Project Runway All Stars Recap: Around The World In Six Dresses

On last night’s episode of Project Runway All Stars the designers headed to the UN where flags of the world were their inspiration!

The designers, still mourning the farewell of Kara, meet Angela at the UN. She briefs them on what, exactly, the UN does, in case you are confused. Does the UN need some good PR or something? Anyways, she informs the designers their challenge will be to choose a flag from one of six countries representing various regions of the globe, and design a garment inspired by the culture of the chosen country. One more twist – they have to use the colors in the flag!


Since Mondo won last week’s challenge he chose first and picked Jamaica. Poor Kenley was last since no one likes her and she ended up with Chile, but that didn’t bother her. Did anyone get a close look at the flag and notice any polka dots – cause I didn’t! Poor Austin Scarlett shot himself in the foot by choosing the Seychelles, which he kept pronouncing seashells. While, the flag was lovely, it was a veritable rainbow of bright primary colors and presented quite a challenge for the sequins queen.

At Mood, Kenley is choosing polka dots and stripes, cause she’s Kenley and no matter what the challenge she does a polka dot. Seriously – I agree with Mondo – why is she still here? Anyone else tired of her aesthetic or just biased ol’ me. I’m also tired of Michael who drapes some pretty, pretty princess prom dress or some geriatric Palm Springs matriarch get-up and calls it a day!

In the workroom the ramifications of choosing the Seychelles have suddenly dawned on Austin, who looks like he actually is designing a flag instead a garment referenced from a flag. Kenley is still designing for the United States of Kenley. Mila chose Papua New Guinea, and has decided she’s going to make a costume befitting of O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Really, it was a silly looking dress with some good ideas, but I appreciate her fashion balls.

Joanna arrives in the workroom wearing the brightest yellow pants I’ve ever seen. Her outfit was appropriately chosen for the challenge, was it not? Joanna is very fixated on undergarments this episode, lecturing the designers on the importance of wearing a bra with an evening gown. Which was a totally ridiculous argument in my book. I kept waiting for Victoria’s Secret to start doing some sort of product plug. Or some last-minute twist where they had to use a bra under the dress.

Joanna has some concerns that Jerell, who has chosen India, is making something too referential and that the sari draping will eclipse the rest of the dress. She warns Michael about how loose and voluminous the back of his dress is, and that it is veering into the pageant department. She also worries that Austin has too much going on, and that Kenley‘s look will not stand out enough. Which was a nice way of saying it’s boring and you’ve done this dress 3000 times. I don’t remember what she said to Mila, but I do remember she praised her for making something that one could wear a bra with.

Austin is making a bright blue chiffon mess and barely has time to finish. Really, it was a wreck. Michael‘s gown went from bridal, to pageant, to totally tacky when he stapled on that horrible gift wrap bow bedecked with sequined trim. Also, it was way too huge and needed some shape. One of the unfortunate side-effects of his rapid work abilities is that he doesn’t take the time to think things through and his garments often seem to suffer from an excess of fabric.

The guest judge was designer, Catherine Malandrino, whom I love but she needed some sub-titles. She was a good judge; she gave thoughtful critique and was very engaged.

I’m not sure who was top and bottom three this week, since everyone but Mondo and Kenley got some pretty scathing critiques.

Ok, let’s trash discuss some looks!

Congratulations Mondo (Jamaica): This was the clear winner to me. It was referential without being expected; it fulfilled the requirements, but kept it chic, and frankly it was the only thing on that runway that would get you some serious attention on the Red Carpet. This was fashion; merging an idea with a concept and creating something unexpected, wearable, and chic while still retaining a perspective as a designer. That may be Mondo’s greatest strength, no matter the challenge his perspective is apparent. Kenley made a cute department store dress and Michael C made a gown that wouldn’t get a second look, but Mondo’s would get you on the Best Dressed list and in the magazine pages. Also, the execution was really exemplary.

Austin Scarlett (Seychelles): This was a mess from all angles and it looked like a costume for one of those dolls of the world featuring traditional national attire. The hair did it absolutely no favors and took it squarely into the dated and cheesy category. The color scheme of the bright blues with the yellow stripe down the middle, along with the shape, kind of reminded me of a parachute. Isaac chastised Austin for not using enough of the colors. Austin’s problem was that he lost focus and got too caught up in the details, namely being overwhelmed by all the colors. This should have been a good challenge for him since making glamorous evening wear is what he does, but he got scared of mixing all the brights. Disappointing to say the least. Also, the construction was awful! I was very surprised he wasn’t in the bottom two.

Jerell (India): I didn’t think this was as bad as everyone made it out to be. Yes, it was a costume. Yes, the execution had a lot of flaws. Yes, it was exactly what one expects when they think modernized version of traditional Indian garb, but it was fun in a Bollywood sort of way. The main issues the judges had with this, besides the literal interpretation, was the bolt of fabric stapled on over 3/4 of the dress. The green chiffon was not integrated well, nor was it particularly useful to the design. It obscured the more interesting details and was one element too many. Georgina lectured Jerell on editing and that is always his problem. He thinks adding more gives a garment more dimensions but it actually does the opposite and makes it confusing and unappealing. If he removed the green silk and cleaned up the construction this could have been a really chic little number.

Kenley (Chile): Kenley took a lot of flack from the other designers for using prints and referring to the customs of the country and not the flag. As far as Kenley’s schtick goes, I actually liked this look and thought the updated flamenco shape and attitude was a fun way to interpret the challenge. Although she could have done more to bring the two patterns together. It was brazen to use prints when almost everyone else used solids. She didn’t use enough of her flag’s influence, but the judges gave her a pass on that because it was a fresh approach. It was serendipitous that she was able to mesh her natural Kenley-ism with the country she lucked into getting. HOWEVER, they clearly have her number as Isaac warned her that she needs to expand her horizons and stop doing the retro-revolution she thinks is appropriate for every, single challenge.

Michael (Greece): Michael had the opposite problem than Kenley. He referenced his flag too literally! Michael claims he chose Greece because he is Greek, but let’s be frank, he loves a goddess gown something ridiculous. This had potential, and yes it was a pretty gown (minus the details), but it was far too expected from the color to the detailing. I agree with the judges; the bow was an unfortunate addition and was obviously an afterthought he tacked on to satisfy the color requirement. He didn’t need it and he should have done double layer silk with the blue under the white instead. Also, the fit! This was too large, giving it a sack like shape, which only accentuated the way the back just hung there. He needed to streamline and step back from this original idea, but instead he was unwilling to make changes when he realized things weren’t working. Greece frightening, indeed!

Good-Bye Mila (Papua New Guinea): Mila had really thought about her idea and I loved that she wanted to reference the bird of freedom from the flag. I’m not sure why she thought making two different dresses and essentially stapling them together would work. I’m also not sure what that says about the fashion of Papua New Guinea, but in the US that’s a fashion no. This was not that bad, especially considering some of the other options on the runway, but it had issues. Namely that the two halves bore little relation to each other and it came across as multiple personalities.

She started to go wrong with the material she chose that was the exact colors from the flag. The neckline/shoulder area was really interesting, but nothing else worked and the transition at the hemline was too severe. Mila couldn’t let go of her color blocking tendencies, to see the forest for the trees, and ended up making a dress that didn’t well convey her intention. The dress is supposed to reference the flag, not mimic it! Plus no one wants to wear a mullet dress! I think this was too conceptual and she didn’t have enough time to think through the elements; still the construction was impeccable.

In the end it came down to Mila vs. Jerell, and the judges decided to send Mila home. I was actually surprised by that decision because she has done well all season and seems to be a more focused designer than Jerell. I do not think she was the right person sent home, especially considering some of the weaker designers that essentially remake the same garment, week after week, are still here.