Project Runway All Stars: Not Quite Ready-to-Wear
It was penny-pinching time last night as our All Stars took on a ready-to-wear challenge with budget constraints—and Nanette Lepore!
Actual attitudes not shown.
Because there are three of us Project Runway lovers (well, two of us today—here's hoping Kenley's elimination cures your flu, Andi!), and because we're assuming you watched the show too, instead of straight recaps for this series we're picking and choosing the parts we want to talk about most each week. First though, the episode stats:
The Winner: Mondo, whose "tin can with a string" dress is already sold out at Nanette Lepore. So much for waiting for it to go on sale...
The Loser: Kenley, who should've known better than to try and beat the Prints Prince at his own game this late in the season. No one out-prints Mondo!
What a RELIEF! This episode had me so worried that Mondo was going to go and get himself kicked off right at the very end! And my concern was not without reason! Mondo pulled one of his familiar—and apparently controversial—self-tortured workroom moments. As pointed out by both the judges and Mondo himself, some of his best work this season appears to come from a place of seeming desperation. And why wouldn't it? I have always admired the fact that Mondo's "thing" of matching disparate colors and prints together creates practically a second challenge for himself. It would be a completely reasonable challenge on Project Runway if the designers had to pull random scraps of fabric out of a bag and make an outfit using whatever they drew. But our favorite little Coloradan puts himself to this test in EVERY challenge.
It was surprising for me to see how negatively this behavior was received amongst his cohort, since the idea of an ambitious creative being frustrated with himself sounds like nothing new. Kenley in particular gave Mondo a hard time for his demeanor while working, which pointed out a key difference between the two designers. Throughout this season, Kenley has been fond of declaring how she wasn't nervous or unsure of herself during the designing process (which makes sense when you consider the comfort zone she set up camp in)—she spent the season doing what she knew she was good at and not much more. Mondo, on the other hand, was consistently shown as pushing himself throughout the design process, either forcing wacky fabric combinations together or attempting an unconventional cut. It's impressive to watch someone set such a high bar for themselves and (usually) clear it with great success.
But more about Mondo. This week's challenge was a nail biter, for sure, but in retrospect it's unsurprising that Mondo walked away with the prize. His design was the only one that you could look at in any context (i.e., outside of an episode of Project Runway) and say with 99.99% certainty that it's a Mondo design. Michael and Kenley's dresses were way generic (like, I've seen more unique and interesting dresses at Forever 21 generic) and Austin's coat was just fine. However, Mondo's aforementioned signature of combining geometrics, colors, prints, and tailoring is identifiable from a mile away. Which is why Mondo is awesome, Kenley! DUH!
And no amount of daggers-staring will change that.
Let's agree to disagree (or just diss):
Whether it was the reality of the final three or the emphasis on potential commercial success setting in, this week's episode inspired some interesting declarations of what a designer's essential skills truly are. The designers and judges ripped on Michael for creating clothing fit for a model and only a model (clothing possibly NOT EVEN fit for a model, based on the boob-slippage pow-wow session he and his model had prior to the runway). Mondo criticized Kenley for not taking the time for line up her prints. And, in turn, Kenley complained about how a real designer should know how to sketch, a skill that Mondo admitted he doesn't put much time or stock in. These arguments are not new ground for Project Runway, since we have seen many a designer be bent out of shape by another contestant's perceived lack of skill or precision. I find it hard to belief that Kenley, who seemingly verbalizes any and all thoughts that come to mind, only just now noticed and complained about Mondo's lack of sketching. The timing of these remarks this episode was interesting, given the fact that the challenge was forcing the designers to think about the nuts and bolts of selling clothing.
The All Star judges really must not care at all if a designer recycles their work, since some of the looks tonight were just more instances of an All Star phoning it in. I'm glad to see Kenley go and I'm even gladder to see that Mondo's All Star trajectory continues to mirror his first attempt at Project Runway glory (like this season, Mondo won the challenge that gave him a spot in the season 8 finale). Also, I have to give props to Austin and his general attitude, because I was reminded during After the Runway that he never really argues with anyone, a feat so surprising for Project Runway that I almost didn't notice. A class act, that one.
I WANT to think that he has the ultimate prize locked down, but I just don't know how much I can trust the judges (and producers) to make the right call. Of the final three, Mondo's the only one who has been in this situation before, since both Austin and Michael were kicked off right before their seasons' finales, so hopefully that means he has learned what to show in a final collection. And of the three, Mondo's guest editorship at Marie Claire would actually leave me wanting to read Marie Claire, and I have to imagine I'm not alone in this sentiment. Let's say Mondo has a 75% chance? Quickly, everyone! Knock on wood!
Once again this week, the Ming-vase-fragile worlds of our designers were shattered by a Dose of Reality. This time, though, even I was shocked to learn that if you want to make a dress that retails for $380 you get $48 to spend on fabric. Does it really cost $332—per item—to manufacture and ship a Nanette Lepore garment? (That Lepore dress I got for 85% off at the Nordstrom Rack is looking better all the time...) Project Runway has always walked a fine line between the fantasyland of reality television (Make something out pet supplies! Design a dress for Miss Piggy!) and the slightly-less-of-a-fantasyland fashion industry (Make something that can be mass produced! Make something that a non-model can wear!) and this ready-to-wear challenge was no exception.
As someone who can often be heard shouting stuff at the TV like, "no one would buy that!" and "only a model would look good in that!" and "where's Michael Kors when you need him?!" I liked seeing the designers get taken down a peg by someone who works in commercial fashion. Guess what Michael? If your professional model could barely keep your (waaay too long) caftan dress on, the "average woman" shopper would be in a constant state of nip-slip panic if she tried to wear it.
A Farewell to Charms
Say what you will about the Tugboat Captain's Daughter and her cat-hurling ways, I've been harboring a soft spot for Kenley Collins. Hey, I like her designs, and I think there's something to the (OK, her) argument that the silhouettes she designs are more universally appealing and flattering than those of Austin or Mondo. With the exception of that hideous shorts romper, of course. Not only am I sad to see Kenley go home because I despise Michael C. and his bullshit jersey draping (which is THE SAME EVERY WEEK and you know will be the only thing he designs for his final runway show) but I was hoping that one of the female designers would make it to the final round, especially given the judges' preference for the guys this season.
Kenley lost this challenge for herself though with her snotty attitude. Refusing to accept Nanette Lepore's comments and getting rid of the only genuinely interesting part of her design—whilst shit-talking Mondo in Nanette's studio—was not only rude, it was foolish. With only four designers left (one of them being the ever-so-polite Austin Scarlett), in a challenge designed to kiss the ass of the guest judge, Kenley should have known better than to cop a 'tude. Then again, she should've known better than to throw that cat, so maybe my hopes that she'd make it to the final three were a tad misguided.
If only we could find a dramatic farewell photo of Kenley to include here.
Assorted thoughts: I loved Mondo's comment about his dress being like "those pit bull dogs that are so ugly, but they're so ugly they're cute." He's right! Also, on the Mondo tip, this is the second week in a row that I've watched All Stars with someone who's had a personal run-in with Mondo. When will this luck rub off on me?!?
Seeing Anthony on After the Runway only further convinced me that he needs his own talk show–STAT. His sharp new haircut makes this all the more feasible!
I'm with Annalee in thinking Mondo has the final challenge in bag. However, we still don't know exactly what said challenge will look like—since there's no Fashion Week this season—so given the possibility of some wrenches being thrown at the designers, I'm putting his chances at 50%. Considering my total frustration with the judges this season (which continues—it's still impossible to know which looks they like and why) I wouldn't be surprised if Michael puts a jersey bedsheet on the runway and walks away with the prize. Grr.
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