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Project Runway All-Stars is (Mostly) a Disaster: Episode 1 Recap

Project Runway All-StarsProject Runway All-Stars premiered last night, with a lot of familiar faces but a whole new panel of judges. The popular reality fashion design show lost a lot of fans when it made the jump from Bravo to Lifetime in 2009, and it's unlikely that the latest spin-off will revive the Project Runway fever of yore.

Before we talk about the missing magic in last night's debut episode, let's take care of business. Thirteen previous Project Runway contestants make up this season's cast:

  • Kenley Collins (Season Five, Second Runner-up)
  • Michael Costello (Season Eight, Fourth Place)
  • Gordana Gehlhausen (Season Six, Fourth Place)
  • Mondo Guerra (Season Eight, Runner-up)
  • Mila Hermanovski (Season Seven, Second Runner-up)
  • Kara Janx (Season Two, Fourth Place)
  • Elisa Jimenez (Season Four, Tenth Place)
  • April Johnston (Season Eight, Fifth Place)
  • Rami Kashou (Season Four, Runner-up)
  • Austin Scarlett (Season One, Fourth Place)
  • Jerell Scott (Season Five, Fourth Place)
  • Sweet P/Kathleen Vaughn (Season Four, Fifth Place)
  • Anthony Williams (Season Seven, Fifth Place)

Even though plenty of people have plenty of feelings about many of these contestants ("Ooooh, I bet Austin's going to be on the show," my roommate said when I set our DVR to record the show last night), the true stars of Project Runway have always been the judges, and the giant hole at the center of All-Stars comes from the absence of Nina, Heidi, Michael—and dear, dear Tim. Without Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum (not to mention Nina Garcia and Michael Kors), Project Runway All-Stars is just a cheap, sad knock-off of glory.

The new judges:

Image via ChannelGuideMagBlog

Host: Angela Lindvall — Sorry to get bitchy, but Angela doesn't hold a candle to Heidi when it comes to a) supermodeldom b) charm & charisma c) on-camera delivery. She's so unnatural onscreen that watching her makes me wince. Any of the contestants—or a past winner!—could have done a better job hosting the show.

Mentor: Joanna Coles — Actually, the Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief may well be the best part of the upcoming All-Stars season. She isn't as cuddly or baffling as Tim Gunn (miss him!) but she's severe, smart, and I'm actually really looking forward to getting to know and love her. I can already tell that we'll be great together.

Michael Kors Replacement: Isaac Mizrahi — Ugh, Isaac's great but bring back Michael.

Nina Garcia Replacement: Marchesa's Georgina Chapman — This was another good call on the part of the production team. Georgina's personality seemed a little bland on the first episode, but I bet we'll warm up to her. Plus, she's truly worth paying attention to as a designer, and her brand's red carpet appeal pairs perfectly with Project Runway's broad audience without compromising the show's design cred any more than it's already been compromised. She's also so chic and lovely to look at. It's about time someone put her on prime time.

The prizes:

— A spread in Marie Claire plus a position as guest editor at the magazine for one year.

— Industrial sewing machines and other super-pro gear from Brother.

— A $100,000 tech suite from HP & Intel (what's a technology suite?).

— And $100,000 in cash from L'Oreal.

And some notes from the premiere:

Project Runway All-StarsProject Runway All-Stars

  • All the contestants introduce themselves to the designers with a runway show featuring a look they'd recently designed, which represents their point of view. And it's all horrifically ugly. Even Mondo's (what a stupid hat!), even Austin's. I thought Gordana's was the only dress worth a second look. Not a good start to the season. The contestants had practically their entire lives to design and construct these dresses—but they couldn't make it work. I guess people do work better under pressure.

  • For the main challange, the designers had to create a dress inspired by their first look—but using materials from a 99 cent store. They had a $100 budget (because's they're All-Stars, as Angela Lindvall inanely pointed out) to show off ther creativity using unconventional materials. If it sounds like a tired Project Runway trope, that's because it is.

  • April and Michael Costello both chose to work with mopheads. The tiresome Costello did not think his would be up to snuff: “I’m really worried that April’s dress is going to kick my dress’ ass.” (It did.)

  • On the runway, Rami (below, right) and Michael Anthony's dresses were far better than the originals. The judges mooned over Mondo's dress, but I thought the whole look (below, left) was a little dated. Rami scored a well-deserved win. I heart his dress. It's like a couture version of my grandmother's style. Not total genius, but as genius as it gets on Project Runway—All-Stars or otherwise.

  • Elisa, "the crazy chick," got sent home for the incoherant look pictured all the way at the top. Sorry, but nothing clashes more than hot pants with a cape.

Project Runway All-StarsProject Runway All-Stars

Photos via Lifetime