Project Runway All-Stars Recap: Muse It or Lose It

As Tim Gunn might say, I’m feeling vexed and a little bit dubious about the conundrum that was this week’s Project Runway All-Stars. On one hand, the designer responsible for the season’s most atrocious outfit didn’t even land in the Bottom 2, and yet I can’t honestly argue with the judges’ choice for elimination. Alas, though, the latter contestant also happened to be the season’s go-to source for zippy quips.

This week’s challenge was simple, yet inspired: Troll the streets of New York, and find a muse (or muses) willing to give (or sell) you the clothes off their backs. Then use the fabric from these found frocks to create at least 50 percent of a brand-new, fashion-forward garment.

Anthony huffed that he’d taken “so many daggers” in the competition for having a personality — apparently I missed each and every one of said daggers being thrown — and mysteriously, the action moved from Central Park to Union Square (approximately 45 city blocks away) without any explanation.

Mondo scored a cute dress and a coat for a mere $60 from a woman who I’m betting watched Season 8 of Project Runway and objected to the hateful results. Kara flirted amusimgly with a guy in a polo shirt that was either pomegranate, fuchsia, or delicious, and Anthony got a hunky guy to remove his denim shorts — just because. Back in the workroom, Jerell boasted he’d purchased no additional fabric from Mood, because doing so was the equivalent of “setting a baby in a bear trap.” (I’ll bet his model would’ve preferred a bear trap to the garment he eventually forced her to wear, no?)

Speaking of painful things, let’s jump right into a quick assessment of three contestants on the chopping block, plus other pertinent judging details like the awesomeness of this week’s guest judge, NHL star and one-time Vogue intern Sean Avery. (Loved his retort to Isaac Mizrahi that one should “never refer to a woman’s stomach as big.”)

On the Chopping Block
Anthony: “I know how to meet the requirements of a challenge,” Anthony hissed at Jerell in the workroom. Yet as the episode wore on, it was clear he couldn’t find a way to turn his muse’s polyester floral frock into something runway-worthy. “Why aren’t you as modern and chic as you were in my head?” he agonized, before eventually taking the fabric he bought at Mood and creating what he alarmingly called a “onesie palazzo-pant jumper”; the aforementioned inspiration garment, meanwhile, was reduced down to a barely noticable purse. Did Anthony’s garment even belong in the Bottom 3? Not from the look of it. But the judges did the right thing in au’fing him for ignoring the challenge parameters. I mean, if there’s no enforcement of the Project Runway bylaws, why not just let every designer buy fabric and make a pretty outfit every week?

Michael: Had Michael sent his original doily-shouldered pink-satin nightgown down the runway, I might’ve understood him finishing behind Jerell this week. But while Sean was right that neither designer nor model looked comfortable with that course-corrected, obscenely short, peach-colored romper, at least it could’ve sorta passed as a bathing suit from certain angles.

Jerell: “It’s one of the most tasteless things I’ve ever seen in my life,” marveled Austin. Sean, meanwhile, described the look as “Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani at Burning Man on acid.” Maybe if the challenge had been “random pastiche of found objects,” I would’ve understood Jerell’s striped bikini top with embroidered shoulder armor, hip-expanding African woven waistline, and tie-dyed hippie skirt. But under no other circumstances was there any justification for this mess. And Jerell’s belief that he deserved a win for this mess makes me want to channel my inner Nina Garcia and question his taste level.

Judges’ Faves
Mondo: I thought Mondo’s geometric skirt was a little Mila-esque, but there’s no denying he paid homage to the original inpiration while giving it an entirely different shape and unexpected edginess. Even if the judges were making up for their failure last week to award his canteloupe caftan with a best in show, this was a well-deserved victory.

Austin: The most flawless and flattering fit of the week — and the way that flared skirt moved down the runway was revelatory. Sure, there might’ve been a few too many detais on the jacket, but the judges hadn’t asked for designs you could buy off the rack at Macy’s, had they?

Rami: I wish the editing had allowed us to see how much of Rami’s garment came from the original plaid men’s shirt he snatched, versus fabric he’d bought at Mood. (Was I the only one who didn’t see much of the original in the finished product?) Nevertheless, that ruffle-front blouse was stunning, and the judges were right that his shorts made his model’s legs look fabulous.

Totally Lucky
Kara: The Lady Janx should thank her stars that Anthony whiffed the challenge, and Jerell got stuck at the intersection of tasteless and tacky, because her look felt like the daywear knockoff version of her sad floral opera gown from a few weeks back. And I don’t care if Kenley helped her sew ’em or not, those pants were kinda fug.

What did you think of this week’s Project Runway? Would you have given the win to Mondo, Austin, or someone else? Did Anthony deserve to go home, or should he have been rewarded for at least concoting something chic, even if it ignored the challenge parameters? Did you think anyone in particular got robbed or managed to dodge a bullet? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!