The designers use construction supplies in the designer dreaded/audience loved unconventional challenge.
Credit: Pawel Kaminski/Lifetime
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“So this is your challenge: It’s the one Runway fans love, but all the designers fear… It’s the unconventional challenge.” —Alyssa Milano, who proceeded to cackle with delight

She’s right: This is it Runway fans. The one we wait for everyone season—I won’t lie, I think I get more excited about this episode than the finale. And it did not disappoint.

The all-stars started at Skylight at Moynihan Station, which for the uninformed (like me) is “one of New York’s most cutting-edge Fashion Week venues.” Except right now, it’s under construction, which means it’s a perfect excuse for the designers to raid and make fashionable designs with their loot. Who wouldn’t want a dress made out of a construction workers’ vest and rubber tubing?

The best part about the unconventional challenge on All Stars is that these designers should already know what they’re doing. In Jay’s season, he won with trash bags. Sam won the season 11 unconventional challenge, where they were taken to a hardware store and a flower shop. And of course Kate has “been down the unconventional block a time or two.”

This season, their challenge is to take the masculine materials and make a feminine look. They can take anything they can carry—not the construction workers, but the clothes they are wearing is allowed; and as soon as time is called, things get crazy. As Michelle says, “Miss Alexandria gets a little possessed by the construction demons.” She runs around like a mad woman, but ends up with the same thing as everyone else: junk.

They haul it all back in the workroom and somehow get it all into that tiny space and begin their crazy, kooky designs. (Sidenote: They show the exterior of Parsons, so I assume that’s where they work, but why is that room so small? Did the filming overlap with season 13? They all seemed so crammed in there—last week Patricia had to climb under the table to get space to work.)

Kate starts working on a wedding dress (surprise!), Jay starts ripping tarp and driving everyone mad with the sounds; and Dmitry scraps his original design and starts working on a wholly unoriginal one instead. We’ve seen this before: Two designers working on the same style look. It’s a problem, and I’m not sure what the solution is. Based on the edit we saw, it seemed pretty obvious Dmitry saw Chris’ work and then started something similar. Obviously not cool, but Chris would have been better continuing with his design and not worrying about what Dmitry was doing. Instead, he basically gave up.

Zanna comes in to do her critique and gives voice to what all of us are thinking: Dmitry and Chris’ looks are too similar, Kate needs to get out of her wheelhouse, and Alexandria’s design is too Goth. Zanna also tells Sonjia that she doesn’t think her look is feminine enough—you know, the whole point of the challenge. So Sonjia scraps it and works some magic with caution tape.

The next day on the runway, the designers get introduced to the guest designers: Snooki Nicole Polizzi and JWoww Jenni Farley for the color commentary and Elie Tahari for his actual fashion knowledge. I’m the first one to hate on the uninformed guest judges (last season’s Youtube “star,” young starlets, etc.), but I kind of loved this. Nicole and Jenni gave voice to the audience—they said all those crazy things we think about the designs from the other side of the screen.

You know who else also had great things to say about the looks? The fellow designers. There were so many good sound bites this episode that half of my notes were just quotes. Let’s get to them…

NEXT: Project Construction

Dmitry, Fabio, Gunnar, Benjamin, Helen, Sonjia, and Sam are all safe. Dmitry had an entire butt cheek hanging out, but apparently that’s okay in All Stars. With the final six, it’s impossible to tell who is high and who is low because there were so many mixed critiques. So let’s just call these the “highlighted” six designs:

Well, Nicole wants to wear this for her wedding, but Alyssa thinks it looks like lingerie. Not surprising. We know Kate can do wedding dresses. We’ve seen it again and again… and again and again. As Jay says, it’s going to take a funeral challenge to make her not do them. But the challenge was to make something feminine, and if a lingerie wedding dress isn’t feminine, well, I don’t know what is.

Using construction workers’ vests, tarps, and paint, Michelle was able to create a chevron-printed dress that looks like a dress you could buy off the rack—and that’s the problem. She’s a winner, so the judges are expecting her to push herself more than this.

During the season 13 unconventional challenge, returning designer Amanda Valentine told her fellow contestants that the judges love to see looks that don’t mimic fabric. This All Stars workroom should definitely know that already. People like Michelle play it safe, and people like Justin go for it. His look is made entirely of zip-ties and plastic fencing. I can’t imagine it is comfortable for the model, but it is flawless.

Alexandria‘s look is just confusing. There are so many great soundbites about it: It reminds Snooki of spiders (and she’s arachnophobic), Michelle says it looks like a drunk girl who fell into a construction site, and Dmitry says the design was only missing the bird… you know from the birdcage. And all those things are true, but the worst is the fit is terrible and it looks like a tarp, which is a problem.

Jay‘s design is very interesting—as many of the designers noted, it isn’t feminine, but the judges seem to love it. It’s very construction warrior princess. I give him points for creativity, but I don’t have much else to say about it.

And then poor Chris. He seems so defeated on the runway. I was sure this look would send him home (especially since many people speculated he would be out early since he wasn’t in the trailer a ton). But Isaac actually loves the skirt and roots for the look. Meanwhile, Snooki is just searching for a nipple. I wish they had put picture-in-picture of everyone else’s faces while Snooki and JWoww talked. Even a picture-in-picture of this on repeat would have sufficed.

Winner: Justin, in his well-deserved first-ever win

Out: Alexandria, who doesn’t mind because just like you can’t bake a cake with soap, she can’t design with a tarp and plastic mesh (she didn’t seem to notice that all of her fellow designers just did exactly that).

Next Week: A Wicked couture challenge with Betsey Johnson as a judge. Chris March, this will be your week to shine.

Did the right person go home? How do you think BungeeCordGate 2014 was handled by Chris and Dmitry? Let’s chat here or over on Twitter: @realdalener. Until next week Runway fans!

Episode Recaps

Project Runway All Stars
Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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