Project Runway All-Stars Season 2 Episode 4: Made In The USA Today

First: There is nothing interactive about this challenge.

Second: I’m pretty sure Blondie’s judging dress was on Fashion Police recently as a Fashhole nominee. The first one, well, obviously she didn’t get the memo from Michael Kors that illusion fabric is for old-lady-ice-skaters.

The Teaser Line:

In spite of the “interactive” thing, it’s just another “design a dress from a picture” challenge, just like the Harlem School for the Arts episode or the “go out and take a picture and design a dress from it” challenges that have been part of PR from S2 when Andrae took a picture of gutter water and turned it into a gorgeous gown. This one is even less interactive, in fact, because while “fans” tweet in pictures and designers use them as inspiration for a look, there’s no contact with the photographer, no explanation of the pics, nothing except the picture and the name of the photographer. It’s less interactive than designing for makeup colors, or hats, or even Heidi’s running shoes, because those involved actual communication with the creator of the inspiration. So let’s just call it a photo challenge. The designers also need to come up with a headline. Uh oh. Words? Really?

And then USA Today gets into the mix.

USA Today claims to be a newspaper. It’s really a daily advertising supplement, but ok, let’s humor them and call it a newspaper. A rep from USA Today joins Joanna in the workroom and pitches their “infographics” and “visually driven storytelling” which is what you get when nobody wants to read anything over 140 characters. The winning designer, and the person who sent in the photograph, gets to be in USA Today. Oh, goody. A USA editor accompanies Joanna on her walkthrough: “You were probably feeling some emotion in the picture; make sure it translates into the final product.” No one from USA Today is on the judging panel, so who cares what they want.

There’s a lot of fuss about the order in which they pick the photographs (mostly to give Laura the chance to pout about being picked last again and complain about how no one understands her because she grew up rich), since the setup only allows two at a time to view them. To me, this showcases the limitations of their product-placement computers, but to people who consider this an interactive challenge and who think USA Today is a newspaper, it’s probably very exciting.

The guest judges are designer Charlotte Ronson and some sixteen-year-old fashion blogger, which fits perfectly with today’s theme of pretending things are more than they are.

You can find the photos each designer used, and the designs they created, on TLo (thanks, TLo!); for some reason (stupidity, probably) Lifetime decided not to include them, so I’m not bothering with links other than the one that shows everything. In fact, I may do that from now on, since I like TLo so much more than Lifetime anyway.

Today’s News:

Top Stories:

Emilio picks a picture of little Sophie; he has a niece about her age, and he’s taken with the All-American, young, fresh, innocent qualities. He’s done bold so far; now’s the time for his softer side. His “headline” is “Sophie’s Choice” which is a cute pun but is about as far away from all those qualities as you can get. See, this is what happens when designers do words. Joanna, bless her heart, points out maybe he’s just playing on the name and his headline has nothing to do with his design. When his look comes out on the runway, I jotted down, “Emilio – weird,” but after looking at it a while, I kind of get it. It’s kind of the kid’s version of his circus dress, which IIRC Michael Kors said was his favorite look ever on PR to that point. I think the hoop skirt needs to be a little better, because it almost looks like a mistake this way. And the top is just a shift, with no reason for being there other than to hold up the skirt. It’s clearly not ready-to-wear, but the challenge didn’t ask for that, now did it? Isaac loves it: it’s light as a feather, totally modern, and a fresh idea, it’s playful and fun, but the shape could be pushed out more. Georgina loves the inspiration, and the dress evokes that emotion with a wink to creativity; she loves that he stepped away from everyone else. He was in a different place, and he was right and everyone else was wrong. Now that’s not fair: if the idea was to go avant garde, they should’ve specified that. On the other side, it’s not fair for Charlotte to point out it’s not an easy dress to wear. No, it isn’t, but that wasn’t part of the challenge, either. See how important words are? Is this a runway challenge, a photo challenge, or an event challenge? If you don’t specify, you can’t complain.

Laura has a pity party all episode; Joshua comforts her and tries to explain that what she thinks is talking about her childhood might be coming across differently. Y’know what, if an adult woman doesn’t know that, why bother with her. She takes a picture of a little whirlpool of water and uses silk charmeuse and her own dyeing technique to capture the fluidity. Joanna notices she’s more emotional than usual (“tensions get higher”), and asks, “When do people wear long gowns?” And again, I’m bamboozled by the lack of definition given the challenge. But Laura hits it out of the park: “I’m not making clothes accessible to the farmers of America, but things that are fashion forward and progressive.” She should go work for Romney, she’s got the same deft turn of phrase guaranteed to make everyone hate her. But I’ll tell you, I like her gown. I love the vest-like top, I love the dye job, I love the shape; I don’t like the use of the dark fabric in the back, but other than that, and I hate myself for this, but it’s gorgeous. The judges like it, too, especially the print, but wish the long skirt touched the floor (I like the arch in the hemline). Isaac likes it, but it isn’t a “wow” dress. Yes, in fact, it is, but it’s a quiet “wow.” And again, the challenge wasn’t to create a “wow” dress, it was to interpret a photograph. I hate that I’m defending Laura, who divides the world into the farmers and the fashion-forward. That’s what PR has driven me to.

Anthony Ryan picks a black-and-white graphic print that evokes paths crossing; his headline is “Always Moving Forward” referring to his cancer treatment. Ok, this is going to sound insensitive and callous. I have some idea how life-changing his experience has been. I applaud his ability to pick up and move along, and hope his RockOne1 idea grows. But he’s got to realize, in a competition setting, it’s nearly impossible to bring out the cancer card without seeming to exploit it. That said, his dress delivers. I don’t know what it has to do with the photo, or with moving forward, but it’s very sharp, and the back is interesting. Isaac sees a sexy, in-control woman, and gets his intention; it coud be too sexy but it isn’t. Charlotte worries the back is a little too low (it is) but likes the longer length.


Casanova plays with a fusion of masculine and feminine, for a white pantsuit. It’s quite beautiful; I love how he used the print on the pants, and I’m crazy about the jacket. I’m surprised how much I’m liking Casanova’s clothes this season.

Ivy chooses a butterfly picture and goes with evolution and change (I guess she hasn’t seen Silence of the Lambs). It’s not the most original thought out there, but I love the outfit she makes; it’s the first time I’ve ever liked the boy-shorts-under-sheer thing, maybe because they’re boy-shorts and not panties, and maybe because the print obscures them enough. I love the vest-like top; again with that technique, I guess it’s what’s being done this year. I’m no Ivy fan, but it’s lovely. And I wouldn’t have blamed her for smacking nemesis Laura for yawning during the runway walk of her design (though it’s quite possible that was edited in and it didn’t happen that way at all; I don’t trust Lifetime with anything).

Kayne picks a photo of brightly-colored vintage jewelry, which surprises no one. He comes up with…a very nice red dress? Yeah, it is. Casanova doesn’t think so (“a Parisian prostitute with a chicken on her head”) and I hate to argue with someone famous for dressing his models like whores but I think it’s quite nice. I guess the connection with the photo is vintage and bright. The black lace in back, which Joanna warned him about, is just on the ok side of too much. This is supposed to be the dress he said was Kate Middleton; I can see why he’d say that (the hat alone does it) though I don’t know enough about her to agree or disagree. But it shows some restraint, and that’s always been his Achilles’ heel, so it’s a success.

Uli uses a picture of clouds from an airplane, comes up with words like “free” and “peaceful” – and I just realized, literally as I was typing that, because I remembered she used the word “free” in her S4 photo challenge, and combined that with the comment she made last week about getting out of East Germany immediately when the wall came down because everyone figured it would go right back up again – “free” has a special meaning to Uli. A lot of us bandy about words like that, but I suddenly got struck by how important that word is to her. But… she makes a nightgown. It’s a lovely nightgown, if a little too nude. It’s the second nightgown she’s made. I guess sleep is free and peaceful, but what was this about a new Uli who doesn’t just do flowy designs?

Tabloid Territory:

Althea has this amazing picture of the inside of a big architectural train station; she’s taken with the colors and shape (and remembers the moment her now-husband proposed to her though I don’t remember why; were they in a train station?). She decides to do pants instead of a dress; she’s been in the Safe zone all along so now she wants to get in front of the judges. So she makes the ugliest thing possible because that’s one way to get screen time. She’s a separates designer, but she’s going to push it more than she usually would. Joanna’s concerned (or she would be if she were Tim): she loves the colors in the photo, but the fabric is taupe instead, where’s that coming from? I don’t think Althea bothered with the photo; one brown tone is as good as another, it’s got shapes, round shapes, long shapes, close enough: let’s make kangaroo pants. Isaac doesn’t get it; it looks like a wound. This comment makes me wonder about Isaac: just what kind of wounds has he been looking at? Georgina appreciates the effort to do a suit, the nod to the drop crotch and extreme jodhpurs, but no. Just no. We’re all in agreement, then. I think she was trying to recreate the glory of her “paper bag waist” win in S6, but boy did she go wrong. And the color is mud.

Andrae chooses a photo of a black woman with a headband looking down; he gets “forlorn” from it, and he’s sad, too: he was picked last again, and he has nothing in common with the other designers. Because they’re, like, working designers, and he’s more of a playing-in-the-basement kind of guy, I’m afraid. I love Andrae, but he hasn’t progressed since S2, and he’s outmatched on all sides here. Emilio sees him as a “personality” rather than a designer; that’s kind of a mean thing to say, but it’s not completely inaccurate. He’s making “modular units” that zip together, so if you wanted to wear, say, a shirt with a blue patch on the side, you could, then you could unzip it and zip in a yellow patch. This isn’t a totally crazy idea. But he isn’t up to it, not yet. Joanna’s trying to figure out if it’s bonkers or brilliant. Laura thinks it’s wackadoodle (her word) which makes me want to like it. But… I can’t. It looks like an ill-fitting color-blocked wetsuit. Oh Andrae, I’m sorry. Isaac doesn’t get forlorn (I do: if I had to wear that, I’d feel plenty forlorn), and he doesn’t understand the panels. Georgina senses a Teachable Moment: when you use stretch fabric and a stiff zipper, the zipper will buckle and disrupt a smooth line (aha! There’s actual theory for this). Charlotte gracefully allows that with more time he might’ve been more successful.

Joshua is another one who breaks my heart, not because I like him, but because he’s, artistically, much like me. But first… his picture is orange and blue and squares and circles. I have no idea what it is (water meters on a rusted panel, maybe?), and that’s fine. Joshua doesn’t know what it is either, I guess, because he’s reacting to the colors and squares and circles. And his shirt is colorful round-cornered squares. Don’t you just love it when everything comes together? Joanna’s concerned about the artsy-craftsy vibe of the top, but he keeps going: “Boo boo, you have got to hurry up.” For some reason he reminds me of Nick Verreos when he says that; sorry, Nick (I do like Nick, very much). Here’s the exact first-reaction note I wrote when I saw it: “Joshua, if I can get past colors, I don’t like it.” And yeah, that’s about it. The overall shape of the top is ok, though it should either be more boxy or more tapered, but it’s the pasted-on effect of the stripes that does it in. And the skirt, well, the color’s off, I hate the asymmetrical hem, it’s too short where it’s short, and too flowy for the jacket. And too shiny. Why does he remind me of me? Because neither of us are able to execute what we have in our heads. Take that exact outfit, give it to, oh, Seth Aaron or Mondo, someone who works with colors, even Mila, and it’d be improved a thousand percent just by small changes, like tapering the colorblocks or slanting them (though the fabric of the skirt needs to be changed, it just does) and executing it well. You give me seven items and ask me to arrange them on a table, and I’ll make a mess of it, whereas an artist knows how to get the eye to flow. I can tell when a story I’m working on doesn’t work, but I don’t know how to fix it. That’s what being an artist is, it isn’t about matching colors and making shapes, knowing to switch up sentence lengths and vary structures; it’s about intuitively knowing how to make almost-right, right. And Joshua just isn’t blessed with that sense; neither am I. The difference between us is, I don’t go on Reality TV and try to convince the world I’m an Artiste. It doesn’t get better, either. It’s not like discovering new methods, new inspirations. It’s more like colorblindness. It’s the difference between Talent, and Not. Anyway, for all that, Georgina finds it costumey and schizophrenic, with no resemblance to the image, and Isaac sees too much to think about. Someone suggests it’s “military geisha” and Isaac tries “Sgt. Pepper.” No, it isn’t; Sgt. Pepper was gaudy and stupid but it flowed. This doesn’t flow, it stops and starts.

The Lead (hey, when I bury the lead, I really bury the lead):

Anthony Ryan win; his photo and interview appear in the online USA Today. This is not to take away from his design – it’s a striking dress and I think he deserved the win – but I suspect the decision was made when the USA Today editor did her walk-through and heard the word “cancer.” I’m glad his work didn’t make it awkward to explain it.

Andrae is out; I’m sorry our little lamb has gone astray, it was baaaa-d, baaaaa-d, baaaaa-d. But it was great to see him again. His last words: “This is something I’m proud of.” Me, too, sweetie.

Next Week: androgynous clothing. And naked men. With a twist. I’m guessing they start of designing for women, then the men come in. But I could be wrong. I’m looking forward to this from Joanna: “Did you just say there isn’t much ball room?”

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