Project Runway All-Stars Recap: Seasonal Subjective Disorder

I’m going to come out and say it: Project Runway (regular and All-Stars) needs to send the Fashion Faceoff to the same dumpster that’s currently housing acid-washed denim, the 8-ball jacket, and anything ever worn by Randy Jackson on American Idol.

I understand that, on paper at least, when you’re down to eight designers, it’s got to be tempting to split them into four head-to-head matchups — sending the winners to safety, putting the four losers up for elimination, and pumping up the drama. But that kind of drama always ends up feeling contrived, and what’s more, you inevitably end up with two strong designs dueling (and one of them being unjustly pilloried by the judges) and one lackluster showdown (where a weak garment annoyingly sails to safety).

For this week’s challenge, host Angela Lindvall hit the runway carrying eight different overnight bags; the designers then chose bags to determine which season would serve as the backdrop for their “weekend getaway” sportswear looks: spring (Kara and Austin); summer (Mondo and Kenley); autumn (Mila and Rami); and winter (Jerell and Michael).

As it’s been all season, the workroom scenes were rather perfunctory, with the exception of some ugliness where Jerell accused Michael of copying his black, wool cowell-neck coat. Granted, there was some similarity in silhouette and color, but it’s not like Michael didn’t purchase his fabric at the same time as his rival. To me, Jerell’s overreaction was more a sign of insecurity in his own design skills than it was about what Michael had hung on his dress form.

Then again, without the imbroglio, we never would’ve witnessed this supremely awkward lunch-break conversation, with Mondo in the middle of Jerell and Michael:

Mondo: It feels like dinner at my family’s house.
Michael: Spaghetti?
Mondo: No.
Jerell: Awkward?
Mondo: Awkward.

I also got a case of the giggles at this exchange, maybe because I’m too far from the world of fashion to understand what was wrong with Mila’s vision.

Mila (weighing in on Mondo’s skirt-instead-of-shorts brainstorm): “A knee-length skirt?”
Mondo (as if she’d just suggested he make his garment from the stomach lining of tree sloths): “No! Ewww.”

And while I may not have appreciated Jerell’s bitchiness (or his garment), I would like to nominate him as a future guest judge. His take on Austin-Vs.-Kara was priceless — “It’s like the oldest chick from Golden Girls, or money!” — and I agreed with his take on Kenley’s powder-blue polka-dot romper: “How many girls wear polka-dots like that? Maybe Minnie Mouse?” Indeed!

A few thoughts on this week’s utterly ridicuous judging:

* How in the heck did Rami’s garment (pictured third from left) get auf’d instead of Austin’s (pictured far left). I agreed with Georgina that we should’ve never had to see the Frankensteinian horror beneath Rami’s drapey-drapey jacket, and yes, Angela had a point that his color scheme was troubling, but let’s get back to that jacket: The gatehered back alone trumped those high-waisted, too-short khaki pants of Austin’s that the judges went on (and on) (and on) about. I mean, come on. These people have never seen a high-waisted pleated trouser before? Where’s the innovation? Certainly not in the floral-print sweater set that Angela wisely pointed out looked like a small-town gal headed to Sunday services.

* I also couldn’t fathom how Kenley outscored Mondo (second from left) this week. Okay, maybe guest judge Cynthia Rowley gave Mondo a zero, and dragged his average down, since she went after his kicky polkadot blouse and shorts with the fury of a Gretchen Jones Fan Club treasurer. To my untrained eye, though, Mondo’s look was flirtatious and fun — the very embodiment of what a fashion-forward gal might rock at a weekend getaway. Kenley’s, on the other hand, was like one of those weird sherbet flavors you see in the back row of the ice-cream freezer. It might catch your eye for a hot second, but how many folks would actually choose it?

* Don’t cry, Mondo! You are awesome! (There’s even a nifty t-shirt in your honor!)

* And in the battle of the winter coats, please tell me I’m not the only one who favored Michael’s slick, belted delight over Jerell’s bulky, shapeless ensemble (pictured, right), which wasn’t helped by the heavy hat, hair, and handbag combo.

* Mila’s mod cape and peekaboo flash of red sleeves definitely deserved a place in the Top 4, but Kara’s completely common togs? I think not! And no, you cannot keep repeating the phrase “simple chic” as a way to mask a lack of design innovation. Click, dialtone, goodbye.

What did you think of this week’s Project Runway All-Stars? Did Cynthia Rowley seem to go beyond critical into kinda hateful territory? Were you on Team Jerell, Team Michael, or Team None of the Above? And who would you have auf’d? Sound off in the comments!