Project Runway All Stars: A Face-Off For All Seasons

It was a fashion face-off for all seasons last night for our Project Runway All Stars.

Jerrell and Michael talking to Joanna at the workroom table
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!

Devil's Advocoat
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.

Assorted thoughts:
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.

screen shot from Project Runway's FB page--commenters agree that Kenley makes the same thing each week
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.

- Annalee

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.

Assorted thoughts:
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.

- Andi

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.

Austin and Kara's looks from last night
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.

Mondo and Kenley's looks from last night
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!

Assorted thoughts:
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.

- Kelsey

Previously: A-muse-balls, Gelato Problems

by Kelsey Wallace
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13 Comments Have Been Posted

runway rompers

I was about ready to throw something when I saw Mondo in the bottom.

Michael is a dressmaker not a designer. Him and Kenley are both there just to cause controversy.
The producers knew that they would piss people off...Michael for being a talentless lucky bastard and Kenley for being a repetitive bitch.

Team Mondo!

Wait a second.....

But it's OK to call Michael a "talentless bastard" and for Annalee to totally bully him during her portion of the post? name-calling is name-calling, and should be not allowed in all cases.


When I saw Kenley's outfit, I said to my 7 year old daughter, "That would look cute on you." She replied, "No Mom, I'm too old for that now." I think Kenley has to have something on all of the judges and most of the contestants.

My two cents on this week's episode...

HA! Michael Costello does the most amazing impressions. I happen to love him. No, he's not one of the strongest designers in the group; he doesn't have a strong point-of-view, let alone the confidence in it ... but those are the only things I find wrong with him. Unfortunately this is Project Runway All-Stars, where high marks in those categories count for almost everything, if not everything (Well, I would hope).

But seriously, design-wise, I would take Michael Costello over Kara, ANY DAY. I keep waiting for her to get sent home. Her performance throughout the show--with the exception of that darling opera dress--has been boring me to tears. I really can't stand it. She should've been eliminated this week! But the fashion face-off twist wouldn't allow that (I actually think the idea of a fashion face-off is cool, but, sadly, it may work only in theory. It's tricky for reasons pointed out by Andi ... It would be really great if all the designers and their looks were strong, but that's NEVER the case).

It was heartbreaking to see the judging come down to Rami and Austin. I didn't want to see either of them go home; Austin's look, as unforgivably dowdy as it was, at least had a point of view compared to friggin' Kara's. And how about Rami's jacket!? I WANT THAT JACKET. That jacket was the statement piece. Trading in that awful green top for a simple neutral tube/tank top just might have saved him.

Assorted thoughts : In light of the whole Michael Costello-ripping-off-Jerrell pseudo-scandal, I thought it was interesting that Mondo decided to style his model more-or-less as a 50s pin-up, considering that that's been Kenley's design reference for, oh, I don't know, HER ENTIRE LIFE. I'm surprised nobody mentioned it in this article. Or are we all so hopelessly pro-Mondo that he's capable of no wrong?

Mondo is our Achilles heel...

I completely agree with you about Rami's jacket! If it had been paired with a less hideous shirt he might've won the whole challenge.

Also agree on Kara: Complete snoozefest. Some much more interesting designers have been sent home instead of her—she's overstayed whatever welcome she might've started with.

Oh, and you're right about Mondo too—I fear he's an adorable blind spot for all three of us :)

I may have thrown something at my TV

Mondo in the bottom? When he came up against Kenley's make-a-grown-ass-woman-look-like-a-five-year-old romper. I mean seriously, all I could think when I saw it was that she should have accessorized her look with one of those GIANT Disneyland lollipops (you know the kind I mean, the big circle kind) and some blonde ringlets ala Shirley Temple. I was also so sad to see Rami go. I think he's incredibly talented and yet boring-ass Michael C. is still in the running. If Mondo goes before the final three I might just have to quit prematurely.

Okay, while I CANT STAND

Okay, while I CANT STAND Michaels baby-talkie personality, I still can't forgive Jarrell for that pseudo-ethinic shitstorm he sent out last week. As far as Im concerned he shouldn't of even been here this week. I agree that Michael may not have a clear point of view as a designer and should not have won quite so many challenges, but he is extremely talented and every outfit he sends down does look expensive. I would have chosen his over Jarrells, I don't care if he "copied", his looked better to me. Whether he should be in the top later?...meh, I dunno.

The judges have to be from another planet. Rami gone?? His pants were even better than Milas (gasp!), not to mention his stunning jacket that ANYONE would wear. And Kara? I'll quote my 10 year old son: "you could get that at Kmart". Enough said.

Okay, about Mondo. I love him too, he's talented and a sweet gem of a guy with incredible personal style. Of COURSE his looked better than Kenleys. But the judges( terrible as they are) did mention one thing Ive always thought, his looks do often read "junior". As cute and fun as his designs are, I don't think most of them could be worn by someone over the age of, say, 27. Max. And while I DO NOT think Gretchens green and brown grossness should have won season 8 over Mondo's, his collection did remind me of The Limited circa 1993 a little. Just saying'.

That said, I would like to see him in the top 3, if only for the fact that there is hardly anyone else left worthy.

In defense of Michael

I like Michael because his stuff would look classy and elegant on a woman of any size, not just the size 0-4 set. Did you see last season when the designer didn't know what to do about their client's bosoms? Yeah, that's a problem. You can't just take a size XS dress, add a strip of fabric, and end up with a size M. But that's what designers seem to be doing nowadays.

Mondo's a genius, but his looks tend to skew a little junior. Austin's veering dangerously close to "clearance rack couture", and the others seem to be running out of ideas.

Bullying--I have to say something.

Jesus Christ, can you please not bully Michael Costello so much? You can personally not like his work and criticize it without criticizing him and make such cutting remarks about his insecurities. Maybe he's insecure because people keep cutting him down all of the time?

I was picked on a lot as a kid because I was insecure like him. Always unsure of myself, and people just kept picking on me and picking on me saying similar things about me as you do about Michael (Why are people friends with her? She's so insecure!! She's such a copycat! She doesn't know what she's talking about, what a moron). It's bullying and frankly, I would have thought that Bitch bloggers would know better.

"Why he and Mondo are such good buddies, the world may never know."

Maybe because Mondo isn't a jerk? And maybe because Mondo is a nice person and likes Michael?

We get it, you don't like Michael, and I would appreciate it if you would can it with the constant cutting remarks about him. He's obviously talented or else he wouldn't have been on the show in the first place, he wouldn't have made it to the final 4, and he wouldn't have been invited to go on All-Stars.

"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."

I'm sorry but this is a perfect example of bullying. "Sneaking" his way onto an All Star season? Do you have to be so fucking mean? Cutting down someone who is already insecure about themselves? He got picked on and bullied SO MUCH during season 8 by Ivy and Gretchen, who got others to pick on and bully him too, eventually falsely accusing him of plagiarism. No wonder he's insecure, it's because of people like you constantly cutting him down. I get it that he probably won't read this, but you do have younger readers, maybe in high school, and maybe after reading this, they'll think that it's OK to say things like that to others. Young readers look up to your magazine and the last thing I would expect is the amount of such harsh criticism on someone's personality.

Fucking can it already. Focus on the challenges and criticizing the designs and stop harping on how much you hate Michael.

BTW, Eileen Fisher has done quite a few varieties of that coat every couple of years. I happen to own one. And she's got a sweater from this past season that looks pretty similar to Jerrell's. It's not a new silhouette. The only big difference is the mixing of the fabrics and patterns. Oh, and the one I own is a wool black/grey heavy knit. So there you go for originality.



I agree completely. It's one thing to consider his look of the week and say, "You know what, I'm not really diggin' this". It's quite another to be unnecessarily critical about his character. The chances of him reading and being effected by this or any other relevant Bitch media article may be slim, but just the fact that this sort of blind hate is being perpetuated in the first place is unsettling.

I don't think this is bullying at all

Please stop reacting as though the writers of Bitch are making prank phonecalls to Michael's house or screaming the above opinions at him from a passing car. There is a distinct and VERY important difference between this blog and your personal experiences with bullying:


Yes, yes, these are human beings too. But they have very deliberately decided to be a part of a very public marketing/entertainment world to be both judged and "judged." Often harshly. Nobody was tricked or duped into the secret terms of this situation. I'm not a contestant's peer, I'm their audience.

Reality shows can often evoke a visceral response. While Project Runway is certainly much classier than say, Bad Girl's Club in its formula, it's important to remember that this is still reality television, not reality. I completely adore this blog, including the sometimes acerbic responses (and especially the clever subtitles.) I respect your opinion, but I just don't think it's fair to call this bullying.

Have you seriously never screamed at the TV something as irrational as, "Ugh, I hate her!!" about a complete stranger on a reality program? I did it 2 nights ago, and that was about a 6 yr. old on Toddlers and Tiaras, because I thought her smile was too fake during her "beauty walk."

A 6 yr. old.

I still maintain that no bullying was involved on my part (even after a 5 minute rant about how if she doesn't have the dedication to go "full glitz" then she should stop wasting her time.) It was toootally crazy and certainly not my proudest moment, but that's television for you. It's designed to illicit a response. I happen to *love* the responses in this blog, even if I disagree with them (though in the case of this All Stars season I am nearly in full agreement every time.)

The very nature of the comment section here each week is a testimony to how effective the formula really is. We can't help ourselves-- the drama is just too good! Even when it's missing almost all our favorite characters. Good call about Michael Kors! He wouldn't stand for anyone's bullshit.

It doesn't matter if they've

It doesn't matter if they've chosen to put themselves on TV. It doesn't make it right to call him a "talentless lucky bastard" or to constantly harp on his insecurities and personality flaws. It doesn't make it OK. What kind of message does that send young readers? That it's OK to make fun of someone, as long as it's not to their face?

"Have you seriously never screamed at the TV something as irrational as, "Ugh, I hate her!!" about a complete stranger on a reality program? I did it 2 nights ago, and that was about a 6 yr. old on Toddlers and Tiaras, because I thought her smile was too fake during her "beauty walk."

A 6 yr. old."

If you're screaming those things about a child who is on TV, then I suggest you stop watching that show and take a long, hard look at yourself and consider what would make you hate on a six year old so much and get so emotionally invested in such an awful TV show that exploits and sexualizes little girls.

"I still maintain that no bullying was involved on my part (even after a 5 minute rant about how if she doesn't have the dedication to go "full glitz" then she should stop wasting her time.)"

Are you fucking serious? Jesus Christ, what is reality TV doing to our society??????? If you're that into Toddlers and Tiaras, of all shows, then you need help. Serious, goddamn help.

And yes, that's bullying. ESPECIALLY since it's about a child! you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Nice try, but I don't think so.

It doesn't matter to me if he's a "public figure" or if it's "technically" bullying. It's disgusting the way Annalee talked about him in this post, and it's disgusting the way you've talked about him in other posts since he's done NOTHING in any way to hurt or offend you. It's one thing to not like him as a designer, I don't care about that at all. But stop it with the trash talking. It makes this publication look so bad and cheap and petty. You can justify your trash-talking any which way you want, but to me, it's still bullying, and I'm NOT the only one who feels this way. And it's fucking mean. And I would think that grown women, educated women, smart women, would have something better to write about than someone's insecurities and make fun of them for it!

And the thing is Kelsey, you have power over your *readership*. People listen to you whether you like it or not. People look up to you. You have hundreds, if not thousands, of readers. Some of them are young and impressionable. You might not have "power" over Michael Costello, but you do over your readers. You set an example for your readers, especially your younger readers, who probably look up to you. And what are they going to think when they see someone on your blog making fun of someone? Public figure or not, he's still a person.

"Saying that we dislike him and don't think he's talented is, I repeat, not bullying."

That's one thing. But to constantly make fun of him? And say how insecure he is? That's a whole other issue. I saw Annalee's words as making fun of him, almost delighting in it. Imagine how one of your young readers might feel if he or she were insecure like that. I would imagine that her words would be quite hurtful. I know they would be to me if I were younger and lacked the confidence I now have.

"We aren't going to change our minds about Michael nor will we stop voicing our opinions, but you are, of course, always welcome to disagree (or to stop reading altogether)."

Well it's nice to know you don't give a fuck about your readers' concerns. Don't like it? Stop reading. That's a GREAT solution. You've just inspired me to never renew my subscription. It's just really disturbing that you have a reader who is clearly uncomfortable with the way one of your writers is talking about someone and chooses to speak out and you basically refuse to listen and justify it.

I used to have a lot of respect for the magazine and for the blog, and after reading such harsh, unwarranted criticisms, on multiple occasions, I really wonder about the caliber of character of the people who work at Bitch.

And I will not email you, because I will not let you silence me. And if you delete this comment, I'll repost it. And continue to repost it if you continue to silence me.

How truly, truly disappointing.

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