Project Runway All Stars: Making Things Right

Last night, the roller coaster of Project Runway's All Star season came to an end. Obviously, if you haven't watched it, stop reading and come back when you have. We watched as 13 favorites from seasons past came back to battle for a crazy list of prizes. Let's review those again:
  • $100,000 cash from L'Oreal Paris
  • A feature spread in Marie Claire magazine
  • A guest editorship at Marie Claire for one year
  • $100,000 in technology and office space from HP and Intel
  • An exclusive designer's boutique at select Neiman Marcus stores and on
  • A sewing an embroidery studio provided by Brother International
Some Thoughts On The All Star Season
Your average season of Project Runway only earns you the first two prizes on that list so these formerly eliminated designers all had the chance to surpass the winners of their season. After all, this prize wasn't just financing the possibility of creating a collection. This prize puts the winner's collection in a major retailer, allows him to make contacts at a major fashion magazine and furnishes him with an office, computers, and sewing space. Essentially, the winner got a successful business.

This season had amazing talent and amazing prizes, which makes me wonder why they didn't take the time to let the designers make amazing clothing. The entire season was rushed with crazy time restraints. The finalists didn't even get to make a full collection. If Lifetime was hoping to redeem itself for Season 8 (or as I called the finale "The Day Project Runway Died", it shouldn't have rushed things. Lifetime continues to misunderstand why Project Runway was so successful under Bravo's direction--it was a show about fashion design. Lifetime continues to make it a show about fashion designers, drama, crazy challenges and snarky comments from the judges. Sure, big personalities, workroom feuds, creative challenges and quips from Michael Kors were all elements of what made Project Runway a hit in it's Bravo days, but fashion was always the main focus. Until Lifetime figures that out, we're going to continue to miss the show we once knew and loved.

Austin's Collection Look by Look
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  1. I applaud Austin for trying something here, but the upside down pants didn't wow me. We've seen an upside down skirt before (in Josh C's portfolio last season). The pants seemed sort of silly and not well done.
  2. I love this. I want this. It's my favorite look from his collection. Laquered lace in a lovely shape. WANT!
  3. I'm on the fence about the top, but it did look pretty on the model. The classic pencil skirt in (what I assume is) leatherette worked well.
  4. This red carpet look didn't come out as well as I believe Austin intended. The proportions aren't quite right and it looks pinned together, which it is. Not his best ball gown.
  5. This is his "leftover look" from the last minute challenge, which is why I don't blame him for it not fitting in with his vision (as convoluted and broad has it was). It's nothing special, but nothing bad either.
  6. This is really pretty. I loved how the petals fluttered when the model walked. I also love the belt and gloves. He could have taken the rock and roll edge a bit further to fit it with his collection, but it's still very pretty.
Austin said his collection was the story of "a vampire from the 18th century who has lived many hundreds of years and now lives in Williamsburg and occasionally borrows clothes from her Hasidic dandy friends." Yikes. I agree with the judges that he just had too many ideas. The whole vampire thing seemed tired. He forget to mention the rocker inspiration, and I just couldn't get into it. He is a wonderful designer, and he's made some great stuff. I agree with the judges that he might be the most artistic of the three finalist. I just think he needs to work with a stylist to make this ideas come together better.
Mondo's Collection Look by Look
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  1. Cute, wearable, great mix of print and bold graphic on the skirt. I also like the bag, which brings in the pops of red.
  2. This isn't my favorite dress. It's cute, but it looks a little more Kenley or Mila than Mondo. I do like the pockets. It's playful and a little crazy--now that makes it seem more "Mondo."
  3. This is his "leftover look" and he wins for the best one. He used materials from several challenges and really pulled this together while making it work with his collection. It speaks both to Mondo's creativity and to his clear point of view. He was able to see all the various pieces and come up with a look, and he wasn't so all over the place during that season that nothing could come together to work as a single look.
  4. I would really love to wear this. The judges thought the pockets were too silly, but I like the exaggeration in light of his therapy theme. I would love to rock the tee with jeans or a skirt. I'm a sucker for a wide leg pant, and the jacket is very classic and cute. I also love the two different color cuffs on the sleeves.
  5. This is my favorite look of Mondo's. I want it. It's killer. It feels like a well edited version of the polka dot dress from his season 8 final collection. Again, love the black and red cuffs
  6. This was a surprise. Mondo doesn't typically made flowing dresses. Some of the judges didn't think it fit in the collection, but it was a lovely ending. Also, it showed that Mondo can compete with Austin on the red carpet (Actually, this wins the battle of the shiny red dresses) and with Michael on the pretty draped dress front (This is actually more flattering than Michael's white Grecian gown).
Mondo's collection was cohesive, wearable, interesting and well made. This actually wasn't Mondo's best work of the season, but that is true of each of them in a way. I love his idea of therapy, and he pulled it off well. He didn't just create great looks. He really paid attention to details and fit. He is the master of a bold graphic and a mixed print. He created his own textiles and he used the prints he found in interesting ways.
Michael's Collection Look by Look
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  1. This looks like such an easy to wear jumpsuit. I'm not a huge jumpsuit fan, but this looks comfy and quite classy. Michael played to his strengths by doing lovely draping
  2. Michael pushed himself to do day wear, but I'm not crazy about the print. It fights the dress a bit. Without the print thought, I feel like I've seen the dress before.
  3. This is my favorite look. I love a dress that's flowing around the hips. Again, here is Michael doing what he does best--draping. He should always remember to drape his more casual looks just like he does his gowns.
  4. Another beachy, easy look. I would wear this over a swimsuit. It's not terribly innovative, but women would buy it.
  5. This is the reason I don't love the print on look 2. It is actually two pieces, but looks like one. The pants seem off. Too baggy or the crotch is too saggy, I'm not sure. It's not his most successful look.
  6. This is his "leftover look." I wish he would have had an off white or tan for this dress, but he had to make the leftovers work. Aside from the white being a bit too bright, I do think it fits the vibe of the collection. It's far from his best draped dress ever, but it's still good.
Michael created the most ready-to-wear collection, which is shocking and commendable given he usually makes gowns, gowns, and more gowns. The judges pointed out several times that these clothes could walk off the rack as they are. That's actually part of the problem though--these clothes are too much like what we already have available. This collection isn't original enough.
The Judging
I usually hate that they bring guest judges on for the final judges. The judges who have been their all season should be the one's to determine the winner. I still believe that the mentor should get to weigh in on this final judging too. Even if Joanna (or Tim in normal seasons) doesn't help make the final decision. The judges should at least talk to them, hear their critiques and consider their picks. This season, Joanna should have been allowed on the panel because she will be working with the winner for a year at Marie Claire. Actually, Nina will be working with the winner so even Nina would have made sense up there (I often complain about her as a judge, but I so missed her this season. She would have been a great foil for Isaac).

I don't mind Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus joining the judges for the same reason Joanna should have been up there. He will have to sell these clothes so it only makes sense that he should get to approve the winner. As much as I wish Joanna had been given his seat, I can't complain too much about Tommy Hilfiger. He was excellent as a judge. Actually, he should be given a regular fashion judge job somewhere. He could have Angela's spot because I never found her opinions very valuable or interesting. She could be reduced to hosting duties (or eliminated, Isaac could host any future All Star seasons).

The judges as a whole did bother me on one main point--they valued cohesion too much. This is how Wretched Gretchen won season 8 over Mondo. Collections should tell a story, but the clothes don't need to look the same. Tommy Hilfiger actually thought Michael should win for being so cohesive. Thankfully, Georgina Chapman was there to say that vision is more important than carrying out an idea. I'm glad Isaac and Georgina wanted the same winner I did so they were able to persuade (in Georgina's case) or bully (In Isaac's case) the rest of the panel into picking him.

The Winner
Mondo! He deserved the win (I am very biased, so that statement might not be worth much). None of the collections were as good as they could have been considering the time constraints, but Mondo did the best job of creating interesting clothes that told a cohesive story and showed his point of view. Austin was a little too all over the place and because of his crazy ideas some of the clothes looked more like costumes than fashion. Michael's resort collection would sell in bulk but wasn't original enough to win.

I don't normally read other reviews before I publish mine, but today I did. Almost everyone agrees that Mondo was the right choice, but many wrote that they found it hard to cheer for him because of his attitude lately. I would like to disagree. There is nothing wrong with struggling, getting angry, or getting depressed in the process of creating art, especially with so much at stake and so little time. Many thought Mondo rude for leaving dinner last week or closing the door to his workspace, but designers normally get time to take a break and work alone to create a collection. He had every right to confess to being tired, burned out, and irritated by the challenge. Because this took place on reality TV, the camera's looked for his big reactions and edited together any whiny or rude behavior they could find. Contestants should not be required to smile pretty for the cameras while they are trying to do great work.

This entire All Star season sort of felt like a device to make things right after Mondo lost to Gretchen in season 8. Thankfully, Mondo played into the producers dream "script" by actually deserving the win. What did you think of the winner, the collection, the judging and the season in general? Will you be reading Marie Claire this year? Are you excited to see the "signature pieces" and new items Mondo will be creating for Neiman Marcus?


Anonymous said…
I agree that Mondo's work was the best and deserved the win! I also think you're spot on with his "attitude." I applaud Mondo for keeping it together as much as he did. I can't imagine the amount of pressure these guys must've felt.
Jennifer Wells said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer Wells said…
I think that reality television sometimes makes people come to the conclusion that everyone should be at their "best" at all times.

Yes, of course, being in a stressful situation won't make you "smile pretty for the camera," as you said.
Su said…
I'm a Marie Claire subscriber and am hoping Mondo has his own regular column! I'm looking forward to the spread as well!
Rachel said…
I am thrilled that Mondo won... I think he's a wonderful designer and consistently creates beautiful, interesting garments. I was actually pretty disappointed in his collection (besides the ink blot dress... LOVE), so I was worried he wouldn't win. Even though his collection wasn't all I hoped for, I have no doubt that he will continue on as a very successful designer :)

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