The designers are nervous, dressed in their Sunday best, and ready to go. ("Does Liza Minelli know you went through her wardrobe, girl?" Mondo asks of Austin's sequined black blazer.) Each of them feels they deserve the win. Since there's no Fashion Week going on, the show had to find a different venue for the runway show--they've chosen Gotham Hall, whose atrium is set up already for the show. The designers are stunned and pleased. (It is very nice.) With a final hug among our top three, they head backstage to unpack and set up.
They each have a little roomlet with an accessories cubby (Neiman Marcus branded, of course), ironing board, steamer and sewing machine. Austin is still sewing. Michael had so much time he could have sewn a whole new collection--and perhaps he should have, because the fit of his garments doesn't seem to be great, and he's having to redo seams. Mondo is debating whether to make a model in a sheer tunic walk bare-assed down the runway or not. Mondo! Don't make that poor girl be naked on TV! Joanna walks around to fret maternally at all of them, including de-linting Mondo's shirt. Mondo finds it "a little uncomfortable--like your aunt rolling you down." Um, I would have no problem with that.
Showtime! Among the luminaries in attendance are the dude from Neiman Marcus (Ken something? I forgot his name), Tommy Hilfiger, and of course our esteemed judges. (Ah, it appears that Neiman's dude is our guest judge tonight, which is fitting, since they're a big part of the prize this year.) Angela is introducing everyone very sloooowly and e-NUN-ci-a-ting allll offff her worrrrrds as though she's never spoken in public before. Somewhere, Heidi idly files a nail and snorts, "Amateur." Angela's hair looks very pretty, at least. Georgina is wearing a dress that looks like she skinned an ostrich. Or a Muppet. And then a TWIST! We have two guest judges--not only Neiman's dude (who is indeed named Ken), but also Tommy Hilfiger. (I just saw Hilfiger on American Idol last night, "styling" the contestants. Based on their looks, I am inclined to auf him as a judge right now.)
Oh, there's Nina! Guess she had time to pop in and see who she'll wind up "working" with as the Marie Claire guest editor.
Austin slinks out to introduce his collection first. He tells us it's called "Austin Scarlett"--wonder where he got that name? It's ostensibly the story of an 18th century vampire who now lives in Williamsburg "and occasionally borrows clothes from her Hasidic dandy friends." Of course it is. Cut to Nina's compatriot, already rolling eyes at that description.
First on the runway is a model in the crazy pink pants (actually a knee-length short) we saw last week--they have some sort of pleats and folds at the hips so that they stick out an extra foot on either side. I suppose they're meant to evoke the panniers of 18th c. dresses, but no woman would wear those, surely? The pants are paired with a bustier, also in pink, and a black sequined not-quite-bolero jacket that evokes Austin's own. Joanna, backstage, hugs Austin and says "It's great, it's really great." If you say so, Joanna. Guess that leaves me out of the running for Marie Claire guest editor.
18th c. women didn't do a lot of Zumba in panniers.
Next is a cute dress with another sort of odd big pleat-fold detail in the skirt. The dress at first looks like black lace, but up close you can see it's very shiny--is this leather? Gives it kind of a cool edge. It has a low V back that's cute as well (though flunks Joanna's bra test!). This is followed by a sort of ordinary-looking high-waisted skirt, also in the black shiny fabric, and a surplice top in the pink of the pants. The shoulders have bow details on them and are perhaps a "tulip sleeve"? There's a tiny bit of pink tulle poking out of the skirt's kick pleat that is supposed to be flirty, but kind of looks like the model had an accident. (I'm sure models poop pink tulle, aren't you?)
Now we see that extravagant gown in the black with the rose pattern on it. It actually looks more rose lamé than black here, and is very luxe and very Austin. Kind of multi layers of folds, like a ruffle over a peplum over a mermaid hem. The proportions don't seem quite right to me. And here's a look that I don't think we ever saw in the workroom--a black halter and skinny pant, both done in the pleather/vinyl/whatever. The model has a scarf of purple tulle tied around her neck to tie the outfit into the rest--it's cute, but not terrific (though fitted very well). I think this might have been his 6th look.
And finally, it's the wedding gown! It's pretty great, as one would expect from a designer who'd worked for a top wedding salon (Austin worked for Amsale right after his first season of PR). It's a strapless white ball gown with a skirt of gauzy white fabric (organza?), but the bodice is made of something with a bit more sheen, pleated into ruffles and folds that look like gardenia petals. They cover the bodice and tumble into an overskirt, and the model has a little black belt and elbow length black gloves. Gotta say, I think it's pretty terrific.
The whole collection marches out, though Austin doesn't come out for his curtain call. He's choked up, of course. I must say, I don't see "Hasidic dandy" in the collection.
On the commercial, we get an ad for the next season and get to see TIMMMMMMM! He does the ad, as though to reassure us all that he hasn't changed.
Now it's time for Mondo's collection. (Really? They buried him in the middle?) He reminds us that his collection is called "Therapy," and explains that he was feeling a little nutso himself, hence the inspiration. And we're off! We begin with a model in a black blouse with white polka dots, a short little silver skirt with a black swirly detail on one hip, and black tights. Oh--skirt is longer than I thought because the skirt actually has a wide black hem. I like the skirt, could take or leave the blouse.
Then we see a cute dress in a black pattern with white Tic-tac dots on it. The collar could be vinyl, and it has little front pockets that are fronted with exaggerated black-trimmed circles. On to an outfit that we glimpsed last week--it's a tunic, mostly in the white and black zigzag silk he got from Nanette Lapore, topped with a little bit of sheer zebra/tiger/palm front pattern, also in black and white. She's wearing skinny black pants and looks very cool and downtown.
Next is the inkblot tee, or one of them, paired with a high-waisted wide black pant in a narrow pinstripe, and a little jacket made out of the Tic Tac fabric. Mondo continues to be pretty genius with patterns. I also notice that the model has one black and one red 3/4 length sleeve peeking out from the jacket. It's like the fashion equivalent of a secret cutter. It's worth mentioning that throughout this, Joanna is being encouraging, but nowhere near as gushy as she was with Austin. It's all, "That was well done. Oh, look, Tommy Hilfiger is looking inscrutable." I take this as a "we are trying to pretend Mondo doesn't have this in the bag" edit.
Next is an inkblot dress--this is basically the same dress Mondo has done a bunch of times--super-fitted black jersey, high neck, colorblocked. Basically the white fabric with the inkblot makes an hourglass down the front, and again, the 3/4 sleeves have a pop of red on one of them, but not the other. The dress is very slinky and would look great if you were 5'10 and weighed 105 pounds.
Then pow!--we get a flowy dress in a silver/black/red shiny fabric (not exactly polka dots, more pointillist). It moves beautifully, and Mondo finally feels pleased. "You're cured," says Joanna. The collection looked very cohesive, beautifully tailored, and modern. He did a good job.
Finally, it's Michael's turn, and he tells us that he was inspired by the Serengeti. First out is a khaki jumpsuit with olive accents--oh, sorry, that's the pattern. There's no back on the jumpsuit, per usual, and once again Michael is doing his warmed-over Halston thing. Joanna says it looks very comfortable. Next comes a black and white fitted dress in a fairly ordinary but attractive shape, with a silver vest over it. And--oh, look!--it's backless. Michael, why do you hate our breasts? Why won't you give them bras? Joanna praises the usefulness of layering pieces as "a designer's bread and butter," which I thought was interesting. Makes sense--few can afford the couture gown, but more could drop a few hundred bucks on a smaller item. (I am not among those people willing to pay $500 for a silver vest, however.)
Another dress now, in an interesting black and grey tiger print. The skirt's a little jodhpur-y at the hips, but I'm not sure how much of that is deliberate and how much is the fabric riding up. Then there's a flowy romper, or maybe it's a blousy tunic and shorts, in a bronze/gold/cheetah-ish print. Very resort, very comfy, very "I'm lounging by the pool in $300 sunglasses." Joanna likes. Now we're back to the black and white print, which is vaguely giraffe-y without being too referential, for another jumpsuit. Michael says this is his favorite piece. Oh, my mistake--it's actually separates, a bustier and a flowy pant. I don't love it all together, but I would like the pants with a black tank top.
Michael's closing piece is a flowy goddess gown (in fact, done in the white fabric from his flag challenge) with a plunging V neck and a little black vestlet (which the model takes off and carries down the runway as soon as she steps on the runway). Basically, the Michael Dress. Very pretty, less so with the vest on. The show ends, and Michael is grinning from ear to ear. Joanna advises him to savor the moment, and he seems to be doing so.
Now it's time for chalk talk! Nina enjoyed seeing all her old designer kiddies, and liked where they wound up. Coco Rocha was very impressed with what they accomplished in four days. Eric (the bored-looking guy I thought was a Nina underling, but in fact is the former guest judge and Gossip Girl costumer) loved Mondo's striped pant and inkblot-tee outfit. Nanette says she's nervous, because she's rooting for one in particular. Who will it be?
All three designers are gleeful...and Michael is weeping, of course. On to judging!
The designers are being critiqued one at a time, surrounded by all their models. Austin is first. All of the judges begin with praise--they're amazed at what he accomplished, there are special pieces, they liked it. But Isaac is the first to naysay, politely; he felt that it didn't look like a collection, but rather a "best of" assembly. Tommy H. liked the rock and roll quality of some of the pieces, but felt the wedding dress and the ball gown didn't fit in. Angela and Georgina speak up for the wedding gown, though, saying they think a million women would want to get married in that. Georgina didn't love the red carpet gown, though--she also felt the length and volume weren't perfect. Ken-from-Neiman loves the lacquered lace dress (and thus finally explains what it was made of!) and so does Tommy. Overall, they loved the femininity of Austin's collection, and the way he managed to keep his glamour youthful. Austin feels confident and pleased.
Mondo's turn! Georgina begins and congratulates him on his masterful use of prints and graphics, while Isaac tells him his was the most cohesive collection. Tommy loved the opening outfit (with the silver and black skirt) but not the Tic Tac dress, which felt overworked. Ken adores the Rorshach dress, and is amazed that Mondo created the print himself. Tommy loves the pants, but thinks the big round pockets are too big. Isaac loves the flowy red/silver dress, but Angela didn't because she doesn't think it fits with the rest of the collection. Georgina couldn't even tell which was the leftover-fabric dress, which I think is probably good. In general, they seemed less effusive than they were with Austin, but I think that's editing. I also think that Mondo did have the best collection, edging Austin by a nose.
Michael's turn. Wonder if he'll be able to stop crying on the runway. Georgina seems blown away, and says the collection was "Exceptional." She praises his tailoring and Tommy feels that they are instantly commercial and saleable. Ken felt that the prints were both varied and cohesive, but Georgina warns him that buying a print can look too commercial. I don't understand why. Because he didn't make it himself? Isaac likes that Michael took the viewers on a fantasy adventure, but didn't find the print mixing as interesting as it could have been. Ken likes the black and white giraffe-y dress a lot, and Tommy loves the sixth look, the goddess dress. Isaac says that he loves Michael's work because "you always feel the flesh in the clothes" but then says that he has to be careful, because that can seem inexpensive. So basically, Michael drifts back and forth over the line between sexy and vulgar, but in this collection he stayed on the right side. And that's it--Michael heads backstage to share a well-earned drink with Austin and Mondo.
Austin is said to be the most artistic and dreamy of the group, with a great eye, but his collection was not fully cohesive. The judges all think he could pull off the Neiman Marcus boutique, and Isaac thinks that with a really good stylist, Austin could go far.
Mondo has impeccable workmanship, brilliant pattern-matching, and a modern, young, cohesive collection. Isaac finds him witty, and Ken loves him when he exercises a little restraint, but can drift into cartoon. Angela claims that the collection fell a little short for her, but Georgina says he's set the bar high and they expect a great deal from him.
Michael's collection was also cohesive, and more commercial than the other two. Ken thinks his flowy soft shapes stood out against the harder tailoring of the other two, but Isaac felt that the clothes "did not come together in a sophisticated way." Too many prints for him. Georgina points out his skillful draping, and Tommy concurs. The clothes don't look like samples, they look incredibly finished. We don't get as much of a recap for Michael.
It's time to decide who wins, and the judges need to decide if they care about creative ideas, cohesion, commercial potential or what. Tommy says that Michael should win because he was the most commercial. Georgina says she didn't see ideas from Michael, but Tommy's fighting hard to say that you could picture the "Michael Costello" section in the store already. Austin, backstage, is going on about how he's satisfied no matter what. (Dude, you're not going to win. The edit decrees it.) Back to the judges, we're already at "we've all made our decision." So soon?
I'll be happy with either Mondo or Austin. I just don't want Michael to win, because I think he's boring. Before we find out who wins, we're told that "there are no losers on PR All-Stars"--aww, and it turns out the two runners-up will receive trips to Paris! That's nice--I'm glad they got something. Ugh, Angela has her slooooow announcing voice on again--get to it, woman!
And she does--Michael is called out first, and told that he didn't win. She hands him the tickets to Paris right then :). Michael is sad, but not crying! Well done, Michael. As Angela does the run-up to revealing the winner, we get cuts among the designers and judges, and I realize that almost everyone on screen has insane hair, whether it's Mondo's pompadour or Ken-from-Neiman's side swoop or Tommy's lacquered-down helmet. But that's not the point right now. The winner of Project Runway All-Stars is...
MONDO! (Like we thought it was going to be anyone else.) Austin has kind of a bitchy pill look on his face, and will have to practice his "it's an honor just to be nominated" face before he does any more of these. However, he accepts his Paris tickets graciously and has a nice follow-up talking head. Mondo sounds like he's crying, but there are no actual tears. At least he's finally in a good mood! Isaac basically tells him to lighten up and enjoy himself, because it's a long road ahead...and here are all the former designers with champagne!
It's a happy ending for all, and for us as well. Mondo made a lovely collection, and I'm sure kooky skinny women everywhere will enjoy wearing his clothes. And to close us out...Michael is crying.
Thanks for reading, everyone! You are all fashion-forward in my eyes.