Sunday, November 9, 2014

Project Runway All Stars S4 E2: "The Art of Construction"

By the end of this episode, we will see some of the lowest moments of Project Runway. Lower than fawning over a Samsung refrigerator. This is right up there with Red Robin's remake an ugly suit challenge where we didn't even get to watch the designers run over and strip the models. And, yet, this season of All Stars is running almost like Bravo-era Project Runway.

This week is the much vaunted and feared Unconventional Challenge. We know its both vaunted and feared because Alyssa Milano tells us so, continuing Project Runway's running theme of celebrating themselves to the audience already watchingRO 2. Alyssa then runs through a bunch of previous unconventional challenges this year's All Stars had done, just in case you cared or forgot.

Construction is this week's theme, introduced by some B-roll of NYC construction workersRO 3. The construction site the designers are visiting is a warehouse stage used in Fashion week, with a bunch of construction site things sitting around, including a No Cell Phone sign and a couple of lumbersexual models wearing helmets and vests. Alyssa tells the designers they can strip the models, but then corrects herself that the can take the protective gear. So, no real taking of clothing. Dammit, Lifetime.

Today's goal is to make the "masculine" materials into the most "feminine" outfit possible. Thus bringing into question the gender construct reinforcement of Project Runway. Society has deemed that construction work is not feminine and that sexy, curve fitting, clothing is feminine. By reappropriating construction materials for a feminine outfit, one could easily argue that Lifetime and Project Runway are making a political statement about women just playing dressup in order to participate in masculine behaviors such as construction. Or, that women shouldn't play with boys things because femininity. Either way, we're getting the social binaries completely reinforced with this episode, and we didn't even see any naked mens.

The usual rush for materials that comes with the unconventional challenge comes with an opportunity for the producers to try to create drama, but what it really does is mark Alexandria as either winner or loser. Alexandria goes all aggressive, has her back story (Camp Couture) reaffirmed, and she says she's still bitter about her previous loss. Be wary of her bitterness and aggression going into her dress.

The actual drama comes from Chris March and Dimitry. Chris starts on making a rope halter top, when Dimitry works on a rope dress. Chris's halter is unflattering and unimaginative in its construction from the start, while Dimitry is creating swirls, cups, and accentuating the female form with his. Chris gets bitter and starts bitching about how Dimitry steals his look, but doesn't actually do anything about it.

As per the rules of the unconventional materials challenge, there is a fair amount of struggle in figuring out how to make the materials into fabric. There is a fair amount of trying to manipulate tarp as if they're using cotton (Jay, Alexandria), and also the usual hot gluing materials onto muslin. The most successful of the designers use the material to create an illusion of fabric, while the least successful are the ones who can't think outside of the fabric box.

Last week, I didn't get to note how much I love Zanna Roberts Rassi. Much like I think All Stars' judging is more honest and compelling than Original Flavor, but I am getting to love Rassi even more than Tim Gunn (though I still think that Joanna Coles, the Ice Princess, was a great mentor). Zanna comes in and rips apart outfits with single words. She tells Portland, "Doesn't that feel a bit...sporty?" By which she means, "off the rack." But, Portland hears "sporty" as "sporty" and ignores her. She also constantly drills the idea of "feminine" into the designers. Rassi hits a lot of the correct criticisms, but people don't listen. The big problem is that she doesn't finish her mentoring until 7:30 (see the clock over her shoulder), and they only work until 10. How can you change your direction if you don't get a second eye until most of the way into the day? I thought I remembered Coles being done with her mentoring by like 5:30, giving them half the day.

Soon enough it's runway. Here is the main problem with modern day Project Runway. The main guest judges are fucking Snooki and J-Woww, aka Jersey Shore. Their 15 minutes should have been up years ago, and their ratings are down, but Lifetime insists on foisting them upon us. In the meantime, the other guest judge (yes, there were three guest judges this week) was the always insightful Elie Tahari. Elie Tahari is given the back seat for the Jersey Shore judges. If this doesn't encapsulate the problems with Project Runway, I don't know what does.


  • Jay - Here is an example of tarp being used as fabric. The silhouette is great, and what he did with the fraying is fantastic. But, it looks like tarp and nails. It feels like a costume more than fashion. The other bad thing is that Jay's styling is awful. The models hair and makeup don't scream strong warrior. And, the shoes don't really go well. For such a look, Jay needs to step up his styling.
  • Fabio - GORGEOUS. I mean, sure this is made from twine, but he quilted his own fabric. Like Jay, however, his styling is awful. This is practically a raver outfit, and the model looks like she stepped out for a quick run to the grocery store. The outfit is so strong it just needs finishing touches. But, it is totally Fabio, and it looks like it would belong in his Final collection.
  • Kate - She uses her materials to create the illusion of fabric. She uses pieces of plastic to create the illusion of having a white fluffy dress and netting to create the illusion of lace. The challenge is all about illusion and Kate nails it. 
  • Alexandria - Tarp used as fabric. It looks like tarp. The fencing looks like fencing. The trash bag underneath the fence looks like a trash bag. Plus, it's practically a high class hooker outfit, especially with the over the top jewels. The hair didn't help reduce the 80s vibe.
  • Portland - I would love this if it weren't so ugly. It's a sporty off the rack dress that has hideous colors. I love the graphic element, but think the color choices are atrocious.
  • Helen - It's hot glued, but it looks like fabric. It doesn't look like the material, but it doesn't stop me from thinking that it's just hot glued pieces onto fabric. It does look like its from a 90s video game though.
  • Benjamin - Drop Cloth used to create the illusion of fabric. It's kind of elegant and classy. I'm not sure about the party fringe on top, which was the unusual material (because a drop cloth dress would be against the spirit of the challenge). 
  • Deathrage - Tarp used as fabric. Here it works, for some reason. I actually loved this look, but it feels like the wrong challenge. They wanted something feminine and fashonable, and he gave them something that would be for the pop diva challenge. When he says he could see Beyonce in it, he means on stage not on the runway or red carpet.
  • Egg - I love the top. It feels like the ridiculous runway fashions that get put out year after year. But, the skirt is a snoozefest. Construction vest used as fabric? Zzzzzzzzz.
  • Dmitry - This walks the line between high fashion and eurotrash. The top is kind of fashionable, but the number of ropes (or lack there of) makes it fall straight into the eurotrash. And, the slicked back hair with the red lips doesn't help it at all. Plus, the back is a total trainwreck.
  • Chris - But, Chris' is just lazy. Other than removing the zip ties, I don't think he did anything more with the top since he started bitching about Dmitry's design. And, the bottom is just lazy. This is a pure amateur hour shitshow. And, as much as I love Chris, he should have gone home for this shit.
  • Sonjia - A woman was attacked by tape. 
  • Justin - This is a total Monet. From afar it is glittery and pretty. Up close, it's kind of dull and ugly. I don't respond to it like everybody else, I think because the cameras are too close to it. It looks like a bunch of zip ties that doesn't fall into an illusion for me. I'm not sure I get it.
The judging here isn't as trainwrecky as one would expect with the judges, but the fact that Elie gets a backseat in the editing really frustrates me. He generally has some great advice, but is edited down to primarily trying to say good things about the lowest rated designers. In the end, Alexandria goes home, in no small part due to her lack of creativity (using tarp as fabric and creating a boring dress with it...yawn. 

In the end, Alexandria goes home, and Justin wins (for the first time!).

Random Observations
  • Egg Samantha gets to speak at the beginning of the episode, and has a featured past outfit! She is barely heard from again.
  • What is the point of Project Runway celebrating themselves so damned much? I think we've noticed it, but it has never been a point of discussion. Neither Rupaul's Drag Race, nor The Amazing Race engage in such blatant acts of self-fellation. It's a very uncool thing to do. If you're the best, act like it. Don't go around vaunting your accolades to the audience who is already watching, go out and advertise yourself. Do you hear the cool kids saying, "I'm cool" or "I'm tough" or whatever? No. They just are. Stop it, Project Runway. You should be better than this.
  • With all the talk about street harassment, I had to wonder if Project Runway bothered getting the workers to sign releases for this, or if they stole the imagery for the show, filming in creepy cam.
  • Jay is really pushing for being a Reality Show Personality. I didn't remember him from his season, but he is shouting WOO and squealing with the same pitch as the air horn siren. 
  • Isaac: "I'm not one to kind of like something very sharp around someone's neck. I guess there's something dangerous, I guess that's why you like it, Alyssa. She likes dangerous clothes, right?"
    Alyssa: "Like my men."

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