3x01: YOU GOT PUNKED - We're back for another round of "All Stars," and the competition looks fierce. We've got a lot of talent and big personalities in the mix this time, including three former "Project Runway" winners (Irina, Jeffrey, and Seth Aaron), six who made it all the way to Fashion Week (Viktor, Mychael, Christopher, Melissa, Ari, and Korto), and two wildcards (Daniel and Elena). The designers meet new host Alyssa Milano in Bryant Park, where she explains a few notes: Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman are back as judges, with Marie Claire's Zanna Roberts Rassi acting as mentor. There's no immunity this time around. Challenge winners will be up for elimination each week along with everyone else. The prize package is huge and valued at over three quarters' of a million dollars. Without further ado, Alyssa introduces the first challenge. Inspired by legendary rocker Debbie Harry, the designers have to create a punk look using only what's available to them at Mood. They'll hash out their garments in Mood's basement -- no workroom, no designers' lounge.
3x02: BITTEN BY THE FASHION BUG - Time for a field trip! Alyssa herds the designers into the cavernous Museum of Natural History to present their second challenge. Drum roll: The designers will choose one of ten insects/arachnids to inspire an avant-garde look. The look should somehow incorporate the insect's color, shape, texture, and movement. It's a sign of confidence in these designers that they'll be expected to produce something avant-garde this early in the season (and in ten hours, no less). Or maybe this is a kind of punishment? You decide! The designers get to use their real workspace this week, happily, and it's a good thing it's bigger than Mood because their insects and arachnids come along for the ride. We get a lot of footage of Elena being utterly bizarre, laughing one minute and letting out a blood-curdling scream the next over struggles with her design. We also see Melissa have a bit of a meltdown after Zanna's critique; she chucks her design and starts over with just hours to go. Between Melissa and Elena it's like someone left the kitchen sink running: Tears for years. (I mean, Mychael switches his ideas around after his critique as well, but he's not nearly as shaken up by it.) Everyone else seems more or less confident in their work.
3x03: SLIP INTO SOMETHING SEXIER - We're only two weeks into the season, but it's already time for a drink. The designers congregate at Jay-Z's 40/40 Club for what they think is some free time, but obviously Alyssa is there to spoil their plans. The simple goal this week is to create a cocktail dress. I love these back-to-basics challenges, as they often give designers the opportunity to really show off. Alyssa explains that the designers will find inspiration for a modern cocktail dress from the ingredients, colors, and presentation of the cocktails -- with names like La Exotique, Hemingway, and Sardinia -- that they are served at 40/40. Since Michael won last week's challenge he gets first dibs from the list of cocktails, then gets to pick who'll drink next. Michael picks Korto, who's followed by Jeffrey, Viktor, Elena, Melissa, and Seth Aaron. The last designer to choose is Irina. She didn't win either of the first two challenges, but her competitors still clearly view her as a threat. Irina's unphased. She knows there are worse things than being a little icy and unliked, like being out of the competition entirely. She's not here to make friends, etc. They sketch at 40/40, then head to Mood to spend their $100. The workroom feels pretty chilled out this week, due at least in part to Elena's bouyant mood and also, I imagine, to the low-key nature of the challenge. Nobody can be too cranky when all they have to make is a cocktail dress. Zanna pops it for critiques and to throw in a twist, but even that's not too stressful: The designers have to make a "garnish" for their garments, an accessory of some kind that complements their look.
3x04: KEEPING IT CLASSY - It's not a real season of "Project Runway" until the designers are forced to make fashion (or something approximating it) out of distinctly unfashionable materials, so we find ourselves once again at the Unconventional Materials Challenge. The designers pile onto a bright yellow school bus that shuttles them to P.S. 212 in midtown Manhattan. At first they suspect their clients might be kids, but Alyssa's on hand to let them know that the real challenge is to create "high-impact runway fashion" using materials that would normally be found in a school. This is as good a time as any to lower your expectations. The group has four minutes to grab everything they think they'll need to create a look. The classroom turns into a ransacked hellscape pretty quickly as they rummage through school supplies. There are crayons all over the floor, rulers being thrown through the air, glitter and pencils as far as the eye can see. The free-for-all continues in the workroom, where the designers discover that this undertaking is considerably more difficult than it sounded at the outset. Elena criest to Zanna, again, because it's all very overwhelming. "This isn't novelas," Viktor says, exasperated. "Stop crying!" But Mychael understands her pain. "The materials, they just suck," he says. A "make it work" attitude is a major tenet of "Runway," but seriously, there's only so much ANY designer can do with (a) a severely limited amount of time, (b) no real fabric, and (c) stubborn, hard-to-manipulate materials. "Did you have fun?" Alyssa chirps before the start of the runway show. "No," Elena answers sullenly. I feel you, girl.
3x05: PARTNERS IN CRIME - Lifetime's premiering a four-hour, two-part Bonnie & Clyde miniseries starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger on December 8 and 9, and that's as good a reason as any to challenge the "Project Runway All Stars" designers to a '30s-inspired couples' fashion competition. The challenge: Design two complementary looks for a young modern couple—one male look, one female look—based off the 1930s Bonnie & Clyde aesthetic. The designers must work in pairs, but only one person will win the challenge, which means only one person will be sent packing. The designers are smart about pairing up. Christopher has first pick and he doesn't hesitate to choose Viktor, the designer with the most menswear experience. Strategy! Seth Aaron grabs Jeffrey, Irina picks Mychael, and Korto and Elena get thrown together by default. I've been watching "Runway" long enough now to be wary of menswear challenges, which often turn out to be more trouble than they're worth. Contestants have a habit of biting off much more than they can chew design-wise, and the limited timeframe is not conducive to properly fitting all the pieces of a good menswear look together on a male model.
3x06: MARGE MADNESS - Deceptively simple challenges are my favorite part of "Project Runway," and I got the mother of all deceptively simple challenges this week, in every sense of the phrase. Marge Simpson herself, matriarch of arguably the most influential TV family of all time on Fox's "The Simpsons," pops up on a TV screen to introduce the challenge to our remaining designers. The gang has to create a dress for Marge to wear on a special dinner date with Homer. The only real rule? No green -- she's worn enough green to last multiple animated lifetimes. Because it wouldn't be a "Simpsons" challenge without a sassy dig, she reminds the designers to take advantage of the accessories on the "Whoever's Sponsoring the Wall Now wall." High-five, Marge. This task can be boiled down into one directive -- "Design a dress for Marge Simpson" -- but there's a lot at play. The design has to work on a real human model but it must also work with Marge's yellow skin and blue hair. It's gotta be fashion-forward while remaining appropriate for a middle-aged woman on a dinner date. It has to have runway appeal but it also has to translate into 2D animation. See? Deceptively simple. I love it. Interestingly (or maybe not), the men seem to have the biggest issue in the workroom this week. While Korto, Irina, and Elena quickly settle into a groove with their designs, Seth Aaron, Jeffrey, and Christopher struggle to conceptualize an appropriate garment for a middle-aged woman to wear at a romantic anniversary celebration. Zanna has to talk Seth Aaron down from using polka dots, which sends him on a downward spiral in which he drapes FIVE potential gowns, all of them boring. Viktor, meanwhile, is creating a look that screams "safe" from the beginning: Acceptable and well made but definitely not worthy of a win. He's still stinging from landing in the bottom last week, I think.
3x07: AS SEWN ON TV - It's a bit premature for me to start singing and dancing aggressively to "Final Countdown," but we've reached the point in the season when no designer is safe from final critique. This is where things start to kick into gear. ("Danger Zone" is actually a better song choice, now that I think about it. Karaoke, anyone?) Our top six—Irina, Seth Aaron, Korto, Viktor, Christopher, and Elena—congregate to hear details about their next challenge. Elena lets out an endearing banshee shriek when Alyssa announces that they'll be flown by helicopter to QVC's studio in Westchester, PA, to meet with QVC program host Lisa Robertson. Over the river and through the woods and the designers are in the lobby at QVC, where Lisa tells them they'll be designing red carpet looks for her to wear to the company's pre-Oscars gala. She stresses that the garment must look good on camera, in still photographs, and against a red carpet backdrop, AND that she have the ability to sit, stand, and move in it. "Easy!" Viktor fake-scoffs with a flick of his trusty fan. Isaac pops in to give some vague advice while they sketch ("Go for it"—thanks, Isaac) and then the designers head back to NYC.
3x08: NINA'S TRENDING - Well, well, well, look who it is! I'm THRILLED to see Nina Garcia, who's always been one of my favorite parts of the "Runway" universe, back to participate in an "All Stars" challenge. I can hear the Nina haters gasping in horror, but seriously, I think she's fabulous. She struts on to the runway to inform the remaining designers—Korto, Seth Aaron, Viktor, Elena, and Christopher—that five of StyleHaul's top vloggers (with a combined audience of over 6 million people, no big deal) will be flown in to act as the inspiration and models for our designers' looks this week. The looks have to incorporate the 2014 Pantone Color of the Year (a dusty pink-ish purple called Radiant Orchid) and should be indicative of what the designers think will be a top fashion trend next year. The gang pairs up with their vloggers (all of whom are bubbly, excited, and game for anything. No divas! What a relief) for consultations, and then the work begins. Viktor flounders a bit with incorporating his personal aesthetic into his garment and Elena struggles to fit her work on a super petite model. Meanwhile, Christopher rebels against including the Pantone color in his design, opting instead for an Army green shade, relegating the Pantone color to an accessory.
3x09: READY TO WEAR - The designers will have two full days (TWO FULL DAYS, hallelujah) to create a look for Michelle Smith's New York-based fashion label Milly. The looks must use Michelle's custom fabrics and retail for $400. The winning design will be sold to Milly's clientele, with profits supporting the charity Save the Garment Center. In the Fashion District the designers meet with Michelle Smith, who outlines her line's edgy, feminine, "urban tribal" vibe. The fabric offerings seem to suit our remaining designers quite well, actually; Korto gravitates toward a loud colorful print while Elena snags a bunch of neon, and Christopher grabs vegan stretch leather, leaving Seth Aaron to go for polka dots. I'm happy that this particular brand-focused challenge won't infringe too much on the designers' ability to convey their personal aesthetics. "Remember that this will be on the runway," Michelle warns during her critique. "I have to be captivated.".
3x10: ARE U.N OR ARE YOU OUT - Three designers! Six looks each! Four days! We've reached the finale of the third season of "Project Runway All Stars," which means it's crunch time. Alyssa informs our trio that they'll be drawing inspiration for their final collections from their countries of origin: Elena from Ukraine, Korto from Liberia, Seth Aaron from Spain. And they'll do it in none other than the center of global politics, the United Nations headquarters in NYC. The finalists chat with the delegates from their countries and do their sketching inside the UN building. For their time in the workroom, they get special help from their old pals Viktor, Christopher and Jeffrey. They also get a last-minute twist: Alyssa pops back in to announce that their collections must include a seventh look, at least half of which must be made from scarves they've been provided. Viktor has to talk Elena off the ledge after this little curveball, but she pulls it together.
3x11: THE REUNION - We've made it to the end of Project
Runway All-Stars. A season full of mixed outfits, terrible judging (fucking
Isaac killed us all), alcohol and a high-concept finale. But, really, almost all
of the drama was low-key and manufactured. ZOMG, Elena's crying again. Oh look,
one designer "stole" a look from the designer who was helping him out. Oh look,
somebody's getting the silent treatment. With a lack of high explosive drama,
what is the reunion special going to be about? You know, besides Curly Moustache
Guy's what-the-fucking-fuck-is-that?? oh-honey-you're-trying-too-hard sweater.
Seriously, it's near the tackiest and ugliest thing I think I've seen on this
show, including Jeffrey's avant garde outfit. And, this is what you're wearing
on TV? No. There are two other look changes of note. Jeffrey has grown a scruffy
hipster beard in order to hide his nick-name-sake, his neck tattoo. And, Palu
has also buzzed his hair, eliminating his kinship to the beloved Pokemon,
Pansear. Palu looks more mature, and is kind of hotter. But I also like the punk
look. He always looks like somebody kicked his puppy though..