Project Runway All Stars recap: Birthday Suits
Project Runway All Stars has finally done it. They’ve figured out a way to make us giggle through an entire episode. As if 10 naked men and women standing next to Alyssa on the runway weren’t bad enough, the producers also had them walking around that whole place nude! But don’t call them nudists — they prefer “naturists.” I’m not going to body-shame these people; if they’re happy being in their natural state, good for them. But that doesn’t mean that when I see designers trying to take measurements of nude people, I won’t giggle like a 12-year-old. That is just funny.
Or maybe not funny for Alyssa. As she introduces the naturists and explains the challenge to the designers, she keeps a very straight face: She acts like it’s no big deal that she’s surrounded by 10 people in the buff. She even thanks them for doing this because she loves how it promotes a healthy body image. Alyssa is better than all of us.
Anyway, the challenge: The designers have $250 and one day to create fashionable winter wear that the naturists feel comfortable in. This makes Mitchell anxious: He prefers Speedos to pants and has never even seen snow. Then Alyssa explains — if they didn’t catch on based on the men on stage — half of the designers will be designing for men. This panics most of the designers.
After drawing names out of a button bag, the designers take their clients to the workroom, where they discuss styles and sketch (and take measurements of their nude clients — still can’t get over that one). “Am I the only one that feels embarrassed?” Ken asks. No, no you are not.
Once the clients leave and the Mood trip is taken, the designers start working. Valerie says she started her company with outerwear — but to do it right, you need 12-40 hours to make a coat. The designers have 10. And they have to use that time for other pieces as well. No one is using that time more efficiently than Kini. He’s doing four pieces: a coat, a sweater, a shirt, and a skirt, which seems like a lot of clothes for someone who prefers none.
Then you have Ken, who’s probably doing the least amount of clothing. How do you dress a man who prefers to be free? Give him a skirt and a blousy sweater. When Zanna comes to do critiques, she thinks that Ken forgot he was designing for a man. But luckily Joey, his uber-cool model, doesn’t mind dressing androgynously.
Zanna gives the rest of her critiques: Less is more, “safe is not an option,” etc. But the biggest problem emerges with the model fittings. (This time they show up with nude underwear on — much to Alexander’s relief.) Sam designed a green and nude patterned coat. It looked well-tailored and I saw absolutely nothing wrong with it, but when his model, Zen (of course her name is Zen), put it on, he said she looked like she wanted to vomit. Because part of the challenge was to make the naturists comfortable in their clothes, he scraps it and begins to panic. No one has enough fabric to do something substantial, so he ends up creating a basic circle skirt and chunky sweater.
NEXT: “Undressed for success”
After naked hair and makeup sessions (and more giggling from me), the models and designers head to the runway. Alyssa introduces the guest judges: fashion blogger Aimee Song and fashion designer Naeem Khan. The models first step onto the runway in their birthday suits, then magically transform with their clothes on and walk the runway. (This week’s episode is so gimmicky, but I don’t even care.)
The winter looks from Ken, Asha, Layana, and Alexander keep them safe. That means Emily, Sam, Mitchell, Valerie, Kini, and Dom will receive critiques from the judges, but I have to pause for Ken’s look. The way his client walked the runway in the kilt and sweater was the best part of this episode. That is all.
Emily got a “California girl” vibe from her client, Nicole, so she designed a look for a California winter. I’m not sure how to describe it — a dress? Cape thing? — so just look at the picture above. Georgina loves that it’s comfortable, yet feels expensive. Isaac says the way it shows skin while being a winter look is almost sensual. Aimee, a native California girl, loves it. And Naeem gave some explanation about how he wished it was more butterfly-like… I’m not sure.
As discussed earlier, Sam was a bit stuck with his fabric choices and design options. He was able to say that he used the colors to appeal to her urban aesthetic — which was a nice attempt at a save, but the judges don’t buy it. Isaac says it has lots of problems, that it looks like something she already had in her closet. Georgina says there isn’t enough Sam in it, but Zen is happy in it.
Although the tank top and shorts man had never made a coat, somehow Mitchell pulled it off…well. I’m as shocked as anyone. Alyssa says, “I love this.” And the model is happy in it. Aimee notes how much she likes the drop-crotch pants and wants to put her “imaginary boyfriend” in them. Naeem loves how the collar is actually a scarf (which Mitchell added at the last minute). Maybe Mitchell should always do menswear and/or winter wear?
Zanna warned Valerie that her prints and colors were a little all over the place. She decided to trust her own instincts anyway, and the judges…do not love her instincts. Georgina says it’s a housecoat on steroids — and that’s not a compliment. Aimee says her ideas are too all over the place; Naeem doesn’t like how bulky it is; but like Sam’s model, Tami is a fan of what Valerie created. She asked for a large blanket, and she got a large blanket!
Felicity, Kini’s model, wanted something that was feminine yet strong; and she loves what he created. So do the judges. Georgina hates that Kini draped the coat on her shoulders, which he did because the fit was a bit tight, but she loves the design nonetheless. Isaac likes the look without the coat, but Aimee agrees with Georgina that the coat pulls it all together. Naeem is a fan of Kini’s design, too, and I have to say guys: I don’t really get the judges’ praise. I like Kini, but this look feels so stuffy for someone who prefers to be nude. But he’s still complaining about having to work with Sam, so maybe I’m just getting Kini fatigue.
For the first time this season, Dom finally lands in the top 3. Well, actually, as Alyssa informs us, there is a top 4 and a bottom 2 this week. Her modern military take on a peacoat is a hit with the judges and her model, Lloyd, who absolutely rocks it on the runway. (He’s only second to Joey, Ken’s model.) Their only critiques are minor: There’s a strange flap on the inside and there’s a button too low on the coat, but overall they rave about her smart fabric choices.
Winner: Emily, who takes her first-ever Project Runway win
Out: No one. Again. The judges felt that since the naturist clients were happy with their looks, both Valerie and Sam should get another chance. And let’s be honest: Both are too good to be sent home before…some other people.
But the other designers are not having it. For some reason Alexander and Emily go on the attack, saying how it’s not fair, and then point their anger at Sam, specifically. “Maybe we should all flirt with the judges then,” Alexander says. And then Mitchell says it doesn’t seem like Sam is grateful enough for getting to stay. I’m sorry, what? Maybe we saw a weird edit of this exchange, but there was nothing in that post-runway conversation to make it seem like he was ungrateful for getting saved.
As Sam walks out of the room, Valerie tells the other designers that they’re being mean, and Ken says it’s not summer camp. Seriously, what just happened? It’s like a flip was switched. If the other designers are mad, they should be mad at the judges and producers, not their fellow designers. We knew this season was going to be dramatic, and it hasn’t been too much so far. It looks like this could be the tipping point.
What did you guys think? Was the anger from the other designers warranted? Were you happy with Emily’s win? (I was until her anger toward Sam and Valerie came out. That was not cute.) I’d love to hear your takes on the situation. Throw your comments below, or find me on Twitter @realdalener.