‘Project Runway All Stars’ recap: Who advanced to the finale after Anne Fulenwider judged ‘Modern Families’? [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

There’s just one week left for “Project Runway All Stars” — maybe ever. The seventh season is ending soon, and with it ends the Lifetime era of the “Runway” franchise. So who won the penultimate challenge on the way to the finale, and who (if anyone) was eliminated just short of the finish line? Find out below in our live blog with all the minute-by-minute developments as they happen.

The four semifinalists in this all-champions edition of “All Stars” were Evan Biddell (winner of Canadian “Runway” season 1), Michelle Lesniak (American “Runway” season 11), Irina Shabayeva (American “Runway” season 6) and Dmitry Sholokhov (American “Runway” season 10 and “All Stars” season 4). Tonight they were tasked with creating fashion for “Modern Families” in order to secure their places in the finale. And there was an added twist: Marie Claire editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider, who is usually the designers’ mentor, joined the judges table this time to officially critique their looks.

It’s hard to say who had the advantage to win the season going into the homestretch. Irina has been our odds-on favorite for several weeks, and for good reason: she has won two design challenges and gotten more overall high scores from the judges than any other contestant (she has been either the winner or runner-up seven times). But even she isn’t infallible. She along with everyone else in the final four has spent at least one week in the bottom two. Of course, there’s no worse time to end up at the bottom than when the judges are making their final cut. Find out who made it work below starting at 8:30pm (all times listed are Eastern).

8:31pm — Four designers left and a 90-minute show!

8:32pm — The designers tell Alyssa Milano what has been the hardest part of the season for them. Dmitry is challenged by staying true to himself under the difficult time constraints. Michelle is sad to see good designs go home when the level of competition is so high.

8:33pm — Irina won last week’s challenge, so she hands out the envelopes with everyone’s design assignments. Everyone is getting a family of three to make over. “Shit!” says Dmitry at the prospect of making three looks instead of just one. The good news is that the designers get $400 and two days. But double the time and money for triple the amount of work might not be so big a comfort.

8:35pm — Dmitry’s family is a lesbian couple with a 15-year-old son. Irina’s family likes to dance together. Michelle has a Polish family with a 60-something woman and her two grandchildren, including one transgender child; Michelle wants to brighten them up with color and a jumpsuit. Biddell’s family has a single mother and her children; “I got the exact family of my dreams to dress,” he says.

8:38pm — The designers have 30 minutes to shop at Mood, so pretty much 10 minutes per family member. Biddell is confident about what he’s looking for for the two children, but he hasn’t quite figured out what he wants for their mother. Michelle wants to “push the fashion boundaries” for her family, which could be risky if her family ends up hating being beyond those boundaries. She’s good at strategic clashing, though, so I believe in her.

8:46pm — Mild conflict: Dmitry took all the fabric Biddell wanted — how dare he! … Oh wait, Biddell found the same fabric on another roll. That’s the kind of drama you live for on reality television.

8:47pm — Biddell wants to make clothes his family will keep forever, but is it fashion-forward enough. He’s making some jeans for the son. Where is he going to take that? Meanwhile, Dmitry seems to be making things up as he goes along — “I know that he’s struggling,” Michelle notes, which is rare for Dmitry.

Anne Fulenwider Mentors — Anne warns Irina to make the family happy while also being true to her own design aesthetic. Biddell looks like his family members are going to “three different events,” so he’s got some cohesion problems. And Anne warns him as well that the judges won’t care if the models are comfortable as long as they look good and fashionable. Anne is concerned about Michelle’s lack of cohesion as well; they look like they ran into each other randomly at the mall. And she insists to Dmitry that he can’t compromise and needs more of a “fashion kick” and a “Dmitry wow moment.”

8:52pm — Biddell says something I’ve been thinking for a while. He wonders why Dmitry hasn’t been eliminated yet since there have been three or four challenges where Biddell feels he should have gone home by now. He hasn’t been all that impressed by what Dmitry has done, and to be honest, neither have I. There hasn’t been much from Dmitry that I’ve hated, but he has gotten higher scores on a lot of designs than I would have given him.

8:54pm — Case in point: Dmitry is working on black, flowing sleeves with cutouts. We’ve seen black, flowing looks with cutouts from him several times already this season.

8:56pm — All the designers are reeling a bit from Anne’s critiques of their designs in progress. Biddell is doubting himself. Michelle doesn’t like the way the dress she’s designing is turning out. I’m a little worried, though, about one dubious piece of Fulenwider advice: she told them to worry less about what their clients want and more about what the judges want. Frankly, in a challenge where they’re working with real-life clients, I think the contestants should be judged in part by whether the clients actually like what they’re wearing.

8:59pm — Day two of the challenge, and Biddell is committing to have fun in this challenge, so he’s going to unleash his playful side on his designs — something off-kilter. As the families come in for their first fittings, I have a good feeling about what Irina is doing. I’m a little concerned about Michelle’s jumpsuit, which looks a little saggy. Biddell’s dress for the daughter in his family is colorful and dynamite, but he clashes a bit with their mother, who doesn’t want to look like a “clown.”

9:02pm — “Let them think they have a choice,” says Michelle about the soft psychological warfare she’s waging against her family. She uses reverse psychology of sorts to get the Polish grandmother to wear the colorful pants Michelle always wanted her to wear in the first place. Well, as long as Michelle’s family doesn’t know they’re on the other end of a designer-client power play, I guess that’s fine. If she made me free clothes, she could manipulate me too.

9:04pm — Michelle takes a break to talk with her husband and dog on webcam; her husband is “even-keeled,” so he keeps her grounded. Biddell talks to her mom, who has been supportive of his fashion ambitious since he was a teenager. Dmitry chats with his parents at their country house in Belarus, who have also been supportive and reveal the softer side of Dmitry — it turns out he has one! Irina’s chat with her mother is more challenging; she’s fighting breast cancer and got bad news from her latest PET scan, but Irina is trying to “power through” the competition and keep a level head.

9:07pm — Day two is over, and Biddell is starting to feel the gravity of the fact that the competition is almost over. He badly wants to show a collection, which seems especially pivotal for him. He’s the only designer in the final four who has never showed a full finale collection to an American “Runway” audience.

9:13pm — The morning of the runway and “the stress level is really high,” says Michelle. She says this is the absolute worst elimination of the season because if someone gets this far it’s heartbreaking not to get to show a collection. But Irina doesn’t like people who complain. And Michelle hopes Irina is eliminated. Biddell is rooting for either Dmitry or Irina to go home. The passive-aggressive knives are out.

9:16pm — Michelle is also worried that history will repeat itself. She competed in “All Stars” against Dmitry once before. She was eliminated at this stage of the competition, and Dmitry went on to win.

9:18pm — Biddell thinks Dmitry is in trouble since his looks for his family skew so old. I agree with Biddell about the worrisome velvet look he has one of his models in. Irina thinks Michelle’s look on her Polish grandmother is terrible, but I actually like it quite a lot. Biddell managed to make his looks cohesive using a bold fabric I like a lot.

9:20pm — Taking a look at all the designs together during the family photo shoots, I was most impressed by Biddell and Michelle’s looks. Michelle might get dinged for a lack of cohesion, but while her looks are all different I feel like they’re comfortable together. Dmitry’s look didn’t stand out to me very much — monochromatic colors and not much visual excitement in the designs. I like Irina’s better than that, but hers too might lack the necessary impact. Maybe they’ll pop more on the runway.

Runway Show

9:26pm — Interesting to have Anne mentor the designers and critique them at the same time. I wonder if she’ll bring any biases from the mentoring session on day one.

9:27pm — Biddell’s looks come out first, and I’m still very much enjoying his looks. Stylish, cohesive, and his family works it on the runway. Dmitry’s family is next; the first black dress with the cutouts is something, again, we’ve seen from him a thousand times already. The other two looks aren’t especially impressive. I’m not a fan at all.

9:29pm — Michelle’s jumpsuit for the trans grandson turned out great, and his bright grandma design is pretty fantastic — I don’t know what Irina was talking about bashing her fabric choice. But Irina’s looks do work better on the runway than when I saw them in the photo shoot. Like Michelle’s looks, hers aren’t obviously cohesive, but I think they work well together — they don’t match, but they go. For me, Dmitry is the obvious designer to eliminate.


9:36pm — Dmitry and Irina’s critiques are first. Michelle and Biddell wait backstage.

Irina — Georgina Chapman loves the concept of the off-the-shoulder dress, and she loves the purple blouse, but she wanted “a bit more.” Isaac Mizrahi though the navy and black colors were a “cop-out.” Anne loves the stripe on the boy’s cardigan, but overall it’s a “step backward” for her as a designer. Alyssa loves the cardigan too, but she doesn’t care for the proportions on the off-the-shoulder look.

Dmitry — Isaac loves the dress, but he doesn’t think the velvet, drop-waist look is flattering, and the man’s look doesn’t have very much to it at all. Anne thought the dress is “the most Dmitry look,” but the other designs look like he ran out of time; she doesn’t get any flair from them. Georgina likes the taste level. Alyssa didn’t like how the collection walked, but liked it from the family portrait; however, he has proportion issues.

Biddell — Georgina doesn’t love the print, but she thinks they work in context, though she doesn’t like the pencil skirt; overall she likes it, though. Isaac thinks the pattern makes the look fresh, but he too thinks the mother’s skirt is flawed. Alyssa thought the collection had “beauty and personality,” and it was “age-appropriate.”

Michelle — Georgina loves the jumpsuit on the trans grandson, but wants more color, but Georgina thinks the print on the grandmother is somewhat dreary. Isaac also thinks the textiles are “depressing,” and it doesn’t work as a family portrait. Anne didn’t think the fabric choices worked either. Alyssa loves the dress on the granddaughter, likes the jumpsuit on the grandson, but she doesn’t think the grandmother’s pants are flattering. Not great comments, but if they eliminate her instead of Dmitry I might faint.

9:47pm — When the designers reunite backstage they debrief about their critiques. Dmitry thinks the comments about his looks were fairly positive, which makes me wonder if he was in a dissociative state during the judges’ comments.

9:51pm — Judges’ deliberations are split on Irina: Isaac likes it, Georgina has mixed feelings about her taste level. They loved Biddell’s looks with only a few quibbles. Alyssa feels Dmitry played it safe, and Anne thought she delivered something we’ve seen before. They had serious problems with Michelle, but they want to see what she has to offer in a collection. Isaac loves Dmitry’s clear point of view, but I think he’s mistaking having one idea for a clear point of view. Isaac said he liked Dmitry’s looks more and more as he kept looking at them, but for me it was exactly the opposite.

9:56pm — It sounds like Biddell and Irina are locks for the finale. The last spot is down to Michelle and Dmitry. I don’t understand how they would put Dmitry through with this family collection that had only one flattering look that was derivative of so many of his other past looks.


9:59pmThe winner of this challenge is … Biddell — no surprise there, and well deserved. It’s his second challenge win of the season. He was only ever in the bottom of the judges’ scores once all season, so watch out for him.

10:00pm — Also going to the finale is … Irina! Also no surprise, and also well deserved. I’m most excited to see her collection.

10:01pm — There’s a twist! The judges were unable to make a decision, so all four designers are going to the season finale. No elimination! I’m so relieved that Michelle is staying, and if that means keeping Dmitry around too, I’m okay with it. But if Dmitry delivers the same exact design ideas from the umpteenth time, I won’t be happy to see him three-peat as a “Runway” winner.

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