Honestly, I’d tune in to any form of “Project Runway” the designers could make shoes for dogs or outfits for paper dolls or just have to create new designs out of objects in the room on a never ending cycle until there was nothing left for the models to wear but Brother sewing machines and HP tablets. But even I can agree that no challenge is as good as a really exciting, never-been-done-before challenge like last night’s: using lighting technology to make a look that can strut right off the runway and onto the stage with guest judge Pharrell Williams. And no one is more overjoyed by this idea than Austin.
Although the designers get a modest Mood budget, they first stop at the Barbizon Lighting Company, (which is not to be confused with the revered Barbizon Modeling School. Class of ’99, if you’re curious). Here, Kenley hears Judge Isaac’s voice in her head, telling her to do something new and considers light bulb pasties. Perhaps Isaac’s warning to Kenley was foreshadowing for this challenge, where she’ll have to travel past her Betty Draper happy place and find greener Gaga-like pastures if she wants to make it to the next episode.
While Austin searches the store for “delicate strings of light,” (even though we all know he has some in a hatbox back at his apartment marked: “Gossamer Strands of Phosphorescence” in perfect calligraphy) Mondo informs us that the Season 1 designer is becoming a prima donna. Everyone watching LOLs because the sky didn’t roll out above us last Tuesday and decide to gradually become blue over the days that followed. For the best response to such a claim, I turn to the man himself, who explains what it’s like to be him and grow up with the name Austin Scarlett in the following clip:
If you couldn’t visualize what the final designs might look like during the Barbizon shopping spree, Mood only adds to the confusion with the fabric selections: pink taffeta, stiff organza, black tulle, zebra print and an odd quilted orange. (Time out: WHERE IS SWATCH? Is it in his contract that he’ll only work for Tim Gunn?) But what seems obvious is how this challenge will go down: Mondo will win, Jerell will come in a close second, Michael will be in the middle, Kenley, with her plaid ball gown and Austin, with his starry night dreamscape will be in the bottom and Kenley will go home because I’ll chain myself to Austin and cry until Georgina lets him stay.
But I don’t have to remind you that this is “All Stars” or the twisty-turny world of reality television. Do I?
Our Top 5 is tense and the social climate is only a few degrees above “icy” in the workroom. Poor Kenley. Maybe it’s all in good fun and better editing, but I can’t help wincing every time someone makes fun of her directly to her face and she just laughs it off. Homegirl is a real trooper. I’m going to have to ring housekeeping at Flatotel to find out how many mascara-stained pillowcases they had to chuck after filming.
But the Oscar for Best Cinematography goes to the cameraman who gets this shot (pictured right) of Austin and Michael’s passive aggressive Judy Jetson not-fight.
Austin compliments Michael’s garment saying: “That’s looking gorgeous by the way… kind of Judy Jetson.” (Translation: “Your draping sucks, FYI.”)
Michael agrees: “Judy Jet yeah, perfect. I love that actually.” (Translation: “Why don’t you come over here and say that to my face, GownBoy?”)
Austin waits a beat, blinks, cocks his head, puts his hand on his hip and retorts: “I do too.” (Translation: “I’ll suffocate you with leftover tulle in your sleep.”)
Not only is this episode’s challenge the best we’ve seen in a long time, Pharrell Williams is a stand out guest judge. It’s clear that the designers are excited to see him on the judging panel; he represents a part of the fashion world under-represented on the show and his presence encourages the All Stars to create pieces fit for the music world. Inhabited by Fergies and Gwens and Gagas and Katy Perrys, this is a scary and exciting world where image is everything, debatably sometimes more than the sound itself.
I celebrate Austin’s win, not only because he is one of my favorite human beings on TV/the planet, but because his design rocked the challenge and was true to his non-neon aesthetic. His dress looked like a dreamy, starry sky but was still cool. And as an added bonus for the Austin lovers (Austinettes? Scarlett Harlots?) out there, Pharrell was so drawn to both his dress and Austin himself. When he told him, “you’re a star, man,” my viewing party and I were all smiles and happy tears at home.
Mr. Williams also loved Kenley’s outfit, which I was on the fence (pun intended, I guess?) about. I think Kenley pushed herself past what she’s most comfortable with, and like Austin, found a way to give the judges what they want while staying true to who she is as a designer. I thought she had Jerell’s problem as well, with a look that was riding the line between hip and matronly a little too close for comfort. But the biggest problem with Kenley’s look is that no one mentioned Nicki Minaj. Was that, like, in someone’s contract? Do Pharrell and Nicki have beef I didn’t know about? These are the great mysteries of life.
Michael’s look falls in the middle for me it was like the first draft of what I bet would eventually be an amazing stage costume. But in the first phase, it was more really awesome Halloween costume.
Mondo says his look is love or hate, but for one of the first times ever his outfit is neither. It’s just “meh.” And if you can pull off “meh” with neon and under a black light, especially when your looks are usually so oo-and-ah-worthy, you’re deserving of the bottom this week. Unfortunately.
Remember that time this season Jerell did a look that was “Coming to America” meets Gwen Stefani? If only he had lit up the runway with something more like that this time around. Although at this point with only three episodes left in all, we’ll admittedly be missing more of him than we will his actual fashions.
Head on over to Lifetime Moms to check out Laura Bennett's Episode 9 recap, featuring a title that I wish I had thought of first.