I was a bit torn when this season of Project Runway All Stars was announced. It feels a little too soon — the last season of All Stars aired less than a year ago. As a result, this season’s crop of stars feels a little … less sparkly than last season’s does, and I have statistics to back that up. Last season, 69 percent of the All Stars designers finished in the top four (or higher) of their original seasons; this time around, it’s 38 percent. (I’ll just be over here, wearing my pajama jeans, running stats on reality television programs for fun.)
But what’s more, the first season of All Stars felt essential. We were there to right a wrong. I don’t know whether the first season of All Stars was already in the offing (or — God help us all — the auf-ing) before Mondo’s season of Runway was completed; even if it was, the whole affair felt purposeful, like Lifetime knew they needed to win back the faith of a nation.
I’m aware that I am overthinking this. And I’m aware that this will likely be a much more interesting season in the absence of an inevitable winner. And I’m always delighted to see Joanna Coles.
Sew So here we go!
Each designer is seen striding purposely toward Parsons, accompanied by sound bites about their hopes for the upcoming season and the things they’ve accomplished since we saw them last. Emilio wins Most Impressive (Tony nomination holla!); Laura wins Most Bitter. Carolyn Murphy greets the designers to run down the season’s prizes, and while she’s wearing a dress with one very Heidi-esque shoulder, she lacks Heidi’s charisma and ease. I’ve wondered a lot about why it is that Heidi can carry off the dual host/judge role so effortlessly, and I think it’s because Heidi Klum does not care what you think of her. At all.
After Carolyn points out that this is the toughest season of All Stars yet (you mean, like, of the two?), it’s off to the roof where Joanna is waiting to introduce the challenge. She tells the designers, “We want to see if you can work together.” Wendy snaps, “No!” and then feels sad when she’s chosen last in a schoolyard-style selection of teammates. Each team is tasked with creating a mini-collection (one look each), and the theme is “attitude.” Teams can choose from a list of provided attitudes, or select their own, which means that the theme is less “attitudes” and more “all adjectives.” Still, none of the teams pick anything good like torpor; instead, one team chooses confident, and the other team chooses bold.
After a quick trip to Mood, it’s straight to work, and before long, it’s time for Joanna’s first critique. We’re treated to some of her signature one-liners — “When I think of lace and black leather, the word that comes to mind is hooker!” — and also to an odd interaction with Ivy, where Joanna says she’d been afraid to meet her because she was “such a bitch” on her season. It’s true — Ivy was awful — but it still seems strange to bring it up. It also seems strange to tell Uli, “I’m thinking stegosaurus” in response to the studs she’s chosen for her dress, but that’s the good sort of strange. Finally, at the designers’ hotel, there’s champagne and Joshua proposes a toast to Wendy for being one of the designers who paved the way in season one. They’ll be cutting each other apart with pinking shears soon, but it’s a nice moment while it lasts.
Finally, it’s off to the runway, where the regular judges (Carolyn, Isaac Mizrahi, and Georgina Chapman) are joined by guest judges Rachel Roy and Mondo. There are some very nice pieces, but all told, it’s an underwhelming runway, particularly for All Stars. Maybe it’s because the choices the two teams made aren’t particularly fresh — Team Bold is centered around a blue and black color story and Team Confident relies on leather and lace. Still, Team Confident is clearly the stronger of the two and takes the win; Anthony Ryan is the overall winner. Team Bold has more than one lackluster look, but it’s out-of-her-sportswear-element Peach who is eliminated.
Click through the slideshow to see all of this week’s looks. Who are you glad to see back, who could you do without, and who are you hoping wins it all? I’m very much Team Uli.