Post-apocalypse now

By Ernest Macias
January 11, 2018 at 10:02 PM EST

“Damsels in Distress” starts off quickly and chaotically: The designers walk into the workroom, and surprise! Host Alyssa Milano is standing in the center of an unrecognizable room — everything has been destroyed and there’s smoke everywhere. (But the real disaster here is Alyssa’s look. Whoever is in charge of her wardrobe — we need to talk.) The host begins to describe this week’s challenge, then pulls out a fire extinguisher out of nowhere and totally douses the designers. Everyone is shook, especially designer Anthony, who thinks he might catch on fire.

“Now listen, I have enough chemical in my hair to wipe out a nation,” he says during his confessional.

Alyssa finally reveals this week’s challenge: Create a distressed look, paying homage to the “new trend in fashion.” The episode takes a page straight out of the RuPaul’s Drag Race playbook: Designers have $200 and one day to create “post-apocalyptic fashion” by using at least two distressing techniques (including blowtorches, sanders, and “all types of liquids”). They also have to come up with a scenario that their model has survived on the way to the runway.

Now it’s time to sketch. Char decides her girl is going to be a fierce firefighter who wears pants with “an exaggerated train” — because trains are so not flammable. Kelly from the Deli lands on an ice princess raver concept that includes nude mesh pants with a bodice and black shorts; I am absolutely worried about this. Stanley decides to make a red carpet look out of green silk taffeta with a lot of ruffles. As for Ari, well, she chooses to make a wool coat and red-dyed silk dress for a woman who survived a massive tectonic plate shift and volcano eruptions. When I tell you this episode was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, I am not lying.

Once in the workroom, Helen talks about personal growth and confidence while sewing. Kelly from the Deli decides to add sequins to her design, and now I’m terrified of what she’s about to create. The biggest challenge this week is the emotional rollercoaster of destroying fabric. Anthony has a hard time with his design and has a dramatic, almost apocalyptic creative meltdown. Designer Ken sums up the experience pretty well during his confessional: “We make beautiful things, not tear them apart.”

But it’s not all drama in the workroom; the edit shows a funny montage of the designers getting all sorts of tongue-tied with the word “apocalyptic.” Some even make up their own words, like Ken, who transforms the word into “post-a-poca-LIPSTICK.” Learn it, coin it, make it happen.

Then it’s time for the mentorship — and brief history lesson on distressed fashion — from esteemed Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider. Here’s a slightly modified version of the timeline she gives the designers:

  • 1970s: The distressed trend makes its first appearance on “the scene.”
  • 1980s: Distressed denim becomes fashion.
  • 2000s: Jeremy Scott brought distressed fashion to the forefront.
  • 2011: RuPaul’s Drage Race season 4
  • 2018: Project Runway All Stars season 6

Anyway, back to Anne being mean to the designers. She calls Char’s look a halloween costume, then tells Merline, last week’s winner, that her design looks like a plain shift dress — after congratulating her, of course. Anne is a classy lady. Overall, Anne’s main advice is for designers to be cautious with their rips and tears because “there’s a big difference between big mess and distress.” I just wish Anne would get comfortable with the designers; half the time it feels like she’s reading scripts. I miss Tim.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot this part: Anne nearly starts a fire in the workroom after testing out Helen’s very hot wood cutter, which she also wants to touch? Things get a little weird when Anne and Joshua shoot a paint gun in a shooting range that appears out of nowhere. Before exiting the workroom, Anne casually tells the designers that if she really likes the winning design she might put it in the pages of Marie Claire.

When the models come in for a fitting, everyone’s excited about their distressed designs, and there’s also a shout-out to the Intermix accessories wall.

On to the day of the runway, the designers get to the workroom and keep blazing, cutting, burning, piercing, and distressing their looks. Stanley is still in the sewing room when the models come in because he didn’t pay attention to the time. The designers and their models head off to the Umberto Hair Salon and then the Rodial Glam Room , and then it’s time to head to the runway, where everyone has a burned, destroyed, and punctured pretty dress.

The host announces the winner’s prize, which includes a fashion spread and contributing editor position at Marie Claire, a trip to London, a Rodial makeup and skincare supply for their fashion show “and beyond,” accessories from Intermix for their first fashion show, a complete sewing and crafting studio from Brother, and $100,000. Once again I’m out of breath and can’t remember all of the prizes.

Alyssa makes an entrance and I don’t even know what she’s talking about because I can’t stop thinking about who is behind her wardrobe. The host of Project Runway All Stars deserves better, seriously. She proceed to remind us of the season 6 judges, Georgina Chapman and Isaac Mizrahi. Our guest judge is Orange Is The New Black star and Broadway breakoutDanielle Brooks. (Recap continues on page 2)

The designs strut down the runway, and the judges love the show. Isaac Mizrahi calls it “probably the best runway we’ve seen” because it wasn’t boring. (Haven’t you heard? The whole point of the show is to keep Isaac from being bored.) In Alyssa’s words, the designers “set the runway on fire,” especially Ari, Marline, Stanley, Char, Kelly, and Anthony.

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Ari made a dress for a literal fire goddess and Georgina says she “particularly liked” the red dress. Isaac calls it “so fabulous” and loves the story behind the dress. Alyssa points out that Ari made her own lace with a blow torch and says it was “a beautiful job.”

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Merline‘s look is set in 2180, Galaxy 51, and her dress is a floor map of how to get to the key (yeah, I’m still confused). She was really living the fantasy on this challenge. Issac loves the story and calls the LBD “fabulous.” Danielle calls Merline’s structure “sick.” Alyssa says she was inspired by the 3-D objects.

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Stanley made a burned dress too, but his has an opera-caught-on-fire backstory. Georgina adores the bottom half of the dress but calls the top “cheap.” Danielle likes the color; she’s very polite. Isaac hates the color and calls it “swampy.”

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Char envisioned a hip fashionista firefighter, and the judges are only halfway in love with her look. Isaac thinks the idea of pants with a train was “a hell of a kooky and great idea.” Alyssa straight-up tells her that the pants look like they were destroyed by a lawn mower, and Georgina doesn’t see any design; in fact, she thinks it looks a little like a Party City costume. RuPaul’s influence, everybody. I rest my case.

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Kelly‘s girl started the apocalypse after setting the whole world on fire. Isaac likes “the funny embroidery on the bodice.” Georgina thinks there were too many ideas in the design — she also hated the earphones. Everyone agrees that Kelly needs to go to rehab for over-accessorizing.

Project Runway CR: Lifetime

Anthony’s girl was a princess from the Gambia who was at the MET Gala, and suddenly the world ended and her dress caught on fire. The result? An “elegant, balanced” dress, according to Georgina. Danielle loves the sexiness of the look. Isaac calls Anthony’s dress “distressed and fresh as a daisy.” Isaac loves that word.

Winner: Anthony and his amazing, incredible, brilliant laugh.

Out: Kelly, please don’t go back to the deli.

I guess Anne didn’t really like any of the designs, because she didn’t choose any of the dresses for the pages of Marie Claire.

Do you agree with the judges? Let me know your thoughts about “Damsels in Distress” and what you think of All Stars season 6 so far. Sound off below!