The designers go international. Jerell has nine lives. Seriously, how's he still around?

By Stephan Lee
Updated February 24, 2012 at 06:01 AM EST
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Credit: Barbara Nitke
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Our designers met Angela at the United Nations Headquarters to “solve the tremendous problems weighing on the earth,” in Austin Scarlett’s words. Angela had difficulty controlling THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE — seriously, why was she yelling? — as she gave a lecture on global politics and explained the challenge: to create outfits inspired by flags and the countries they represent. Chile, Greece, India, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, and Seychelles. It’s fun to say “Seychelles,” which the designers quickly discovered.

Most of the designers chose their flags based on colors, but Michael chose Greece mostly because he’s Greek and knows how to drape a mean toga. For some reason Austin Scarlett picked the Seychelles flags, which posed a problematic color palette of blue, yellow, red, and green.

Fast forward to Joanna Coles’ arrival in the workroom. All I can say is YES TO THE YELLOW PANTS! Those yellow pants were my fashion moment of 2012. The whole outfit reminded me of something my very stylish fourth grade teacher would wear. She enjoyed golf and mahjong. Anyway, the yellow pants were fabulous on Joanna.

Joanna forged ahead on her warpath through the workroom and noted an unusual trend: Many of the male designers were making dresses that women wouldn’t be able to wear a bra with. “You designers, you try to torture women!” she exclaimed, waving a flag for the practical woman. Other than the underwear-unfriendly items, Joanna also had a problem with Jerell’s “national doll”-like sari, Kenley’s love affair with polka dots (Mondo and Mila correctly pointed out that she really can’t skate by on 1950s silhouettes forever), and Michael’s pageant-y Grecian dress. Joanna remained cautiously optimistic about Mila’s idea for a complicated, extremely asymmetrical dress. The story behind Mila’s dress was so complicated that she seriously could have drafted a treatise about it, which she believed could bring about world peace. Before she left, Joanna declared that this was the most talented room in the history of Project Runway. I was about to write a joke just now about how the room really is talented, containing all these people and things so well, but then all the life force drained out of my body and this sentence happened.

NEXT: Catherine Malandrino — thick accent, fabulous guest judge…

French designer Catherine Malandrino, who famously made dresses inspired by the American flag, was on hand to guest-judge this challenge, and I could listen to her accent all day. It was extremely thick but totally understandable as long as you put forth the effort. As for the regular judges, Isaac wasn’t quite as ridiculous as usual, and I think Georgina might be my favorite judge ever, from All-Stars and regular Project Runway combined. She always has spot-on, very specific critiques for both the good and bad looks.

Michael — SAFE

Aw hell naw. This cheap-looking dress, which looked like it took all of 45 minutes to make, may have had a garish blue ribbon on it, but it ain’t no first-place finisher. Georgina called the dress “very acceptable” but “beauty pageant.” Isaac made the very good point — surprise! — that the blue bow seemed like an afterthought, a last-minute addition just for the sake of adding more Greek color. None of the judges, however, took Michael to task for the back:

Crack might not have been showing, but there was definitely coccyx and way too much vertebrae.

NEXT: Kenley delivers the expected…

Kenley — TOP

Wow, so we’re in the top 6 of the All-Star season, and you can finish second place just by not effing up. Granted, this was Kenley’s best look of the season — snow leopard wearing a torn tutu — but the lack of depth in the talent pool this year is getting a bit depressing. Everyone liked that this was a “young” look. And I have to say, more than anyone else, I really think Kenley is benefiting from having a good model who knows how to make outfits look better than they really are. Isaac actually hit the nail on the head by advising Kenley not to do a dress “that looks like this” next time. Thank you, Isaac. One-note Kenley needs to change it up. Of course, I highly doubt she took any of the criticism to heart. Kenley doesn’t take criticism, as Tim Gunn well knows.

Mondo – WINNER

Weirdly, this simple, black dress did say “Jamaica” to me. Catherine liked the look but couldn’t get past the poorly executed pseudo-dreadlocks, but Angela thought Mondo may have played it a bit safe. None of the judges really liked the “in-your-face” back:

But the whole thing was so much better than the competition it was kind of ridiculous.

NEXT: The judges keep talking about Jerell’s oh-so-brilliant “thought process.” What thought process?

Austin Scarlett – BOTTOM

So if Kenley’s model makes her outfits look better than they are, Austin Scarlett’s model does just the opposite. I know we’re not here to judge the models, but she’s been so surly and slouchy on the runway all season, and the makeup artist did something crazy to her face — bronzed it or something. The girl basically looked like the fairy godmother nobody wants to have. Austin Scarlett basically chose slight variations of the colors on the Seychelles flag, and the combination turned out garish and a bit sickening. Angela damned the look with faint praise: “It’s not the worst dress I’ve seen on Project Runway All-Stars.” That’s not saying very much.

Jerell — BOTTOM

If the judges could vote Rami out for poor color choice, why wasn’t Jerell eliminated for this confusing, garish, borderline offensive look? The green of the sari is so wrong. The girl looks like a young Elizabeth Taylor trying to play an Indian seductress in a racially insensitive 60s film. The whole breastplate and headband look reminds me of those gladiator-themed Pepsi commercials starring Britney, Beyonce, and P!nk. All the judges noted the “thought process” behind Jerell’s work for the third week in a row. I really don’t see it. Jerell has had a serious taste problem all season, and this is no exception.

NEXT: Mila didn’t impressed this season, but I think she deserved to be the last woman standing.

Mila – OUT

Half little black dress, half long john, this dress (?) looked like a total accident — two halves that should never be combined into a whole. Georgina called it “schizophrenic,” and Isaac gave a backhanded compliment: “It’s disturbing to look at, and I think that was your intention, so in that way you succeeded.” All these things are absolutely true. The dress wasn’t visually pleasing in any way, and I think Mila let the “story” of the look get in the way of aesthetics. Still, it was well-constructed and it successfully accomplished Mila’s vision. In that way, I thought it was more tasteful and cleaner-looking than both Austin Scarlett and Jerell’s looks — especially Jerell’s tacky costume. But yeah, this crazy-looking outfit is kind of a fashion perversion.

Well that was a bit underwhelming, right? Overall, though, this episode wore me out. Sometimes bad runway shows can be fun to write about, but most of these looks just made me sad. I feel like the designers tend to fall down on challenges where they’re forced to use certain colors, but that’s no excuse. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but episodes like this only remind me of how unfair Rami’s elimination was and how much he’s missed.

Your turn! Did the right person get sent home? Will Jerell keep dodging elimination? How long can Kenley stay in her polka-dotted comfort zone?

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Project Runway All Stars

Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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