Photo: David Russell / Lifetime

For The Unconventional Challenge, The Designers Get Schooled

Literally, as in, the materials for the latest Project Runway: All-Stars come from a primary classroom, and you can COUNT on Tara to tell you how much to skip. (You get it.)

The Challenge: Class Struggles

When a school bus pulls up to take the designers to meet Alyssa for their challenge, Viktor starts right in with the attitude: "I refuse to do children." First of all: rephrase that. Second: calm down and wait to see what the challenge is, because surprise, they're not supposed to design for kids. It's the unconventional challenge (which they'll have a day to complete), and they're going to be using materials they source from what appears to be a kindergarten classroom; they'll have four minutes to cram as much as they can grab into tiny backpacks provided, which they do with the usual chaotic mess-making.

The only moments of interest are when Palu gets emo with it, saying that when he enters a kids' classroom, he's reminded of the bullying he experienced at that age: he wants to do a mostly black dress with a pop of colour bursting around his model's face. Oh — and Jeffrey tells us, "This school bus ride is one of the most fun things I've gotten to experience in a long time," which, if true, is sad?


Jeffrey decides that what's been earning him these bad critiques the past few weeks is that he's been too safe, whereas this challenge gives him the chance to put more of his own stamp on his look. Viktor decides to earn some screen time loosen up by spending some time playing with the materials he's gathered, throwing braided skipping ropes around and stuff...

...much to the consternation of Elena, who's already super-intense because she ended up on the bottom in the unconventional challenge in her season. Elena's past failure in this arena doesn't seem to stop her from telling Viktor how he should craft his look, however ("not too much colour" seems to be the main thrust of her remarks). She also takes a moment to shit-talk Jeffrey: "Your work should speak for itself. If there was no talking on the runway, Jeffrey wouldn't still be here." ALMOST CERTAINLY TRUE! Then she ruins the nice moment I was having with her by complaining that the rulers she scavenged aren't shattering into the geometric shapes she was hoping for, and starts seriously losing it. She even cries. It's grim, but it's not interesting.


It's almost worth watching for Zanna's cobalt tie-dyed shirtdress, which I know sounds heinous but is darling. But nothing much happens. Zanna likens Jeffrey's look — which prominently incorporates those click-together foam rubber floor mats — to a "Lego dress," which delights him even though he realizes she didn't mean it as a compliment. Elena barely holds it together for her critique with Zanna, and then bitches to us that Viktor's look is too much like what she told him to do, which, I don't even know. She's not going to say anything about it, she says. And Palu is still running with his "anti-bullying statement," which he compares to "armor."

And there's a twist! There are celebrity makeup artists from Mary Kay! Wait, this isn't a twist, it's just product placement.

Product Placement Theatre

Mary Kay At Play is a new sub-line at Mary Kay, with crazy colours. The winning designer will get to star with his or her look and model in a Mary Kay ad in Marie Claire.

Pre-Runway Reviews

Palu helps Mychael, while Irina sniffs that she's not there to try to help people because it's a competition, in case you hadn't heart. Palu still has enough time, even with his assistance for Mychael, to shit on Jeffrey's look — or lack thereof, since he claims he can see all her parts: "She's wearing so much, and none of it's covering." Korto melts down a little because her model's not back from hair and makeup and it's not fair if they're not all on the same playing field, but then the model comes back and it's fine.


Alyssa, in her typically weird apron-y black and white dress, tells us that in addition to the magazine ad, the winner's look will be donated to the school they raided to be auctioned off for a fundraiser, which is nice. Your guest judges are Gabourey Sidibe (who co-starred with Isaac Mizrahi on The Big C) and Michael Urie of the fashion-y show Ugly Betty.

This is an especially fun runway to watch, because I feel like the looks were even harder to judge while they were in the process of being constructed than usual. And most of them turned out pretty cool!

Irina went with a very Barbie pink look; considering that it's mostly construction paper (including giant flowers all over the skirt), it holds together beautifully and looks girlish and fun.

Palu had to abandon his original idea for a crayon collar because they'd be too unpredictable under the lights, but he did a colourful thing around the neck with triangular magnets, and it's fine; he also did a matching clutch purse). The dress is a very architectural affair made out of black binder covers.

Korto went very ambitious, trying to make a pattern by cutting rubber bands into strips and gluing them onto her muslin. Unfortunately, she only had a day to do it, and she did a very sloppy job. It's also super-short and ill-fitting.

Elena used binder covers and the disappointing rulers to make a very structured sheath dress. It's bright and cheerful and still very fashion-forward.

Jeffrey's look is RIDICULOUS. It's too stiff, the whole thing shifts with every step, and Palu is right: his model could be arrested for indecent exposure.

Victor broke blue and purple plastic rulers to make kind of feathery paillettes on his sheath. I don't like the foam rubber medallions down the front, but otherwise it's gorgeous.

Like Palu, Mychael had an idea involving melted crayons that didn't pan out, so this jump ropes-and-construction paper situation is a Plan B, and looks it. It's also coming apart as it walks. No good.

Seth Aaron's is also made of plastic folders, like Elena's and Jeffrey's, but his model's whole body is covered, and she looks like a Playmobil toy in her separates in a really fun way.

Judging/Fluffing Of Obvious Favorites

After Seth Aaron and Irina are sent back, both safe (which he allows himself to make a face about), Palu is first. Alyssa asks whether he had a plan going in for which materials he might want to use, so of course he answers that he was glad to see that the school they visited was for performing-arts students and a place kids could be themselves. Oh wait, that doesn't even kind of answer her question, but it does give him a ramp to go into his anti-bullying rap. Isaac, thank God, starts his critique with "Really? Like who hasn't been bullied." I mean, honestly. Gabourey says the dress reminded her of the Sydney Opera House; Michael calls it "hot girl Darth Vader." hee hee.

Korto knows she fucked up and doesn't try to act like she doesn't know it. Alyssa agrees with everyone else that the proportions are off, but she likes how fun it is.

They like Elena's look, though Georgina says that given all the blah blah Elena has already done on her avant-garde credentials, she would have liked to see more of that on this challenge.

Isaac on Mychael: "Maybe it's a big failure...." HAHA! I mean, it is, but Isaac says that sometimes big failures give you big ideas that pay off later, so he's actually calling Mychael a big failure in a NICE way.

Okay, so, Jeffrey. Michael starts out nicely by saying it seems like it doesn't fit? Jeffrey immediately launches into his bullshit, and how he never heard anything in the brief about how the look was supposed to be wearable, like, IT'S CLOTHES?! Good grief. Georgina: "I could see everything on her. I mean, everything. It was hard for me to judge when I was looking at a naked bottom." END OF STORY! Jeffrey sucks!

Viktor's look is rightly praised all around, except for the yellow jazz down the front. Gabourey says she can see Beyoncé wearing it, and as soon as she says it I realize that I totally can too.

Not much of interest in the comments after the designers take off. Everyone's crazy about the boob cups on Elena's look, which to me make her model look saggy and flat. Isaac complains again that Palu's bullying story was manipulative, because how can you give a dress a bad critique if it's TRYING TO SAVE INNOCENT KIDS?! Alyssa says that Jeffrey's look was too circus, and Georgina snips, "Not even! Circus costumes can be flattering!" Seriously!


Watch, if only so your outrage can be informed. Elena is safe. Christopher wins. Backstage, Elena bitches that Viktor stole her ruler idea, and now she's done helping people forever.

Alyssa runs down what was wrong with Korto's, Jeffrey's, and Mychael's looks, and then...they are all safe. "We couldn't see a reason to eliminate one of you, so all of you are safe." REALLY? YOU COULDN'T THINK OF ONE SINGLE REASON TO ELIMINATE JEFFREY? BECAUSE I THINK HIS MODEL'S GYNECOLOGIST COULD GIVE YOU THREE.


I don't think I've ever seen an unconventional challenge this goddamn boring.

No one has voted for this episode yet.
Be the first to vote!
What did you think?