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‘Project Runway All-Stars’ Recap + Review: ‘Redemption on the Runway’

Lifetime

Project Runway All-Stars‘ is back with another carefully calculated — and obvious — ploy to crown a fan favorite former contestant with the title of best designer. This time around it’s undoubtedly Joshua McKinley, and you know, we’re really okay with that.

Here’s the thing. Mondo Guerra should have beaten Gretchen in his season of ‘Project Runway,’ and the producers knew it too, so they created ‘Project Runway All-Stars’ to right the wrong of judges Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, and Nina Garcia. And we all know that Joshua McKinley should have won season nine of ‘Project Runway,’ even if Anya could make a dress that floats with the sort of movement you might think you have after three gin and tonics (you don’t move like that — you never will).

So here we are with season two of ‘Project Runway All-Stars,’ and Joshy M.(aka Gay Ryan Reynolds) is back to be awesome and give the internet the best GIFs ever, and hopefully sass everyone into crying again — even if Becky isn’t around.

And oh gosh, there are so many people here. Joshua, of course, is back to give us the “old razzle bedazzle,” and okay, yes, we want that. There’s meany pants Ivy, the German dress-loving Uli, Kayne (white Kanye), Andrae (and ugh, Tim isn’t here to say his name), Casanova (he has one name and one name only), Emilio, Althea, Suede (who only refers to himself in the third person), and Wendy Pepper — notorious jerk from season one. Oh, and of course there’s Peach, one of my all-time faves, who once delightfully referred to a vagina as “the good China.”

Our host this year is Carolyn Murphy, a model and blah blah personality of some sort. Let’s talk more about Joshua, who is wearing an amazing leopard print bomber jacket.

The Challenge

Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine, is back as the mentor. She’s no Tim Gunn, as we learned last season, but she’s a suitable Tilda Swinton replicant. The first challenge is a team challenge, and the task is to create a mini-collection with the theme “attitude.” Each team gets a list of attitudes to choose from, like “adventurous” and “fierce.” As expected, teams are fighting over which word they want to use to represent their collection, and they haven’t even gotten to the actual designing part yet.

Joanna pops in to check on the teams, starting with Team Bold (like salsa). Peach blows Joanna’s mind by explaining how she’s a tennis wear designer who designs clothes that go from tennis to … not tennis? There’s not much mentoring going on, and it’s much less in-depth than Tim Gunn’s workroom visits, that’s for sure. Over on Team Confident, Joanna doesn’t like a bowtie and she calls Ivy a bitch, which makes Ivy cry about how hard her life is and that one time she used to work in a soup kitchen (what’s up, Paul Ryan).

There’s a lot of quick-cutting and descriptions from Joanna like “stegosaurus” and “Catwoman meets Lady Gaga” and the dreaded “hooker.” Ah, now I remember that Joanna isn’t so much of a mentor as she is an expert at throwing out adjectives — also known as an “editor-in-chief.” [Never has there been a more apt description — Ed.]

The episode feels incredibly compressed given that traditional ‘Project Runway’ episodes are now 90 minutes long. ‘All-Stars’ is only an hour, and with all these contestants it’s hard to really focus on the workroom stuff, so instead we get an episode that feels very hastily cut together — almost like a highlight reel.

The Runway

Emilio — I am not a fan of blue and black together, so Team Bold’s color choice is already getting on my nerves here. Emilio’s dress is a clean, low-cut blue number with a black band across the chest like a band-aid.

Peach — She’s got this black knee-length dress with see-through sleeves that give way to blue fabric. I love Peach, but this dress just makes no sense in execution. Anything sheer in the sleeves just reads like an ’80s cocktail dress to me.

Andrae — There’s a lot going on here. A black satin mini with a bustier and some sort of weird sheer black sleeveless cover-up with blue detail. It’s sleeveless and its function is solely aesthetic, but it looks like she shoved her head through a window screen and came back with a chunk of it stuck to her like a hooker poncho or something.

Suede — Oh, Suede. What have you done here? She’s got a skirt made of black and blue cocktail napkins that were clearly stolen from Jay-Z’s house and two wonky black shoulder pads attached to the poorly-fitted black halter top. I’m trying to figure out where someone would even wear this. Maybe it’s her job to pass around the pigs in blankets at a party full of football players.

Laura Kathleen — The vest-y top is a bit conservative, but I like the blend of something more covered and traditional on top with a more liberal bottom piece. The sheer skirt with black paneling is nuanced and cut very well. I think Laura is safe.

Joshua — He presents a model with a wide-legged black pant that feels more free and loose than what we’ve traditionally seen from him in the past. The top is more his style — rough around the edges, and a non-conformist take on what Laura Kathleen basically gave us 30 seconds ago.

Ivy — First up from Team Confident is Ivy, who gives us a beautifully-made white top with black lace cutouts in the elbows and waist, creating an hourglass illusion. It’s a little like edgy grandma, but paired with the leather shorts, it’s good stuff.

Althea — This is a dress I could buy and leave in my closet for three years because I can’t really wear it anywhere. And that’s a compliment. It’s a white dress with a conservative split up the front and this black lace vest overlay that’s straightforward in front, but in the back it’s a beautiful racer-back that wraps down to her waist unevenly. It’s very precise and elegant and I would gladly sit on my couch eating fruit snacks and drinking tall boys in it while watching reruns of ‘Girls’ by myself on a Saturday night. (You guys are learning so much about me.)

Casanova — I had forgotten that this fool can make a damn dress. Black leather and lace could be hooker-ish, but Casanova executes it well, with tons of class and restraint. And it feels like a natural evolutionary step from Althea’s design.

Anthony Ryan — This is just sort of blah: a sleeveless black and white top with a high collar and white pants. Even the lace on the back doesn’t make it as edgy as it could be.

Wendy — There’s an “everything but the kitchen sink approach” to the lace and beading here, with a little cutout of lace right at front-bottom-center of the dress that’s like an ornate window for her good china. Save a little mystery for the rest of us, Wendy Pepper.

Kayne — Oh, I forgot that White Kanye makes drag queen outfits. Here we have a black catsuit with a deep cut down the bustier to the model’s navel, and what amounts to enough lace to keep the girls at the Playboy Mansion clothed for 10 years. Then there’s this huge train that takes it from “what” to “stop it.”

Uli — Oof, Uli’s dress just stole the show. It’s white and flowing in the way we’ve come to expect from her in the past, but it’s got this great, severe detailing in the front that’s both feminine and sort of harsh. It’s one of those dresses you see and you’re like, ugh, life is so unfair.

I think the clear winner here is Team Confident, but let’s hear what the judges think.

The Judging

And I was right! Team Confident wins with Ivy, Anthony Ryan, and Casanova landing the highest scores. Out of those three, Anthony Ryan’s boring-fest wins. It was inarguably well-made, but a little too plain.

Laura Kathleen had the highest score on her team, but Peach, Andrae, and Suede have the lowest scores and are all eligible for elimination.

The truth comes out about Suede’s shoulder pads: They’re breast cups. Like from a bra. This is a metaphor for something, but no one in that room can figure it out and I’m too tired to try.

When it comes to Peach, Isaac literally tells her he wishes she would stop talking, and I want to smack him because Peach is, well, a damn peach. Andrae cannot possibly explain what the hell he’s done with that window screen poncho vest, but everyone likes his complicated intention, which is something like drawing the eye to certain places — like maybe to the next design so we don’t have to see this anymore?

The judges have spoken and my girl Peach gets the boot, which means we don’t get any of her maternal, no-nonsense sass this season — and that just breaks my heart. Instead, we get at least another week of Suede telling us all about Suede.

See you next time.

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