Maybe Austin, Michael and Mondo aren’t your top three designers from the first eight seasons of auf, but last night’s finale was, at the very least, a captivating view of the show’s history. Even if your favorite didn’t make it to the final fashion show in the sky, there is probably a little of them represented in each of these guys. Personality wise, we have the true star and seasoned vet, the underdog with a heart of gold and the tortured artist and recluse. When it comes to the creations themselves, there’s Austin’s curated collection of whimsical, romantic glamour that even if you don’t like you “have to give credit” to and fantasize about where to wear. Michael’s collection is full of sexy, draped resort or red carpet-ready designs that you could see waging war in the "Who Wore it Better" section of any women's magazine. Mondo is the fun designer. He's the easy fan favorite who makes modern, young, hip clothing that is at once wearable and incredibly daring. May the best man win!
As the episode begins, it is time for the designers to say goodbye to the comforts of their home-away-from home; goodbye, Flatotel! Goodbye, free hairspray! Goodbye, seclusion and forced friendships! Hello, umbrella-holder! On a side note: Michael is wearing Mondo’s shirt from the “All Stars” key art, no?
If any of us have doubted Mondo’s intentions, passion or desire to win, he calls us back over to his corner with his earnest admission of well, wanting to win. Fine, Mondo! We want you to win too! We hated Gretchen’s stupid crocheted underwear outfits and thought you were robbed! (I actually really loved Gretchen and her designs. Shh, don't tell another of my non-existent fashion credentials down the drain.)
The highlight of this episode, maybe the season, is Austin's description of his collection. I've transcribed it here: "It's called: 'Austin Scarlett' and it's a story of a vampire from the 18th century who has lived many hundreds of years and now resides in Williamsburg and occasionally borrows clothes from her Hassidic dandy friend." And then, his work is somehow truly that. Like I said last week, I remember going into that fashion show, knowing who the final three were and being shocked when I realized that that was Austin's work. In person it was the most interesting runway show.
Mondo's collection, I knew was Mondo's collection. It was almost an extension of his final runway show from his Season 8 Fashion Week collection and most definitely showcased his signatures: wearable separates, unique, custom patterns. They were clothing that would fly off the rack if (and: spoiler alert, when!) they were ever put on a rack.
Did anyone else want to stop Michael's show and ask the models to give us a look at the vests they peeled out of the second they got on the runway? When it all comes down to it, Michael's clothing are more my "personal style." They are the pieces that I would be most drawn to purchase in a store or pin to my "My Style" board on Pinterest. But I know that the real competition is between Austin and Mondo; the winner of the first "Project Runway" challenge ever and the loser of one of the most heated competitions and biggest "Runway" upsets ever.
My favorite pieces from each collection are below, what were yours?!
Although my weekly recapping duties here are on pause, this blog will remain host to all of the news and updates on all things “All Star”-related foreverrrr/until the Internet is gone. Don’t forget to check back in the coming days for exit interviews with all three designers. Thank you all SO much for reading the weekly recaps here on the “Project Runway All Stars” Blog! Goodbye (for now) and see you soon enough for weekly Season 10 recapping on the “Project Runway” Blog!
And read Laura Bennett's blog post here on LifetimeMoms.com!
To the sound of seagulls cawing over B Roll footage of New York City (what screams “Big Apple” louder than the flapping of beach-dwelling birds, right?) we return to Parsons and Miss Angela Lindvall for the “Project Runway All Stars Finale: Part One”! I love a good runway show, but I will happily watch 60 minutes of light drama as the creative process unfurls around the top three contenders: Austin Scarlett, Michael Costello and Mondo Guerra. I will also tune in for a little reality TV meltdown, which promises to rear its ratings-hungry head within the hour.
It’s important for us to pause here and focus solely on the biggest debate going on in our country right now: Austin Scarlett’s mustache. Angela likes him facially-hairless, Mondo compares him to Kermit (who is actually quite fuzzy, if you look closely) but it’s really up to you, America! Please vote:
Back to recapping: when Angela is like, “please welcome some familiar faces” the designers FREAK OUT and are all, “phew, oh okay” when we and they see that it’s Georgina and Isaac. Um, why? Who did they think it would be? It was either going to be these judges, the former judges, past contestants, maybe Tim Gunn, possssibly a family member. It wasn’t going to be, like, an ex-boyfriend or an old bully from junior high or a restless poltergeist waiting behind Door #2.
The judges share the challenge with the All Stars, which is to make a five-piece mini collection in five days. I’m a little disappointed ONLY because I wish they were given multiple weeks, a sick budget and had to make at least 30 outfits. And that the show could go on forever! But I’ll deal with five in five (also ‘cause we know there will be more due to what we in the biz, call “a twist”).
It’s Bring Your Early 30s Designer to Work Day and the All Stars visit with Joanna Coles in the Marie Claire offices. Anyone else love that Michael feels like Joanna Coles when he’s riding that big Hearst elevator in the sky, approaching the glass ceiling? The Gender & Sexuality Studies double major in me is all, “totally, right?”
There’s a little thing called the Curse of the Exposed Zipper if you’ve been watching the recent seasons of “Project Runway” and it appears Joanna Coles may have been the mastermind behind it all when she greets the fellas in her bright yellow zippered number. No word yet on whether or not she is also behind the (much worse) Butt Zipper Phenom. I’ll get back to you..
The editor aspect of the challenge is really one of the most intriguing prizes in “PR” history. I wonder who Joanna would choose for the job based on who she would most want representing the magazine. Knowing Joanna, her staff, and the mag itself, I see her choosing Mondo based on his vibe and style (the little blazer-dog tag-cool glasses combo is screaming “I’m cool and work at a magaziiiiine!” to me), Austin based on professionalism and how he’s handled himself on the show. Michael is obviously out because he hates bras and she loves them.
While watching “PRAS” last night, I received a text from my mom that read: “Mondo is being a bit of a drama queen.” After watching a second time, I’d actually use the more apt phrase “brat” what was with all that whining? I’m not going to say “I know how tough it is to be on reality television” because I don’t literally know. I’ve heard it is grueling, involves crazy hours with little time for sleep, I know it’s forcing you to live with people in seclusion and. I will say this: “I know how tough it is to have a job.” Right? Like, probably most of us have never been on reality television, but the majority of us have had really tough days, weeks, quarters, years, LIVES at work. Mondo’s mood swings make me question his love for what he does. No matter what has happened in my career, I’ve never been that miserable (that often!) about doing something I am passionate about.
Even Mondo’s caftan-creating half, Michael Costello is really frustrated with his moping. I’ll never have MC totally figured out, but I’m always drawn to him on TV when that really interesting, calming, diplomatic side comes out in the face of other people’s stress or adversity. Remember when he had those initial dramz with Mondo on Season 8? He calmly took it on the chin and remained peaceful, happy to see both sides of a frustrating situation (even though one side was him getting seriously sh*t on). That’s someone you want on your team. He must be a great father! And even though it’s really annoying to have someone be like “aww” when you’re upset, there was something really sweet and authentic about Austin and Michael’s venting session. MC's ability to remain equally faithful to himself and to his relationships with his other two competitors will come in handy when he has to act as the coin-flipper during model selection and, well, the rope in this episode's continued game of "tug-of-war."
Anyway, let’s focus on the fabulous for a second: the early designs for the All Stars’ mini-collections! Michael seems genuinely excited about where he’s going, telling surprise workroom guest Georgina about his vision, which is something she says she wants to see when she attends a runway show. His girl is going on a safari, Austin has Hasidic Jewish men in mind as his inspiration (new and incredibly interesting!) and Mondo chooses the appropriate theme of “therapy” for his collection. When Michael says: “I have to make something that’s going to wow Georgina. I have to make something that Isaac’s going to say he’s in love with. I gotta make something that Angela’s going to want to wear,” we are aware of how many things the designers have to balance and think about besides their own creativity and visions.
The Top Three have so far welcomed/been haunted by two of the Ghosts of PRAS, but now it is time for Ghost Judge Angela to rap at their window (JK, there are no windows in their workroom dungeons) and bring them baskets of twists and more ghosts the defeated designers!
The Twists are as follows: the remaining/reigning All Stars have to create a sixth look to fit into their collections. Using scraps of fabrics from the season’s designs. With the help of an off-ed designer. Mondo picks Mila (as avid PRAS Blog readers, we know that these two share a special bond now, don’t we?), Austin chooses Anthony (watch this INCREDIBLE video of him explaining why he wanted to work with Mr. Williams) and Michael goes with his sometimes-nemesis April. Because homeboy likes a hard worker and the potential for drama.
I won’t say who I think will win, because I did get the chance to see the final runway show in person so I have a better idea of what the finished collections look like, but putting myself in the place of we, the viewers: safaris are fun and therapy is much-needed, but my interest is most piqued by Austin. Not just because I love him and not only because his initial pieces (Those PANTS! A wedding dress! A foundation petticoat!) are headscratchers for sure, but also because I live in a half-Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn so am surrounded by the men he is pulling inspiration from. It is really a site to be walking through my ‘hood at any time of day or night, in any season and see them in their grand hats, coats, sometimes furs. I totally get why the designer is drawn to the mysterious lifestyle and its corresponding theatrical look. Even Michael, who has been doubting Austin all season, says his collection looks most intricate. All three of the designers get versions of the "your collection is very 'you'" critique throughout the episode, but the connotation only comes off like a compliment for Austin.
I knew who the final three were when I saw the collections in person but it was surprisingly difficult placing which collection belonged to which designer. Check out a sneak peek at pictures from the "Project Runway All Stars" final runway and tell me every little thing you think about how the Top Three will place in next week's grand finale. Then, compare your predictions with Laura Bennett in her Finale: Part One recap on Lifetime Moms!
We’ve reached the Final Four on our “PRAS” journey, but as Mondo explains, it’s really down to two: Team M&M vs. Team K&A. Mondo and Michael are Season 8’s besties with testes, a modern take on the Bert & Ernie, Odd Couple of yore. I know Michael lives in California and Mondo in Colorado, but I like to believe they’ll grow old together like the Golden Girls. (Mondo is Sophia-size but Dorothy-esque in demeanor, and his bedroom is obviously print-y like Blanche’s. And Michael is just Rose.)
Then there’s K&A, Kenley and Austin. This pair is classic Gen Y New York. Just a gal and her gay, posting Instagram pics of their unlimited champagne brunches in the city and vintage shopping sprees at Brooklyn boutiques. They’ll live out their elderly years together “Grey Gardens”–style in a Hamptons bungalow, sharing headscarves and costume jewelry, talkin’ about the good ol’ days while an ancient Tim Gunn sits suited up in the corner, nodding occasionally from his rocking-chair throne.
Um, anyway, back to Flatotel, where poor Kenleyrella whips up a batch of scrambled eggs for the boys, who beat her with a broom and tell her ModCloth is on the phone for her.
Coming off the heels of last week’s light-technology challenge — a favorite for me! — Angela announces yet another cool theme for the Fab Four, this one a little more down-to-earth. The designers travel to Nanette Lepore’s studio, which still exists in the ever-shrinking Garment District (never mind all those pesky signs that only read “Fashion District,” we swear it’s “Garment” — Google it!). I had no idea that Nanette Lepore, a designer I own one dress from (Loehmann’s — shh, don’t tell!), was NYC-based and fighting for the mom-and-pop shops of the Garment District. Go, Nanette!
Ms. Lepore herself, wearing one of my fave colors, tells the designers that they’ll be creating a ready-to-wear look made to fit a certain budget and manufactured locally. The winning look will be sold in her stores and proceeds will go to Save the Garment Center.
Upon first listen, Austin is nodding emphatically, Kenley is pretty confident since she does this sorta thing all the time (red flag, RIGHT?), Michael is making a Day Caftan, and Mondo is a little nervous. The All Stars have to sketch and meet with Nanette and her coster first … and Mondo doesn’t sketch. Or he does, but he draws something that Nanette likens to a tin can with a string hanging out. Is Mondo’s sketching a “can’t” or a “won’t”? Is it that he can’t sketch like I can’t kill a cockroach to save my life (I probably could. To save my life.)? Or is it that he can’t sketch like I can’t whistle (I purse my lips together and blow, but nothing happens.)? But he can “can’t” as much as he wants after that incredibly uncomfortable conversation at Nanette’s studio, where Kenley was like, “Hey, Michael, you should teach Mondo how to sketch,” and Michael was like, “HEY, RUDE, we’re in someone’s studio and you’re embarrassing my Bert!” Yikes. Open mouth, insert saddle shoe.
Nanette’s workroom visit is a little scary; this woman is business. She is bummed when Kenley tells her she’s scrapping the keyhole, and also is like, “Girl, this dress fits like crap” (she’s right), to which Kenley is like, “It’ll fit better!” which (spoiler alert) it won’t. And I don’t understand why not, because Kenley’s dresses have fit so perfectly all season.
Nanette is more intrigued by Mondo’s design, which is looking less like a tin can and more like a dress with every stitch. Joanna is worried that you can’t wear a bra with Michael’s caftan (you can’t, unless you consider those sticky things that look like chicken cutlets “a bra”), and at this point we kind of have no idea how Austin’s will work out and/or whether Nanette likes his coat.
I love this episode. I’m a budget shopper/working girl (aw, did you guys think I was a socialite, blogging in my spare time between fashion shows and charity galas? How sweet!), so I loved seeing the process of making a garment I still couldn’t afford. I also didn’t realize until now that the common links between the final four are that we have two who made it to the finale in their respective seasons and didn’t win (Mondo and Kenley), and two who were cut right before the finale (Michael and Austin).
Mondo used the word “defeated” 75,000 times, so this challenge was his. Not really because them’s the breaks in reality-TV land, but because he seems like the type of person who needs a challenge or adversity to rise above. I’m not totally sure how we get from tin can to potato sack to winning, but I do love the idea of Mondo’s dress. I agree with Angela that it’s my least favorite of his looks this season, and with Isaac that oh my god it needs a little more of a waist … and I could do without that bottom ruffle, but I think Nanette, in the end, was really drawn to it. Sketched to it, even. My favorite version of Mondo’s dress was the pit bull dress from the workroom (pre-bottom ruffle). Stay tuned to the blog, or check out Twitter and Facebook for pics from last night’s Nanette Lepore event, where Mondo’s dress was showcased.
Austin’s coat rocked. It was beautiful and sophisticated, and it’s too bad he didn’t go bolder in a different color, even though I do know a ton of girls who love their dusty jewel tones. The Scarlett Harlots can all rejoice now that our boy is in the finale. One inspirational haiku for the road to Fake Fashion Week:
Journey nears the end.
Cherubic Austin tall a-
bove two short brunettes.
Michael did what he does best to win in the clincher over Kenley he made a dress that a lot of women want to wear, including those pretty ladies cooing in adulation and “hint-hint, make me one of those”tion from the judge panel. He made a Day Caftan that is… a Day Caftan, but we’re all like “OO, pretty!” He sells a dress and a lifestyle that’s not just or even at all rich, it’s just fun and desirable. And who doesn’t want that?
Kenley, girl. What happened?! In her original sketch and meeting with Nanette, there was a keyhole in her dress design, and Nanette LOVED IT. Her eyes lit up when Kenley pointed out the keyhole, she commented that it was sexy … so what happened to that keyhole? It seemed like in the preliminary meetings, Kenley’s pitch was most on par with Nanette’s aesthetic, and the designer actually seemed most excited about her look, so it’s sad that veering from the original pitch and into printed-peacock territory sent her home.
This means Prince of Patterns, Don Drape-r and “Miss Scarlett if You’re Nasty or Isaac Mizrahi” make it to the finale. Tune in for Part 1 next Thursday!