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The Project Runway All Stars Blog

Couture, Je T'aime

By laurareineke Fri., Jan. 11, 2013 ,4:35 am EST

After last week's surprise non-elimination, we're back for another round with our Final Four: Uli, Anthony Ryan, Joshua and Emilio. But Carolyn makes it clear right away that someone WILL BE ELIMINATED this time. Cue ominous music! Don't get too comfortable, y'all.

I'm glad Carolyn made the distinction in the challenge guidelines that the garments should be inspired by couture. No designer can create real haute couture in a mere six hours, but expecting the designers to incorporate the qualities of those labor-intensive garments into their work is a smart way to raise the stakes this late in the game. That they're given a bunch of money for high-end fabric and a trip to Paris for inspiration is icing on the cake. Oh, and they're treated to a private tour of the Valentino fashion house. No big deal.

(Just kidding. The designers react as if each surprise is manna from heaven, and it's great to see them so happy and excited. At this point in the competition I'm sure they were eager for a bit of a mental break.)

The group packs up and jets away to Paris, where they're introduced to Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, the creative directors of Valentino. They tour the house's busy sewing rooms and get up-close-and-personal with a stunning selection of hand-made gowns and jackets built from fabrics that look like they cost more per meter than a year of my college education. When Piccioli and Chiuri present the designers with tickets to the brand's runway show, the foursome look legitimately thrilled ("I'm like a straight guy at a baseball game!" Joshua exclaims). I don't blame them.

After a sunset dinner on the Seine, a productive shopping trip, chill-out time for sketching in front of the Eiffel Tower, and of course the incredible couture show, the clan hops back to Parsons to start designing. One of my favorite guest judges, Cynthia Rowley, is back to lend a critical eye to the runway show.

Anthony Ryan: A beautifully detailed, sexy piece, that while looking fabulous didn't actually succeed in reminding me of the person who designed it. (To me it looked more like a Joshua-style dress than an Anthony Ryan-style dress. Eh? Eh? Just me?) AR came away with the win here.

Emilio: Emilio's use of color and strong lines speaks to me, so it's no surprise that I loved this look. His dress had a tapestry quality to it. I mean that in the best way: It was elegant and expensive-looking, and looked luxuriously heavy (though apparently the fabric was feather-light). He was smart to follow Joanna's suggestion to back off the use of unnecessary applique, and he pleased the judges by upping his tailoring game after last week's sorta-mess. Not the winner, but a win nonetheless.

Joshua: I'm kind of obsessed with the bright floral print Joshua used for the bottom of this gown. That said, his desire to throw unexpected fabrics together struck me as a move more appropriate for an avant-garde challenge than a couture-inspired one. Compared to the work of the other three designers, this gown looked like it needed a stronger editor's hand. (Did the sleeves seem weirdly long to anyone else?) This was nowhere more apparent than when he was asked by the judges to deconstruct it. The result was a vast improvement but still looked so...casual. His auf-ing didn't surprise me.

Uli: This beaded, gold-leaf-lookin' piece was—as usual!—very, very Uli. The judges didn't love the the nude slip or the skeletal backbone design. They didn't really seem to love the dress at all, actually. Then Uli reconstructed it into an entirely different jacket-and-dress combo that blew the judges away, securing her a spot in the final three. Like Georgina, I would absolutely wear that gold-shouldered jacket. What a great piece.

I'm excited to head into the finale with Anthony Ryan, Emilio, and Uli. They're likable, talented people, and their distinct styles should make for an excellent final showdown. But of course, you're welcome to disagree!

Would you have preferred to see Joshua advance after this challenge? Did Anthony Ryan deserve the win? How do you think AR and Emilio would have handled the last-minute reconstruction task? Let it all out in the comments.