4x01: MADE IN MANHATTAN - Yes, ladies and gents, we're back for a fourth round of "All Stars," this time with yet another group of designers who didn't learn their lesson the first time around -- or in Kate Pankoke's case, the first OR the second time -- and who are eager to prove themselves on the "Runway" catwalk. In teams of men versus women, the designers must create collections inspired by either New York's Uptown scene or New York's Downtown scene.
4x02: THE ART OF CONSTRUCTION - Our designers gather at Skylight at Moynihan Station, a popular Fashion Week venue on Manhattan's West side that Benjamin helpfully describes as "vacuous." The place is filled with construction workers in hard hats and tons of their usual accessories: Tarps, tools, ropes, wires. It's an unconventional meeting place, and Alyssa cackles when she gets to confirm that yes, this is an Unconventional Materials Challenge. Dun dun DUNNNN. The designers have 15 minutes to gather whatever materials they find at the site, and one day to work.
4x03: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES - Third challenge! Our dozen remaining designers head to the stage of the Gershwin Theatre, which has for the past decade housed the Broadway musical "Wicked." Like a delicate pregnant Christmas ornament, Alyssa descends from the sky in a bubble to introduce the designers to Christine Dwyer and Jenni Barber, who are currently starring in the show as Elphaba and Glinda. The trio announce that this challenge is meant to reflect the dichotomy between good and evil around which "Wicked" is based. Create a couture-inspired gown that conveys feelings of "wicked" or "good."
4x04: WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE - If you've never been to the Hearst building in midtown Manhattan (home of "Runway" partner Marie Claire), trust me when I tell you that ascending the escalators to its airy, light-filled atrium feels a little bit like heading to heaven's pearly gates. It's there that our All Stars meet up with Alyssa; Scott Davies, SVP of Marketing for Zales the Diamond Store; and -- eek! -- "Runway"'s own Nina Garcia. If you've been reading my recaps you know I adore Nina. Dmitry sums up my point of view best: "You know who doesn't love Nina? People who suck." Talent-wise, of course. The designers should create a colorful (not black or white!) party dress inspired by their past, present, and future romantic relationships.
4x05: DESIGNING FOR THE DUCHESS - This week our designers' inspiration comes in
the form of iconic children's literature character Paddington Bear -- along with
a special last-minute trip to Paddington Station itself in London! They flip out
with excitement, which is understandable, even considering the super brief
nature of the trip. I mean, after four relatively standard-issue challenges, I
imagine an unexpected jaunt abroad feels a bit like stretching one's legs after
a long day at a desk.
Once they arrive at Paddington, the designers are greeted by Zanna, who reminds them that they're there to work. She brings out a special guest to introduce the challenge: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Design a winter outdoor coat inspired by the sights, sounds, and feel of London.
4x06: LUCK BE A LADY - Alyssa reveals a pair of oversize dice that the designers
will have to roll to discover their fabric and the event for which they'll be
designing. The choices include brocade, silk, velvet, lace, and denim for
fabric, and bachelorette party, masquerade ball, gallery opening, awards
ceremony, and Sunday brunch for events. Budget of $150, one day to work. The
winning garment will be worn by a not-pregnant Alyssa Milano in a Marie Claire
This is an interesting challenge that presents a few weird dilemmas for our contestants. Gunnar got brocade and masquerade ball, and he knows the judges don't want to see a costume, but what else do people wear to masquerade balls besides costumes? Fabio's pairing of denim and masquerade ball is sort of a head-scratcher. Helen and Samantha got the same pairing (brocade and awards ceremony), which means they'll sort of be competing against each other.
4x07: MIX AND MATCH.COM - In pairs the designers must create looks for two strangers to be worn on the occasion of a first date -- a blind date, set up by Match.com. As the previous challenge's winner, Sonjia gets to choose the pairs. Budget is $300 per pair to be divided how they choose, and they have one day to work. The winner gets a luxury spa date for two courtesy of Match.com. The designers meet with their clients. The guys all seem low-maintenance and casual, the women seem stylish and a little more refined. The three teams with heterosexual couples try to sort out who will design their menswear component. Michelle is having war flashbacks to her hellish experience designing clothing for male strippers during her season (the epitome of a hot mess, if you recall) but Samantha insists that Michelle can handle it this time around. Immediately Michelle is unhappy with this setup. She doesn't seem to be feeling well and that's only making things worse: "I can make womenswear [while] sick, easy. But I don't design around a penis every day." The other teams are doing better with teamwork; Jay and Fabio have a very similar vision for their guys, and Justin and Helen feel good about the way their looks will cohere on the runway.
4x08: MAKING A SPLASH - The designers will task a bevy of hot pool boys to grab lycra fabric from bubbles at the bottom of the pool. ("Happy birthday, Michelle!" - Fabio.) Their budget is $150. The designers will also be assigned a new model, just for funsies (and because All Stars don't get to be complacent!). The challenge winner gets a photo story and interview in USA Today, plus a Caribbean vacation, ooh. The designers who haven't done swimwear before are a little freaked, giving those who have (like Michelle, in a stroke of birthday luck) a confidence boost. USA Today Style & Fashion editor Alison Maxwell stops in to offer feedback during Zanna's critiques, and the conversations seem productive. Alison and Zanna caution Michelle away from too caution-tape-y a design, and they tell Fabio to pump up the volume on his boring swimsuit. Dmitry plans an asymmetrical skirt even though he knows Isaac hates them because Dmitry's gonna do what Dmitry wants to do.
4x09: SKETCHING WITH SHARKS - It's the age of aquarium (sorry) on "Runway" as the designers meet Alyssa and two penguins, Kevin and Pam (!!), at the Long Island Aquarium. Alyssa was the inspiration for Ariel in Disney's animated "The Little Mermaid," so it's appropriate that she's the one to introduce the group to the tanks of fish and sea life from which they'll have to draw inspiration for this challenge. And yep, we've reached the pinnacle: The avant garde challenge. Two days to work! Hurray! The budget of $150 will be increased, Alyssa says, if one of the designers volunteers to suit up and sketch in a diving cage alongside a shark, because why not? Let's fast forward to the runway show. Nicole Sherzinger joins Alyssa, Isaac, and Georgina to judge
4x10: VERSATILE TOPS AND BOTTOMS - QVC will manufacture one design to be sold as part of their G.I.L.I. line. $300 per designer for both looks, and one day to work. This challenge is all about business, so the designers get right to work attempting to adapt their aesthetics into something wearable and commercial. They get a reprieve when they head to Times Square to watch Zanna, Alyssa, Isaac, and Georgina ring the NASDAQ closing bell. The break from sewing is brief, though, because the designers have two models to fit and two looks to finish up before the end of the day. Sonjia is backed into a corner, time-wise, so she cuts what is essentially an elegant tube dress out of yellow fabric. It's a quick and effective solution to her design woes, but it irks Helen. "Fundamentals!" Helen whines to Michelle. I mean, cutting one piece of fabric into a floor-length high-necked gown seems about as back-to-basics as it gets, but what do I know? Our guest judges are Lisa Robertson from QVC, who helped introduce the challenge, and fashion designer and correspondent George Kotsiopoulos. Runway tiiiime:
4x11: ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID - Today's Final Five Field Trip sees the designers in the refined playground of Georgina Chapman's Marchesa bridal studio. There they meet with Alyssa, Georgina, Marchesa brand co-founder Keren Craig, and one of the house's clients, a petite bride named Dana who is all set with a bridal gown, but, whoops! She's still missing dresses for her bridesmaids. The challenge is to design a bridesmaid dress (suitable for multiple events) to be worn by real bridesmaids in a real wedding officiated by Alyssa Milano herself. Because the bride will be wearing Marchesa, the dresses must fit the aesthetic of the Marchesa brand. $150 each and a day to work (womp womp). The winner will receive Marchesa glassware and chinaware, a Marchesa diamond ring, and two front-row seats to Marchesa's next show.
4x12: SOME LIKE IT HOT DOG - Create a dazzling red carpet gown suitable for the Oscars that, like Marilyn Monroe herself, will be remembered for years to come. It should be timeless and have impact. $500 each, one day to work. [Loud booing] The winner will receive the chance to design costumes for a Lifetime original movie. There's a wee red carpet waiting for them in the workroom, presumably to provide inspiration. The designers' sketches and fabric choices for this challenge are very hashtag-on-brand for all of them, which is always a good sign for a strong runway show. These guys have been at the "Runway" routine long enough now that they're no longer struggling to incorporate themselves into their work, which means they can skip the drama of conceptualizing a look and get right to creating it.
Our guest judge is Sophia Amoruso, founder and owner of Nasty Gal. Let's talk glamour!
4x13: FOUR SEASONS IN ONE FINALE - Four days to work. Four days! Four days. But they each have $3,000 and a selection of models ready and raring to go. The trio get some time to sketch on the roof before they have to head to Mood to assemble their palettes. Stress level: 3 out of 10. They're focused and decisive, and off to a good start. In the workroom, they discuss their processes: What's the best way to tackle so many looks in such a short amount of time? Helen chooses to drape everything first, then cut and sew as she goes along, while Sonjia and Dmitry are tackling one look at a time. Stress level: 4, probably?
The designers are calm because the only other option would be to scream and shout, and making a fuss doesn't get the garments on the runway, does it? With half an hour left, Sonjia enlists a model to help her finish a collar, and Dmitry blows the models' minds when he tells them they had only four days to create all the clothing they're currently wearing. Stress level: 9.9. And then it's off to the runway! Our finale judges: Alyssa, Georgina, Isaac, "Project Runway" judge Zac Posen, and actress Mira Sorvino.