Austin Scarlett, Mondo, Kenley, Anthony...just a few favorites who bring the "something old" to Project Runway: All Stars which premiered last night on Lifetime. Austin has grown an amazing, blond version of a Clark Gable moustache but the rest of the contestants look pretty much the same. Viewers hoping for a splashy, drama-filled premiere were likely disappointed -- this was a lot of setup, and while season previews promise plenty of diva-like behavior, the first episode was fairly tame.
The contestants seem to like the new supermodel host, Angela Lindvall, as well as the new cast of judges which includes Georgina Chapman (co-founder of fashion house Marchesa) and Isaac Mizrahi. Lindvall is a little "meh" compared to the charming Heidi Klum, but there is room for her to grow throughout the season and hopefully she'll find her niche. Or at least a cute accent.
Lindvall welcomes the designers and explains that All-Stars will offer the Biggest Prize in Project Runway History: An exclusive boutique in Neiman Marcus stores and online, a spread in Marie Claire magazine along with a one-year guest editorship, sewing machines and more from Brother, 100k office space/tech from HP/Intel, and a cash prize of $100K from L'Oréal. The total package is worth almost $500K -- pause for gasps all around.
Before the challenge is announced, the designers put on a quick runway show with one look they have brought with them. The judges oohhh and aahhh, and the designers are then whisked off to their new digs where a video welcome from Giancarlo Giammetti awaits them. Some of the designers look blank, others are in tears (Michael, Austin) when they realize that GG is the life partner of designer Valentino. But wait! The video camera pans out and Valentino himself is welcoming the designers and encouraging them! This is also a plug for a new Valentino museum or exhibit or something, but all the designers hear is Valentino utter the words "Project Runway All Stars." That's me! they gasp.
The first challenge is the designer-detested but fan-favorite "Unconventional Challenge." Austin won the very first one back in season one, so he feels extra pressure to perform. The designers are given a $100 budget and are set loose in a 99-cent store after which they must make a design that is inspired by the look they showed the judges on the runway. After returning to the workroom, we get our first look at this season's mentor, Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles. We are shocked to learn that Kenley is happy to be mentored by Joanna "because she's a fashion editor." Read: "Because she's not Tim Gunn." Kenley & Tim famously hated one another, so we all know Kenley is the devil because who hates Tim Gunn?
The designers are sewing and gluing away at their napkins, umbrellas, mops, trash bags and other 99-cent store whatnot and Joanna critiques them all, but mostly asks, "Will this surprise the judges?" and then says, "I can't wait to see how this turns out." I'm not sure how cutting-edge this mentoring is going to be, but she seems nice and she has a great accent, so I'm pro-Joanna. Coles leaves the workroom without coining a catchphrase. There is a bit of false drama at the end of sewing when Austin burns a hole in his plastic dress, but it's fixed by the time we return from commercial break so we move right to hair and makeup and then hit the runway.
Rami: Georgina loved his silhouette; Isaac thinks Rami has an execution edge; Ken thinks the look is editorial; Angela thinks the model looks like she came straight off a Paris runway. The judges agree the design has balance, and that Rami translated the 99-cent store into fashion -- Isaac adds that it might have been a little too spot-on to the inspiration dress.
Jarell: Georgina thought the dress was wearable, and moved beautifully; Isaac loves the use of blue/gray as an alternative to a neutral; Ken likes the high/low hemline. The judges thought the dress was understandable, but question whether Jarell pushed boundaries, while agreeing that he had a high level of execution.
Mondo: Georgina thinks the fun; Ken thinks it's flawlessly executed, and wants to see it in a "real" fabric; Isaac compliments Mondo's sense of proportion, calling the dress "snappy." the judges love the fascinator, and they like the modernity of the design.
Sweet P: Isaac thinks the terry-cloth dress looks unresolved and unfinished; Ken thinks it makes the model look bigger; Georgina wants the dress to be more precise. Overall the judges thought the dress lacked both purpose and execution -- is it eccentric or a mistake?
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Elisa: As usual, Elisa confused the judges with her explanation and her outfit, which appeared to be a French-cut bathing suit over a pair of skimpy shorts with big, floaty sleeves with writing on the cuffs. Mizrahi calls the look entertaining, and all of the judges question whether she is up to par with the rest of the designers.
Gordana: The judges wonder if there is too much going on with the dress, although they like some aspects of the design. Gordana agrees, admitting that she has a tendency to overdesign because she works so efficiently and ends up with extra time on her hands. The judges like the movement of the dress, but think Gordana needs to know when to stop.
Winner: Rami! His plaid suit/dress was sharp and high-fashion, and he edges out Mondo for the win.
Out: Elisa, thank goodness. She wishes the judges happy, happy days and then skips off into the sunset.