Project Runway All Stars: Project TRONway

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Project Runway All Stars S01E09: "When I Get My Dress in Lights"

“When I Get My Dress in Lights” required the Project Runway All Stars Top 5 to design avant-garde outfits that incorporated electrical lights and colors that glow under a blacklight. And while the most shockingly bright thing in the entire episode wasn’t actually sent down the runway—it was that bizarre, flesh-colored makeup smeared across Joanna Coles’ eyes like a raccoon mask—there were indeed enough ravetastic designs, and even more glorious disasters, to make this one of my favorite episodes of the season. It’s Project TRONway! What’s not to love? (Well, the way Angela Lindvall widens her eyes for emphasis and speaks to the designers like they are four-year-olds, for starters, but let’s stay positive.)

The challenge seemed to evoke extreme reactions in the designers. Austin positively short-circuited his pants with excitement, and then performed an interpretive dance around the halls of Parsons while waving LED flashlights to convey how much the magically iridescent wonderland that awaited us made his hairs stand on end with static fabu-lectricity. (I just made that word up.) Mondo just kind of rolled his eyes and called Austin “high-maintenance.” Gotta love Mondo; the guy’s in a perpetually grumpy mood and I’m not entirely convinced he didn’t spring fully-formed from Tim Burton’s imagination. Michael just started freaking out. He don’t know about dis electric stuff!

So instead of a trip to Mood, the designers hoofed it to a store called Barbizon, which didn’t sell Amazon Barbies, but actually sold raver supplies, among other technological wonders. Kenley envisioned a day-glo plaid made from glow-tape, and color me luminously intrigued. Jerrell gravitated to fiber optics, because they remind him of toys he’d buy as a kid off an ice cream truck, and that’s probably because that’s exactly what they are. They then had 30 minutes at Mood to complete the look, and Mondo mades a fabric tent and hid beneath it with his best friends, which were all stuffed animals with knives for arms.

Joanna then made her disturbing arrival and declared, “This is the most electrifying challenge in Project Runway history,” which you can tell she came up with on the way to the taping as she applied her flesh-colored raccoon makeup in the back of a Lincoln Town Car, and thought,“My god, I’m good.” She told everyone that she wanted them to make a dress “that really stands out,” as opposed to all the other weeks, and couldn’t help but gush to Kenley, the last girl in the competition, about how excited she was that Pharrell Williams (who apparently Esquire once called the Best Dressed Man in the World, so it’s official) was the guest judge this week. Kenley reacted to the news the way she reacts to everything else: with a giant smile and an, “I know!” Jerrell had no idea what he was doing but would love for this to be his second win, let’s put it that way (*wink*). Michael, meanwhile, was still freaking out and designing 45 glow-in-the-dark dresses in the hopes that one would come out looking better than something you’d run into in an amusement park Halloween maze.

Cut it, drape it, plug it, glow it, zap it, stitch it, hem, upgrade it; charge it, drop it, zoom it, press it, snap it, work it, then RUNWAY IT! (With thanks to Daft Punk for this week’s fast-forward segue.)

Mondo’s was out first, and sorry Mond-man, but your dress was kind of fugly this week. It basically looked like she was wearing two Hot Wheels racetracks that wound around her boobs. And not in the good way.

Jerrell, shockingly, loved his outfit and thought it was fantastic and was going to win Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, just you wait. Back on Planet Earth, the dress looked fine but it was a little hard to see under the black light, which didn’t let you make out detail.

Kenley killed it. Her plaid looked smart and bold and stylish and the coat she made out of some kind of stiff, tarp-like netting was equally assured and out-there.

Austin went in a different direction from everyone else, and it served him well. His dress was a gravity-defying gown made of black tulle that climbed over his model’s head threateningly, like a creeping vine or maybe a grabbing hand. Inside it were twinkling lights, like a “night sky,” as he envisioned it.

Michael’s design was a masked samurai warrior that, while different, looked kind of hideous in a “Burning Man on acid” way, to pull a phrase from the Sean Avery playbook. Pharrell nailed it when he said she was “fit for a Comic-Con.”

I must admit I agreed with Isaac’s critiques on many of these looks, particularly the absence of avant-garde in Mondo’s look, and the chintziness of the details on Michael’s outfit.

But the win went to Austin, the “silent killer” as Pharrell called him. His gown was beautiful, under lights and in the dark. And seeing as his newly homeless mom was living trapped inside the Tron-like landscape of the Skype universe, he really needed this win more than ever. Hopefully he can sweep the lightcycle battle and break her out in time.

As for the loser: Jerrell, oh Jerrell. The self-confidence has served you well until now. But your time has at last come. Do we want to blame your downfall on the deceptively sweet and helpful Kenley, who innocently asked, “You’re going to do a pencil skirt with that, right?” in the dark room? The same pencil skirt that signed your walking papers? What’s the point—it’s in the past. Just carry your head high and enjoy your Top 5 finish.

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