The All Stars are in the house, and things on Project Runway have changed – shockingly, for the better.
Although the new host (model Angela Lindvall) lacks Heidi’s charisma and overall German fierceness, she’s clearly trying hard and she’s wearing fun sparkly dresses, so she’s inoffensive. The Nina and Michael replacements, however, are fantastic – I though Isaac Mizrahi would just be a more obnoxious, less talented Michael Kors, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. His comments are insightful (like when he told Mondo that the brilliance of his outfit was due to his keen sense of proportions), but still witty (calling Sweet P’s cut-out a “chew-out”). He’s a refreshing change from the walking soundbite generator that Michael Kors has become – particularly in the last two seasons, Michael’s couldn’t give a comment without an absurd flamenco dancer/Vegas cocktail waitress/Carol Burnett reference.
Don’t get me wrong, I love quippy one-liners – hell, my blog is basically built around them – but a judge is supposed to be a constructive critic of the designers’ work, to note their weaknesses, praise their strengths, and give an honest, entertaining, and at least marginally helpful perspective to help each designer hone their craft. The show works best when it strikes a healthy balance between constructive criticism and unnecessary but ceaselessly entertaining bitchy remarks.
And Georgina Chapman, designer for Marchesa? She’s not only stunningly beautiful and parading around in lots of gorgeous Marchesa dresses, but she’s a great critic, a Nina with a more runway rather than editorial perspective. This means there may be a bigger focus on what works on a runway – spectacle, originality, not necessarily the most wearable or commercial pieces – than what Nina focused on, which was what would look good in Marie Claire and what her readers would want to wear.
Though no Project Runway is complete without Tim Gunn, I’ve already warmed up to the new mentor, Marie Claire‘s Joanna Coles. She asks insightful questions and gives practical feedback to the designers, but she still managed to make me laugh. But enough about them – let’s get to the All Stars, who designed looks inspired by their own designs, but constructed out of supplies from a dollar store.
In the words of Cher Horowitz, this is a Monet – pretty nice from far away, but kind of a hot disaster up close. From afar, I appreciate the bright colors – it’s a great purple, and the gold embellishments look chic. But on television, you could clearly see that this was made of tissue paper and safety pins. Because it was.
It fits a little funny in the back, but it’s a minidress that actually covers her ass, which has been a rarity on this show as of late.
April is one of my favorites, but she kind of disappointed me with this entry. I think the mop head idea was an obvious one (exacerbated by the fact that Michael had the same idea) and I don’t think it was executed particularly well. The dress looks so thick and heavy in the bodice and hips already that the dark, gothic styling really took things to a bad place.
It was worse from the back. It looks like the dress is five inches thick all around, adding an unreasonable amount of weight to the model. It looks like little more than an ill-fitting, partially shredded bath towel.
He could never have lived up to his corn husk dress from Season 1, Episode 1 – it’s too memorable. But in spite of his hot-glue-gun-on-plastic debacle, I thought this was a cute if slightly underwhelming entry. The color is fantastic, but the plastic looks tortured half to death. The dress looks a little beat into submission, like he had to hammer it into shape.
The pink shoes were a good idea – and can we have a shout-out for the MAJOR upgrade to a Neiman Marcus accessories wall? That’s a whole different UNIVERSE than the Piperlime of seasons past. But from the back, the silhouette of the dress doesn’t make much sense. Here’s hoping for some much more impressive entries from Austin in the future.
ELISA JIMENEZ (eliminated)
It was a joke to call Elisa, a tenth-place finalist who is remembered for nothing she designed, only for spit-marking her fabric, an All Star. So even though Sweet P made an arguably worse outfit, I was happy to start separating the wheat from the chaff early on. Sweet P’s on my list, but Elisa was there solely for her weirdness, and it’s a testament to the marked difference of this season of Project Runway that one of the “characters” was the first to leave. Can you imagine any of the past few seasons eliminating the zany, endlessly entertaining weirdo in the first episode, no matter how much he/she deserved it?
Elisa’s got her thing, and God bless her for it, but she’s not right for the world of Project Runway, and that’s clear. I liked that the judges didn’t judge her for her weirdness – they appreciated her for the little freak that she is, but recognized that she’s not what they’re looking for. Georgina said it best with her remark about how runway looks should not need a half an hour explanation – they should speak for themselves. Agreed, Ms. Chapman. Agreed.
GORDANA GEHLHAUSEN (bottom 3)
This was the most visually offensive garment, but not the one most deserving of the auf. Because this is a fucking Christmas tree ornament on crack. This would have been deserving of Michael Kors’s most obnoxious soundbites, a string of meaningless disco ball and toilet paper references. I think this has no commercial appeal, no runway appeal, and has no strengths other than its construction.
I get that this was supposed to be all about the movement, but I watched it move down the runway, and you know what? It didn’t look like anything special then, and it certainly doesn’t in stills.
JERELL SCOTT (top 3)
What’s unconventional about making a dress out of handkerchiefs? Nothing, that’s what. Sorry, but in this sort of challenge, I can’t really respect what Jerell brought to the table. His style is totally not my own, but I can at least appreciate the handiwork of that neckline, which is intricate and well-made. But when Rami made plastic laundry bags look like couture, using handkerchiefs to make a flimsy see-through dress just doesn’t quite cut it.
I like the top of the back, but I think things get a little saggy at the bottom of that cut-out at the center of her back. I also see no reason to ever have a mullet hem on any dress, ever.
Kara’s lucky this was only the first episode, so this crappy entry landed her in the vast middle. That hat is fucking stupid, the bodice is lopsided (but not enough to make it look purposeful), the belt looks like it’s made out of tin foil, and the skirt is nice, but nothing special. The only good choice she made was running for those studded black peep-toe pumps before any other designer grabbed them.
I like Kara, and many people said that although her collection was a decoy, it was the best of her entire season. This crooked bodice clearly isn’t reflective of her best work, and the skirt is lumpy and ill-fitting in the back.
First off, Kenley, learn the difference between a loofah and a fascinator. This is the former. I love the crinkled bath mat and the way she used it in the dress, and I think there’s something adorably Judy Jetson/1950s waitress about this look. The blue part of the bodice is a little too stiff, but the shape and proportion of the skirt is really fantastic.
But I’ve got no praise whatsoever for the back. This looks like construction paper held together with Elmer’s glue. I don’t care how cute the front of the dress is – the weak construction on the back ruins this look for me.
He draped mop heads. It looks nice, but it’s not exactly brilliant or even remotely outside the box. It looks like every slutty dress you can buy everywhere, which I guess is Michael’s aesthetic.
It’s whatever. I hate him too much to even pretend to be unbiased about anything he makes. Expect me to grumble until he’s eliminated.
I laughed when this came down the runway – Mila hasn’t changed a bit, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Her biggest weakness was her one-note, extraordinary limited aesthetic, and that’s basically the only thing she’s bringing to the table this time around. This looked like it was taken straight out of her finale collection, and I think that’s a problem.
Some designers used this challenge to show the judges that they’re not as limited as the judges once thought – Mondo sought to prove he can make something fabulous without mixing wild prints and colors; Rami showed the world he’s much more than a master draper. Why make the same thing that lost you the win in your season, Mila?
MONDO GUERRA (top 3)
I’d have been equally happy if Mondo had won instead of Rami, because this was a fantastic entry. First, the bodice – it fits incredibly well. The shape and proportion, the way it sits close to her skin like actual fabric instead of unconventional materials, the black-on-black stripes he added – it’s fantastic. The belt is adorable, and the skirt is totally wearable and flattering. The fascinator is epic – take note, Kenley – and the shoes were a freaking brilliant styling choice.
The skirt looks a little more like trash bags from the back, but god damn if the bodice and waistline aren’t perfect.
RAMI KASHOU (winner!)
Rami’s dress told the entire Project Runway franchise, “GO FUCK YOURSELF. QUEEN RAMI IS IN THE HOUSE.” The judges did not exaggerate when they noted that this wouldn’t be out of place on a Paris runway. The collar, sleeves, and waist bow are shaped beautifully; the little trim on the hemline is superb. I love the mock feathers under the collar – combining the fringe and the plaid made this feel like a Chanel dress – MADE OF LAUNDRY BAGS. The styling was pretty terrific (though I’d have passed on the espadrilles) and Rami solidified himself early on as this season’s forerunner.
Possibly even cuter from the back than from the front. That little peplum skirt is fucking FANTASTIC. The black trip under it, and the lace lines going down her back – those little details are incredible, and there are so many of them (without being overwhelming), and nearly all of them are impeccably well-made. Rami was one of the only designers to think of his look as a 360-degree garment: so many designers had construction issues in the back, but not Rami.
SWEET P VAUGHN (bottom 3)
There were a lot of solid entries this week, and Sweet P’s sad little dress simply could not compare. First of all, she used a pretty conventional material – towels – and belts, which aren’t unconventional at all. And she used them to make a hideous, ill-fitting, homesewn-looking dress that a blind kindergartener wouldn’t be caught dead in.
But the uneven, misshaped panels in the back and that truly awful “chew-out” were just depressing. Sweet P’s on my list for the next one to send home, unless Gordana pulls another toilet paper Christmas ornament out of her pocket.
Judges’ Top 3: Rami (winner!), Mondo, Jerell
Diva’s Top 3: Rami, Mondo, Jerell
Judges’ Bottom 3: Gordana, Sweet P, Elisa (eliminated)
Diva’s Bottom 3: Gordana, Sweet P, Elisa
I take it as a wonderful sign that for the first time in recent memory, I am in full agreement with the judges regarding who’s in and who’s out.
All photos courtesy of Lifetime.