Season 5, Episode 12 Recap: Prince of Prints

“All Stars” has given us a lot to digest before the fashion feast of a finale next week: mended fences, reunions and a showdown on the runway the likes of which has been seen before but that still managed to be a delightful surprise. Let’s recap this bad boy!

Alyssa, dressed as a futuristic billboard, tiptoes onto the darkened runway to be greeted by the “oohs” and “awws” of the final four contestants. It’s all very Daft Punk of her, but don’t get too distracted by the scrolling P R O J E C T R U N W A Y letters in LED on the front of her dress, because everybody’s favorite Creative Director of Marie Claire strolls out in (gasp!) a jumpsuit. Nina will be joining the judges this week and (spoiler alert) bringing her A-game. Coming into “All Stars” as a contestant from “Under the Gunn,” Sam has yet to feel the Nina sting. I hope the medics have an EpiPen on them because contact with Nina Garcia has been known to cause anaphylactic shock.

Nina says that our electronic devices are our new fashion accessories (iPad berets will be huge this fall) and Otterbox has been collaborating with designers to make beautiful new phone cases to reflect your beautiful personality. Barbara Meyer from Otterbox joins Nina and Alyssa and the three women get to explaining the challenge.

Challenge: Essentially, print your own print and then pair that print with another print that you buy at Mood.The winning designer will create an exclusive Otterbox case to be manufactured and sold worldwide.

In the workroom the designers head straight to their tablets to create their prints. Everyone looks to Dom, Queen of Prints, who we can assume has this one in the button bag. Ken is already nervous because he doesn’t like prints, and then he references our dearly departed beloved Prince, and I’m not crying I just have decades worth of musical, cultural and fashion magic in my eye.

Meanwhile, a confident Kini is sure he can give Dom a run for her money. He’s putting together some sort of deconstructed leaf design that looks a little ’80s Art Deco Revival from here, but we’ll see. Ken is still nervous, but Dom gives him a little advice to work with by reminding him that print-on-print can be soft. Sam is creating a pixelated Hawaiian shirt effect. Dom has something bright and indescribable and I assume it’s going to be amazing.

They move the party to Mood, where the designers sketch before spending 30 minutes and $150 each on additional fabric for their garments. And, no kidding, Sam goes straight for the neoprene mesh and says he’s doing a jumpsuit. He does recognize that he’s done jumpsuits before, but calls them his “signature piece.”

Back in the workroom Ken approaches Sam in the now infamous break room and we all brace ourselves for the approaching storm. But it’s actually kind of great! Ken acknowledges that when last they spoke he was harsher than he meant to be, and Sam says that it actually felt like a push for him do better. Who knew being called a snake could be so encouraging? The convo ends in a hug and it’s cute and I wish this had happened earlier in the season. Now if Kini would just say his piece we’d have good vibes all around.

Speaking of good vibes, in walk the previous “All Stars” winners, Dimitry Sholokov, Seth Aaron Henderson, Mondo Guerra, and Anthony Ryan Auld, with the designers’ printed fabrics in hand. They explain that they’re there to coach the current designers a bit in this last challenge before the finale. Dimitry tells Ken not to let his look go into Madame territory, Anthony Ryan tells Kini to sex it up, Seth Aaron tells Dom to stay true to herself, and Mondo encourages Sam to focus on his execution. It’s all very sweet and positive. What a feel-good episode so far!

Zanna’s critique goes smoothly for the most part as she passes out light reminders about Nina’s judging (“Nina hates gimmicks”). She does give Sam a hard time about making another jumpsuit and reusing the mesh, but there’s no turning back now that he’s this far along. She also expresses concern about Dom’s painted faux-leather coat, but Dom’s a pro and I, for one, am not worried.

On the day of runway it seems that the low-drama energy has had an adverse effect on the group’s productivity as they have to hustle to get their looks together.


In a hot red dress, Alyssa reminds us of the challenge (prints on prints) and introduces us to judges Georgina, Isaac, and “Runway” royalty Nina Garcia.

The Top:

Kini: The printed fabric Kini designed is a deep eggplant with white slices of what used to be a hand-drawn leaf splattered generously throughout. Kini used this printed fabric to create a jacket with wide pointed shoulders, black lapels and pocket flaps. The floor-length tiered skirt is made of his purchased fabric, which is white with thin, uneven black vertical lines. It gets gradually darker as it reaches the floor. Georgina appreciates the silhouette on the model, Isaac thinks Kini nailed the look, and Nina knew the polished drama was Kini’s (a good sign), but the judges note that he may have gone just a step too far and over-designed the look.

Dom, the winner: Dom actually made two printed fabrics, but the one that counts is a red, pink, black, and white geometric pattern that I literally can’t explain. You just have to go look at it in all its wild glory. With the printed fabric Dom created a dress with striped/polka-dotted black and white detailing at the seams. The dress falls at the knee but includes a half panel that’s more maxi in length. She also painted black stripes on some white vegan leather and created a long casual jacket. Nina likes the whole look, particularly the print that Dom created, but doesn’t like that odd long piece on the dress. Alyssa mentions that while she loves the idea of an asymmetrical wrap dress, it would have been better reversed. Isaac and Georgina like the mix of prints.

The Bottom:

Sam: The printed fabric Sam created is sky blue with exaggerated, bold, carelessly drawn pixelated flowers. Sam used his printed fabric to create a mid-thigh-length jacket. The blue fabric creates a vest-like effect and is paired with white neoprene mesh sleeves. Underneath Sam used the purchased black and white grid-patterned fabric to create a loose-fitting jumpsuit. He has separated the top and bottom of the jumpsuit with a mesh waistband. Alyssa likes that the print is perfectly suited for a phone cover, while Georgina doesn’t care for the print, calling it “challenging.” Nina likes the coat but doesn’t think it works with the jumpsuit. Isaac finally calls Sam out on his overuse of neoprene mesh but likes the jumpsuit (minus the waist bit).

Ken: The design Ken printed is kind of like if you used the spray can option on MS Paint to fill the screen. It’s black and white but has an overall grey effect. Ken used this print to create a long-sleeve dress top and paired it with a black and silver graphic-printed fitted high-waisted skirt. The top is purposely oversized but not oversized enough to make a statement other than “This doesn’t fit.” Georgina points out that “there is a lack of polish” in this particular look and that the prints are not gelling. Isaac wishes that Ken had played with the proportions a bit more, as a shorter skirt may have served the look well. Nina prefers the Mood print to the one Ken created and says the look is dated. Ken nods throughout his critique, agreeing silently that he didn’t live up to his potential this week.

The judges deliberate (or at least try to) and can’t decide between Sam and Ken to go home. They bring the four designers back onto the runway so that Nina can announce that Dom is the winner of the challenge. They also give Kini the second place title. (This means Dom and Kini both have guaranteed spots in the final challenge.) Then the judges request more time to chat and send Sam and Ken back to the lounge to wait.

When Ken and Sam return to the runway, there are two randomly chosen mystery boxes and sewing machines waiting for them. Alyssa informs them that they have one hour to take a winning and losing look from a challenge this season and reconstruct them to create an all-new look.

Ken winds up with his winning look and Mitchell’s losing look from the Baroque challenge. Sam gets Asha’s winning look and Alexander’s losing look from the fairytale challenge.

Sam: Using the lining from Alexander’s gown, Sam creates a super short mini dress underneath what he calls a “Letterman’s jacket.” He uses Asha’s pants as sleeves and Alexander’s bodice for the back of the jacket. He’s also added eye black on the model to complete the sporty theme. It’s incredibly inventive, but the craftsmanship suffers for the time constraints. Georgina likes the concept of the look though she does acknowledge that there are issues with it. Isaac likes that Sam went weird with the look but doesn’t think it was fully realized. Alyssa likes the “cool-girl factor” of the look. Nina calls him “resourceful” and likes how effortless his work is.

Ken: Streamlining his original dress, Ken brings the hem above the knee, removes the ornate black beading, adds a cap sleeve and a strong high collar, and finally, using some of Mitchell’s black chiffon, adds detail to the collar. It’s a very strong look. Georgina appreciates that Ken sticks to his aesthetic in every challenge and knows exactly who he is as a designer. Isaac encourages Ken to keep producing work like the garment in front of them, though he notes that he wishes it was shorter. Alyssa agrees with Isaac about the length of the skirt but thinks Ken was smart with his use of the fabrics. Nina calls it “polished, dramatic, tailored” and tells him she is impressed.

Nina adds that the two of them could do with taking on some of the characteristics of the other. Sam could be more polished and Ken could afford to be more effortless. It’s a freaking great note that the two of them needed ages ago. Thank “Runway” gods for Nina.

In the end, Sam is eliminated and Ken is awarded the opportunity to participate in the finale. After a hug from Alyssa, Sam sashays down the catwalk and gives a heartfelt adieu to the other three designers. I have to say Sam really redeemed himself to me in this episode. I thought that while the materials were wrong (that floral reminded me of a SpongeBob Squarepants background), his print challenge look was intriguing and pushed the limits in the same way that Dom and Kini’s looks did, and while his one-hour challenge look had some serious construction issues, it was cool and weird and unexpected. He’s resilient as hell and even in a room full of haters managed to stay positive pretty much all season.

That being said, I’m super excited to see Ken in the finale because I think he totally deserves it. How do you feel about how the challenge(s) went down? Did your opinion of Sam change at all like mine? Who do you predict will take the win? And most importantly, does your phone case reflect your personality?? (Mine is the pattern of the carpet from “The Shining” because I like people knowing I’m a pretentious film snob from the word go.)

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