Thursday, January 29, 2015

Project Runway All Stars Episode 4.9 - The Ready to Wear Challenge

"I never really do anything extremely simple, because - why?" - Dmitry

Confession: it's been pretty busy around here. Danny returned from an extended work trip in Canada over the weekend - SO delighted he's back. I'm working on galley edits for Reservations for Two, and had to pause to have a couple fillings replaced on Tuesday (which turned into "let's root canal those instead" - which is a tale of woe and painkillers for another day).

Allison: Forgiven! I am in a blur of school and writing and the ridiculous amount of paperwork when a kid changes colleges mid-year. If only there were a pain killer for that!

Anywho, PRAS, is giving me a bad case of the forehead slaps. This week's challenge exists mainly to help promote QVC's unfortunately named G.I.L.I. line, which simply makes me think of Gigli. The designers appear thrilled, and I'm curious how much of it is genuine excitement. I mean, QVC is not Saks. 

It would be cool if they had, like, a challenge for high-end snuggies or something, though.

That would be hilarious. I'd watch the heck out of that. Lisa Robertson of QVC announces the project while wearing a dress that turns out to be a part of the G.I.L.I line, and is also on clearance.

They have a budget of $300 for their ready-to-wear separates looks and a fashion-forward look. The designers sketch in the workroom and skip off to Mood.

Sonjia's thing is that she doesn't much sketch - she gets her ideas from her fabric. And while Helen rolls her eyes at it, Sonjia's technique is not far from the idea of figuring out what to make for dinner by seeing what's fresh at the market. It's great if you want to do a salad tossed with pomegranate seeds, but you might not be able to find pomegranates when you want them.

After their "critique" the designers carry on. Fabio splatter-dyes his fabric. (can I just say...because I cannot wait until the end of the much I HATE what Fabio did with that fabric. That was, just--awful.) Jay's in a dither. Helen struggles with ready-to-wear. Dmitry is confident. Sonjia's not feeling one of her fabrics, but has a new idea during her confessional. Michelle is into sleeves.

Alyssa, Isaac, Georgina, and Zanna ring he closing bell at the NASDAQ, while the designers watch and squeal from the street. They aren't even allowed inside the building - they have to be as far away as possible.

Back at the workroom, the designers get more sewing in before the models show up. Dmitry did not leave seam-allowances! There's not a lot going on - I'm beginning to feel sleepy. My jaw feels achy. I'm considering my painkiller options.

This week's guest judges include QVC diva Lisa Robertson and stylist/designer George Kotsiopoulos.  

The judges love:

Dmitry's neoprene and lace looks - blue for the separates and yellow for the "fashion-forward" look. They're deemed not particularly fashion-forward, but still very pretty. The yellow/black will never not read "fancy bee" to me. 

Not crazy about the yellow, but I loved, loved that dress.

Sonjia's grey eyelet/ cutout separates and yellow tube dress w/ grey jacket. The separates have strong mix and match options, with the panel split on the yellow dress. They do like how "fresh" her looks feel. I am personally unmoved by the yellow dress.

Helen's fashion-forward LBD - well-structured and timeless. Kinda classic Helen.

The judges are conflicted about:

Helen's a-line skirt and swing top - a colorway only a model could pull off.

Michelle's print separates/dress - maybe not easy to wear, but fun and romantic. The panel is split on the print.

Both of Fabio's pastel looks - the dress reading young, and the separates too simple to stand out. Isaac finds them "slightly irrelevant." 

Allison: Just, ugly. Rarely do clothes look just ugly--but that was like, K-Mart ugly. Like, my friend Pam and I used to walk to K-Mart (back in 1981), and everything Fabio made today looked just like what was on the racks back then. I swear, I could smell the blue-light ham sandwiches when I looked at those clothes. I might have owned that blue top.

I think Fabio's stuff - I think Isaac is right. I think Fabio can exist too much in his own headspace sometimes for his work to feel necessary to others.

The Judges Hate:

Jay's shiny pant - "TAPER THEM!" - Alyssa insists.

Jay's red dress - "the place it ends is unforgivable, darliIng, unforgiveable" - says Isaac. And truly, it's not great. The top maybe isn't bad, but the bottom is the fashion equivalent of a fade-out at the end of a power ballad.

Results: Dmitry is second runner-up, with Lisa Robertson announcing Sonjia's win. QVC will produce one of the separates, though we don't know which.

Michelle is safest of the lower scores, with Jay and Fabio in the bottom. Alyssa observes, rightly, that Jay pathologically overthinks his designs. Fabio is told that sometimes his designs tend toward self-centeredness.

MIchelle’s design would have been better accessorized with a Virginia Slim.

Jay is off, which is....overdue. I wish she could have shed Jay and kept Justin around a bit longer. 


I think Justin could have nailed the Ready-to-Wear in a way that half of the group didn't.

Before Fabio is allowed to exit, Isaac observes he's been in the bottom a lot. "Don't do it again. I mean it," he admonishes.

Next week is Marchesa wedding-themed so - TULLE.

What did you think? We're down to the final five - who are your picks for the finale show?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Project Runway All Stars Recap 4.8: Les Poissons

Hillary here: Allison's heading up this week's recap, with far more wit and clarity than I could manage after this particular episode. Meanwhile, I'm off in a corner playing the blues on my snarfblat, adding commentary as necessary.

Allison: The contestants arrive at the Long Island Aquarium, home to over 5,000 species of marine life , including two of Alyssa’s friends, penguins Kevin and Pam Clearly, they need to engage more creative people in their penguin-naming department. Tuxy and Roxanne? Waddles and Petunia?  

Now, excuse me for just a minute while I study the Rorshach Design that is Alyssa’s dress while she talks.

I have retreated to my happy place rather than contemplate Alyssa’s dress; instead, I’m having Parks and Recreation thoughts and thinking how CUTE it would be if the penguins got married.

Then, I’ll try not to look at it from the back…


You’ll notice, only one penguin appears on camera after this shot. After studying the distinctive pattern on the back of the dress, I wonder if we need to say a more formal good-bye to Kevin.
Be at peace, Kevin.
Whaaaat? Alyssa Milano the inspiration for Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid? Did I know this? I think I knew this. Anyway, it makes this experience of being part of her world all the more exquisite, as we dive into a challenge wherein the designers are asked to come up with a design inspired by one of the species from Under the Sea.

I googled this. Apparently animator Glen Keane used photos of her Who’s the Boss? days when he was working on Ariel’s face. Actress Sherri Stoner came in for movement references, and Jodi Benson did the vocal work. So I think Alyssa’s “Ariel is based on MEEEEEE” statements are in fact a bit much. She was a part of it, but it wasn’t as if Disney rolled out the red carpet for her - she didn’t know about it until later.

Sorry. I might just be bitter at Alyssa because she killed Kevin.

Oh, and this is the Avant- Garde challenge. They have 2 days and $150, make that $250 if someone volunteers to sketch in the shark tank. Helen volunteers, and I’m soooo relieved, because maybe that means she’ll untuck her ponytail from her jacket (huge pet peeve of mine).

I don’t get the hair in jacket thing, because ITCHY.
So, off to sketch, where the designers find that beauty is better down where it’s wetter.
Dmitry is immediately inspired by the sea horse. The shape and the scales, and the whole body made of geometrical scales with a very complicated patterns. Not unlike the man himself.
Fabio goes genderless with the red bubble-tip anemone. A lovely little species that reproduces asexually. He wants his outfit to be the most conceptual piece on the runway. We’ll sea.

Michelle’s heart is captured by the flamboyant cuttlefish. This doesn’t happen for me very often, but I found myself enchanted by Michelle’s sketch this week. Like, I thought the sketch itself looked whimsical and beautiful, especially with the third panel where the cuttlefish is looking right at you.
Then it’s time to follow Helen into the tank, where the sharks have been warned that designers are friends, not food. (wrong movie, I know, but go with it) She concludes with a message saying, “Let’s go to Mood!” And they’re off!
Sonjia is inspired by the red-bellied piranha, and will make a dress. Justin the yellow scroll coral, and will make a structured, grand dress. Jay’s fish is the lion fish—“very ethereal, and has tons of volume and weight to it”—so he will be making an asymmetrical jumpsuit. Just kidding. Jay will make a dress. He will also play with vinyl. He claims to never have played with vinyl before, but I have my doubts.
To the work room! Those poor, unfortunate souls.
Dmitry is engineering a pattern. Michelle is going flamboyant and wild (just like her cuttlefish). On day two, there’s a sweet moment between Michelle and Justin. She thinks he’s not finding the joy of Avant Garde—always an ominous feeling. Even more so than the fact that Helen’s dress looks like tripe. In a good way.
Zanna, conceptual nail art from Laruen B. Beauty (and a chance to win $5K in couture nail product), model fittings.

Helen sexes up her granny’s nightie-tripe dress by hacking it at the hem. Fabio points out that not only is Dmitry’s look not fashion forward, it’s a look our dancer created several times in
Season 10.

He totally did - to good effect - but the repetition cracked me up during the “judging.”

Michelle worries that her dress looks like maternity wear. (Has she seen nothing Alyssa has been wearing all season?)

I think Alyssa’s nutty maternity wear has infiltrated Michelle’s design sense.
To the runway, where our guest judge is Nicole Scherzinger , who rose to fame singing with the Pussy Cat Dolls, dabbled in design, and whose new single “Run” is now available. “Run,” you know, that thing you do with those—what are they called—oh, yeah. Feet.

I’ll present the Runway with little comment. I don’t feel qualified to say much, since in-season Kohl’s is about as fashion forward as I allow myself. I’ll say this, though…that my favorite look was the one deemed safe – Sonjia’s. Michelle was robbed, and the elimination was what Lady Hillary calls a “button-bag” decision.

I had a phone conversation (because we’re old-fashioned) with Kara at L.A. Bullets and Sonjia’s was her favorite, too. I confessed that I couldn’t remember Sonjia’s. She totally got the “safe” edit, we didn’t see much of her.

The top (ish)...


“Kiss the Girl.”

I thought Michelle's was the most avant-garde of all the looks.

Jay: (with something that looks remarkably like what he did last week, no?)

Mais oui.

And, the winner! Finally! (not to be arrogant…)

Dmitry! Who has apparently “come into his own” or something, which I guess means “experimenting less and going back to his roots.” Whatever, man.

The bottom looks came down to Fabio and Justin. Might just be me, but I though both looks seemed...stringy? Unfinished? Not sure if that was just a matter of fabric, or time, or if it was an intentional style choice. Anyhoo, the maker of the hideous pink backwards tuxedo remained, and my Justin went home.


Hillary--explain to me, please. Where this decision came from?

The decision making - what’s the word - BURNS.

The judges have been loving most of what Justin’s been putting out for weeks. Sure, they didn’t care for his outfit, but it wasn't a technique issue as much as an originality issue.

Justin’s not my very favorite, but I didn’t feel he deserved to go home for this, and especially not with his previous body of celebrated work. Meanwhile, you’ve got Jay’s Celebration of Arbitrary Overdesign (I don’t know how he can be arbitrary and over-designed at the same time, but he does it. Maybe it’s his evil genius).

So like I said, Justin wasn’t my favorite but I didn’t feel he deserved to go home as yet. I feel like somewhere Tim Gunn is getting very worked up about all of this.

Readers: What did you think? Would you have used a Tim Gunn save for Justin? 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Project Runway All Stars - Episode 4.6 micro-cap and 4.7 recap: Cheeks Ahoy

Okay, let's do this! *claps hands together*

I'll be honest - I'm starting to lose my patience with All Stars. And it's not the designers - there's a lot of talent. But angels above - the judges. What I enjoy about Standard Issue Project Runway is that I don't doubt the taste or good sense of all of the judges all of the time. I might disagree with Ye Olde CFDA winning Michael Kors occasionally, or take issue with Zac Posen's championing of something I hate, or like something more than Fashion Editor Nina Garcia, or doubt that Heidi Klum really would wear something so nutty, even though she proclaims to love it on the runway, but usually it's kind of a two-outta-three sort of equation.

And then there's the fact that in recent seasons the judges have taken to actually examining the clothes close up - looking at the finishing so they can appreciate the craftsmanship - or lack thereof.

But All Stars judging feels like a perfunctory farce (and not just because of the jacket Isaac Mizrahi wore, though it didn't help). Georgina Chapman is...don't get me started on the level of whack that is Marchesa. And Alyssa Milano's fashion sense is none. All of this adds up to a lot of talented designers showing their creations to judges who might as well be choosing winners out of the button bag half of the time.

But, you know. that's just how I feel. How do you feel?

Totally with you, Hillary. Button bag and all. A frustration I’d add is this--I just feel like there should be higher standards, more challenging challenges. More that would answer to the real world of design, not just jumping through hoops from week-to-week. What about on-going brand or collection building? That way designs could be judged not only on did you meet the challenge, but did you meet the challenge with something that also is cohesive with that thing you met the challenge with last week.

Let's chat briefly about the last episode, in which Alyssa wore a lace sweatshirt with a leather skirt.

I swear she found that in the attic in a trunk of Who’s the Boss? wardrobe pieces. Awful.

This was the "real people" installment, this time featuring online dating couples embarking on a first date. So - menswear! This caused Michelle to have a stress and sickness-induced meltdown, but she carried on. It was fine.

Fabio made this nautical-priest-yacht outfit that the judges found fascinating and somehow sexy, and I thought looked like student work for a Star Trek Resortwear assignment.

This girl, I would like to note, told us that she admired the style of Kim Kardashian during this era of Kanye. I would like to have a sit-down conversation with her (actually - both of them. Kim could benefit from this) about dressing for your body type, but alas.

Jay made this jacket, which will only appeal to gentlemen of alternative persuasion. Actually, that's not true. I'm sure here are women looking for a Pink Lady jacket who'd be perfectly happy with this. Jay's solution to tone down the jacket was grey sleeves, which, whatever.

And I think it would be perfectly at home in the aforementioned WtB? trunk.

Fabio and his priestly yacht ensemble won.

The judges were not impressed by this look. They were unmoved by Justin's "Could have been Banana Republic" ensemble (their words, not mine) and Helen's blue shirtdress of unflattering profile.

But nothing was bad enough, in the end, for anyone to go home, so everyone stuck around for a Celebrating Life and Michelle's Birthday Brunch.

For some reason (i.e. very specific instructions from the producers), the designers go outside and "happen" upon this USA today issue featuring a pre-pregnancy Alyssa Milano "making a splash," as one does.


So the designers go to a rooftop pool (as directed by the producers) where they find Alyssa (not in swimwear) and the travel editor for USA Today. Do note the stuff in the pool. We'll get to that.

Also, the editor looks rather like Willie Garson's younger brother.

Sonjia and Michelle pay rapt attention the challenge is explained: at the bottom of the pool is swimwear fabric. The designers will each design a.) a swimsuit and b.) a resort look.

The retrieving of the swimwear fabric is performed by this handy collection of pool boys, who yes, do remove their shirts and outer-shorts to reveal the Speedos within, to the delight of all.

Close up of the fabric -

Close up of the Speedos….wait, what?

I'm just saying, getting a Safe for Work shot of a guy swimming for fabric is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds. Also? I miss the Summer Olympics.

The swimmers present the fabric to the designers for their approval, and may wind up diving for more if they want something else.

I wasn't terribly impressed with the prints, but we'll see more of them later.

After the swimmers are allowed to depart and dry off, the designers sketch and head to Mood, with $150 to complete their two looks.

Zanna arrives at the workroom with the USA Today style editor, know, I don't remember. Maybe Allison can fill me in. Something about how if they win, it'll wind up in USA Today and they get a vacation. I think that's right.

Yes--their design will appear on a newspaper strewn from end to end of hotel hallways across America.

Michelle makes this face about it.

Everybody sets to work. Michelle has made swimwear before, so she's practically crowing about how she's got the super good elastic that everybody should want, and if she has extra - which she's not going to be specific about - she might maybe share it. Maybe.

The looks come together, and eventually everyone is as runway ready as possible, considering the time constraints.

Fashion Photographer and America's Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker is this week's guest judge, and I'm in favor of this because he knows things. Isaac, Georgina, and Alyssa are also in attendance. Isaac is wearing a terrible jacket (we'll get to that).

Such a crush on Nigel Barker. I was a hardcore ANTM viewer for years.

We can add him to the list of "guest judges who should stay forever."

Justin's look comes down the runway, and it moves nicely.

I'm not over the moon about it, but it's nice.

The there's an edit to a miraculous moment in which the swimwear beneath is revealed - this happens with most of the models and it's a teeny bit odd, but so's the whole show.

Here's Michelle's dress - which is not great.

But the judges like her graphic one-piece.

I was obsessed with this suit. That little bit at the bottom of neckline was just a beautiful detail.

Agree - and so cool that it was simply the elastic that she’d used throughout!

Here's Sonjia's lace and denim ensemble, of which I am not a fan.

I'm indifferent to the swimwear.

Here's Jay's - beige and floaty. That's your takeaway.

It’s this week’s edition of Jaymadeadress.

His swimsuit is pretty junior, and the cameraman had a hard time getting it without it being a shot of BREASTAGE. Honestly - getting a screen capture was tricky because the cuts were so fast (this one actually came from the end
Here's Helen's look, which was essentially Lace Pajamas with Interior Swimwear:

And Fabio's who was sophisticated and black and white on the outside -

And a Brazilian party underneath. I didn't get a shot of the front, but you're not missing anything. Trust.

Also, that bikini bottom is not great, as it seems determined to make an ascension north.

Sam's jumpsuit - which she had a hard time with in the workroom when she sewed the top on funny - isn't terrible, but it's not great either, especially with the open sides.
However, her Baywatch-inspired swimsuit is a HOT MESS.


I'm cringing.

As is Isaac.

At this point, Dmitry's is a breath of asymmetrical fresh air.

I don't even hate the swimsuit, which is saying something because I'm not a fan of camo. But can't you see this in a catalog somewhere?

I liked it, but it doesn’t really say “resort” to me. That might be because I’ve never been to an actual resort, but this didn’t have a cool, casual air to me.

As the judges deliberate, Michelle's manic-pixie-dreamgirl energy will not be contained. In a truly What-The-Flipper moment, she flits around the room reminding everyone who the judges loved and hated, though it does serve to remind us that the judging isn't terribly well-considered, and might as well come from the Runway Fairies.

I think, too, she’s reinforcing the fact that nobody got a clear idea of where they stood with both garments. Everything was as divided as the cheeks on Sam’s model.

And that, I think, is partly what was so weird to me about these pieces - they didn’t read together at all - Fabio’s in particular (I hated that fabric).
I think we're going to blame exhaustion for that one. Or it's a deliberate commentary on the judging. Everybody's amused, so that's something. Dmitry's almost smiling.

HERE is that jacket I was telling you about. It looks like he got it at REI, on clearance, and it's biggest selling point is that awful snap in the center that also hangs fishing line and holds the thing when it folds into a disc.

Anyway, the judges love Justin's, have mixed feelings about Sonjia's mixed-textile look, love Dmitry's, love Michelle's swimsuit the best but hate her dress, don't say much about Jay's, Helen's, or Fabio's, and christen Sam's swimsuit with the term "moose knuckle."

Ooooooh!!! Moose knuckle. I thought they said Goose knuckle. Well, that makes much more sense.

Anywhoodle, Justin wins. He is both happy and featured in USA Today...some time ago.

Sam goes home, which is not the wrong move. As much as I harp on the judges, her swimsuit was really, truly terrible. I wish her well.

What did you guys think of the episode? Who would you pick to be judges? Share your thoughts in the comments below!