Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 9 – There’s No Business Like Sew Business

Welcome to Fifth Avenue, that Ready-to-Wear hell designers scorn because it sells “consumer-friendly” clothes to “the masses,” as Joshua puts it. Emilio’s a little less judgmental: “it has to please a lot of people.” What’s hilarious is that most of America shops at Target and Wal-Mart, maybe Sears or Penney’s, right, Isaac, Michael, Nicole? But just like all writers want to be David Foster Wallace or Salman Rushdie, all designers want to be Dior. Today they’re slumming it.

Elie Tahari is the name of the day, the penniless Israeli immigrant who went from electrician to fashion star in three years back in the early 70s. So now everyone else thinks she can do it, too. Sorry, only so many Cinderella stories to go around.

The Business Proposal:

Uli’s so taken with the building – “it’s crisp and clean and airy and light” – she hardly notices Elie and Blondie. It’s the Save the Garment Center challenge. Remember last time, they took Mondo’s winning dress and ruined it completely by making it more fitted and removing the pockets (it’s on sale at Nanette Lepore for $178.80 right now, by the way)? Well, this year Elie Tahari will crush someone else’s vision.

The official challenge is to make a modern, sophisticated look, using any fabric from Tahari’s stash, that will sell for $500 – $700. The profits will go to… wait, you thought the designers were going to get paid for their 9 hours of work? Hah! Not on Project Runway. No, the profits go to Save the Garment Center because they’re all in this together, right?

They do the whole visit-the-price-consultant thing, and it’s even less informative than last time when at least they showed their designs to someone who estimated production costs, then gave them a figure they could use for fabrics. This time they just walk up to a “price consultant” who for the most part says, “Sure, you can use that,” and sends them on their merry way. If you’re going to do a challenge about pricing, why not show the details of how pricing is calculated? Could it be you don’t want people to actually know that $500 dress cost $52 to make?

Poor Joanna: when she comes in for the walk-through, it’s apparent she has split the fabric of her skirt at the waist. In two places, no less. It’s too bad none of the designers offers to mend it for her. I barely heard the walk-through because I kept staring at her stomach and wondering if she’d gained weight or was pregnant. It’s too bad, too, because she brought Elie, who passed on words of wisdom for all the Special Snowflakes in the Room who are Winners No Matter What: “All love, no fear.” I think a couple of these designers need a little fear. But fear isn’t in their contract.

Elie and someone with very long legs are guest judges. I’ve been informed Legs is also George Clooney’s girlfriend. And a wrestler. And a model. And an actress.


Uli rules out feathers, fringe and trims. Because, well, she’s obsessed, but she’s not stupid. She plans a dress and vest, and picks out a white fabric that looks to me like waffle wipes. The price consultant tells her the vest puts her over budget, so she’s down to a white waffle wipe dress. In the workroom, she starts moaning, “Why did I buy white fabric again?” as it’s her third white dress this season. Joshua suggests she subconsciously wants to get married. She frets that colors work so much better on the runway. Except, back in Episode 2, she thought a white disco dress would stand out, and she won that one. She’s got to do something cool with the design to make it less white. So she wraps a towel around the waist. Elie thinks the extra fabric is too heavy, and Joanna thinks the mannikin looks enormous from the side. Uli explains how she got worried about too simple, and Elie starts in: “Fear, that’s when you took the wrong road.” So she takes away the towel and frays some napkins for the shoulders. The good news is, it doesn’t look like waffle wipes any more. The bad news: now the dress reminds me of aida or huck – I used to do a lot of counted cross-stitch and I frayed the hems exactly like that. The dress is huge on her model. I think it’s the worst thing Uli’s made all season, maybe ever in her life. That’s why she’s in the Top Two. Maybe it looks better in person? Georgina loves the shoulder detail because it draws attention to the face, but the length bothers her since it’s neither this nor that, and that’s why Isaac loves the length, because it’s a little bit wrong; it’s young. Elie loves how she used fringe, it’s “a wonderful achievement.” Ok, he’s smearing it on a little thick. They all are. Come on, look at it!

Anthony Ryan gets a beautiful print; now he just has to figure out how to place it. He’s also got some other fabric he refers to as “almost neoprene” for stretch, which strikes me as bizarre. He cuts up his print – parts are blue, parts are orange, parts are almost animal print – to put the different parts of the print in different places. Mixing prints is the sort of thing Mondo does beautifully, and the Michael Costello clone – Christopher, I had to look up his name, that’s how much I remember from last season – who did the x-ray fabric, knew how to place a print correctly. I’m not so sure about AR. Joanna says the print is doing a lot of the work, which, well, yeah, it is, but isn’t that why you get a superb print? He has a discussion about pockets with Elie – they do add to the cost but they also increase value, but the important thing is to give “the lady” the best shape at the hip. That’s the best information this episode. Then Elie lapses into pseudo-shrink schmaltz: “When things are easy we get lazy, you need to grow up fighting for your rights and food and love and you appreciate it more.” When I looked at fabric insert on the Rate the Runway slide, I realized it’s not a silky fabric at all; it’s quite coarse, in fact, which surprised me. I don’t like it as much as I did. I have mixed feelings about the final result: I like the shoulders, I hate the navy inserts on the sides, I like the pockets and the way the print is used in front, I hate the sides of the skirt in back, and I really, really hate the strip down the skirt in back. It looks like skid marks. You wear that dress, people will assume you’re taking Alli and forgot to bring extra pants. Which is why he’s in the Top Two. Isaac loves the side panels and the pockets, but not the neckline. Elie thinks it’s easy to wear; he’s impressed. Georgina thinks it’s young without being junior.


ivy fabricIvy does ready-to-wear, so this is her challenge. What she doesn’t do is prints, so of course she finds a print; she thought it was ombre, but it’s a landscape. It’s gorgeous, but, like Anthony Ryan’s, it’s the sort of print you have to place correctly. She wants to do a maxi dress to use the whole panel of the fabric, but still using a color block technique. Elie tells her she has guts to use that fabric, which, given he can’t very well say “What the #*%@ are you doing to my beautiful materials” is maybe for the best. Ivy tells Joanna she’s going to leave the dress long, and the customer can cut it to the desired length. Ivy, what part of “ready-to-wear” do you not understand? Joanna tells her customers won’t necessarily want to tailor the dresses they buy, and it’s the sign of a lazy designer, anyway. Especially with that print: it isn’t a repetive pattern. I think Ivy knows this is the last challenge of her contract, so she doesn’t really give a shit, so even though Elie tells her it should be short, she leaves it long. And doesn’t bother with design, fit, detailing, at all. Dear lord. It’s a desecration of that fabric. Blondie doesn’t like the slits billowing out. Slits? I didn’t even notice the slits, I was so overcome with ugly. Georgina finds it a frumpy length. It came out better than Elie thought, which makes me wish I’d heard what was really in his head during walk-through. Isaac thinks it looks like the day after the world exploded and the sky turned orange; it was fine when she was walking, but as soon as she stands still, it’s awkward. Legs wouldn’t even try it on. Isaac: “Week after week, she’s in the bottom.” He finally noticed.

Emilio wants to have a successful business, and ready-to-wear is the meat and potatoes of that; he’s going for a straightforward, classic dress. Fabric selection is everything, so he finds a beautiful mustard silk. Did you catch the oxymoron there? Because there is no such thing as “beautiful mustard.” But he gets it anyway, and I want to cry. His clients expect color from him. That’s fine, but that color? He also gets some burgundy for color blocking. On walkthrough, Joanna says it’s interesting, but the color is hard to wear; Elie likes the back better than the front, so Emilio, who’s no fool, makes the front more like the back. He’s worried it’s too simple. It is simple, and the color isn’t that bad. It’s actually nice, but who knows what it is in person. Georgina doesn’t like the color and wishes for more ideas. Legs hates the color. Blondie tries to cheerlead for mustard/burgundy, but who’s going to listen to her, ever. Elie admires the achievement, which is his version of “Everyone’s a winner.” Isaac expected more, specifically from Emilio: “Is it enough from you? No.” In the judges’ private discussion, he confers immediate immunity on him: “I’d throw myself across the runway before sending him home.” Georgina thinks it’s a fine dress, but that’s about it. For this episode, a fine dress is pretty good.

Joshua picks a glowing magenta and matching lace. By the walkthrough, joshua eliehis manikin has a bare chest. With Joshua, you never know: it could be a crazy scoop neckline, or maybe he’s going to put gerbils in there. Elie wonders about the lace: “It takes it somewhere else.” I don’t think that was a good thing. Joshua does battle with a zipper, and the zipper wins: “She looks like she has a dump in her butt.” She does, too. Maybe she’s taking Alli, too. Considering it’s really pretty simple, it’s one ugly dress; the chest insert bows out, making her look pregnant in the chest. Or like she’s expecting an Alien to pop out and wants to catch it. It’s really a bad idea. The exposed zipper in the back, lined by lace overlays, is just ugly. But Joshua thinks it would compliment all ages and sizes. I don’t think it compliments any age or size. Georgina loves the color, but the model has breasts down to her waist, and “no one wants to have droopy breasts.” Isaac isn’t sure about the length, and he won’t even talk about the zipper; the lace appliques “go moderate.” That’s a bad thing, right? Elie loves the color but not the lace. Legs thinks the zipper makes it modern but takes away the femininity, while Blondie thinks it cheapens the dress. “If the zipper were gone, it would’ve been a great dress.” No, it wouldn’t, but it’d be better. “Editing,” says Joshua. Yes, but you’re supposed to think of that before the runway. Privately, Georgina thinks he should be shot for doing that to stretch fabric, which is more like it. Elie saw a slutty lady, and pregnant, to boot. Congratulations, Joshua, you have a new specialty: the pregnant slut.

The Bottom Line:

Anthony Ryan wins. And that destruction of vision that made me so mad last time, when they wrecked Mondo’s dress? It works this time. They changed the fabric to eliminate all the orange, took away the pockets (damn), got rid of the skid marks, and sleeked down the side inserts. And it’s only $400, which is below the target price range. Because there’s a limit to how much people will pay for a cotton sheath.

For the auf, it comes down to: do we tell Ivy once again to push herself, or do we tell Joshua once again to tone it down? You know who wins when they put it that way: Ivy’s out.

Next Week:

They go to the Intrepid and inflict themselves on veterans. Come on, these women have already sacrificed to serve their country, just how much more suffering do they have to take? I’ll tell you how much more: Katie Holmes. It just isn’t fair.

7 responses to “Project Runway All-Stars Season 2: Episode 9 – There’s No Business Like Sew Business

  1. A $500-$700 dress for all of the magazine editors and runway models to buy off the rack–you know, moderately priced.

    I did wonder what the actual cost of the dresses was, no thanks PRAS.

    I can’t believe Joshua paid more than Ivy–who really was phoning it in lately (but at least she;s redeemed spiritually or something.

    AR’s in store dress is so dull. If that fabric was Elie’s why can’t they use it in the dress? And, if pockets cost a little more but are a huge value add, then why lose them? Ugh.

    You forgot to mention that next week is going to be Katie Holmes’ first sighting outside of Scientology camp–it was the first public appearance she’d made once The Hubbard’s deemed her unsavable!

    • My revised theory for late-in-the-game: Joshua got the scholarship spot because Lifetime (home of Dance Moms) considers him “good TV.” Anthony Ryan’s got the Sob Story spot. Emilio and Uli actually belong there.

      Katie Holmes, well, I try to mention her as little as possible.

  2. Hi! I also thought Uli’s dress’s shoulders looked like aida. Ditto Joanna looking huge in that skirt-I couldn’t stop talking about it while we were watching. Most distracting!

  3. As always – a terrific recap. Even when I have come to different conclusions about
    the designer’s results; I find myself convinced by every witty and reasonable insight.
    Your comparison of Uli’s fabric to waffle-wipes and needlework mesh is uncanny
    (and hilarious!) However; maybe because it’s not just another shiny or gauzy or
    smooth stretch material – I found the texture to be downright distinctive; in a good
    way – interesting and with character, even in all white. (although I can see it for
    sale in other shades as well). I thought she deserved the win.
    Anthony’s re-designed dress could have given her decent competition; but the
    dress that Elie Tahari made was not the one that Anthony showed on the RW.
    As for Josh vs. Ivy; I think Ivy tried to make something a real woman might want
    to wear as opposed to one of Joshua’s inflatable dolls. I didn’t know how he made
    final 3 the first time, but you would think he would have seen the bigger picture
    (a world outside of clubs or party dates) the second go round.
    And Emilio just disappointed; I feel the dress was much too basic, he is depending
    on the color to somehow carry a lack of imagination. I still believe he’ll make it to
    the finals; but I really hope he surprises everyone with his RW collection.

    I am also pretty certain that I would not like to spend $400 plus for a day frock
    made of the same cotton/spandex as my casual khakis.

    • Hi Guest – my impression from looking around the blogosphere is that Uli was by far the favorite. I don’t get it, I thought the fabric looked messy, dirty, just nasty. I’m glad someone finally called out the whole exposed zipper nonsense; maybe we’ll see fewer going forward.

      Nothing was very impressive this week. For some reason, they seem to be getting less and less as the season wears on and on.

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