Friday, January 6, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars: Retro Edition

I'm back, lovely blog-friends! And having just come home from seeing The Book of Mormon, I am high on life. (Don't worry, Mom, they didn't convert me--but I am still humming.)  And to quote another sacred text, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I am breathless with antici...PATION at the prospect of seeing all (OK, some) of our favorite PR alums! Into the dressing room we go...

We begin with introductions and--whaaaaa? Where's Michael? Where's Nina? That's right, we have all new judges for this season! I am shocked...but it does eliminate the possibility of playing favorites. Interesting! We get quick clips with all the designers, but while all the faces are familiar, I'm not sure of everyone's names, so we'll wait and see.  There's also a replacement Heidi--another model I don't recognize. But what about Tim? Is there a Through-the-Looking-Glass Tim? I don't think I could handle that.

So let's meet our All-Stars!  The first is Mondo, from Season 8. We see him walking through the streets of New York, a garment bag over his shoulder, wearing the tiniest shorts imaginable. Mondo, you may recall, seemed to be a shoo-in to win his season, but was defeated by Gretchen, or as Michael Kors so eloquently named her, "Our Lady of the Canyons." Mondo spots a familiar face coming at him and it's...

Michael Costello, also of Season 8.  Michael was a designer who may have been self-trained? At any rate, he didn't seem as skillful or confident as some of the other designers, who then ganged up on him in a festival of Mean Girl (and Guy) nastiness. Michael cried. A lot. I never really cared for his designs, but he kept pulling out challenge wins. It'll be interesting to see if he's made of sterner stuff this time.

Next up is Mila, from Season 7. She's the one with the rather severe Louise Brooks bangs who did a lot of minimalist black and white tailored stuff. She was also a finalist in her season, and she says she's driven to go all the way this time.  She's joined by a castmate, Anthony Williams, who is remembered for his cheerful exuberance and bright colors, but perhaps not his taste level.

We then see Jerell Scott from Season 5.  I think he's a little less skinny than in his original season--he looks good. If I recall, I liked his work the first time around and thought he got booted too early. I think. Maybe.

I don't immediately recognize Elisa from Season 4, because her hair is now super-long, but I have no trouble remembering her! You probably don't either--she was the loopy artist who spit-marked her fabric in order to imbue her clothing with her essence.  She didn't really have the technical skills she needed to stay in the competition long, but her vision was intriguing. If she's learned to sew in the meantime, she could be a contender.

And then, that inimitable voice drawls, "I've always been a star." Austin Scarlett (it feels wrong to use only his first name somehow) struts in front of the Plaza (I think), also carrying a garment bag. (Actually, a lot of them have been carrying said bags...but none of the bags appear to contain garments. I suspect the contestants may be...acting.) Austin has become a caricature of himself, and is wearing a Flock of Seagulls hairdo and an Errol Flynn mustache. I cannot condone the facial hair. He's barely a tin of mustache wax away from becoming Dali.  (Oh, he's from Season 1, as if you didn't know.)

Ooh, prepare to hiss, as an All-Star villain enters! Yes, it's Kenley, from Season 5, who earned the enmity of thousands of fans when she was snotty and dismissive to The Beloved Tim Gunn. More fool she.  She's still wearing that Bettie Page styling, but softened a bit. Now it's kind of latter day Shannen Doherty.  She was very young on her season, I think, fresh out of design school or some such--she's a little defensive in her interview, but let's see if she's chilled out.  We see her meeting Jerell in the park. (Union Square? Madison? I can't tell.)

Our next talking head is Rami, who launches right into telling us that he's heard stories about Limelight, which used to be a club (and before that, a church) and is now a mall. Um, I don't understand why we're talking about Limelight, but apparently we're going there. Yes, we get a shot of all the designers (including a couple who haven't been introduced yet) hugging and kissing and generally doing first-day-back-at-school things.

Hey, it's Gordana from Season 6! I liked her, and wished she'd made it to the end, but she did have a bit of a close-but-not-quite issue with her designs. I think she's cool, though, and I like to listen to her accent. She tells us that she thinks Sweet Pea and Mondo are her biggest competition.

Wait, did I miss Sweet P and Kara Janx? I'm baffled--they were both in the opening credits, but haven't had a talking head yet. However, we're told "all of us are here" and they all march into Limelight Marketplace (which looks narrow and dark, like the inside of a Benetton store) to meet Not-Heidi. Not-Heidi is, in fact, Angela Lindvall. She does not have a cute accent, but is very pretty. April, from Season 8 (Hi April! Welcome!) says she's excited to have somebody new. I don't remember, did Heidi like April?

Angela tells the All-Stars the basics: most important, that there will be NO immunity for the challenge wins. Yay! I think that's great. Also, they're playing for "their own exclusive boutique in select Neiman-Marcus stores" and online.  So, like Target Missoni, but fancy? They also get the Marie Claire fashion spread (even with no Nina?) AND a position as guest editor for a whole year. Cool! Kara Janx (Hi, Kara! Welcome!) says she'd kill to be the MC guest editor. They'll also also get a ton of sewing machine stuff (surgers?) and HP printer stuff. Oh, and by the way...$100,000.  Since the All-Stars have advanced enough to have real businesses, they're psyched.

Time to meet the new judges! Ah, the first judge (whom I didn't recognize) is Georgina Chapman, designer & co-founder of Marchesa. The contestants are shocked and appreciative. Georgina has very shiny hair. The next judge is Isaac Mizrahi, who is ubiquitous in pop culture/fashion crossovers. I hope he's better here than on the terrible PR ripoff show he hosted for whoever it was (the CW?).  The All-Stars mostly seem happy to see him, but not as wowed as they were for Georgina. But Elisa, in her talking head, sounds a little like she just met Gandhi. And at last, we're ready to start!

Hey, wait, we haven't met the mentor! Where's Tim? I want Tim!  (Can you believe the blog is this long and I'm only 7 minutes into the show? Premiere nights are a killer.)

The All-Stars were each asked to bring a recent creation that they feel represents themselves as designers. (OK, I'm sorry I cast aspersions on the fullness of the garment bags.)  They're about to meet their models, and have 30 minutes to dress them. This also seems to be where we're going to pick up our last couple of intros.

Sweet P, from Season 4, tells us her main competition is Kara Janx. (Kara, like Austin Scarlett, has one of those names you always want to say in full. But not type in full, so I'll get over it.) Sweet P says she thinks Kara should have won her season, and also that she likes her personally and doesn't want to see her go--but still wants to beat her.

More shots of designers talking to models, fixing hems, steaming skirts, and then it's time for runway.  Describing all these dresses may kill me. Kara says she's completely panicked.

During the commercial break, we get an ad for "24 Hour Catwalk," which appears to be...Project Runway? Honestly, it seems to be another designing show. Don't get it. But if you're curious, it was on right after PR.

We're back! I think I'm going to just list the designers and dresses tonight--bear with me.
Jerell: Long gown, sort of a maxidress, in a greeny-yellow print with some complicated chain detailing at the peekaboo neckline. I don't love it--doesn't seem to hang quite right on the model.
Mila: Still looks like Mila. A tunic dress with asymmetrical hem, it's half beige and half black-and-white stripes (vertically).
Kenley: I assumed this was Anthony's when I first saw it! Royal blue strapless evening gown with sweetheart neckline and a crazy tulle pouf on one shoulder (can't tell if that's a strap or just an embellishment). Similar white tulle spills out from the bottom, petticoat-style. I swear I'm not being mean, but I hate it.
Austin: Turquoise shiny evening gown, strapless, square neckline with plunging V and a complicated foldy-sashy detail on the front. The bodice does not appear to move with the model or fit her that well, but I don't know if that's due to Austin's unfamiliarity with boobs, the model's lack thereof, or just the fact that he only had 30 mins to fit it to her.
Elisa: Ha! Very Elisa--sort of crazy, sort of pretty. It's a simple white (or pale pink--can't tell on my TV) shift dress with a large painted floral design on the skirt and writing (I think) on the bodice. The model opens her arms wide to reveal a gauzy cape of the same fabric and print. If there were a superhero called Garden Party Girl, this is what she would wear. (And by the way, the model is barefoot.)
Rami: He has moved on from draping to folding, apparently. Dress is short and strapless, and basically a series of intricate folds like a big ribbon on a Christmas gift. The fabric is a combination of black and white checks and plain black. It looks good, but rather stiff and sculptural.
Gordana: Her dress is lacy off-white with red shoulder accents, and looks a bit like a fashionista wedding gown. The hemline is super-short in front, with a flowy train in back. Not sure about that one.
April: Her dress looks very commercial, and she tells us she brought a more ready-to-wear look.  This seriously could be bought in Ann Taylor right now--it's a simple dress (with sleeves, a rarity on this show) in black jersey and gray fabric with texture (tweed?). Very fitted. Nice but a bit dull.
Anthony: Bright parrot-green is the first thing you notice. It's a one-shoulder dress with a huge kerchief-bow arrangement on the shoulder, and a giant jeweled safety pin, but I can't tell if that's at the waist or not.
Michael: Has already squicked me out by saying "My model? She's making me question my sexuality right now, she really brought that dress to life." Ugh. I don't want to think about horny Michael. Anyway, the dress is flowy, strapless (maybe even a two-piece) resort-style in a warm black/brown and white speckly print. Skirt is slit so far up the thigh it might as well be her crotch. A little tacky.
Mondo: Mondo! He does not disappoint. The model looks nutso. Sort of Bavarian steampunk. High-collared blouse in an unusual black and gray print (or lace over black?), paired with a black flared miniskirt and kneesocks. There is also a mini top hat perched jauntily on her forehead. I love it in its Mondo-ness.

What the heck? Once again I've missed Sweet P and Kara. Am I going crazy? Why do they keep getting left out? Honestly, I just rewatched the fashion show and they didn't include either of them. But Angela is back and they're all clapping like it's over. Am I slipping in and out of a fugue state? I apologize if I've somehow just ignored them.

The designers are sent off to their hotel, where they all pick out beds (Elisa marks hers with a lipstick kiss) and then gather to watch their first video message on the big screen TV.  A white-haired, orange-skinned Italian man introduces himself as Jean-Carlo Giammetti and thank you, Austin, for losing your shit and repeating his name, since I couldn't understand it and have no clue who he is. Turns out he's Valentino's partner, and he's working on the new Valentino Museum. Then there's Valentino himself, wishing them luck. All the designers are weeping with delight at having a message from the Great Ones.

The next day, they meet Angela for their first challenge, which, per usual, is the "unconventional materials" challenge. The hunting ground today is a pretty good one--a 99-cent store! And the twist is that their look must be in some way inspired by the look they just showed us at the fashion show. I'm more curious about the budget--at a 99-cent store, I wonder if they're only going to be given, like, $20. But no--they get $100! That's like $400 at Mood!

Designers running, grabbing, hopping, nearly breaking stuff. April tells us she wanted something textural, so she needed "a clusterfuck of mops." (I think we should all declare that the official collective noun for mops.) Austin's pawing through ribbon, Anthony is sweating with an arm full of wrapping paper. Sweet P is grabbing anything bright, and Kenley is straining to reach something on a high rack and grumbling, "Does anyone work in this store?" Fair point--haven't seen a staffer anywhere.

They line up to check out, and uh-oh...Michael also has a clusterfuck of mops. He's concerned, but April isn't--she observes that even if they use the same materials, their inspiration dresses are so different that they'll wind up with very different outfits. Makes sense to me.

Back to the workroom, which is either in a new place or has been redecorated recently. It has new paint, and the accessory wall is now brought to you by Neiman Marcus rather than Piperlime. The designers coo and cluck as they find their assigned work tables and unpack their 99-cent loot. Angela walks in, says, "Hey, guys!" and then an obvious overdub says "Welcome to 1407 Broadway." So not Parsons, then--sounds like someplace near Mood. (Does that mean no Tim? I'm worried that this means no Tim. Where is heeeeee?)

Oh. Oh, no. No, no, no...Angela tells the designers that later that day, they will have their first mentor session--with Marie Claire's Joanna Coles (who was so nasty last season)! She is not mentor material! She is not someone who will give a designer a hug in the middle of a meltdown! What happened to Tim? Is he with Andrae at the Red Lobster? Tiiiiiiiiiim!

Kenley tells us she was happy to find out that the mentor was Joanna Coles. Yeah, I bet you were (grumble grumble). OK, trying to move past this. Angela says farewell, and leaves the designers to get to work.

Elisa promptly moves her cutting mat under her work table and sketches there, prompting Mila's eyebrows to arch even higher. Anthony is working nearby, and tells Elisa just to let him know if he gets in her way. In a talking head, he tells us, "Elisa is different, but I'm going to give her a pass on being different because I had a grandma who was committed to the crazy house, so I really don't think Elisa's that bad." Heh. This is why Anthony is an All-Star, and he knows it.

Michael has a pile of mop strands that he's trying to sew together one by one, which seems like a Sisyphean task. And then Jerell points out that Ruh-Roh! Michael's dress looks just like April's dress (and unfortunately for Michael, April seems to have worked a lot faster, because her mop-dress is already on the mannequin. Jerell tells Michael he and April need to talk and "get on the same page--or off the same page, as the case may be."

Joanna comes for her first round of mentoring, and I remain skeptical. She starts with Sweet P, who has sewn together a number of brightly colored towels into what looks like a tiered skirt. As one might expect of dollar store materials, it looks cheap. Joanna asks Sweet P what about her outfit will surprise the judges, or impress them with her use of an unusual item. Sweet P has no answer, which is answer enough in itself. (Jerell calls the dress "ratty roughness" and says "me no likey.")

Gordana is happy to have Joanna as a mentor, and seems to be making a shorter version of her dress, but using streamers instead of fabric. Joanna says the dress looks like the kind of thing that's blah on the hanger, but can look great in motion, and Gordana agrees. (Mondo says the dress looks like a pinata, and hopes the model is full of candy. Heh. Also, I see the All-Stars have been brushing up on both their sewing and their trash talking.)

Mondo seems to be feeling a little low-energy when Joanna gets to him. Makes sense--he's the most recent competitor, came super-close to winning and then lost in a (to most viewers, it seems) questionable decision. Or maybe he's just depressed about the one super-long earring he's wearing. Joanna basically tells him to buck up and get competitive, and says she can't wait to see what he's doing. All we see are some plastic-looking panels of black stripes.

On to Elisa. Joanna opens with, "You're not going to spit at me, are you?" Elisa seems not to recognize that this is a joke and responds seriously, "No, it's actually a blessing mark, and you do it just with the tip of your tongue. I've been doing this seventeen, eighteen years and my clients actually pay me for my blessing." Joanna says "That's pretty cool," but I question her sincerity. Elisa is working with flowers, something flowy, and...not sure. The camera's shooting faces, not fabric. Joanna asks her, as she did with Sweet P, "Is this surprising enough for the judges?" Elisa tells her that she feels it's important for the judges to make it surprising for themselves. Joanna is nonplussed and then backs away from the crazy girl.

That's enough of that, apparently--Joanna leaves, and the designers get back to work. Cue "Bustling Montage" and accompanying synth music. Then, crisis! Austin's dress is plastic, and he accidentally let it contact his hot glue gun, which melted a hole in the skirt. It's quarter to 10, so there's not much to be done about it tonight. Will Austin pull through and save his dress? Will the winner of the very first weird material challenge now be eliminated on the same event? Only time will tell.

Runway day! The designers come in for their last couple of hours of futzing time. We see that Gordana has added little silver squares to all the streamer-ruffles of her dress. Not sure that was a great choice. Austin is wearing a black kerchief like he has his hair in curlers (maybe he does?).  He has managed to patch the dress and thinks he's going to be OK. Models get primped in the L'Oreal hair and makeup room, and then we're off! I hope they'll show each dress with its inspiration so I can finally discover what Sweet P and Kara originally designed.

Angela welcomes the designers to their first runway. Her dress is cute, but looks sort of like it's made out of Trix. (Yum.) Mondo has dressed up for runway in a straw boater. Georgina and Isaac say hello, and then we meet our guest judge--the fashion director of Neiman Marcus, Ken Downing. Let's start the show!

Austin: His dress is made out of tablecloths and freezer bags, and is in the same color as his original. The obi detailing from the original isn't as successful here, where it's kind of bunchy around the waist.
Kara: Her outfit looks adorable! Made of mops, tin pans, and curtains, it's a rose bustier with a black, high-waisted tulip skirt. Model is wearing a straw hat and a tinfoil belt. Sure enough, I never saw the inspiration dress, but we do now--a boxy black dress and jacket with some sequin detailing on the bodice. Actually, her 99-cent look is much cuter, I think.
Jerell: His dress is the same shape as the original, but made of handkerchiefs and placemats in a blue print. It's gauzy and flowy and actually looks pretty great! He might get dinged for the old fabric-as-fabric issue, though.
Elisa: Ooh...not good. She used shower curtains and finger paint, and the model has a sort of sleeved cape, a la her original dress...but the rest is just a very skimpy tank and shorts/tap pants painted with a flower detail in close-up. Looks like the model's in her underwear, basically. The model does have amazing pre-Raphaelite russet hair, though.
Rami: I like this one, too, although it's a little crazy. It's made of those nylon/vinyl giant shopping bags that are always in a sort of not-Burberry print--it's a miniskirt and jacket, with a stiff folded/flared collar and matching peplum. She's styled quite well, with sleek hair, big black sunglasses and a little clutch.
Sweet P: We get only the briefest look at her inspiration dress, which was white and had an interesting detail at the halter neck, which might have been trimmed in leather? But alas, her 99-cent version looks like an ordinary peasant skirt/halter that you'd wear as a beach cover-up. I don't think the judges will be surprised.
Mondo: I knew this was his because the model is wearing another tiny hat. He made the dress out of the plastic covering from 3-ring binders, trash bags, and tape. It's a black strapless dress with a very cute short ruffled skirt, and even the fascinator the model's wearing looks impeccably done.
Kenley: Her dress has a neckline that echoes her original shape, but this one's short and done in more white, less blue (and it's a pale blue). That said, she has a whimsical detail where she used a white shower pouf as the model's hat, to echo all the tulle from the inspiration dress. The dress is made out of rubber bathmats, which is impressive but makes it stiff. (And probably hot! Bet that poor model is sweating balls right now.)
Gordana: She made the red shoulder accents of her original dress into silver netting here, and picked up the red at the neck instead. I think this might get dinged for taste level--Gordana occasionally drifts a little close to "Russian mail-order bride" levels of bling. But the dress definitely flutters in a fun way, as Joanna predicted.
Anthony: He's done a halter-neck dress in purple crepe paper with gold details made of bunches of safety pins, and is praying that the tissue paper doesn't rip. (Not as hard as the model's praying, I bet.) I think it was a cute choice to echo his giant safety pin from the first dress by using actual safety pins here.
Mila: I think I like this one better! She used gift bags and a curtain liner to make a vinyl shift dress. The material had a striped pattern, and she used two pieces set perpendicularly to make a right-angle pattern on the front of the dress. It looks cool (though this one also goes in the "bet it's sweaty" column).
Michael: Michael gets a little gift here because his mop dress is walking the runway before April's, but I will say I like this a lot better than his inspiration dress. The short dress has a spiderwebby effect, and the black and white mop strings echo the pattern of his original fabric. He's given it a halter neck and the strings are arranged in swoops heading out from a center seam. But just as I'm feeling kindly toward Michael, he says, "I want to go somewhere with the model and...spill something on her dress and watch her soak it up." Should be funny, comes off creepy.
April: Of course the producers make her go right after Michael--we've all seen reality TV before. April's dress is floor length, though the skirt is really long vertical fringe rather than solid pieces. The bodice doesn't seem to move with the model, and lacks the clarity of detail that Michael's had, but I think relied on less muslin to hold it together. Michael keeps talking about how he's worried they'll say April used the mops much better than he did, so I assume this is setting us up for the opposite result.

And that's everyone! Time for results. Not-Heidi calls out Austin, Mila, April, Anthony, Kara, Kenley and Michael. They are all safe! So the Great Mop Conflict came to nothing.  The remaining designers--Rami, Jerell, Elisa, Mondo, Gordana and Sweet P--have the highest and lowest.

The judges start their interrogation with Rami, who is clearly in the top, if not the winner. As he shows us the details, we see that in addition to the tote bags, he used tinsel garland to simulate the ostrich feathers at the collar of his original dress, and an umbrella to make the peplum of his jacket. Isaac commends him on his construction, which he says rises above that of most of the others. Ken says that the outfit could be photographed right now, and no one would know it was made of plastic. They love it.

Sweet P doesn't fare so well (although now I can see that she used leather belts to do the halter neck and emulate her first dress). The judges think the execution looks sloppy (probably in part because the towels are saggy terrycloth) and that the skirt makes the model look bigger than she is. Georgina felt the colorblocking was sloppy.

Georgina finds Jerell's dress very wearable and thought it moved beautifully. Isaac loved the color, and Ken loves the high-low hemline. On we go to Elisa...Georgina says, "This isn't a look that I would respond to, but I want to know more about your use of writing." I think basically the judges hated it, but the producers said, "We know you're going to dump her, so let us milk as much crazy as we can first."  Elisa starts talking about circles and degrees and stories, and Isaac seems to be into it, but Ken thinks it's too complicated.

Then in an awkward cut we go to Mondo--the deliberations here are feeling a bit rushed, I guess because they squeezed everything into an hour. Georgina appreciates its whimsy, and Ken thinks it's flawlessly executed and would love to see it in "a real fabric, not something that had to be hosed down in the backyard after wearing it." Oh, Ken, you card! Isaac praises Mondo's sense of proportion, which makes the dress snappy and crisp.

On to Gordana. Isaac loves the silver mesh shoulders, which turn out to be made of steel wool pot scrubbers! Heh. Georgina thinks there are too many ideas at play and Gordana confesses that she works so quickly that it leaves her time to overdesign. With that, the designers are sent away while the judges deliberate.

Clearly, the top two are Rami and Mondo, and the bottom two are Sweet P and Elisa. Jerell gets a little nailed for not pushing the boundaries with his choice of material--it wasn't paper plates or umbrellas or anything--but it's still pretty. And then they have made their decision!

Bringing back the six designers, Angela first tells Jerell that he's safe. Mondo and Rami are told they have the highest scores (duh), and the win goes to Rami. I'm struck by how ripped Rami is--did he always have those biceps? Mondo, of course, is congratulated on his design and sent to safety. Gordana is safe. Sweet P! Elisa is out. Well, not really a surprise. As Angela comes up to shake her hand and send her home, I realize that I miss Heidi's cheek kisses and Teutonic sendoff. Sigh.

And we're back in it! See everyone next week, when hopefully I'll manage to spot everybody's dresses. Auf wiedersehen!

1 comment:

Betsy said...

I'm exhausted from just reading your detailed blog and I didn't have a late night at the theatre. You may think you aren't ripe for religious conversion, but something clearly inspired you at Book of Mormon.
I'd have sent Sweet P (now there's a name I hope never to say again) home. Her beach towel dress looked like it was made for Chiquita Banana's trip to Ipanema.
I'm glad if we can't have Tim Gunn, we still have YOU.