I already compared Project Runway All Stars to a less appealing menu item in my first post on the series, and so it would be lamentably uncreative to use the same comparison when summing up the finale. However, that feeling never lifted. Even as I warmed to this PR one-off (dear God, please just let it be a one-off) as the season went on, it never felt like anything other than a substitute item that you might order when your favorite restaurant ran out of the dish you’d gone there specifically to enjoy. A perfectly acceptable chicken breast when you really wanted the duck.
My initial disdain softened a bit with regard to some of the participants, and deepened with others. (You may take as given that as much as I may praise any of the PRAS cast, there is not one who I would keep as a permanent replacement for the person that filled their role in the regular series.) Angela Lindvall never really seemed to have much vim, but she did have a certain sweetness that made her seem a little more compassionate when giving each week’s loser the heave-ho than the businesslike Heidi Klum. (I assume she was contractually forbidden to come up with her own catchphrase to compete with Klum’s “auf Wiedersehen.” That’s the only explanation I can think of for her ultra-bland “thank you for being on All Stars” send-off.) However, as nice an idea as a consolation prize may have been for the finale’s also-rans (a weekend in a posh Paris hotel, though frankly I think Lifetime could have sprung for more than a measly weekend), maybe it was a little humiliating for them to be handed the tickets right there on the runway as she told them they’d lost?
I also warmed to Joanna Coles as time went by. She brought an interesting perspective to the workroom that had been lacking before. (Which isn’t to say that Tim Gunn’s avuncular presence isn’t a jillion times better.) I was surprised by how practical some of her criticisms were. Who knew that a fashion editor would actually care about something so mundane as whether a woman could wear a bra with any given garment?
As for the judges, my feelings about the two of them could not be more divergent. I liked Georgina Chapman well enough by the end that I’d be happy to see her on the regular show more often. When she gave a critique, she actually said things that made sense. Apparently this is a novel concept? Because nobody seems to have given that tip to poor Isaac Mizrahi. He was totally worthless as a judge, pretty much throughout the whole season. He came off like some guy trying to do an Isaac Mizrahi impression after watching “Unzipped” a few times… some guy who’s not very good at impressions. Michael Kors may play up the whole fey homosexual designer shtick a bit, often in service to finding ever more rococo ways to say “I hate it,” but he’s both entertaining and constructive in his criticisms. Mizrahi was just an incoherent mess.
Which brings us, at last, to the designers. In case for some reason you’ve read this far but haven’t watched the seasonal finale yet, obviously here come the spoilers. Ho, hum… Mondo won. As my favorite non-LoOG bloggers noted elsewhere, the whole notion of PRAS probably came about specifically to right the wrong of Mondo’s loss to Gretchen’s cavalcade of eyesores in Season 8. And yes, there were a couple of nifty looks in his collection. (I particularly liked his Rorschach-themed print.) But I have to confess that I was not in love with his aesthetic this entire season, and I thought a few looks in his final collection were just ugly. Combined with his frankly insufferable attitude in the last few episodes, it was hard to root for him.
I was rooting for Michael, which was a total lost cause. I thought his final collection was the most cohesive, and I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with designing a more commercial set of looks. But it always felt like his inclusion was informed by a healthy dose of condescension (which, in fairness, his man-child persona probably perpetuated), and there was just no way he was going to win. Austin Scarlett, who is to be congratulated for having both the most boring name for his final collection (“Austin Scarlett”) and the most risible story to explain it (something about old vampires and hasidic dandies [yes, that’s right… hasidic dandies]), had a couple of real head-scratchers in his final collection. (Let us never speak of those pink pantaloons again.) But the wedding dress that he closed his collection with was a total knock-out.
Anyhow, now lucky women in “select” Neiman Marcus locations can run right out and buy Mondo’s outfits, and Joanna Coles can figure out which corner of the Marie Claire offices to stash him in until his year as a guest editor runs out. And fans of the regular Project Runway can hope that Season 10, whenever it airs, wipes the memory of this mediocre place-holder from our minds.