Project Runway All Stars: Happy Returns

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Make it work: It’s Project Runway: All Stars, which puts a different wrinkle on everyone’s favorite design competition on Lifetime. This season brings back some familiar faces from seasons past, while waving auf wiedersehn to others: namely, our beloved judging panel. In place of the lovable Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, we get Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, model Angela Lindvall, and designers Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman (whose husband Harvey Weinstein is an executive producer of the show). Sadly, there’s not a Tim Gunn in sight. Perhaps a 21-Gunn salute is in order.

Thursday's premiere began with our all-stars filing in: Hi, Mondo, Michael, and Mila! Heya, Sweet P, Jerell, Elisa, and Anthony! Where ya been hidin’ Rami, Gordana, and Kenley? And bless my eyes, could it be, yes it could! None other than Austin Scarlett, the foppiest dandy in Candyland. (“I’m here to put the ‘star’ in ‘all-star.’”) Then they were informed of the season's grand prize is from Ms. Lindvall: A boutique in Neiman Marcus stores, a fashion feature in Marie Claire magazine, and a guest editor position for one year. Holy crap! Project Runway All Stars ain’t Mizrahiing around!

The competitors kicked things off by showing an example of their work. “So diverse. 13 specific points of view,” Isaac said. “This is going to be a great competition, I can tell.” He must get excited every time he opens a box of crayons. Then they were off to their apartment, where they received a special video message from design legend Valentino and his longtime partner. All the contestants were instantly rendered verklempt. Champagne flowed freely!

We were swooped off to a NYC street, where Lindvell (who I instantly liked. She’s got a pleasing, upbeat energy for a supermodel) filled them in on Challenge #1: The Unconventional Challenge. No, that’s not where they are forced to create clothing for threesomes and dominatrixes. Rather, it’s when they have to make fashion out of everyday objects, like from a pet store or supermarket. This time around, it was a 99 cent store, and the twist was that the outfit must resemble the garment they just showed on the runway. April said she needed “a clusterf*ck” of mops, so that’s what she got! Also fun to see: A fan blowing on Austin’s perfect bouffant coiffe, during a moment of sheer exasperation. Even dandy all-stars have bad hair days!

Back at the workroom, Joanna Coles, who I’m not entirely sure isn’t a robot, glided through the room almost as if on wheels and surveyed the designers' stations with clockwork efficiency: “I couldn’t be more excited,” she said, not looking particularly excited. Sweet P’s towels didn’t impress her much. Austin’s plastic dress, meanwhile, came in contact with a hot glue gun that burned a hole in the front of his dress. Michael said, “I think this is the last that we’re going to see of Mr. Austin Scarlett.” What?! You can’t say that, Michael. Hush your mouth.

The next day is runway day. Gordana did a great job of running through everything we needed to know about runway day: “That’s actually very stressful day for us. So many elements. You have to do the finishing touches. Fit your model perfectly. Choose your accessories. Think of hair, think of makeup. And then go on stage and hope that nothing falls apart.” No room for error! In the L’Oreal makeup room, we heard things like, “Young, babydoll fresh!” and powder puffs went flying everywhere.

FINALLY. Runway time. We said hi to Georgina, Isaac, and Ken Downing, otherwise known as Nieman Marcus’s fashion director. So we aren’t fooling around here. Austin emerged first with, well, a giant turquoise tablecloth. Kara’s mops, curtains, and tin trains were astonishing and chic! Elisa (the one who spits/kisses her clothes to bless them) looked on proudly at a two-piece floral swimwear piece with a flowing white cape. It sends her over the moon. Rami really pulled off a miracle made out of shopping bags and umbrellas. Sweet P made a colorful, Mexican-themed dress, while Mondo created something that reminds him of his “sixth birthday and pure joy.” (Apparently that birthday was a very black one.) Great work from Mondo. Gordana’s design looked like toilet paper with steel wool epaulets. Not a great look. Michael sent his model out in a LOT of mop strings. Then a second mop dress comes out, April’s, and Michael admitted she did a lot better.

Judge time: As expected, Rami was a big favorite. (“Tinsel from Christmas decorations to emulate ostrich feathers.”) Mizrahi said he mastered all the elements and “made them his bitch,” which earned giggles of embarrassed delight. Sweet P’s terrycloth dress felt “unresolved,” according to Mizrahi. Jerell earned good remarks fro his graphic dress. Elisa’s dress was also a hit, because it “told a story from the minute it hit the runway.” Mondo’s “snappy” creation is all about “proportion” according to Mizrahi, but Gordana had too many ideas, leading her to explain how she “oooohverdesigns.”

In the end, Rami won it all. And he has some draping issues (he’s known as the king of draping), so this was some redemption of his construction abilities. Mondo came in a close second. Bottom three were Gordana, Sweet P, and Elisa. (I thought they liked Elisa’s dress, though!) Sadly, it was Elisa who left first. Which is a bummer! Elisa is always good for some out-there moments and off-the-wall creativity.


... How do you feel about Angela Lindvall as host?

... Was Joanna Coles a poor substitute for Tim Gunn?

... Who are your top three favorites to make it to fashion week? Mondo and Rami are looking like strong contenders.

... What kind of challenges might take advantage of the fact that these are all returning contestants? What kind of challenges, period, do you want to see this season?

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