Hello Designer-Watchers, Hillary here! This week's Project Runway All Stars opens with the designers walking/skipping down Broadway towards their latest challenge.
They stop at the Gershwin theater, and their excitement grows once they figure out that that whatever they're doing has a link to Wicked.
Allison here: just chiming in to say this is a much better fit for the show than last season’s Red Robin tie-in.
The designers walk onstage, which is all lit up with the smoke machine running at full blast. Benjamin is content to play in the smoke, but soon enough the designers lift their eyes to the heavens in time to see Alyssa Milano descending from above.
In a cutaway interview, Kate shares her thoughts on the sight of Alyssa's descent via bubble. "What could be better?" She asks.
But sure, teacher's pet Kate. You can go with Alyssa for now.
We are going to loop back to the producer's a.) lack of imagination and/or b.) lack of ability to make things happen, but first we're going to discuss the crown jewel of Alyssa Milano's Hosting Wardrobe.
LAVENDER. DOILY. TENT. When I saw it for the first time, I gasped and recoiled. No joke. And the length is terrible.
Not to mention, it’s just not a dress to be viewed from below. She is a one-woman lollipop guild.
She introduces the show's current stars, Christine Dwyer and Jenni Barber, who get to explain the Challenge of the Week. Inspired by Susan Hilferty's Tony-winning designs, the designers are paired into face-off teams.
One designer will create a "Good" gown, the other a "Wicked" gown, and these assignments will be chosen via the Sorting Hat!
So who's doing what?
There's Fabio and Justin, With Fabio tackling Good and Justin designing Evil.
I was in love with this pairing, especially since Fabio had such a Justin fan-boy moment last week.
Dmitry is not concerned. "Obviously he's going to lose the challenge to me," he informs the camera. "There's not even a question about that."
He’s only saying what we’re all thinking.
Kate's determined to tap into her "naughty side," which is not something I'm terribly interested in seeing televised.
Jay doesn't really want to face off against Samantha. Glinda is not impressed.
Because, like so many in the audience, she has no idea who these people are.
And as if the producers were listening to something, they've paired my favorite (Michelle) with Allison's favorite (Chris).
And I knew, right then...this would not end well.
And we wrap with Helen and Benjamin.
Alyssa assigns them to sketch before their trip to Mood, where they'll have $250 to spend on a couture look. They'll have two days to work on it - both of these numbers are low, for what they're asking for. But the winning design will be displayed at the theater, which has the designers filled with delight.
This - this is where I had a bit of a conundrum with the show’s challenge. Displayed, to me, means that you want something more dramatic. If it’s not going to be worn. I dunno, maybe I’m still just in denial.
The designers zip through Mood. Michelle comes in 21 cents over budget, Gunnar is happy to spot her. Back at the workroom, everyone works in proximity to their competition. Gunnar talks about himself in third person, Dmitry asks who Gunnar is (I love Dmitry - every time I record his lines, it sounds made up).
Zanna comes in, says nothing of note, and departs. Tim Gunn replacement she is not.
On to the runway!
Alyssa walks out wearing a.) the largest peplum I've ever seen, and b.) maybe the best outfit we've seen?
Yes, to both. It’s time to put the baby-doll dresses away, until the actual baby-doll arrives. I thought this looked quite nice. Still, a bit shiny.
And surprise! It's pants!
Personally, I think she initially intended to wear the blue as a dress, but smarter heads prevailed...
Not super, but compared to Doily Tent, it's a revelation. She introduces the judges, explaining that Georgina Chapman is very sorry she's unable to join them that day. Really? She made it through Jersey Shore week but couldn't clear her schedule for Broadway week?
Huh. I'm blaming a combination of PTSD and poor timing.
Isaac waggles his fingers at the "kids."
And Betsey Johnson's arrived to play.
Really. She's here to play. Honestly, though, she's delightfully nuts.
And the random judge of the week is Modern Family's Ariel Winter.
Now, I have no beef with Ariel, but this choice is...baffling. If you're a producer, and you've got a Broadway challenge, can't you find a Broadway star somewhere willing to sit in the chair and offer thoughts on fast-track couture?
The last Broadway challenge, back in Season 1, featured Sutton Foster. So if you've got a Wicked themed challenge, couldn't they - just spitballing here - call up Idina Menzel? How about Kristin Chenoweth? Or Neil Patrick Harris, or Lea Michelle, or BERNADETTE PETERS - basically, I'd have a long list of people I'd go through before landing on sweet little Ariel.
First face off! Gunnar and Dmitry. Gunnar loved his dress, though it was shortish, which could have been fixed if he'd used the accessories wall more carefully (the model stomped down the runway in some seriously tall white platforms).
Gunnar’s dress was terrible.
Dmitry's dress, as Michelle accurately noted, was very true to his Ballroom background (oh yes, Dmitry was a competitive ballroom dancer, because he's committed to being the best character presented by the franchise). It moved nicely down the runway but that slit was approaching Black Box territory. Runway highlight: Dmitry whispering "Work it" while nodding toward his model like a stage mom.
He's my favorite Belarusian ever.
I liked Helen's original sketch, but I don't think the ruffle detail - ten yards of silk organza, did for her what she needed it to do for her. Maybe if the ruffles were longer and had more flow? I actually rather liked Benjamin's dress, and the back looked nice.
Sonjia worked smart. She chose a fabric - that lace - that already had a lot of interest to it, and simply created a design that highlighted it. Considering the time constraint, it gave her a lot of look for the time provided.
Kate's look...how do you make something that looks both overwrought and "meh" at the same time? She managed.
Even her naughty side is boring.
Michelle's gown...well, the model didn't love it. Clearly. It's quite plain from the front and the styling is BAD. Michelle loves it. I love Michelle. I'm not a fan of the dress.
The back is better?
Chris's dress is...not ideal. It looks like a Halloween costume. The hair looks like Halloween hair. I know he's supposed to be Wicked but I'm not feeling it for couture. A lot of work went into the ruffles but it still looks cheap.
I do not understand this at all. It seemed like self-sabatoge. I think he never fully recovered from having to explain nipple coverage to Snooki.
And that's fair, really. I was definitely getting the feeling that he was over being one of the "kids."
The models are not amused.
Nope. Still not amused.
Fabio - so his original plan was to do pants because he figured no one else would. It's an amusing choice, since he spent most of his season in a skirt, but certainly bold. I had a hard time getting a shot of the abstract floral pants in the back, but they exist. As it comes down the runway he says he could see Tilda Swinton in it, but I find the look less Tilda-y and more reminiscent of Emma Watson's Golden Globes ensemble. The front is well cut, but I think the Couture Pants could have been executed differently.
Justin's dress moved fine, but I wasn't a fan of the bust detail. Otherwise, not notable.
Jay went with pants too, with a side of Bust Fringe. Samantha's last minute dress actually looks quite nice, though I'm still not sure what exactly is going on with that hem.
Benjamin, Gunnar, Justin, Kate, and Michelle are safe and dismissed to the Room of Stress.
High Score: Dmitry
Of course he beat Gunnar. The judges thought that maybe it didn't look wicked enough? Isaac thought it needed more skin, though where that was supposed to happen AND be appropriate for basic cable, I am not sure. Betsy thought it floated, and demonstrated.
The judges managed to praise it and talk themselves out of it all at the same time.
In Jeopardy: Helen
Here's a closer look at some of the detail work. There are some good ideas and fibers here.
But the execution...
Betsy points out the ruffles could function not just as an armrest but as a drink cooler. Props to the model for resting her arm as requested, but still making it look like a fashion pose.
High Score: Sonjia
So smart with the fabric.
And, I love Sonjia’s dress--as a dress. But for a display? To me, it lacks standing drama.
The cutaway back looked chic, and the judges praised the skirt. I found the skirt underwhelming, but I'm wondering if it looked better in person than film.
In Jeopardy: Chris
See? He knows. He knows...I think he and Georgina had this planned right after Snooki-gate. They were like, Hey! Blow off the next challenge and we’ll spend the night drinking. Trying to forget.
I mean...it's not ideal. (Also - you can see the pants on Fabio's model in this shot)
High Score: Samantha
Which totally, totally shocked me. I thought this looked terrible, cheap, unfinished, tacky...
I think the sequins carry this one. Samantha scrapped Dress A and sent this, Dress B, down the runway. The judges thought it looked raw and loved it (unlike the days they find things "unfinished" and hate it). And again, I didn't get the hem. Isaac found the back overlooked, but Ariel liked it, not that anybody cared.
In Jeopardy: Fabio
He got a lot of near-eye-rolling from pant-wearing Alyssa Milano over his pants. Here's the back:
I mean...it was apron-adjacent, but the neck was high enough in the front that I didn't find it "kitchen-y" the way Ariel did. I mean, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but I don't wear white shiny aprons because I'm not an idiot.
SO MUCH SUSPENSE.
The Winner: Sonjia!
Good on her. I agree, her look was the strongest. It was outside of her style comfort-zone, but I think she's smart with good taste, so this could give her some momentum in the competition.
No Longer With Us: Chris
I'm so sorry, Allison. But at least there was a terrific group hug send-off!
Overall: this week was kind of a weak filler episode, which is lame considering BROADWAY. Next week, however? Marie Claire Fashion Director Nina Garcia will be with us! And she's ready to argue with Isaac.
I can't wait.
What did you think? Will Nina have any patience with Kate? Will Gunnar continue to speak to himself in third person? Will we ever see Dmitry twirl??
Missed an installment? Read last week's post here.