We’re just a few days removed from the 2018 Academy Awards, but we can’t seem to escape the red carpet. In episode nine of “Project Runway All Stars” the top seven designers were “Posen for the Red Carpet.” To be specific, they were invited into the private studio of fashion designer Zac Posen, where they gathered materials to create glamorous red carpet looks showcasing their signature technique. Posen was also a guest judge, along with actress Rosie Perez, so this was the second challenge in a row, following “Mizrahi Madness” last week, when the designers were both inspired by and judged by a fashion icon. So how did they do?
Stanley Hudson won the last design challenge, so he got his first choice of fabrics from Posen’s luxurious collection. His plan was to showcase his tailoring with a red gown highlighted by a dramatic, voluminous skirt. Anthony Williams and Ken Laurence went for sculptured looks, while Fabio Costa wanted to show off his skill at pleating, and Helen Castillo aimed to emphasize her corsetry.
Joshua McKinley was aiming for an especially ambitious technique: pintucking. And that made him more than a little cocky: “I’m going to try to wow them with something the other designers won’t even think of … or know of,” he said. But Helen seemed very clear about what pintucking is and why Joshua might have been making a mistake. She warned, “You have to create the effect by hand … It’s way too much work.”
Indeed, Joshua’s technique was taking so long that he struggled to finish everything else. And Ken, for one, was skeptical of the outcome, saying that it looked “like a woman who just divorced her husband, so she snuck into her daughter’s room to get this dress to go to the club to meet some man to have sex with.” That might be my favorite, most vivid critique of the season, and it didn’t even come from the judges.
Stanley’s bright red gown was nothing if not impeccably tailored. “If you saw her on the red carpet you’d get out of her way,” said Stanley about the look. Helen work with corsetry also produced a closely fitted look in a shade of red. “My style lines are beautiful, the fit is amazing,” she said watching her gown strut down the runway, though she did keep a close eye on the judges’ reactions “because if they don’t like something it’s pretty obvious.”
Edmond designed a gown with an elaborate red rose. “I’m hoping the judges will appreciate the technique in the rose itself. It’s a creation from beginning to end.” That was the third red dress in a row that the judges saw, so Anthony’s subsequent sculptured gown in a soft shade of blue was a welcome change of pace. Anthony was proud of the dress’s “feminine silhouette” and “architectural softness,” though I personally thought the sculpting looked a little too busy.
Joshua’s pintucked dress had a lovely color combination of pink and orange, but Joshua himself felt somewhat ambivalent about the design: “The skirt is fabulous, but the top is so unresolved. As cool as the technique is, I really needed more time to work with the pintucking.” I’m inclined to agree: the skirt was beautiful, but the top and bottom of the dress didn’t jibe.
Fabio had the dress that most stood out from the others in its design with its dramatic floor-length pleating and V-shaped cutout in the back. It was a lot of voluminous fabric without looking heavy or dowdy. “It’s fresh and new and everything I want to do with fashion,” he said. But Ken wasn’t satisfied with his own design, especially the side piece he applied for an added flourish: “It’s not moving. It looks stuck. It’s not cute at all.”
With only seven designers left in the competition, every designer got a critique except the one who landed right in the middle. That safe designer who advanced safely through to the next round was Helen, which meant that for the first time since the season premiere episode a male designer would be eliminated from the competition.
Fabio — “You did a spectacular job,” said Zac. Isaac thought it was a “nod to the future.” Georgina Chapman loved the back. Rosie admired how it looked so different from what others would likely be wearing. Alyssa Milano knew it was Fabio’s as soon as it walked down the runway, which was a testament to his signature style.
Ken — “I just wish it didn’t have that thing,” said Alyssa about the side piece that gave Ken so much trouble. Georgina agreed, telling him he should have rethought the design when the fabric didn’t behave the way he wanted it to. Isaac thought the deep V-neck was poorly executed. Rosie didn’t think it was the right look for a red carpet, though she loved the material. Zac said, “It doesn’t look finished.”
Stanley — “I love that it let the subject shine,” said Alyssa. “It’s such a good dress,” added Georgina, “but it’s very, very simple.” Rosie Perez didn’t think the dress left enough room for a woman of more ample bosom, though Isaac loved how expensive-looking it was.
Joshua — “There’s something about the juxtaposition of the pleating and the seaming on the skirt that makes it look like two completely different designs,” said Isaac. Zac added, “It’s a lot going on in one look” and that it was “a little bit trashy.” “I couldn’t figure out if I loved this look or hated it,” said Alyssa, who nevertheless loved his pintucking technique.
Anthony — “This dress is really great,” said Isaac. “I think you nailed this challenge,” said Zac. “It’s fluid, it’s effortless.” Rosie was even more effusive: “You are giving us the narrative, the epilogue, the entire stage performance … My breasts would look gorgeous in this dress. From every angle I’m dying over here.”
Edmond — “You took such ravishing fabric and made it look incredibly inexpensive,” said Isaac. Georgina thought he should have used the same fabric all the way down. Alyssa felt that the flower looked like a throw pillow attached to the bodice. “I hate it,” Rosie concluded.
Then there was a mini-controversy backstage after the critiques were delivered. Stanley said, “I was in good company” about finishing in the top-three with Anthony and Fabio. Joshua took exception to the implication that the bottom three designers — including Joshua — weren’t such good company. “It’s so insulting,” said Joshua. And Helen agreed it was “a little shady,” but Stanley dropped the matter by saying, “I’m not going to play this game.”
I’ve seen plenty of shade on this show, but I think Stanley was simply trying to pay Fabio and Anthony a compliment for their work. I could understand why Joshua felt slighted right after receiving a negative evaluation from the judges — Stanley’s remark came off as unintentional salt in the wound. But goodness knows Joshua and Helen have given plenty of runway side-eye over the course of the season, so they weren’t in the best positions to judge.
Anthony was named the winner of the design challenge with Fabio named the runner-up. I personally preferred Fabio and Stanley’s designs this week, though I can’t quibble too much with the judges’ choice.
Then the judges announced the results for the worst designers. Ken was declared safe despite his unfortunate sculpted piece on the side, which meant the elimination came down to Joshua and Edmond. I for one thought Edmond would be a goner because this was his fourth time in five weeks landing in the bottom three, and a rose by any other name still looks like a throw pillow. But Joshua’s mismatched look got him the boot.
That was a pretty dramatic “Runway” trajectory for Joshua. After spending the first five weeks safe without any judges’ critiques, he won “Thrown for a Loop by Betty Boop,” then got a low score the very next week in “A Kick in the Astro,” and has now been eliminated.
FINAL PREDICTIONS CONTEST RESULTS:
Who was eliminated? Joshua McKinley
Who will be in the bottom two, but safe? Edmond Newton
Who will win the challenge? Anthony Williams
Who will be the challenge’s runner-up? Fabio Costa
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