Three designers! Six looks each! Four days! We've reached the finale of the third season of "Project Runway All Stars," which means it's crunch time. Alyssa informs our trio that they'll be drawing inspiration for their final collections from their countries of origin: Elena from Ukraine, Korto from Liberia, Seth Aaron from Spain. And they'll do it in none other than the center of global politics, the United Nations headquarters in NYC.
The finalists chat with the delegates from their countries and do their sketching inside the UN building. For their time in the workroom, they get special help from their old pals Viktor, Christopher and Jeffrey. They also get a last-minute twist: Alyssa pops back in to announce that their collections must include a seventh look, at least half of which must be made from scarves they've been provided. Viktor has to talk Elena off the ledge after this little curveball, but she pulls it together.
The runway show takes place back at UN headquarters, which is pretty cool. Our guest judges are TV and magazine personality Gayle King and designer/"Project Runway" judge Zac Posen.
A vaguely otherworldly-looking collection, comprised of pieces that incorporate all of Elena's trademarks: Bold shoulders, color-blocking, mixed textures, interesting colors (in this case, greys, black, lavender, and pale yellow). Isaac likes the use of leather from knee to hem on Elena's pants. "Those are great pants if they fit," he says, "but they don't fit." Georgina also tempers praise with criticism, admiring Elena's bubble skirts but noting they might've better kept their shape if the fabric had been backed. Alyssa's issueand one that I hadn't thought of before but actually agree withis that Elena spends so much time on the design and construction of the top halves of her looks that the bottom halves often come across as an afterthought. She also brings up Elena's propensity for sticking with the same basic silhouette as a downside when presenting a collection. Elena takes it all in stride. No tears! She lands in third place.
Inspired by Korto's homeland of Liberia, her collection focuses on bright yellow prints interspersed with all-white ensembles. There's lots of love from the panel for Korto's golden opening gown, as well as her pieces' flexible wearability. "Korto allows a woman to be and to breathe," Georgina says, but then admits that this collection is a "bit of a mess," both in design and in construction. Isaac and Zac point out problems with tailoring. Isaac thinks even the structured pieces would look better without the belts. In the end, Korto is declared runner-up, and not for the first time: She came in second during her original season AND during the "All-Star Challenge" special in 2009.
Seth Aaron: Spain
A "very modern, very clean" collection (in Seth Aaron's words) based on a bright yellow, red, and gold color scheme. Georgina praises Seth Aaron's confidence with draping and color, and Gayle admires the back of Seth Aaron's opening look. "To me, the whole thing is a styling disaster," Isaac says, "but the clothes are great." Zac nitpicks the length of the pants in the collection but then he and Isaac geek over the arm hole detail in the short white dress. Plus Seth Aaron's scarf look gets the best reviews of the three finalists'. He's declared the winner! Making him the first "Runway" alum to claim the title for a regular season as well as a season of "All Stars."
I'll admit that of the three collections, Elena's was actually my favorite. All the things I harped on about her work this season were incorporated to great effect here, and her vision and aesthetic are so much clearer to me than either Korto's or Seth Aaron's. But what do you think? Are you happy Seth Aaron won? How much does it bum you out that Korto came in second place AGAIN? Of all the finale looks, which stuck out the most? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading and commenting all season!
This recap is brought to you by my favorite blink-and-you'll-miss-it phrase of the season so far: "I must have a fairy drag mother today!" said by Anthony Ryan at the end of this week's episode. May we all have fairy drag mothers watching over us in the new year. Amen.
We're down to the final four, and if you'd asked me at the start of the season, I probably would have guessed that Uli, Emilio, Anthony Ryan and Joshua would make it this far. (Anthony Ryan notes that he's the only one left who didn't place in the final four during his original season, but he's definitely proven himself to be a contender this time around.)
The designers meet Carolyn on the deck of the USS Intrepida decommissioned World War II-era aircraft carrier docked off the edge of NYC that now serves as the awesome Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museumwhere they're introduced to their clients: Four badass female American military veterans. It's the Real Women Challenge! With lady soldiers! Each of the women will be attending a different formal function. The designers with whom they're paired must create appropriately fabulous looks for the occasion.
I've always liked the Real Women challenge because it's usually an interesting demonstration of versatility. Sure, you can design and create clothes, but can you work well with others? Can you tweak your vision to suit a stranger whose taste may differ from your own? Does your specific style still hold up when it's translated into a more collaborative garment? These are important questions for anyone competing on "Project Runway," an environment in which designers are rewarded for having a well-developed sense of their own style AND a tool belt full of ways to implement it in each challenge.
The women chat with their designers about their events (a 40th-birthday bash, a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, a wedding, a formal military event) and thankfully everyone seems to land on the same page quickly.
Anthony Ryan's client Donna, an Air Force officer, makes it clear that she doesn't want to draw attention to her bust ("I'm a boob hider."). Then she asks him for a strapless dress. This seems wildly counterproductive to me. When has any woman worn a strapless dress to hide her bust? That style of garment literally relies on the bosom to be worn properly. Anthony Ryan doesn't see an issue, though; at Mood, he grabs a grey-to-white ombre fabric to fashion into a floor-length strapless gown.
Uli does the same thing Anya did a lot of during Season 9: She sketches out a dress that's essentially a duplicate of the one she's wearing. To be fair, this is a specific request from the client, Jessica, but it's still a little disappointing that Uli didn't push to do something more unique to Jessica's taste. Jessica likes purple, but Uli settles on a very flow-y grey print. Yawn.
Leslie and Joshua hit it off right away. Leslie lost her left leg below the knee after a terrifying-sounding health crisis, but she asks him for a dress that will help her show off her prosthetic while still being acceptable attire for a formal military event. At Mood he grabs a loud black-and-white leopard print and I scream "NO!" at the screen. It's too much! Too tacky! But in the workroom he rolls up his sleeves (just kiddinghe's wearing a tank top) and breaks open a box of dye so I'm able to chill out a little bit.
Emilio's client, Lisa, wants something short and flashy for a night out in Vegas. She says she loves yellow and you can see Emilio's eyes light up, because if there's one thing he loves it's bright, arresting colors.
Uli: Jessica's final dress fit her nicely, and the bias cut at the bottom was both flattering and practical for its eventual use at wedding, where there will presumably be lots of dancing. It wasn't especially inventive, but it was exactly what the client asked for, it looked expensive, and it screamed "Uli!" so I can't really find fault in it.
Emilio: This garment seemed to be very Emilio in its concept but it was lacking in execution. Yellow was the perfect color choice for Lisa: It's eye-catching but not obnoxious. But the judges were right to call out a number of weird design choices, notably the awkward cut along the sides leading into the open back and the color variation. As Georgina said, "It just wasn't committed enough for me."
Anthony Ryan: This turned out to be less of a disaster than I'd envisioned. I still didn't love it. The addition of straps was a good choice. Other bright spots: The sexy slit in the skirt, which hit at just the right height, and the smart choice of fabric. I thought the garment might have worked better without the banding underneath the bust, which cut up her figure in a way that wasn't entirely complimentary. Donna said she appreciated feeling a bit hidden in it, so in that sense I guess it's a win, but like Katie Holmes my eye was drawn straight to the area the client was trying to hide.
Joshua: The easy winner. Joshua's initial fabric choice was alarming, but he managed to tone in down and incorporate it into the skirt and the back of the top in a way that was on-trend, age-appropriate, and totally flattering. His client Leslie looked absolutely radiant. I really loved this one.
It was smart of the judges to keep everyone around heading into the next challenge. I didn't think any of these looks was worthy of elimination. And the added level of competition will be good for the designers as they make their way to Paris (!) next week.
Of course, your mileage may vary. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments. If you had to boot one of the final four, who would it be and why?
I'm happy to inform everyone that we can officially add "throw awesome parties" to the list of things Nanette Lepore rocks at (on top of designing gorgeous, feminine frocks, being a wonderful guest judge, saving the Garment District, having beautiful hair). On last week's episode of "Project Runway All Stars," the NYC-based fashion designer hosted the episode challenge, which was for the four remaining designers to create a look within budget, using her fabric. The winning look would be sold in her stores, 100% of the profits going to the Save the Garment Center Organization.
To unveil the winning look, Nanette and her sweet staff hosted a live screening of the episode where four "Project Runway All Stars" designers were cut to the three that would make it to the finale. With the Final Four in attendance, you didn't know what to look at the television screen or Austin, Kenley, Michael and Mondo! Torn between my official Lifetime duties and my responsibilities as Austin Scarlett: The Scarlett Harlots Fan Club press secretary, I alternated between the two.
When "Project Runway" Season 8 runner-up Mondo Guerra was announced as the winner of the night's challenge, there was applause for him, and hugs for the show's 4th place finisher Kenley Collins. But the night's grand finale was yet to come, as the winning dress was showcased on models (including the designer's daughter!) and racks throughout the store. Mondo's dress and the alternating, luxe fabrics were gorgeous in person. Nanette even took a second to show me the two small changes she made to the dress including adding darts at the bust and a black tie in the back to give the garment more shape.
Visit Nanette Lepore's online store here to shop Mondo's winning dress! Due to super popular demand, the dress sold out instantly but you can now place an order and the dress is expected to ship out by May 15 just in time for summer, so what are you waiting for?! Order now!
How would you make the ultimate outfit with Mondo's dress for Nanette Lepore? I'm thinking neon wedge heels and a sparkly clutch for night of flirting-and-dancing or black gladiator sandals and a vintage leather satchel for day/brunch with my girls — are you with me?!
Photos by Mark Irlando (Thanks, Mark!!)
Ugh, don't you hate when a precocious kid or adorable animal steals your thunder during an exit interview with a "Project Runway All Stars" designer at a swanky shindig in a SoHo boutique? I stopped to chat with Kenley Collins at the Nanette Lepore "Project Runway All Stars" live screening party last Thursday, while she was being admired by an 8-year-old uberfan. Find out who Kenley really designs for and what was going through the designer's mind when getting teased by the boyz on the show and bonus: meet the winner of "Project Runway" Season 23!
Lisa Raphael: On the show and in an interview for this blog, Isaac Mizrahi said that you design for the "real woman." Do you agree; who do you design with in mind?
Kenley: I think I design for... what’s your name? [Kenley turns to young fan standing next to her] I design for her [young girl], she is my market. Girls like her who are fun and young and cool. That’s who I’m designing for. This one right here. She loves my dress! This is my girl!
Do you agree with Nanette Lepore and the judges that you got too caught up with the peacock print and lost the keyhole from the original sketch?
I love the peacock print, don’t you? [Kenley turns to young girl, who shouts "Yes!"] What would you rather see: the peacock print or the keyhole? ["Peacock!"] Me too. Me too. You have good taste!
What was your favorite look from the season?
My favorite look was the light-up jacket. [To young girl] Did you like when I lit up the room with the lightning jacket? Yeah, we’re going to go with that.
Did you have Nicki Minaj in mind when you were designing that?
I didn’t have Nicki Minaj in mind, I had music video in mind, which is Nicki right now. But when I put the wig on her, I told them Nicki.
How was your experience been different this time around?
It was really fun. I went into it thinking I wanted to have a good time and that’s what I did. I had fun.
It seemed like fun, but then there was also a lot of teasing going on to the point where the boys were always picking on you in the workroom. How did you deal with that!
It actually was funny, they were really funny. They were pointing out my personality and who I am and I thought it was funny, so I laughed. And they kind of meant it as being funny.
[Little girl interrupts and asks: "Were you sad when you didn't make it?"]That's a good question! Maybe I've found my next intern tonight!
I worked so hard and I was so upset. But you know what, you go home and you move on.
Do you have a lot of young designers, like this one, that look up to you?
They want my advice on being a designer; the advice for you [Turns to little girl] is love what you do. And have fun, because if you don’t love what you do, it’s really easy to fall out of it.
Georgina was a guest judge on your season of "Project Runway" and she did not like your look, were you nervous to see her as a permanent judge on "All Stars"?
Yes she was, and it was a horrible gown I did — I was tired. It was a bad gown.
Which look would you have chosen for the win for the Nanette Lepore challenge?
I really like Austin’s coat. It was fabulous like Twiggy!
Photo: Mark Irlando