Here's what happens when you add a wind machine to the runway

By Dalene Rovenstine
February 19, 2016 at 01:35 AM EST
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What’s one way to amp up the drama on a runway? With lots and lots of billowy fabric and lots of wind. And that’s exactly what Project Runway All Stars does in “Let It Flow.”

Alyssa meets the designers at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to present the challenge. She says fashion and dance both rely on movement, kinetic energy. And to that end, the designers will be creating dramatic designs incorporating how fabric can move on the body and through the air.

After the Alvin Ailey principal dancers put on a mini-show, the designers start to sketch. Alexander says he has worked as a costumer on a ballet before, so he doesn’t have any worries. (The fact that the producers are showing us this clip means he should be very worried.) Only making this challenge more difficult is the fact that a giant wind machine will be at the end of the runway, so the designers have to be very intentional about how their designs will move. Some elements — such as pleats, which Valerie had in mind at first — will be completely lost in the wind. But Sam has got this: “I want the judges to be blown away… Sorry.” (What did I say about the sound bites with this guy!?)

The designers are given 30 minutes and $300 at Mood. They’re flying around the store snatching up silk, silk chiffon, and other lightweight fabrics. And to make sure the fabrics move the way they should, the producers have placed a wind machine in the workroom for testing.

Also in the workroom: lots of ego. Mitchell and Sam haven’t quite worked out their issues with this “blog.” (This is starting to feel so much like a Real Housewives quibble.) Mitchell says his feelings are hurt about Sam’s season 13 blogging. I did a bit of investigative journalism and found said blog: It’s Samisblond.blogspot.com if you care. I don’t think Mitchell needs to worry about the masses reading Sam’s thoughts — and Sam agrees with me: “Nobody else cares about what I said.” (Okay, yeah, he’s talking about the other designers, not his blog audience, but he’s close enough to agreeing with me.) Instead of apologizing, Sam launches into a tirade about how the fashion industry is tough and Mitchell needs to get a thicker skin.

Mitchell goes to the next room, and the other designers want to know why he’s so sad. I about fell out of my chair because of the way Stella delivered, “It’s about some blog gossip.” She has no time for this drama, and I’m here for it. Stella then says Mitchell should stand up to him and be done with it. He doesn’t, but we’re done with it …for this episode.

With that out of the way, Zanna can come and give her critiques the old-fashioned way (in person, not via a blog). Her biggest concern with this critique seems to be “elegance.” She’s obsessed with telling the designers if they have it or not.

Has it: Asha

Maybe have it: Layana and Kini

Doesn’t have it: Daniel and Stella

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However, she’s also big on drama. She tells a lot of the designers — including Dom and Asha to amp it up. But no one gets such a brutal critique as Daniel. Zanna tells him, “This is not dramatic; this is not elegant; this isn’t sexy.” Tell us how you really feel, Zanna.

She leaves the room telling the designers to “be bold, be brave, and be dramatic.” Someone should stitch that on a pillow and sell it on Etsy.

The biggest post-critique change comes from Emily, who decides to add shorts under her caftan. She felt like she was losing her voice anyway, so this is a perfect way to add a touch of her signature streetwear. Not everyone agrees. When Mitchell sees the shorts, he says, “What the hell happened on the scene here?” — which is, incidentally, the name of my new blog.

The only other memorable moment from the workroom is when Kini takes his beautifully tailored dress and drops it in dye…intentionally. Daniel has apparently never heard of dyeing fabric. He’s so completely confused by the concept: “Die it? Diet?” Layana knows what it is, but she’s terrified for Kini. As he says, if you get even a drop anywhere where it’s not supposed to be, the dress is ruined. But Kini is a master at dying, in addition to sewing, and the next morning when he comes back to the workroom, it’s a gorgeous sunburst.

NEXT: A blustery runway

On the runway, Alyssa introduces the designers to the guest judge, Vanessa Hudgens, who seemed adorable and sweet (which was a bit jarring after seeing her wickedly delightful turn as Rizzo on Grease: Live).

After the wind-blown runway, Alyssa tells Daniel, Ken, Layana, Asha, Mitchell, Dom, and Stella that they are safe — which means Alexander, Kini, Fäde, Sam, Valerie, and Emily all get critiques.

Although Kini is in the top, his look gets uneven reviews from the judges. Georgina loves that he took a chance with the dip-dye, but Isaac says the lace bodice made the design look less expensive. Vanessa likes the “birds of paradise” vibe she got from the dress; but Alyssa says the black belt threw her. The judges agree the look was gorgeous from the back but a different look entirely in the front. (I think the word they were looking for here is “mullet.”)

Fäde‘s inspiration was a cocoon transforming into a butterfly; the rigidity of the dress is the cocoon, and the flowy attachment is the butterfly. Vanessa appreciates his inspiration — she has a butterfly tattoo! — but doesn’t like the look. When he’s out of earshot, she even says that it’s an old lady look (the fact that she didn’t want to say that to his face makes me like her more). Georgina says it’s dated, and not in a retro way. Alyssa tells him she does like the combination of the fabrics, but she’s not a fan of the silhouette.

Even though Valerie isn’t a dancer, she always wanted to be. She does salsa dancing now (which in my mind totally qualifies you as being “a dancer”) and wanted to incorporate the passion and boldness of that dance in her look. Alyssa says it’s great, especially for the fact that it has movement even without the wind machine. Isaac agrees, saying that the way her skirt caught air was sophisticated and smart.

Alexander tried to create a sophisticated and smart wind effect with his “balloon” cape/train/thing, but unfortunately the rest of the look wasn’t up to the same level. Georgina says the lace dress was taking away from the greatness of the train; she knows what it’s like to go too costumey and says he needs to learn to edit better. Isaac says the look without the cape is something no woman would wear, except for maybe Wonder Woman (because of the wristbands).

Zanna told Emily during critique that Georgina loves a good caftan, and she was right. Georgina likes the top, but she doesn’t understand the shorts underneath. She says the cut and shape make them feel like gym shorts, which — unless it’s a Heidi Klum athletic wear challenge — is not a good runway look. Isaac is more upset by the nude strapless bra underneath. All around, it’s not great news for Emily, who sounds sick but doesn’t make one complaint about it (she’s the antithesis of Daniel and his cut finger).

When designing his look, Sam had a vision of a woman driving next to the cliffs of Italy while the wind whips her scarf back. I’m not sure why Vanessa was so enthralled with this description, but she was smiling and nodding her head gleefully during this. The judges are fans, too, just not so visibly. Georgina says she gets a Great Gatsby feel, and Isaac says this design had the most integrity of all the runway designs — because it looks great standing still and moving.

The winner as announced by Vanessa (who will wear the winning look): Sam

Out: Fäde

Fäde has such a great personality, but I think Project Runway, whether regular or All Stars, hasn’t been a good fit for him. I am sad to see him go, though. And I’m seriously questioning how Mitchell and Asha weren’t on the chopping block?? What did you guys think of tonight’s episode?

Let me know your thoughts below or on Twitter @realdalener. Until next week, I’ll just be reading Sam’s blog.

Episode Recaps

Project Runway All Stars

Past Runway designers compete for the top prize.
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