Friday, October 31, 2014

Project Runway All Stars S4 E1: "Made in Manhattan"

"This competition is the Hunger Games of fashion." - Alexandria, Season 12

I'm going to stop right there, because I just want to say how this statement is completely true. Well, minus the popularity. Though, I'm sure if the producers had their way, they would be forcing us to watch Project Runway all year long.

While watching the reunion special, I couldn't help but flash back to the shallowness of the post-Games interview with Caesar Fleckman, and the year-long humiliation/victory tour of the winners that also functions as both self-promotion and suppression. Which brings us to the end of The Hunger Games part 1.

As we all know, the beginning of The Hunger Games is all about training the youth using winners of the past. See also Project Runway: Threads, where Christian Siriano is judging/"training" the future youth in order to have a pool to cull from in Season 22. With Project Runway All Stars, we get Chasing Fire, with the special 75th anniversary games that that trots out all of these previous winners (and other competitors) as fodder for the games.

The Hunger Games is ultimately not about what it is. Much like The Hunger Games is more about suppression than actually feeding the poor, Project Runway is really about numbing the audience rather than about fashion. Evidence for this: the regression of the accessory wall all the way back to QVC, and sponsors to Red Robin and Samsung.

With the most insanely accurate opening statement, so begins Project Runway All Stars Season 4! Actually, this year's All Stars aren't terrible, and their characters were entertainingly quirky.

  • Alexandria von Bromsson - Season 12, 2nd Place - Timid respite from the rageholic season
  • Justin LeBlanc - Season 12, 3rd Place - Sweet deaf guy who was first runner-up in my eyes. Though, he better not use the "I'm deaf" ploy this time around...
  • Helen Castillo - Season 12, E13 - Drama Who?
  • Kate Pankoke - Season 11, E7 and Season 12, E11 - Bubbly Dark Princess. Again. 
  • Michelle Lesniak - Season 11, Winner - Portland. *glower*
  • Samantha Black - Season 11, E9 - Who? What is it about Samanthas and being forgettable?
  • Benjamin Mach - Season 11, E6 - This was the guy who made a loom one episode, and made a great outfit with it. He also had severely bad taste otherwise.
  • Patricia Michaels - Season 11, 2nd place - CRAZY EYES!!!
  • Dmitry Sholokhov - Season 10, Winner - Meh
  • Fabio Costa - Season 10, 2nd Place - FREEGAN! He also had that fabulous apartment in New York, but nobody knew how or why...and we didn't want to ask.
  • Gunnar Deatherage - Season 10, E9 - Remember when his Neck Beard was totally macking on Christopher?
  • Sonja Williams - Season 10, E12 - This girl could design, she stumbled hardest when everybody in her season stumbled
  • Jay Sario - Season 7, E13 - I don't even remember this guy...he was competing with Anthony, Emilio, Mila, and Seth Aaron for screen time, so don't judge me.
  • Chris March - Season 4, ROBBED, and All Stars Original episode - OMG, I've been waiting for him to come back! Wasn't he the first to get kicked off in the episode before Fashion Week? He had made a kick ass collection but was ejected because the judges got squicked out by the human hair.
And, that's our roster. A pleasant mix of talent and personalities. Sure, Alexandria and Helen could have not come back, and I could use a year off from Kate (SERIOUSLY?!  THREE YEARS IN A ROW?? Are you an elementary school teacher trying to fill in your summer?!). But, this already seems more fun than the whole of the regular season we just finished. Especially with Chris Fucking Marsh, who helped design one of the series' most memorable looks with Siriano (judge of Threads).

"One Day...One...Day" - Chris March
The challenge is to design an outfit that is either uptown or downtown (depending on your "team") in a day. With one sentence, Chris March reminds us that one day challenges are recockulous and were not always the normal. They used to let the designers breathe. But, you have to pay the crew and the hotel, and the rental fees. Red Robin doesn't pay that much I guess.

The Hunger Games theme continues with the class warfare that also begins moving the goalposts of what rich and poor actually is. The girls get the uptown, and describe their girl as "Class, Rich, Sophisticated." and "champagne drinking" "New York socialite" "party girl" who "doesn't work." The downtown gets marked as the post-college working party girl. 

Benjamin doesn't want to design for the downtown girl, but his description is all about gentrification and/or slumming. His girl is "the uptown girl who has moved downtown." Which means that the rent is being driving up, and that she wants to be seen as edgy and frugal, though she has the money to sustain elsewhere.

What's amazing about PRAS is that, although it is 60 minutes, the editors get both design and drama. After visiting Mood, Freegan discovers that the fabric he bought is not around. He has to redesign around other people's looks. Freegan wants to make a jump suit, and ultimately shares fabrics with Benjamin, making their looks feel cohesive. 


  • Portland - She makes a Portland dress that I don't understand. She uses a perforated suede that seems like it would be used for trade show walls and that our pregnant hostess calls Car Seat Fabric. Her outfit is edgy, but then it has a keyhole above the belly but below the breasts, making the skirt seem super high waisted? Then the back is a weird three tone open back with white, green and brown. It's a mess. But, it's a mess that almost works.
  • Crazy Eyes - She made a Rosemary's Baby pregnancy dress. It almost looks Audrey Hepburn in its sleek sophistication, but the breasts are crumpled and weird. Plus, she ran out of time with her textile, so it's just a plain white dress with weird boobs. She loses, justifiably. 
  • Sonjia - I was really loving it until the back. The cut open back with no shirt underneath reminded me of a cadaver, where they cut open the clothes to put the body in, and sew it up at the neck. Plus, the double slit with the skirt is weird. The pointiness of the back slits really contrast with the boxy modest front next line and exposed midriff. I'm confused. And it does nothing flattering for the boobs.
  • Samantha - WHAT!? This is a joke, right? It's like a running outfit with a green leather breast plate on one boob and a knot that totally is a third misshapen chest area. Plus the giant running stripe?! 
  • Alexandria - Bohemian girl with a slutty top.
  • Drama Who? - I love this look. It's the first look I unabashedly love. It's kind of a rip-off of the style that started with Mondo's show stopper finale look with the elastic-ish front panel defined by the curves, but that look still works for a reason. This is the off-the-somewhat-expensive-rack version of that boutique look.
  • Princess - Oh god. Isn't that bonkers? Crazy Eyes went with a 1960s A-Line that is cut all wrong. Kate, here, does a weird take on a Bond girl with sea shell breasts (the first to accentuate the boobage, mind you). And, it's totally retro...but it's not sophisticated.
  • Chris March - He saw a crazy guy on the street with a trash kilt, and came up with the idea of doing an outfit like a flannel shirt that was wrapped around the waist. This was also the winning look of Episode 5 of Under the Gunn, when Asha designed for Zandaya. 90s are back baby!
  • Alexander - Um...what? Those shorts (or skirt) are hoochie, that top is insane. What the hell is this? I don't even know where to begin. Too many ideas, not enough execution.
  • Jay - Tank Girl. Very 90s. 
  • Neck Beard - I like this. It's simply, rack ready clothing that's rather stylish. I like that the strip down the center was transposed, and the width is quite nice. 
  • Benjamin - Gentrification in a dress. It's an uptown look that decided to go downtown. I really love it, but I find myself wanting to hate it. It feels like a great outfit for slumming.
  • Freegan - It's a nice pantsuit, but it continues his flowing ethereal nature, which he started in his last runway show. I kind of really like it. It's easy and yet it isn't. It is so Freegan.
  • Dmitry - It's a Eurotrashy suit. The plunging neck line would be best seen in a Joe Eszterhas fim, and that accessory...oy vey.
The judging, with hostess Alyssa Milano, Isaac Mizrahi, Georgina Chapman, and special guest Ivanka Trump, is actually sane. Even though they disagree, the judges actually make arguments that feel like they're looking at the outfits and taking their job seriously. Unlike the early episodes of regular flavor Project Runway, the judging doesn't seem like it has been maximized for most social media internet outrage.

When they pick apart the outfits, they have good arguments, but I do wonder why Portland was there, but Samantha wasn't. But, then, Egg is the one we all forget about. 

The winning design will be given to Ivanka Trump to wear, and Fabio wins. So, Ivanka Trump, a princess from Uptown, has elected to wear a look designed for Downtown by a dumpster-diving hippy Freegan. The economic story of the Hunger Games writes itself. Fabio won't win any money. He just gets his outfit to be worn for free by the 1%. Thus, the story of Hunger Games is complete.

The loser is Crazy Eyes, which makes me sad. She was eliminated on an outfit that totally wasn't her at all. I wanted to see some of her intricate and incomplete work, but she wasn't given the chance to fully display it. I consider her the Michael Winterbottom of Project Runway in that she used to create compelling work even if it wasn't fully satisfying. 

Stray Observations
  • Alyssa Milano is very pregnant, and I can't help but ponder her past comments about hoods in the bedroom.
  • The cry that Patricia gives out after losing is magnificent. No shade. I love this woman.
  • I'm really happy they're keeping Alyssa. She's fallen into her role wonderfully. Remember when she was stilted? I'm glad she lost that tension.
  • Zanna Roberts Rossi is fabulous as always, but she had no room this week. I promise to have more Zanna since there is less origin story next week.
  • Swatch snoozes

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