out in a way that allowed them all (with the exception of Crybaby Costello) to move on to more important, less flattering projects. She's all business, and I love it. If only some of her sense and sensibility would rub off on the damn judges!
Everything about that dinner scene between Mondo, Michael, and Jerrell—from Mondo's joke about spaghetti awkwardness to Michael's surprisingly good Joanna Coles impression—had me laughing out loud. So much so that I isolated the clip, so we can all relive the hilarity:
How can some of the designers be so good at styling themselves, and so bad at styling their models? Austin is the most put-together contestant in reality show history, but his styling of others consistently misses the mark. Take a cue from the mirror, Austin! Your girl could've used some smart glasses and a jaunty scarf last night (if only to distract from those pants).
Next week's On Broadway prediction:
Since the preview made it look like they were on the set of Godspell, my money's on Jerrell, whose looks are the best suited for a biblical-themed play written in the '70s (in fact, most of his looks are only suited for a biblical-themed play written in the '70s). On a related note, will someone get Michael Showalter Jerrell's number? Because the (best ever!) news that a Wet Hot American Summer remake is in the works has me thinking Jerrell could design the shit out of those talent show costumes.