Another day, another dollar, another episode of “Project Runway All Stars,” and I’ve got to tell you, Thursday came not a moment too soon. Between this being an election year and the Oscars finally recognizing that a middle-aged white man is worthy of an award, I am ready for a breath of true art and sophistication!
This week we see the contestants arrive at the absolutely beautiful decommissioned Engine Company 31 Firehouse downtown and have nay but a moment to take in the awe-inspiring architecture when honorary EMT Alyssa Milano barrels towards them in an ambulance, sirens blaring for authenticity.
Joined by representatives from the FDNY, NYPD and New York EMTs, Alyssa explains that the firehouse is home to DCTV, the largest free arts training program for NYC youth that provides a creative outlet to address issues facing their community. I’m not even going to blast Ken for his easy joke (“I usually avoid the police, but he can handcuff me anytime he wants.”) because that cop was fine as hell.
Alyssa drops the bomb on the group (good thing the emergency services were there!) and explains that this will be the Unconventional Challenge. The All Stars groan.
The Challenge: Create a high-end runway look using the materials from the fire, police and EMT services. The designers have five minutes to grab what they need and one day to create the looks.
When the firehouse garage doors open the designers revert to their most primal instincts. At one point, Mitchell’s pants rip. It’s an ugly price to pay for fashion, but I suppose by watching “Runway” we asked for a little glimpse into how the sausage is made.
The first moments in the workroom in an Unconventional Challenge are always a joy, as the designers empty their bags, look at all of the crap they just fought to keep and realize they might be monumentally screwed. In this particular unpacking, we get my favorite moment of the episode: a quick shot of Stella wearing a stethoscope, bringing it up to her chest, startling herself, and exclaiming, “Oh my god, it works!” Begs the question, does she mean the stethoscope or her own heart?
Most of the designers invoke their best improv skills when executing their garments. Valerie manages to get the sewing machine needle to sew through hundreds of cotton swabs. Ken, noticing that he and Sam are using the same firefighting hose, turns his own inside out for a color and texture that will differentiate his look. Alexander buckles down to glue strip upon strip of bandage together. Then there’s Stella. In the firehouse she went straight for some light blue oxygen tube and is now fashioning a jacket from it. It looks like a giant alien’s rib cage. Ken does what Ken does, throwing shade her way saying, “I want mine to look like real fashion. I want it to look like it came out the store, not like a bunch of sh*t just stacked on.”
And Zanna confirms everyone’s concerns telling Stella, “It’s not an art challenge.” But Stella isn’t the only one in trouble. Asha and Valerie’s tops look too similar, Mitchell has gone too crafty and Alexander has wandered down the wrong path indicating he might want to incorporate surrealism into his look. Dom, who has created a textile from x-rays and Ken, who is basing his dress off of a straight jacket, are both standouts at this point in the challenge.
The Runway: Sparkly flower child Alyssa introduces Georgina, Isaac and fashion/entertainment stylist who also happens to be Katy Perry’s creative director, Johnny Wujek.
Ken: A shiny black mid-calf length A-line dress with a sort of faux-halter top. Because it’s been turned inside out, the white of the fire hose shows underneath to which Isaac says, “My favorite part is it looks like she’s wearing white crinolines with a black dress…nothing more naughty and chic than that in this world.” It’s very cool, though I don’t see the straightjacket inspiration in it.
Valerie: A nude and pink chevron top with a very cool strip of clear plastic down the middle paired with a skirt made of paper towel and cotton swabs. The swabs have been laid out to mimic the chevron on the top. She’s used a stethoscope as a belt. It’s presh. The only real criticism is that the entire skirt is not made of cotton swabs, which it seems Valerie just didn’t have time to execute.
Sam, the winner: Using the white, texted side of a fire hose he’s created a short-sleeved, knee-length jacket as well as a nude colored bandage dress made out of, well, bandages. The look is mostly white but it feels heavy and ominous. Despite myself, I love it.
Asha: Using bandages, pills, x-rays and fire hose, it’s a nude, pink and black top with crisscrossed patterns and a pink asymmetrical skirt. Or maybe it’s not so much asymmetrical as just missing a big triangle. It’s not the judges’ favorite, especially the skirt, though I do appreciate that she’s put some half-palm latex gloves on her model, upping the badass factor significantly.
Alexander: It’s a short light blue to dark blue to purple fitted dress made from bandages. Earlier Ken referred to it as a “freakum dress.” The results are cute but simple and the judges’ responses are mixed.
Stella: She’s scrapped the blue tube creature and replaced it with a yellow short sleeved crop-top and fitted light blue skirt. On the top Stella has used x-rays to create a graphic of the New York skyline, which Alyssa loves but Isaac and Johnny call “Forever 21.” Stella does that thing designers tend to do on this show when they know they’ve blown it – she explains that the thing she was working on before was better but Zanna steered her away from it. First of all, ugh. Take responsibility for your work. Own it. Ultimately, you made the decision. Secondly, that thing you were working on looked more like a toy for my childhood hamster than a garment. Don’t be lame, Stella, it’s beneath you!
For the unconventional challenge Sam is the victor and Stella gets the boot.
I will profoundly miss Stella and particularly her confessional look with the spikey sleeve and fur wrap. I bet at home she drinks red wine out of medieval style goblets with iron dragons wrapped around the stems.