Friday, January 6, 2012

Project Runway All Stars, E1: Mopgate 2012

Well, how about that?

We are only one episode into Project Runway All Stars, and I haven't felt this good about the franchise since Seth Aaron's victory in Season 7, which was almost two full years ago. Right from the start there was a renewed energy and a sense that this season will be much different than the two that preceded it. As I said yesterday, Project Runway desperately needed this season to happen.

Naturally, everything wasn't perfect, but that's part of the fun, isn't it? So before someone steals my mop, let's breakdown last night's episode...

Welcome Back: This is normally a forgettable segment, but I loved seeing all of the All Stars arrive in New York one by one. Oh, look! It's Mondo in booty shorts! There's a silver-haired April! Elisa is spitting on people already! Crazy Kenley in the house—hide your cats! Each of the designer's brought along a recent creation to represent themselves as a designer, and unfortunately the runway went by way too quickly to really take the designs in. One thing was clear, though: Mondo won Round 1.

Tears by Valentino: After the initial runway, the designers were treated to a video message from none other than Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti, telling them to chase their dreams and be all they can be in the army... or something to that effect. It was pretty cool seeing a legendary designer address the All Stars like that, and, of course, they all instantly burst into tears and blubbered for a bit.

Challenge: So after a special message from Valentino, clearly the challenge would be something upscale and couture, right? Wrong! The designers were brought to a 99-cent store and given $100 to create a "fabulous creation" inspired by the look from Round 1. Some of the designers seemed shocked that the initial garment came into play. I guess they must be a little rusty.

In the Workroom:
  • There is a new Neiman Marcus accessory wall. Piperlime and are not worthy of All Stars, obviously.
  • Michael Costello, whose presence I am still trying to understand, uses the word "draping" a thousand times to try to convince us that he's good at it.
  • Mondo compares Gordana's dress to a piƱata. "I hope her model is full of candy." Me, too, Mondo. Me, too.
  • Austin, now a Norma-Desmond-turban-wearing, mustachioed 1920s movie villain, leaves a glue gun unattended and it melts through the front of his dress. 32 minutes in and we have our first emotional breakdown. Score!
  • Elisa, as expected, is still a lovable little forest nymph who like to mark things with her saliva and roll around on the ground. Bless.

MOPGATE 2012: Yep, this bullshit deserves its own category. You see, Michael Costello and April both bought the same mop from the 99-cent store. I'm sure you were all clutching your pearls. It didn't seem like April was really freaking out too much, but—duh—Michael Costello's head was ready to explode. Best moment of this whole non-event? Jerell telling Michael, "Y'all need to have a woman-to-woman talk." Fantastic.

Judging the Judges: The biggest change of the night, of course, was the new panel of judges, our new Heidi host and new Tim Gunn mentor. And for the most part, I thought they all did an admirable job. Angela Lindvall has a tall order to fill "replacing" Heidi, but she did her best to be a lovely and sparkly—if forgettable—host. Georgina Chapman, Isaac Mizrahi and guest judge Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus all made astute points about the designs on the runway and managed to do so without trying to mimic Nina or Michael or chewing any scenery. The real highlight for me was Joanna Coles, who did a remarkable job as a mentor. She had insightful questions, she critiqued and pushed the designers, and, most of all, she didn't attempt to be Tim Gunn.

Top Three:
  • Jerell - Even with a mullet hem—which I normally despise—Jerell's dress had a wonderful flow and elegance. The colors were subdued, but not boring, and you couldn't tell it was made out of 99-cent supplies.
  • Mondo - As the most argued-over runner-up in the show's history, I was afraid Mondo would not live up to our huge expectations. Silly me! He is back and still doing what we love: fun, interesting clothing. This black dress was a more subdued version of what we've seen from him before, but it was still youthful and exciting. 
  • Rami - Two things are obvious about Rami this season: he is in it to win it, and he is hellbent on not being defined by draping. We've never seen him go in such a tailored, structural direction and I loved it. There were maybe one or two details too many, but the execution was flawless and the whole look was runway ready. [Side Note: I have those laundry bags...]

Bottom Three:
  • Elisa - Every once in a while during Season 4, Elisa produced an unusual and stunning creation. That happened again during Round 1, but then she lost her marbles in the challenge. The wings were bizarre, the top and shorts didn't match and the whole thing was poorly constructed. The vision was very "Elisa," but it went too far over the cuckoo's nest.
  • Gordana - Oh, my sweet Gordana. What could have been a fun little party dress turned into an overdesigned mess. The shoulder straps looked tacked on and the mylar tape detail was too tacky. A disappointing start from one of the only good parts of Season 6.
  • Sweet P - If this was about designing a look for the Chiquita Banana lady, then snaps to Sweet P. Unfortunately, her terry cloth dress was just a disaster. It looked unfinished and slapped together, and the one interesting detail—the belt straps—just felt out of place.

Honorable Mention: I was surprised the judges didn't give Mila's design a higher score. It was bold, modern and impeccably made.

Dishonorable Mention: Miss Kenley should thank her lucky stars she wasn't on the chopping block, because that bath mat mess was unflattering and clunky.

And the winner is: Rami! Hooray! I think subconsciously I'm rooting for the Bravo-era designers to do well this season just to stick it to the Weinsteins, Bunim Murray and Lifetime. So sue me (get it?).

Auf Wiedersehen to: Elisa, our fair sprite who went skipping back to her enchanted forest. I can't say I was terribly surprised by the elimination. Elisa, though I love her, was clearly brought back for her personality and not her talent, so the early auf-ing was predictable.

So, we're off to a great start! The episode was fun, fresh and only 60 minutes long... can't argue with that. I'm thrilled to see what's to come—especially that bitch fight between Austin and Isaac in the preview!

What did you think of last night's season premiere? Are you on board with All Stars? Did you agree with the auf-ing? And who do you think is the front-runner? Sound off in the comments!

[Image Source: Lifetime]
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