Friday, January 24, 2014

Under The Gunn S1 E2: "The Mentor Face Off"

Welcome back to Project Runway's The Voice-inspired spinoff, Under The Gunn. Today, we bring you Part 2 of the 2-part season premiere, with each episode lasting 90 minutes each.

In case you missed the set up for the premiere, here's the set-up for the 2 premiere episodes:
  • Under the Gunn is set in LA
  • The producers brought together a pool of 15 designers to compete in the premiere episode
  • The producers also brought in 3 previous Project Runway stars: Anya, Mondo and Nick Verreos to choose teams of 4 from the 15 designers to mentor over the course of the season
  • The 15 designers are divided into 2 groups, of 8 and 7, to create an outfit in 6 hours
  • The mentors have to look at the portfolios of the designers to figure out who they like
  • The mentors also get to watch the designers work under pressure, and figure out who they click with.
  • The mentors also a brief consulting period to interact with the designers
  • The designers have a runway show
  • The mentors then get to woo the good designers to their team
Which is a lot to pack in in 90 minutes. Add in that we have to do this twice in two weeks, and *whew*. Under the Gunn editors, my hat is totally off to you for these two episodes. The episodes were as close to coherent and interesting as that huge event listing could lead you to. Faithful readers, according to my DVR, we return to 60 minute episodes next week, so I'm not sure what the new format will look like on a day to day schedule.

Where we left off last week, 1 of the 15 designers has gone home, 2 of the remaining 7 have to go home this week. Anya has 3 of her four slots filled, while Nick and Mondo each only have 2.

The design challenge this week: there are big barrels which have bolts of fabric hanging around in the background. The designers have 30 seconds to grab as much fabric as they can and figure out what outfit they are going to make in the 6 hours.  Which is different than last week's everybody gets a bag of the same shitty 4 fabrics.

The designers this week:

  • Isabelle Donola, 33, Rio De Janeiro and New York - Ex-professional skateboarder! Crazy, hyperactive, and maybe a bit sloppy
  • Asha Daniels, 25, Cincinnati - Younger designer who primarily designed for family members, including prom dresses and big events. She designs for women who kick ass. And, she does things that are future-tech but also artistic.
  • Sam Donovan (aka Bitch, Sassy Sustainable Sam, or SSS, or Triple S), 23, Boston - Really young typically catty gay who focuses on sustainable clothing...but might be more intelligent than Sustainidiot
  • Rey Ortiz, 32, Fort Worth and Puerto Rico - HOT Puerto Rican turned American who designs for "women who aren't afraid of pants" and "career-oriented sluts" (his words). An overdesigner in his aesthetic.
  • Stephanie Ohnmach, 37, Denver - An ex-farm girl who started making clothes as a child to fit in with everybody else. Quiet designer.
  • Amy Sim, 53, Portland - Married with cute adult children. Recently graduated from design school after sending her kids to college. Her aesthetic is constantly safe and what rich ladies think people want to wear. They're high end, bubbly, modern and kind of timeless but always safe and ready to wear.
  • Nicholas Komor, 26, Atlanta - Cute cubby guy who focuses on over-intellectualized menswear, with a really hot model friend
As I mentioned earlier, this week has a completely different feel than last week. Last week, all designers had 4 really ugly fabrics, including a polka dot and a gold lame. But, this week, all of the designers have a completely different set of fabrics, which they chose on the fly in 30 seconds. So, while they don't have the 30 minutes that we're used to at Mood, at least these fabrics have a semblance of taste and generally kind of fit with what the designers are comfortable with.

While the designers are designing, they are also setting up their archetypes, which I had started to hint at in the examinations of the contestants. Amy is the bubbly elder woman. Rey is flat and mildly negative, with a kind of intensity that almost borders on hot scary, and also has a lack of filter in his word selection. Stephanie is the pixie arty designer. Sam is a bitchy baby gay. Nicholas is a quiet hard worker who may come out of his geeky shell, and may have an emotional arc. Isabelle is the hyperactive time-mismanager. Asha hasn't had much time to shine yet.

All of the above came out in the first 26 minutes of the show. Which, if you've not been watching, gives you an idea of just how hyperactive and overpacked these first two episodes of Under The Gunn actually are. The mentors have already had their consultation as well.

Tim consults the mentors to see how the choices are going. Anya continues her observations, saying "their looks are more varied; pushing the boundaries more." And, really, that's what happens when you give them better fabrics, and different fabrics from each other. The fabrics talk to you and say what they kind of want to be, and so the looks are going to push the boundaries when somebody is going with a flimsy see-through pattern, while another is using a heavy pleather or vinyl.

The difference between these two challenges makes for an interesting philosophy, if you'll indulge me while the designers have their freakout as they're finishing and setting up their characters. The first challenge sets up the designers against each other with the same fabrics. The looks speak to who the designer is, and pits the designers against each other with the same base foundation. But, today's challenge is much more free. It reveals more of what the designer's voice is by the fabrics they chose and how they chose to assemble them, but says less about who they are with regards to the other designers.

The first challenge focuses on ingenuity, while the second focuses on style. The first places everybody with respect to each other, while the second places everybody on their own. And, therein lies the problem I have with the differences between these two episodes. Since, ostensibly, the mentors are making choices based on the same criteria in both episodes. I prefer the second episode, since the first episode has traditionally been a "speak with your voice" episode, and the second is much more of than than the first. What are your guys' takes on this? I think that this discrepency actually has a lot of meat, but I could be stretching.

Anyways, soon enough, it is time for the models to come in, get dressed and made up. And, HOLY HELL, Rey is only wearing a pair of boxer briefs? Well, that's about all there is to his pants on Day 2. Jeez. He's a career-oriented slut.  I like him. And, this is when we have Isabelle getting cut off from her work, since she was sewing past the last minute.

  • Stephanie - A medium cute indie hipster dress that has lovely little keyhole slits totally look like a homemade pie crust. The silhouette is perfectly acceptable for indie girls, and it has adorable pleats.
  • Amy - A cute young summer dress with a great top and a bunch of panels to make up the skirt. It's plainly adorable. It would be a great dress that wouldn't be out of place in the background of a summer party in a movie about the tennis set.
  • Triple S - This is a perfect movie costume for a girl who was trying to make a statement about how lazy she looks. There was a quote from something that went "People don't realize how long it takes to look like you don't care how you look." That's this outfit. Its stylishly lumpy and misshapen, and great for fall.
  • Isabelle - Space age shiny material, and looks like it could be an outfit from The Next Generation. I'm not wowed by it.
  • Rey - Leopard esque leggings, with a boxy, oversized teal double breasted blazer and no shirt, with a chunky gold chain, Jackie O glasses, dual black gauntlets with a silver something or other, and slicked back hair. It's a lot of look. A LOT of look, especially for America. Designers steeped in latin culture love added everything on top of everything. Oscar did it last week in his head-to-toe gold look, and Rey did it this week in this...whatever it is.
  • Asha - A weird vinyl art mess. I dunno. I didn't get it. It's really tight in the back, and the front if coming up. I really don't get it. It would be great in a music video.
  • Nicholas - A tunic that is just a touch too short. There's nothing more to say about it.
In the end, we have our three teams:

Anya: Shan, Blake, Brady, and Nicholas
Mondo: Michelle, Camila, Triple S, and Asha 
Nick: Oscar, Natalia, Isabelle, and Stephanie

Rey and Amy go home. Which, sad. But, Rey was over designed to the point of wut?, and Amy has a shining future designing for the expensive boutique-going crowd. She just has to open a store, and get to it.

And, this concludes the 2-part, 3-hour total, premiere episode of Under the Gunn. How are you guys doing?

Random Observations:
  • Apologies for the overuse of bullet points. It helped me keep this episode straight, as it was really packed.
  • "You are...beautiful" = "A lot older than the rest of us"
  • "If you send her down assless, you're going straight home." 
  • "I want to kill myself. Ah...I would never do that, but I want to kill myself."
  • I love the helper who has to physically intervene between Isabelle and her model.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Under the Gunn S1 E1: "Who is under the Gunn?"

Welcome to the first half of the premiere of the new show Under the Gunn, better known as Tim Gunn Wants To Retire, Bitches. This is a two episode premiere episode, and each episode is 90 minutes long, so we're in for a 3 hour premiere.  WHOO!!!

Under the Gunn is an experimental show, kind of. It borrows its format from The Voice in which there are three Project Runway-experienced designers as mentors who get to choose four designers from a pool of 15 potential contestants to figure out who is going to win.

The show seems to be two fold. The first is the usual Project Runway styled challenges, and the second is to find out who will work best as a mentor and fit the format of Project Runway, which Heidi Klum will probably maintain as hostess.  Or, they're going to be the next mentor on Project Runway All-Stars. Of course that's pure speculation on my part, as the mentor position is not part of the prize package.

Because we're borrowing from The Voice, we get 2 premiere episodes. One this week, and one next week. They both are 90 minutes long, the new length of Project Runway classic edition. I don't know if the later episodes are going to remain 90 minutes, or if we're going to revert to the usual spin-off length of 60 minutes once all this initial choosing stuff is going to be finished. I suspect the whole season is going to be 90 minutes, as I suspect Lifetime had been all "Hey, Where's Project Runway Winter 2014?!" The producers then were like "Tim, help. Heidi is busy because we forgot about that."

The first surprise is that we're no longer in New York. We're in Los Angeles at FIDM, aka Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where Nick Verreos has been a mentor for 10 years. And, if anybody remembers the dreaded Los Angeles season (aka the first Lifetime season), we're already seeing doom and gloom.

The challenge is for the fifteen designers to be divided into two groups. The first 8 designers are given a bag of 6 shitty fabrics, and have to knock out a dress in 6 hours. Seriously. 6 hours. I guess people need to sleep in in Los Angeles. And the fabrics are a polka dot, a gold lame, lumberjack flannel, black, blue and a whore's pattern. Oh, wait, that's probably Horse pattern. Sorry. That was one of those designers.

Meanwhile, the mentors have to look over the portfolios and through that we get our introduction to the designers. This integrates the portfolio aspects of the usual Project Runway pre-show within the context of the show. Which is interesting in a way because most people don't watch Project Runway episode 0, but it creates a completely schizophrenic episode.

In the first group of designers, we have:
- Blake Smith, 25, Hoboken - Young, cute, and boring. SNOOOOZE.
- Shan Keith Oliver, 33, St Louis - This season's black male designer. Married with kids (wait, what? Not gay?). But, he has a lot of style and edginess in his portfolio.
- Natalia Fedner, 30, West Hollywood - WeHo = fashionable, slightly trampy, fruit fly, and her design aesthetic shows that.
- Brady Lance, 29, Portland - Designs Streetwear, men and women. For some reason I confuse him and Blake because they're both generic gay stereotype #4 stolen from The A-List
- Michelle Uberreste, 29, Burbank - Edgy, future sci-fi inspired designer. A less gender bending Elena.
- Oscar Garcia-Lopez, 40, Coral Gables - Designer from Cuba. Which means, he's going to be steeped in tacky and conservative
- Melissa...I couldn't find any information on her in the show. Spoiler: When you're one of 8 featured designers and you only get a brief consultation, your outlook isn't good.
- Camila Castillo, 47, Caracas Venezuela - Older and future edgy.

In the course of the first episode, the 8 designers are also preyed upon by the 3 mentors when they come in to assess everybody's progress. This won't be the format after episode 2 hopefully, but it is fun when they descend on the designers and the designers have a look of fear.

This first evaluation exposes the best and worst of our mentors. Anya, talking about Camila's style, "Because, we've seen this technique in your portfolio, I would just pay attention to what you haven't shown us." And, "Camila seems to be taking the safe route." Anya says this without a HINT of self-awareness or irony. Especially after seeing Anya's collection of beach wear that looks like every collection of Anya's beach wear ever.

Nick Verreos emphasizes the weirdest words, making it easier to transcribe. "Polkadottedfromheadtotoe. [pause] doesn't end up looking like Mi ckey ... or ... Mi nny." I think he ran out of gasoline by the end of those two sentences.

Mondo is the only one who has a personality that doesn't bug me, but he is still so inexperienced that it shows in his advice.


On the flip side, we have designers trying to create personalities to stay on the show longest. Blake is fussy. Camila is contentious. Oscar is Cuban. Natalia is a ball of nervous energy and a source of drama.


Everybody is design design design, and then we get to the makeup and hair. Handlebar Moustache Guy got to be in Los Angeles and now has a crew cut. Which, ZOMG. Why weren't you at the Eagle when I was? Drool. But, we have a new hair stylist, who is also hot, but not Handlebar Moustache Guy hot. Especially when HMG almost cuts a bitch because she tells him how she wants her model's hair done. This moment is emphasized by Under the Gunn's new modern Big Block All-Caps Font used outside of the Project Runway-designated subtitle area. "I love you, but we're in the makeup room right now!" Followed by a forced smile saying "can't you see the makeup or read the brand name on the wall in gigantic letters?!" This is my new favorite Project Runway moment.

And, we get to the runway, which is a modern set with a lot of crooked lines, and poppy colors. It looks less like a runway and more like a tv set made to look like a runway. Its intimate and fresh, but it doesn't have the practice class feeling of Project Runway's runway. Plus, the lights on the runway seem to be so that the outfits were backlit when the cameras were filming them. Maybe this will be fixed in the next episode.

Michelle - Black and Gold Lame is so tacky. And, this is no exception. It would have looked better in blue. But, it is modern and not a complete disaster, with a really nice silhouette and decent looking, though rather hoary, sleeves.

Brady - A trainwreck using every textile. It's just so so much. It's cute, but all together its just...whoa.

Melissa - Cute and mildly boring all polka dot outfit.

Blake - Adorable and sophisticated little black dress. Elegant but safe (Anya got it right).

Natalia - Given that she had six hours, this dress was headed in some amazing places, but the execution was terrible. I love all of the design elements in the dress, from the braiding technique, to the black and blue collar with a strip to the back. The silhouette is nice too. But, with the time constraints, the lines are crooked, the hem is unfinished and sloppy, the dress is way too short, and its just a gread idea executed poorly.

Shan - Ugly ass bomber jacket with two patterns that don't mix, and a great black cocktail dress that has short sleeves, which I kind of really like in their tiny detail.

Oscar - SO SO MUCH. Tacky, overstyled, and just so over the top.

Camila - The only black and gold dress I like. It uses a great technique, even though Anya is bored by it because she hates Camila. Anya feels like she's trying to become the Nina of the show.  Which is so terrible. Anya isn't talented or observant enough to be the next Nina.

Based on this, the mentors now get to fight over the designers to form their team.

The first episode results:
Team Mondo: Michelle, Camila
Team Anya: Shan, Blake, Brady
Team Nick: Oscar, Natalia
Eliminated: Melissa

In this episode, Tim Gunn, as host, plays a huge role in the show. He's like a mentor of the mentors, and doesn't just appear at the beginning and the end like Heidi does. He's integrated into the show, and almost a little too hands-on. I like seeing him mentor, but let the mentors mentor.

Random Observations:

- Blake and Brady are interchangable. And they're on the same team.

- Nick Verreos, age 46, calls himself Grandpa Nick. He doesn't look 46. He's a hot daddy.

- The next episode is going to be just as schizophrenic, but we'll find out how this plays out in S3

Friday, January 17, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S3 E11: "Season 3 Reunion Special"

We've made it to the end of Project Runway All-Stars. A season full of mixed outfits, terrible judging (fucking Isaac killed us all), alcohol and a high-concept finale.

But, really, almost all of the drama was low-key and manufactured. ZOMG, Elena's crying again. Oh look, one designer "stole" a look from the designer who was helping him out. Oh look, somebody's getting the silent treatment.

With a lack of high explosive drama, what is the reunion special going to be about? You know, besides Curly Moustache Guy's what-the-fucking-fuck-is-that?? oh-honey-you're-trying-too-hard sweater. Seriously, it's near the tackiest and ugliest thing I think I've seen on this show, including Jeffrey's avant garde outfit. And, this is what you're wearing on TV? No.

There are two other look changes of note. Jeffrey has grown a scruffy hipster beard in order to hide his nicknamesake, his necktat. And, Palu has also buzzed his hair, eliminating his kinship to the beloved Pokemon, Pansear. Palu looks more mature, and is kind of hotter. But I also like the punk look. He always looks like somebody kicked his puppy though.

But, in more actual content notes, the reunion special is everything you expect this season's reunion to have.

  • Korto talks about Liberia, and her work there
  • The Viktor and Palu silent treatment is exploded to its own segment
  • Deborah Harry makes a by-phone cameo to say that she really is going to wear Elena's outfit someday
  • Viktor gives his drink dress to Alyssa Milano, who says that she really is going to wear his outfit someday
  • Project Runway fellating itself
  • Alyssa trying to create drama by asking things like "What was your most liked dress?" "What was your most embarrassing moment?" etc
The one thing of note in the reunion special is that Jeffrey's mediocre outfit for the Bonnie & Clyde miniseries was probably not used, but instead he had to make ANOTHER period dress for the Flowers in the Attic miniseries (hopefully with 500% more incest).

Another point of interest is The Simpsons animating all of the dresses that were designed for their challenge (not just that terrible purple dress). And, based on the animation, I think that Palu's, Seth Aaron's and Korto's dress were the top three dresses, with Korto's being my favorite. I still can't get behind the winning garment. But, I'm also not as over-the-moon with Elena's outfit in cartoon land. 

Anyways, stay tuned for Under the Gunn where I try to figure out what the fuck is going on. I think its like The Voice, maybe. But, I don't watch The Voice. If somebody wants to chime in on Under the Gunn, feel free.

Random Observations:
- Today's lesson: "I'm So Excited" should not be said through clenched teeth.

- Alyssa: "Something has happened to Daniel since we last saw him." Me: "He's pregnant too?! That explains the sweatervest."

- Alyssa's hood-in-the-bedroom comment made the final cut!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S3 E10: "Are U.N. or Are You Out?"

Hello constant readers. Much thanks to Mediagrrl for her brilliant reviews that were hilarious and incisive as they were honest.

Congratulations! We've survived another season of Project Runway All-Stars. Barely. There have been some tears, namely Elena's. There has been some sweat, like Pansear running around with his mannequin last episode (and it didn't even come to life!). We've shared drinks at the tacky Jay-Z bar that shall not be named for its free advertising. And, so, all that's left is some blood.

Sadly, the finale of Project Runway All-Stars is not going to be a Thunderdome, where three designers enter, but one designer gets out...with special guest judge Tina Turner (Producers, if you're reading, that would have been a great episode, especially with Elena). This week's episode deals with blood in a different manner. Relations.

As Miss Milano walks out to tell u...holy hell what are you wearing?  Remember how she said she loved shoulder pads due to her name dropping Who's The Boss With Judith Light?  Well, now she's wearing a blouse with extra fabric posing as shoulder pads and a mormon collar? With the schoolmarm bun placed on the top of her head? Honey, you over Judith Lighted Judith Light.

Miss Milano tells us that we're actually exploring blood in terms of culture. Since we have a Liberian, an American, and a Ukranian as our three finalists, we're off to the United Nations.  Which makes me wonder what Pansear was. Would he have been met by Japan for his Poke-ness?

Seth Aaron helpfully informs the viewers that United Nations "is for officials from all over the world/ Humanity! Down...the list. That's what this building represents." See also: Hotel.  Thanks Seth.

The United Nations has decided to donate some time to Project Runway All-Stars by allowing one of their meeting rooms to be used for the finale runway. Because, why not? The designers are meant to keep their eye open and use the culture they have and are assigned as their guiding eye towards designing a six-look mini-collection. Seth Aaron has some Spanish in his background, so he gets Spain.

The three designers meet up with their delegates, which Korto likens to "meeting your mom's sister by accident on the street." Which would be your Aunt. Even if she was a "sister by accident," she's still your aunt. Korto meets up with George S.W. Patten, Sr, who holds several decent political positions. Her section was about the Liberian Civil Wars, and it feels like the whole season has been leading to this moment. Like, Korto had it in her contract to make it to the final episode and to spread the word of post-Civil War Liberia.

Seth Aaron meets up with the totally Unf-y Fernando Fernandez-Arias, who is also the director of Office of Human Rights at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. And, Fernando is distractingly handsome, which is a good thing because the only thing we learn about Spain is that the land is sometimes Bright Yellow. So deep. I'm going to stare at your Spanish beard some more.  *sigh*

Elena talks about her personal journey from Ukraine to the US with Yegor Pyvovarov, who looks like a junior delegate as he may be 20 years old. Yegor talks about Ukraine Fashion Week, and is trying to get Elena to come to Fashion Week so that she can bring prestige to Ukraine or something.

The TL;DR edition:
Liberia: Civil War aftermath
Spain: Soil = Bright Yellow; handsome bearded delegate
Ukraine: Fashion Week recruitment

Spain isn't even backed up with images of Spain yet. Not even stock images. Liberia at least has pictures of Korto in Liberia. Ukraine has images of Elena growing up. Yeah.

*sigh* Really, Project Runway?  That's as deep as we'll get? *breathe in, breathe out* I know I'm not asking for much, but we're at the fucking U.N. Give us some credit.

The three initial designs:
Elena: Fall/Winter collection (Ukraine is cold) in wool and bright colors of the Ukranian flag with her patented cut out technique dominating the collection
Seth Aaron: Architectural inspiration with Black and white with hints of red...and gold! Very modern very clean.
Korto: Pattern inspired by Liberian prints, with design that is based on the every day people going to the laundry.

Zanna Roberts Rossi comes in, and gives helpful hints like "you're behind" and "make sure your style doesn't change over the next few outfits."  Thanks Zanna. But, she also brings in helpers for the designers: Necktat for Seth Aaron (of course), Pansear with Korto, and Zinger with Elena (of course). You know what I noticed while watching the marathon yesterday? Zanna doesn't even come in to see anybody off. She's no Tim Gunn.

Then we get a twist on Day 3 from Miss Milano in a Blue pleather dress that would probably go really well with her bedroom hoods. They now have to make a dress from scarf material from some guy's discarded scarves (Product Placement!). This causes Elena to have another breakdown. Yeah, yawn.

Anyways, this is the last time we'll be seeing Handlebar Moustache Guy.  Which, ZOMG. Still fucking hot. Excuse me while I drool some more. I still remember his old Black Party picture I found. Unf. HMG, if you read this, call me!

Tonight's special guest judges: Gayle King (aka Oprah's not-girlfriend girlfriend), and Zac Fucking Posen!!!  YAYAYAY!

Runway time!

Elena's Runway: It's like Elena's First Collection. It feels like somebody still developing her voice through the same patterns, silhouettes and materials. She never really developed her style beyond the one thing she wanted to say starting in her first season. It's interesting, but I was kind of hoping for something more.

Seth Aaron: A mini-collection of wow moments. To me, this is like a collection that Pedro Almodovar would be proud of. Sometimes a little kinky. Sometimes a bit retro. Sometimes a bit dark. Sometimes a huge pattern. Kind of stylish. I hate to admit it, but I kind of really like it. I think I'd not see as much Spain in it if I wasn't a Pedro Alomodovar fan.

Korto: Fascinatingly all over the map. Some just didn't work for me, especially the bright yellow patterns which seemed to be chopped up as opposed to a flowing thought process. Maybe she was making a statement on the destruction of Civil War. But, it didn't come across in the other pieces, and there was no flow through the show. She needed more of a throughline. Not Elena-style heavy through-line, but more than just here are some Liberian-inspired outfits.

I said in Episode 1 that this was Korto's competition to lose, and thought this would be engineered for her to win. She was going to be a Fan Favorite Revenge Story. I think they really were going to do that, especially with the Liberian Civil War focus in the beginning. But, her collection was so non-cohesive that they had to give it to Seth Aaron who had made a really good collection.

So, Seth Aaron deservedly won. I didn't think I'd be writing that sentence.

See you for the reunion.

Stray Observations:
- Emilio Sosa made an appearance!

- Miss Milano's final look is as a Ladybug.

- Isaac is off his meds as he had emotional moments with two different collections.

- Will you all be watching Under the Gunn?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Project Runway All-Stars S3 E9 : "Fashion Cents" 

Good people, we now pause, put down our shears, our remotes, our lacy fans, and remember for a moment our fallen comrades. The Project Runway game is a tough'n, and the hardest and most painful part of the course is that last challenge, not getting eliminated before Fashion Week/the Final Collections.

So we fondly remember the two designers that fell at the final hurdle, Kenley Collins, charm school graduate and lone wolf, who couldn't line up a print at the seams, and Joshua McKinley, who interpreted couture as heavy black lace and twee pop-bright flowers. So, so close to a return trip to the final runway, they would soon be joined by another designer that tasted the nectar of Bryant Park/reasonable facsimile, only to have the second sip rudely taken away.

But who would it be? We are left with Seth Aaron, Pansear, Korto and Elena, the only remaining designer who has not made the finals before. Since we are fiercely stomping down memory lane, I'll remind you that Elena landed in 6th place in a season that was deservedly won by her nemesis, the Boris to her Natasha, Dmitry.

But that was then and this is now, and in fashion, I once heard, one day you are in and the next day you are out. I did not, however, hear this from our current host, Alyssa Milano, who prefers to start her runway days off with some light gushing over guest judges, some contractually obligated declarations of Georgina's beauty and telling the safely seated designers to "break a leg".

But all of that for later, as we kick off this episode with the announcement of the challenge, that Pansear confidentially whispers to us that he'd like to win. Alyssa comes out to taunt SA about his lack of challenge wins, wearing a messy co-ed ponytail and a quasi-retro Rosemary Clooney-does-the-walk-of-shame-from-Sinatra's-house all white ensemble, with souvenir shack up-prize man's bowtie slung about her neck.

She tells the designers that since last week they came face-to-face with real customers (referencing the grounded-in-reality bloggers whose makeup-application skills landed them a guest-spot on PR:AS), this week they are going to dip their beringed toes into the pond of ready-to-wear sales. The final four nod and all make the appropriately polite noises of people who have been earning their crust doing just that for a combined 20+ years but are too nice to say anything. They will be designing a sellable, price-controlled look for the NY-produced fashion house Milly, with the proceeds from the sales going to "Save the Garment District".

The producers have done this challenge for each of the PR:AS seasons and I think it is my favorite. Instead of flights of fancy at Mood, we get the strict, real-life limitations of working with certain custom fabrics, design ethos and most-importantly, price points. In this episode we don't get shown quite the amount of detail about things like, for example, exactly how much trim one is allowed to use (okay that's one quarter yard of purple rick-rack at 16.99 per yard... divide by four... carry the two...) but again we see the compromise that comes with having to work within "perimeters", as Korto calls them: to use chosen Milly fabrics, fulfil the brief of "urban tribal, feminine with an edge", keep it under 400 dollars retail, and get it all approved by the Milly president and Phil Mickelson golf buddy, Andrew Oshrin.

Elena and Pansear are told that if they stick to their designs, they will make the price point and are approved. SA is told to use a less expensive zipper, which he is happy about in that it does not compromise his vision, but Korto is called out for choosing matching (clashing) expensive fabrics in a pastel tribal print and wanting to use a lot of it to create her maxi-dress. As she puts it, she has champagne tastes and lemonade pockets. She doesn't mention that she has similar-looking designs featured on her website, with abundant fabric in the skirt, that she retails for 320 dollars (on sale for 260). So, she knows this design could be done, but remains committed to the more expensive tribal chiffon and cuts a few inches off of her look to get signed off from Oshrin.

In the workroom she cuts very carefully, using every inch to squeeze out a racer-back almost-maxi. Elena goes for white leather, white raw-edged mesh, and yellow neon, which she describes as her "favorite color" - neon, that is, not yellow. Note: my favourite color is plaid. Seth Aaron is also using the white mesh, some black and some color to make a sleeveless girly dress, and Pansear goes for a vegan leather, tight black and white dress, with a sarong skirt.

And here's where all of those rules, rules, man! start to pinch. As Korto measures thrice before cutting once and keeps Oshrin's words of wisdom in her head, Pansear starts to go slightly off the reservation, making changes -- he muses on making his dress into separates and using a second zipper. Uncle Seth tries to set our boy straight, pointing out the added costs of additional hardware. Elena concurs, so Pansear starts thinking of tweaking the design. Now before you think that Elena is all commonsense this week, she dispenses advice and then starts a second dress of her own with different, less elephant-eared sleeves. Auntie Korto doesn't like this. Do you know who also changed their design from the pre-approved one? Kenley, and we all know how that turned out. Glinda the Good floats in to check on the designers, with Milly's own Michelle Smith in tow, and they confirm all of this-- stick to what was approved, and all shall be well in the kingdom.

Runway time.


Alyssa is happy to tell us that The Beautiful Georgina Chapman® is back, and if we were wondering where she had gone (and our thoughts didn't drift off to the horrific idea of her at home in bed with Harvey Weinstein), we get one of those awkward "added in post production" sales things about her new perfume or something. Isaac is there, of course, and the guest judges:

Winner of all of our hearts, the delighted and delightful head on a stick, Kristin Chenoweth

Actor, host, comedian and rapper, now "with his own line of male accessories", which is appropriate because he himself is one, Nick Cannon.

Worldwide cult-leader owner of a label that has a "world-wide cult following", Michelle Smith.

The Looks:

Seth Aaron - Very graphic with a black and white chevroned top with a neon-coral grosgrain trim down the front and a flared circle skirt in white with black trim. He also customized his model's shoes, making a patterned ankle strap out of fabric. There is a lot going on, and not only is the level of "tribal" debatable, but the judges are split on loving or hating the neon accent, but all in all they like it a lot, I like it a lot and SA gets his first win of the season.

Elena - again, not so tribal, unless you come from a frozen planet of big-shouldered women, ruled by Robert Palmer's soul and lost in a time vortex of the 1980s and 2080s . The judges love her big swirly-sleeved, white leather/mesh/neoprene (if it was there at Milly, she found it) laid over the screaming yellow neon in a way that tones it down to a muted chartreuse. Like SA's look,  there is a zipper running up the front, but Georgina feels Elena's is a little forced and would have preferred a matte white zipper over the silver. This dress is so, so tight that I found myself imagining how little fabric was required to cover the model's torso, but this gets Elena into the finale.

Pansear - A black and white vegan leather (that term inexplicably makes me laugh) hard warrior dress that softens up with a semi-attached tribal-print sarong skirt in silk georgette. As complicated as this is - it counts as one piece. The judges don't like the fact that the top doesn't lie smoothly on the model's chest (it's not meant to), and Georgina just doesn't know "who" Christopher is, but I think this is a brief-fulfilling dress that makes good use of Michelle's print, and I really like it on Christopher's redheaded model.

Korto - She managed to get enough fabric to make it neither maxi nor mini, and it is a striking combo of prints that she has chosen. Mr. MediaGrrl hated the prints both alone and put together. I liked them separately, but felt together (one print belts the other) they started to look busy. The dress doesn't do any favors for the model's front, but looks sharp from the back. Not bad at all, but is this enough to keep Korto in the running?

Yes. Yes and no. After SA and Elena are sent off to the greenroom, the deadlocked judges pull out an old-fashioned All Star sew-off. Korto and Pansear are givin three of their previous ensembles to gut and reassemble, in a hour, right there on the runway, while a fidgety SA and Elena unknowingly wait. Korto's new look, her Bonnie and Clyde challenge pants edited into a skirt, paired with a drapey top, seems like a new look, and is stylish. Pansear makes a Frankendress out of his shredded fabric gown, Georgina describes it as "pretty" and the judges pretend to like more than they do.

Doing nothing to improve his usual slightly put-upon demeanor, Pansear is out.

Well guys, Julius should be back for next week, taking you through the big Finale, where once again the PR:All Stars production team tries to make the United Nations relevant to fashion. Come on, people, that hasn't worked since Benetton.

I look forward to your comments!


Stray Observations:

- Nick Cannon brings up what I've pointed out before -  want to impress the female judges? Sneak pockets into your design.

- Seth Aaron, can you make this look retail for under 400 AND pay tribute to a fallen comrade at the same time?  SNAP!  "done!" SA is the new VL.

- Is color-blocking "in the seams" different from just color-blocking? Isn't that easier anyway? Someone call Mila and ask.

- Elena wears a LBD tank dress to the runway, and girl has got the body for it.

- In looking up who were the 4th place finishers in the All Star seasons (okay, I did know that by heart but wanted to see who else was involved), I noticed that only five people did better the second time around. Mondo, obviously, and also Austin Scarlett (4th to Runner Up), Michael Costello (an emotional 4th to 3rd), Casanova (10th to 7th) and Ivy Higa (8th to 5th).

- "when I got close, did I see... nipple?" asks Alyssa hopefully.

- Remember the All-Star Challenge? The precursor to PR:AS, it was a two hour, one challenge special that saw a miserable Korto complain about coming in second again, first to LeeAnn Marshall, then to Daniel Vosivic. Next week should be interesting.

-Nick Cannon's favorite part of the dress? "the easy access"