Project Runway All Stars Recap: Lights, Camera, Action!

On last night’s Project Runway All Stars challenge, the designers experienced a PR first! The designers had to make an avant-garde look using LED lights for the first ever blacklight runway show!

Immediately, when Angela explained the challenge Austin lit up (haha) but everyone else dimmed considerably. The nervous energy in the room was palpable. The designers received $300 to buying LED lighting and accessories, and then went to Mood to procure some blacklight worthy fabrics.

Almost everyone was over-whelmed by the idea of incorporating the lights into their garment on top of being forced to make an avant-garde look – which I guarantee most of these designers didn’t even know what that meant conceptually. Throwing every detail and weird idea at a dress and stapling some odd wings on doesn’t make it avant-garde – it makes it weird. Nevertheless, that’s the standard way to approach a PR avant-garde challenge and it happens every time the have one. Basically, a designer that isn’t avant-garde and doesn’t embrace that as their medium, isn’t going to excel in that style, so we always end up with a hot mess of weird, crazy, and ugly.


Asking them to add lighting elements to an already insurmountable challenge was just asking for trouble, but I think it gave most of these designers a leg up because they could then rely on the lighting elements to do the work instead of stretching their own creative muscles. Also everyone but Austin went for neon, which was lame.

Kenley decided she was going to use neon lighting tape to make a windowpane plaid and then create a bubble jacket from some upholstery fabric. It was actually a creative idea and I like that she was able to work within her style, but really do something funky with the lights. The most interesting part of this episode was seeing Austin‘s mother. Who looks like his sister!

Most of the designers suffered from analysis paralysis – particularly, Michael, who made like sixteen looks each odder and uglier than the next. Mondo also panicked, and ended up making something that looked like a NASCAR track. Joanna had some serious concerns about almost everyone, but Kenley, who was the only person that seemed to have had direction from the beginning, and stuck to it.

On the day of the runway show everyone is doing their best to make their look as bizarre as possible, and that means stuffing LED lights in the poor model’s mouths and making them wear neon yellow extensions with strange dominatrix surgery masks. Ugly and silly.

The guest judge was Pharrell Williams and the winning look will be worn by one of his artists. I thought he was a decent judge.

Ok, let’s trash discuss some looks!

Congratulations Austin: Austin, of course, went for the fairy lights and heavenly galaxy, he stayed true to himself and made a dress that really stood out. This was ebullient, fantastical, and ethereal – classic Austin. Isaac loved it and thought it was mysterious, but Georgina called him out for essentially throwing lights on a gorgeous dress. It had a “decorating the Christmas tree” aesthetic. The dress itself with the headpiece were really interesting, but the lights were poorly integrated and it seemed like he tossed them on as an afterthought, for theatrical purposes. Austin, again, was overly ambitious BUT he embraced the fantasy element like no one else. He went big and he took it to the next level. I think he, like Kenley, decided to really go for it, plus the construction was elegant. Also, Austin didn’t stray from his own aesthetic – everyone else made these tight, little, body-con, mini dresses with futuristic elements, but he went right ahead with his ballgowns. His willingness to be so different, while being himself, was probably what secured him the win.

Kenley: I thought it was super smart of Kenley to make her own plaid. I loved this look and all the judges were impressed with the volume and the windowpane fabric. Georgina was excited by the proportions – they were very good for that much volume top and bottom. This really was a strong point for Kenley, and it looked fun, innovative, and like she had a good time. I have to give it to her, she embraced the challenge. Although, she does make the same dress over and over, I guess the judges are willing to overlook it, and in this instance it really worked to do a simple shape and work with other elements to build it up. She was one of the few that aced this challenge. Her dress was fitted and could be worn on the red carpet, with tweaking.

Mondo: This was ummm… sort of lackluster. Georgina commented that he should have shaped the lighting panels to the dress instead of having them go straight up and down like lanes. Very unflattering. I think it could have been a good dress with more thought and more time to work through the ideas; namely the way he integrated the lighted elements into the shape. The judges were also concerned with the conical boob shapes. I just didn’t think this read as avant-garde. I was surprised he kind of bombed this challenge. Isaac compared it to a Teletubby, but apparently he “lives” for Teletubbies. Ok? After all of that, the judges surprisingly loved this and called it intentional and well conceived. I think it was expected and a little corny, but I like that he was able to use so many different elements succinctly and with harmony.

Michael: Isaac called it – this looked like tape on a dress with a lot of “elements” stapled on to satisfy his version of an avant-garde look. It did look like a costume and all the ridiculous lighting features (particularly the things in the shoulder loops) were silly and distracting. Michael, again, got lost here and wasn’t sure where to take this look. Too many styling elements made it messy and distracted. He does need to learn to edit and stretch himself without panicking. This was straight costume and completely unwearable in the real world. Also, too much volume and heaviness throughout.

Good-bye Jerell: This was ridiculous. Georgina called it “Tribal Raver”, and Isaac called it “joke store”, and no one understood the black pencil skirt underneath the giant feathery mini. It wasn’t even a fitted pencil skirt – it was a curtain! It did go “grandma” as Pharrell pointed out and it was a ridiculous, dour, unfitted panel that just distracted from a lighted dress – if you can imagine anything distracting from a lighted, feathered, mini dress! I loved the skirt, but the shoulder/collar treatment was too much. He should have focused on the feathered skirt and made something more subtle on the top. It was too much and the eye had no idea what to focus on. Classic Jerell; over-designing and failing to edit.

In the end, the judges decided Jerell‘s was too much of a wreck with little cohesion or sophistication. I think Jerell should have been sent home last week. He’s been a mess all season and this was just another example of his inability to grow as a designer. It’s always the same issues and the same elements. Mila is definitely a stronger designer who deserved to be in the top three, whether or not you like her aesthetic. Again, that’s just my opinion.