Project Runway All Stars Recap: Doppelgangers Invade!

Last night’s episode of Project Runway All Stars was as close to American Gladiators as a bunch of queens are gonna get – or as Mondo put it, fashion mania. The designers must face off against each other in the ultimate fashion warfare. Okay, not really, but it was quite the knockdown, dirty, scissor-wielding, fabric-copying sparring match.

Angela meets the designers on the runway looking like a designer version of bag lady, or like she just raided a Neiman’s sample sale. Or Marlo Hampton after looting Neiman’s. Angela was holding eight weekender bags; each bag is blindly associated with a season. After everyone has chosen a bag they reach inside to discover which season is theirs – they also discover another designer shares that same season!


The designers with the same season will face off against each other to create a vacation look associated with their season. They don’t have to use the bags, but their look has to reference their girl going on a weekend getaway. Kenley and Mondo share Summer, Austin and Kara share Spring, Mila and Rami share Autumn, and Jerell and Michael share Winter.

Back in the workroom everyone imagines fantasy getaways for their girls. Kenley‘s is going to Miami’s Art Basel in a Lolita costume; Austin Scarlett’s was going to the library to start her internship on Little House on the Prairie studies, the year is 1984; Kara‘s was going to pick up her kids from daycare while she was at the beach; Mondo‘s was going back in time to a nebulous confused time period ala Back To The Future: The Lost Footage; Rami’s was going to a clown-inatrix convention; Mila‘s girl was going to London circa 1965; Michael‘s and Jerell‘s were a mom and daughter pair in a fashion show at the local suburban Macy’s. Who am I forgetting?

Anyways, some workroom drama erupts when Jerell, who made his coat first, discovers Michael has made a coat in nearly an identical color pallet with virtually the same shape and details. Jerell’s fur rises, his claws come out, and he starts a’hissin’. Michael starts right back. It’s literally a fashion face-off. Did Michael copy or did he simply just imagine a blanket coat in shades of grey with leather accents?

Joanna, cruising the workroom, is stunned by the similarities between Michael and Jerell‘s looks and calls all the designers over for a meeting. She wants to know if they believe some plagiarism has taken place on Michael’s part. Wisely wanting to stay out of it, none of the designers really comment. Mila finally says seeing someone else’s work should make you want to improve your own look and take it as far as it can go. Clearly everyone believes Michael has been influenced, but no one wants to say it.

Everyone gets back to work except Michael and Jerell who seem to spend a great deal of time whining about each other and then sniping at each other over dinner. Mondo counsels Michael to get over it and makes some lame bestie comments like, “Jerell is just jealous that you are doing so well.”

Mondo has a lot of issues getting started. It is his mother’s sixtieth birthday and he wants to honor her with hot pants or something. In the end he is very confident that his look is an ace in the hole that will score him another win. Truthfully it was better than Kenley‘s, but neither was too spectacular. Really, I don’t think anyone churned it out this week – I actually liked Mila’s.

The guest judge is designer Cynthia Rowley, who was a good judge. I liked her insights and her critiques.

Ok, let’s trash discuss some looks!

Bottom Three:

Goodbye Rami – Autumn: The color palette here was scary; the jacket stunning. The eye searingly over-worked green top was an atrocious accompaniment to the royal blue jacket, furthermore the stitching on that green top looked like an autopsy victim. Dreadful. Isaac called it a “draping project,” aka student work. Rami just can’t get his footing this competition. It’s all been sort of a mess since about the second challenge and I’m not sure what went wrong. The judges have been really pulling for him and giving him a lot of chances but he’s just not hitting his stride. The jacket was really good, it’s a shame the rest of the outfit totally detracted from it.


Austin – Spring: Isaac raved about the pants, which were executed impeccably. Sadly, no woman on this earth would ever wear them! Can you even imagine trying to look good in those? Eeks. The Polyanna cardigan and blouse was so twee and off-putting. It was a total throw-back to Laura Ashley of the 1980’s. It was like toddler Easter dress meets Denise Huxtable. I’m really not sure where she was going on vacation, but I don’t want to join her!


Mondo – Summer: I didn’t think this was as bad as the judges did, but I think they took issue with the ‘I don’t know what to do and this is a staple’ approach. No one liked the fabric, accessories, or proportions. It did look sort of thrown together and just not well thought out. It was Mondo on cruise control. He went to his default settings: loud, wild, with unexpectedly clashing prints and genres. He expected to coast through, but the judges called him on it. Mondo usually steps outside the box, unlike Kenley and Mila, and the judges were expecting that, so when he didn’t deliver it was high on their radar. Were this not a face-off challenge I’m positive he would have been right in the middle and safe.


Michael – Winter: Isaac right away recognized this wasn’t a “Michael” design. The judges praised the execution and proportion, which were both beautiful, but really had doubts about the origins of his ideas. The judges are starting to see the classic Michael Costello conundrum – he isn’t sound in his vision as a designer. He likes a lot of stuff and he dillys around in many ideas. He defaults to soap opera clothes, but like Mila pointed out winter or sportswear isn’t his thing so he was paralyzed. Michael lives in Palm Springs and that really reflects in the work he feels comfortable with. The judges question his confidence and his ability to form a cohesive collection. This was an okay look – it just wasn’t Michael. I wasn’t enamored with the fabric, but the shape was classic. He got lost again and started throwing fabric around hoping something would sort itself out. He needs to cement his vision.


Congratulations Jerell – Winter: I liked the vibe of this and I could totally see the type of girl he envisioned wearing it. The judges were gaga over this and loved the attitude it conveyed. It’s very downtown, Euro-Bohemian and it was chic, yet comfortable. Isaac took issue with the buttons and I agree. They were a little silly and detracted from the elegance of the look, but this was super well put together and cohesive. It had a vibe and an attitude, the proportions were good. Jerell won by telling a story – he gave the judges a girl, a place, and an outfit that totally melded with the story.


Mila – Autumn: She was the high scorer but sort of by default, since Rami‘s was such a hot mess. The judges took issue with her drab color choice and the looser fit of the pants. I didn’t like the way she styled the cape open; I wondered if it was a time issue or intentional. I did really like the cape, construction issues aside, and although the camel/black/red color combo has been done to death, it never really gets old. Other than the cape, the rest of this was essentially a t-shirt and jeans. My main issue with Mila is an inability to do anything unexpected. This was a great chic look, and I’m a girl who loves (and owns) a cape, so I’d wear it, but she needs to zsu-zsu things up a bit.


Kara – Spring: Yaaaaaaaawn. Again. She is so boring anymore. I can’t believe this is the same Kara from season one, because this Kara is making clothes for Coldwater Creek. This was a total snooze; she called it sophisticated, but it was suburban mom trying to look sophisticated. There was NOTHING interesting or shapely about this, it was just one color of excess fabric after another. I think had she made the sweater tighter and a little more interesting–maybe a wrap cardigan–and fitted the palazzo pants tighter it would have been infinitely better. The judges were totally annoyed and recognized she did not deserve the high score at all. Way to go Austin!


Kenley – Summer: Ugh… seriously enough with the twee, 1950’s pin-up girl – this was a tap dance costume. I’m not sure what the judges found so fascinating about this look. The periwinkle polka dot fabric was ridiculous and yes, the fit was perfect, but Kenley really needs to push herself to step out of her very narrow parameters of “retro girl.” The judges are starting to notice her blatant genre ripping and they are getting bored. I thought this was fine, just something she’s done before, and done in a more exciting manner. A romper is a romper is a romper and a necktie’s not gonna save it!

In the end Jerell is vindicated and won for being the only one besides Austin that had a girl on a mission and Rami’s ruched color palette from hell sent him home. Rami, poor Rami, I just don’t think his heart was in it this season.

Next week: Broadway! Kenley and Kara get wacky and there’s a lot of meltdowns happening. I predict many hot messes!