Photo: David Russell / Lifetime

Mood; Disorder

Come for the interesting-for-once challenge; stay for the relevant judging in the Project Runway: All-Stars S3 premiere.

Greetings And Salutations

It's fun to see everyone, before I've had a chance to get sick of them again, and the zingers are flying thick and fast. Viktor Luna: "I was robbed." Korto Momulu returned for her fans: "I'm back here because of y'all, so enjoy every moment of it." Elena's not the bitch everyone thinks she is, and she's started taking yoga. Palu introduces himself to Ari, not realizing Ari South used to be Andy South.

The designers meet up with Alyssa Milano in Bryant Park, and I don't like the weird dumpy wings on her dress (remember China Chow on Work of Art and how she -- wait, of course you don't, because only Jerry Saltz and I actually watched WoA and he was ON WoA, but anyway, China Chow wore a lot of aggressively couture dresses with scaffolding and Romulan shoulders that didn't really suit her frame; same thing happening here), but after one sentence of introduction she's already way more pro than Angela Murphy. Milano informs everyone that three more designers -- all past winners -- will be joining them. Mychael Knight, upon seeing Jeffrey Sebelia: "[Bleeeep.]." Irina Shabayeva has morphed into a Kardashian and I don't love Seth Aaron's "Lew Wasserman of Williamsburg" style shteez right now.

The Challenge

The brief: a punk-rock look for the runway, with Debbie Harry of Blondie judging. Elena makes us all feel old by noting, "My dad is gonna be so jealous," but her chewy pronunciation of "Blondie" ("Blone-deh") is everything.

The designers get to listen to the new Blondie album, sketch, and head to Mood…where they will remain, crammed into a makeshift workroom in the basement that reflects a low-down DIY punk feeling, until the runway show.

Everyone's excited. Irina makes time to brag that she's designed for Gaga, Selena Gomez, and others, and Sebelia sniffs that his design isn't "Hot Topic punk rock" as Viktor sketches a grommeted tux jacket.

Moody

Elena kicks her shoes off, the better to run around, as Daniel Esquivel enthuses, "You can do anything with silk organza." Oh, dear.

Downstairs, the workstation area is hot and crowded but they still have mannequins, and I'd rather see them have to figure out their shapes and designs without any standard PR equipment -- no mannequins, no machines, nada. As it is, it is kind of a Hot Topic take on punk, and many of the designers seem to believe that throwing a bunch of grommets and chains at the design will give it a punk feeling. Not that I know anything about "The Movement" over here -- hell, I still love Hot Topic; $2 plaid tights FTW -- but I wish they'd pushed the twist harder.

As Palu drags his mannequin to a quieter spot and says, "I can't believe we get to work with Swatch," Swatch looks on disapprovingly. Ari talks about her transition as relating to punk, which I can sort of see, and Sebelia talks about starting a kids' clothing line, which I can't see at all, and how he hasn't patterned since his own PR season and he's rusty on the mic.

Elena is freaking out. Sebelia and Mychael do a little Catskills routine. Seth Aaron's unicorn tee is great.

Zanna Roberts Rassi!

I will miss Joanna Coles's no-nonsense "can I wear a bra with this or what" mentoring, but I like Zanna just as well. That said, the editing dashes through her contributions in the premiere; it's like a barrage of "too many ideas" this and "work quickly" that.

We do find out in this segment that the accessory and makeup sponsors have Lily Barted down yet another peg, with QVC and Mary Kay taking over respectively.

The Last Minute

Elena's model mentions that she likes to wear things backwards, so Elena switches her motocrossy jacket around. It does look cool, but not necessarily punk. Ari stares at her model for several minutes, then springs into action, cutting off the pants' legs and making them into sleeves. Nice.

It's total chaos on runway day, which looks really fun to do but is a little confusing onscreen, and the hair team comes to Mood, which is fun. Sebelia takes a break from condescending to Viktor's grommets to realize that his model is about to flop the girls out on the runway.

The Runway

Milano comes out to run down the prize package, the biggest in Runway history and worth nearly three quarters of a million dollars, while wearing a chignon-hawk and a dumpy mid-calf leather skirt. I wonder if the wardrobe problems I called out on Mistresses were…entirely Mistresses.

It's nice to see Georgina Chapman and Isaac Mizrahi again, and then it's time for the show. Of note: Palu (more tribal than punk; looks unfinished, but not in a purposeful way), Irina (a weird Raquel Welch/Valley Girl dress that fits like shit in the back), Viktor (the jacket looks cheap); Korto (lovely cut and fit, but except for the chains in the back, no relationship to punk); Ari (I would wear it and it's a fun mix of fabrics); Melissa (the collar of the sleeveless jacket is very her, but the seaming looks like a baseball and the cut-out back is tired); and Seth Aaron (the super-fitted almost sweatpanty plaid pant, the rockabilly edge that's very him and with a great fit).

Judging/Fluffing Of Obvious Favorites

The difference between the All-Stars judging and the standard is still startling; Chapman and Mizrahi are so much more on point, and expect the designers AND viewers to follow their comments. For instance, Le Miz saying that Viktor's lacks tension, and Georgina noting that if he hadn't accessorized with a weekender, it would have changed the whole vibe.

Mizrahi also likes Sebelia's, calling out its "makeshift" quality as what the challenge is about but still digging the design elements, and Debbie Harry is also impressed with it.

Ari's cut is seen as too perfect, too sophisticated, and not punk enough; Seth Aaron's as thoughtful; Melissa's as done (Mizrahi sees the jacket everywhere, though Chapman likes the dress and the offness of the back, and it is great).

Elena comes up with a good story about revamping a pile of leather jackets from Goodwill, and Miz sees a straitjacket in bright fun colors. It really is death, this jacket, and Debbie Harry loves it.

After the models and designers file out, Milano notes that she would wear Sebelia's, and calls Elena's jacket "delicious." We see the pink insides of Seth Aaron's sleeves as Debbie Harry defends his "interpretation" of punk in 2013. Mizrahi then sighs about Ari's that you can't stand in a store and explain to customers about why it is or isn't working. Chapman respects Viktor's execution, but notes that it's not an execution challenge.

Win/Auf

Elena wins, for her first challenge victory ever, and has a joy meltdown because Debbie Harry is going to wear her (strait)jacket. Ari is dismissed, and the sparing of Viktor is the first hint of favoritism, as on most of the obvious merits his design is further from the brief, but the judges stick to the "Ari's overthinking it" narrative and send her home.

Verdict

A relatively well-thought-out challenge, designers who know the drill, and superior judging means it's eminently watchable despite a somewhat disorganized feeling.

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