Did you know that fashion and philanthropy go hand in hand? Alyssa Milano said it, so it must be true. And the reason Alyssa Milano is telling us this is because this week’s Project Runway All Stars challenge is philanthropic-based… kind of.
She introduces Yvonne Niami, the founder of N:Philanthropy, a women’s line that gives a portion of its proceeds to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The winner of the challenge will design a look for N:Philanthropy. But the brand is also giving the challenge its inspiration. Yvonne says the “N:Phil” girl is modern and sophisticated, but she fights with a purpose. They call her a “rebel with a cause.” And that’s exactly what the designers have to do. Alyssa gives them $250 for Mood and one day to create fashion-forward summer looks that are sophisticated but have a bad-ass edge.
Is it just me or has every challenge this season included the term “fashion-forward”—isn’t the whole point of this show to be fashion-forward? Do we really need to include it in every challenge!?
But anyway, most of the designers are excited about this challenge. Dom worked in cancer research for three years before winning Project Runway, so she’s especially invested. And both Asha and Emily say the N:Phil girl sounds like the girl they design for.
After a shopping trip at Mood, the designers start working and explaining their designs to us: Asha is inspired by Josephine Baker, the “ultimate badass.” She wants to create a sexy top that plays on the allusion of nudity. She buys Peytie’s fabric and focuses on oxblood, which she feels is fresh for summer.
Also using questionable “summer” colors, Dom is inspired by her time in cancer research, so she wants to play on the metallics of instruments. She bought an assortment of silver fabrics so she could do her “Dom signature to mix things together so they all look cool.”
Meanwhile, Emily is doing a rework of a power suit with flowy pants in a paint-splatter silk charmeuse and a structured vest, which she wants to hand-paint. Her season 13 buddy, Kini, works on oversize genie pants with a bathing suit top and cropped jacket. If that sounds like a lot of pieces to you, you would be right. But — don’t forget — Kini is a sewing magician. Before anyone has done anything, he’s already done with his pants and starting on a yellow-tweed jacket.
In a very far departure from all those ideas, Sam is thinking seersucker. He’s from Massachusetts, so summer for him means going to the Cape. But as for making it sophisticated and edgy, well he’s just going to “deconstruct the hell out of it” by making a wide leg pant suit. Many people in the workroom — along with the audience, probably — are a bit concerned about his ability to make seersucker look badass, but Sam’s not worried.
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Then there’s Ken, who was planning to do a dress, but then instead he decides to do pants. And he bought bright-colored leather. That’s about all we know about his design before Zanna comes for critiques. She is joined by Yvonne, who will also be giving her opinions. Although sometimes Zanna can be a bit vague, the two of them together have very clear problems with each designer.
Emily: It’s too heavy for summer.
Asha: The color palette reads fall and it’s too heavy.
Dom: It’s too long for summer and not edgy enough.
Kini: Tone it down. “Less disco-banana, more sophisticated cool girl,” Zanna says.
Sam: Don’t play it safe.
Ken: Do something sexy.
Ken’s critique is regarding the top, which he has yet to create. He has very nice white flowy pants, but is struggling with what to make to go with them. He makes a top with coral leather, but then decides it’s cheap and he hates it. “I’m not one of those people that lie about ugly s— like it’s cute,” he says. “If it’s ugly, it’s ugly.”
Based on Zanna and Yvonne’s notes, Emily changes her pants into culottes and Dom crops her skirt shorter, but the biggest change comes from Sam. He decides the pilot’s jumpsuit isn’t working, so he rips the seersucker apart and instead does a deconstructed tuxedo with a flappy thing (that’s the technical fashion term) in the front. Dom says it looks like he’s making a baby carrier jumpsuit.
But even with Sam having to recreate his look last minute, it’s Ken who’s struggling the most. When they all return the next morning, he is still fiddling with his top. The models come in, go to hair and makeup, come back and get dressed, and Ken is STILL tinkering. When they call five minutes, he decides to drape white fabric over his model as a kind of halter with a leather belt. And somehow he pulls it off in time.
NEXT: This guest judge looks familiar…[pagebreak]
Alyssa and her giant hair greet the designers on the runway and introduce them to the guest judges: actress Debi Mazar and Project Runway judge Zac Posen. Because there are only six designers, we get to hear feedback on all the looks.
Sam explains his seersucker jumpsuit thusly: His girl is being forced by her mother to go to a party in the Hamptons, so she steals one of her mom’s seersucker suits and makes into a sexy jumpsuit. Turns out Dom was right on the money with the baby carrier critique — Isaac calls it “the Baby Bjorn kind of look,” BUT he loves it. Turns out seersucker is one of Isaac’s favorite fabrics. Georgina likes it, but wishes there was more movement in the front. Debi raves about the flat (we get it—flats are cool now!). And then Zac Posen exposes the true idea behind the inspiration: It was a last-minute save when Sam scrapped his first look.
Maybe Ken should have put his model in flats because the judges aren’t loving his white jumpsuit, which he designed for a woman going to a formal event. Georgina is one of the only judges who likes it, but she thinks the belt looks cheap. Debi says the top looks medical because of the heavy white fabric. And Zac flat-out says it’s not fashion-forward or badass. Ken isn’t too happy to hear any of these critiques, but he really doesn’t like when Isaac says he doesn’t like the length. “She walks just fine,” he retorts. When the judges debate later, Isaac says he doesn’t appreciate Ken not appreciating his critiques.
Zanna and Yvonne warned Asha that her look was too heavy and that’s what the judges think, too. Georgina says the look feels strict and buttoned-up. Alyssa does like it — she thinks the neckline and back are gorgeous, but Isaac immediately brings the tone of the critique back down. He says for a summer dress, the coloration and fabrication are all wrong. Debi says the look feels dated, although, she does want to wear the top in the bedroom for her husband. So maybe Asha should re-tool this look and pitch it to Heidi Klum’s intimates line?
Emily tells the judges that she wants her girl to go to a summer party and have everyone in the room wanting to be her. It works! “I want to be her,” Alyssa says. She loves everything about it, but mostly how it plays on masculine toughness vs. femininity. Georgina loves how deconstructed the look is, and Isaac says it’s so edgy it makes even him feel old-fashioned … which is apparently good.
The judges are impressed with Dom’s inspiration (her background in cancer research), but a bit torn on the look. Debi thinks it’s elegant, but wishes it had more shape in the center. Zac says the skirt’s slit is too high — something Dom herself had noticed as it was walking down the runway. Isaac says the top looks like aluminum foil, and Georgina says the skirt feels very weighted. (When the judges deliberate later, they wished both Dom and Asha had designed flowy skirts instead.)
Kini’s girl is the girl who sits by the pool, but doesn’t get in. It’s definitely a look for a certain kind of person, but the judges are mostly feeling it. Zac says he likes that it has a ‘50s throwback vibe to it and that it’s kooky at the same time. Debi says it’s a “fabulous insect,” which I guess is a positive critique because she says she loves it. Georgina is perplexed to the point that she doesn’t know if she likes it or not, but she likes that it makes her think. And Isaac says the design Kini presented is “really ballsy.” But not ballsy enough because…
Another week, another surprising exit. I wasn’t sure about Asha from the beginning because I had never watched Under the Gunn, but I thought she was showing strong work week to week. What did you guys think of this week’s episode? Share your thoughts below or find me on Twitter @realdalener.