Project Runway All Stars Season 2 Episode 1: Redemption on the Runway

In an austerity move, this season losing designers will just be vaporized.

In an austerity move, this season losing designers will just be vaporized.

Wow, this is going to be boring, isn’t it? There’s no one to root for.

Sure, there are some good people in the mix. Uli has what’s practically a cult following, so she’s probably the nominal “favorite” to win. I’m pulling for Emilio, myself; aside from that hardware store disaster, I liked his stuff in S5. While Laura’s decoy collection would’ve won S9 hands down (since she never did anything that impressive during the season, I’ll always wonder if she had a little help, or if it was just a factor of having more time and fewer restrictions), and Althea had her moments (if you can call anything that happened in S6 to be a “moment”), they were in far weaker seasons.

But things can change – who’s been working somewhere with professional advice and feedback, who’s been just trying to pay the rent in a niche market, who’s put some effort into developing skills, it could easily make a difference.

Getting Started:

With her first sentence, new host Carolyn Murphy gave me hope that she was an improvement. By her third sentence, she’d taken it away. Do they learn that wide-eyed wonderment over the prizes, or the kindergarten teacher lilt, in model school? At least they had the sense to leave Isaac Mizhrahi, Georgina Chapman, and mentor Joanna Coles alone. Guest judge Rachel Roy was a good thing. Mondo…. Hmmm. I liked him better in lederhosen than a cow costume. Mondo is a good example of how not to expand your fan base via PRAS.

They start with a group challenge. Oh joy. Of course, this is All Stars, so there won’t be any juicy stuff. The challenge is basically “make stuff” – each team selects a one-word concept and makes a mini-collection. This is a challenge?

Team Bold: Joshua, Peach, Laura, Emilio, Andre, Suede.
Team Confident: Kayne, Uli, Casanova, Ivy, Althea, Anthony Ryan, Wendy.

I’m bewildered: Joshua picked Peach ahead of just about everyone else? It’s no surprise at all that Wendy was left until the end. Hey, you’re the one who set yourself up, and reaffirmed yourself, as Queen Bitch, no whining over the consequences of that. Though I’m sure the editing will be, as Tim says, kind. I bought Tiffani Faison’s rehabilitation. I’m not buying this one. And come on, those team names? Thoroughly generic, along with the others not picked: Independent, Ferocious, Provocative. Bleh. How about, Team I Want To Be An Astrophysicist? Team My Inlaws Are Coming To Dinner and The Dad is Super-Hot? And for a real challenge: Team I Got My Period Yesterday (balance the bloat, irritability, and discomfort, then call in a tampon company to judge for a commercial bragging about lowered accident potential). Those could yield some interesting interpretations. Or, even better: Team Shy, Team Insecure. Shy, insecure people need clothes, too. Come on, have some imagination.

The Runway (and Designer Intros because I was too busy to do a Preview Post):

Team Confident: Winners. That’s what confidence will do for ya.

Anthony Ryan Auld, S9: He’s been busy in the past year: he started Louisiana Fashion Week and his charity for cancer victims, RockOne1. Not so much designing, it seems, though he says he’s done some custom work. He really grew on me during S9 (though there wasn’t much competition, in the area of pleasant personality). It’s only been a year, so there hasn’t been that much time for him to develop (though he says his aesthetic has done a 180; I’m not sure I know what his aesthetic was in the first place). And he was on a very weak season; he might be in for a struggle. But not tonight: his pants and top are a hit. Not so much with me – I think it’s completely nondescript, a bowling shirt over pants, and the back, while nice, doesn’t make sense to me. But the judges beg to differ. Georgina loves the surprise in the back; Isaac overlooks the weird-fitting crotch (thank you for at least acknowledging it) but loves the pants; Rachel loves the fit of the tush. Top three. So what do I know.

Ivy Higa, S8: She talks about taking time off to build capital for her capsule collection; I’m not sure what that means exactly, but apparently it includes working at Zac Posen, DVF, and Theory, all of which may serve her extremely well in this competition. For all her ranting about her terrific construction skills, she never turned out anything in S8 that I actually liked, and a lot of her stuff was sloppy, possibly due to planning more than she could accomplish in limited time. We’ll see if she’s learned how to be pleasant – or if she needs another needle in the eye. And surprise – she finally admits to being a bitch in S8. She was under a lot of stress at the time, see. As much as it annoys me, I have to admit her shorts suit is really nice. I’m a little ambivalent about the lace insets – at a glance, it looks like some humongous ink stain spreading out. But… I also like that. I even like the shorts. Georgina loves the jacket, though wonders if lace shorts would’ve been better than leather; Isaac thinks pants would be better. But they’re all impressed, and though I hate to admit it, so am I. Top three.

Casanova, S8: If you’re only going to read catch-up interview, this is the one to read. “I became a bag designer because I’m lazy….The show helped me to define my design aesthetic as risqué.” You get the idea. The biggest surprise is: he works for Ivy as a design assistant. And surprise on top of that: Neither of them mentioned they would be on PRAS. Either they both honored the secrecy thing, or they don’t actually talk to each other. I’m not crazy about his leather-and-lace dress; because it’s black, it’s hard to see, but there’s nothing about it that appeals to me. The judges again think me wrong: Top Three. Georgina loves the lace in the back; Isaac and Rachel think it should be a little longer. Mondo likes the tone-on-tone, but doesn’t find it exciting.

Wendy Pepper, S1: she makes clothes for sale in her home town, as well as cookies and soup. Diversification is a good thing. From the promos, sounds like she’s vying for the Villain role again. And imagine, she’s hurt she gets selected last, then is encouraged when she gets a compensatory toast back at the apartment. It’s election season, so I’m damn sick of people who manipulate and exploit and twist everything to their own advantage. And I’m not that crazy about people who make dresses with pubic hair either, no matter how confident they think it is. It’s actually not a bad dress, if it weren’t for the little lace thatch in the front.

Kayne Gillaspie, S3 : He’s doing evening wear, as well as shoes for Benjamin Walk and intimates for Empire Intimates. I like his use of color; if he can tone down his rhinestone addiction and ruffle fetish, he might be a contender. But that’s like asking a fish to live in the desert. He looks strange on the intro video – iridescent duskiness. Lay off the bronzer, hon. Or find a better shade. And Joanna was so right on her walkthrough: his look is Catwoman from the 60s. I was actually thinking Jill St. John in a 007 movie, but Goth Catwoman will do, too. But damn, boy can sew.

Uli Herzner, S3: She wants to be known for more than flowy print resort-wear. That’s pretty much all that’s on her website, but her L&T dress is very tailored. IIRC, her first All-Stars appearance also featured more tailored clothes, and it was quite a disappointment. Did Anya poison the well for flowy prints? Uli’s work is far more sophisticated and goes well beyond picking a pretty fabric; there’s real design there. But steering away from her strength – and her signature – might not be the best strategy. She sends down a nightgown. But a very pretty nightgown. With leather straps and a neckpiece. I don’t understand the neckpiece, but without it, you couldn’t wear that out of the boudoir.

Althea Harper, S6: She spent a year working at Tory Burch before starting her own lines; she’s got some nice stuff on her website. What interested me most about her Lifetime catch-up interview is that she’s never watched any season of PR except her own. So she doesn’t know she was on the Worst Season Ever? She could do well here; she’s got very expensive taste, and she’s been working a while, developing skills. Thing is – she’s not the first person you think of when you think PR. And this is first and foremost a TV show about ratings. She looks great; she’s lost that simpering Barbie look she had in S6. I really like the white and lace dress she sends out; the lace is pretty, and the asymmetry is interesting. I especially like the little black edging on the slit.

Team Bold: aka Second Place, and considering we’ve only got two teams, that’s a problem.

Suede, S5: He’s been working on the “SuedeSays” line of Simplicity patterns. That’s interesting. No, seriously, it is, I’ve never heard of anyone who’s done that before. Then again, I haven’t looked at a Simplicity pattern, or any pattern, since my required Home Ec class in 1969. Men’s, women’s, kids’. And he’s making things with an eCraft machine; I have no idea what an eCraft machine is, but the dresses are pretty amazing. I doubt any of this will help him in the competition, but he’s definitely got a niche. And the minute I saw his dress on the runway, I thought, “Folded Napkin Dress.” Sadly. Because, while the dress isn’t that bad, folded napkins never go over well, unless they’re extraordinary; these weren’t. And the sleeves are layered breast cups. Yeah. Sorry, Suede. I’ve had a soft spot for you ever since you said you studied the cello for 12 years, but this isn’t going anywhere. And sure enough, he’s in the bottom three. Mondo credits him with good ideas but they don’t work, they’re working against each other; Isaac loves the skirt (much to my surprise) but not the top; Georgina sees two different dresses, and it’s too much visually.

Andrae Gonzalo, S2: From his questionnaire, seems he’s been doing custom work and theater work, but nothing at a professional level. I get the sense he’s been struggling. But he’s very sweet, and I had hopes for him. But he starts out rough, with a mélange of sheer and not that could’ve worked but didn’t; I don’t mind the sheer overlay or the blue twist; in fact, the only thing I hate about it is the sheer belly, and that it looks kind of amateur. He’s in the bottom three. He defends it by saying the blue fabric directs the eye towards areas of interest. Silence. More silence. The judges are confused by it – is it a tank, a dress, what’s going on with the zipper in the back? Georgina likes the intention and edginess, but it’s too complicated; Rachel finds it “so difficult.”

Peach Carr, S8: She has a line of “tennis-to-day dresses” and is “dabbling in stretch sequin cocktail attire.” Apparently she’s doing well; I’m glad, she’s another sweetheart. But her range seems limited, and short time limits were always a problem for her. Her runway look seems off to me; the sleeves, the neckline, it just looks rumpled and ill-fitting. She tries to explain, and Isaac stops her: “The more you talk the more I dislike it, so stop talking.” It seems she was trying to make something that fit in with the collection rather than the things she normally does; Mondo and Georgina encourage her to stick with her strengths. So, if she’d sent down a tennis dress, you’d be ok with that? I’ll just bet.

Joshua McKinley, S9: Oh, it’s too soon, do we have to? His palazzo pants midriff top look pretty cheesy to me; the straps in the back don’t really help. Hooker chic?

Laura Kathleen, S9: My, she’s been busy, clothing and jewelry available in boutiques. Her S9 decoy collection was a huge hit, so she has that to live up to. I’m dubious. But boy am I surprised: her look was my favorite; it doesn’t look that great in the picture, but it did in motion. I love the flare of the top. She was the judges’ favorite, too; too bad she was on the losing team.

Emilio Sosa, S5: In addition to his line, he’s been working in theatre, and was nominated for a Tony award for costume design on Porgy and Bess – that’s the real Broadway production, not some regional theatre troupe. That’s pretty impressive. He’s my guy; maybe it’s the Year of the Dominican-American (since Junot Diaz just won a $500,000 MacArthur “Genius” grant). Sorry, Tim; hey, anyone can have an off day and end up with a string-and-washer bikini. Unfortunately, I didn’t so much like the dress he sent out. The black band squashes the breasts, and the fabric on the side of the bare midriff has a tendency to gap.

And the Winner Is…

It’s between Anthony Ryan and Ivy for the win, with Casanova a distant (I hope) third; I thought Ivy had it for sure, but nope, it’s Anthony Ryan. Really? This is not off to a good start, aesthetically.

Among the losers, Suede is safe, leaving only Andrae and Peach. Well, you know how the axe is gonna fall, and sure enough, Peach is out.

Next week:

Disco party! And Joshua wants to puke, which makes two of us.

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