Recap: 'Project Runway All Stars' - 'Let's Get Down to Business'

The final four face a business-oriented challenge - and one just doodles

"Project Runway All Stars"

 "Project Runway All Stars"

Credit: Lifetime Television

Final four! As we learn from Angela Coathanger, this week's client is New York designer Nanette Lepore. She's based in the New York fashion district, which is dying a horrible death because it's so damn expensive to make clothing in the U.S. I think this is a much bigger and more complex issue than can be tackled by "Project Runway All Stars," but kudos to the show for trying to bring it up, I guess. Next week we will commit two minutes to the national debt and another minute to how Congress really works. Ah yes, "Project Runway" is "Schoolhouse Rock" for the 21s century.

Anyway, Angela Coathanger hands things over to Nanette Lepore, who informs the designers that the winning design must be able to be manufactured for a specific price point -- and that design will be sold in Nanette's stores. Not that the winning designer will see a penny, as all proceeds will go to Savethegarmentcenter.org. Nanette is one tough cookie, and I will say she's put out some great collections, though there was an unfortunate black-and-yellow spring collection I remember as being pretty ghastly, so there's no predicting what she's going to like. But yes, she's all about color, boho and wearable, mostly. 
 
The designers get a chance to sketch. Michael's making another caftan. But it's a DAY caftan. Austin, on the other hand, is doing a swing coat. I am just about sick of Michael and his draping, I have to admit. Can he do anything that doesn't look like he just sewed a square of fabric, cut a plunging neckline into it, and threw it at a 98 pound model? 
 
Mondo is not having fun. He sketches like an 8-year-old, so he doodles. He's worried Nanette won't think he's a real designer. I'm wondering why he can't sketch. It doesn't have to be great, but I would think this would be helpful to him, too. 
 
Kelly Keogh the coster (who really should have a song made up for her) comes to meet the designers along with Nanette, who will also offer feedback. Michael's price point is $380, but he'll only have $48 for fabric and trim, which makes Michael flinch.  
 
Nanette digs Kenley's design, especially the keyhole detail she's included. Her dress would retail for $350 and she'd have $41 for fabric and trim. Kenley is right on target. Kenley feels this challenge is very her, as she's designed for ready-to-wear and made her own collection. 
 
Austin's taffeta raincoat would retail for $500 and he'd have $65 for fabric and trim. 
 
Mondo creates what Nanette calls a tin can with a string hanging out. $300 and $32 for fabric and trim. Ugh, can we move past the math now? It's just making me think I should go online, buy some patterns, and sew. 
 
Amazingly, there is a moment of dramatic tension among our happy, slappy final four. Kenley says Mondo needs to know how to sketch. Mondo is offended. I think Kenley has a point, though. Kenley apologizes, but Mondo is in a funk. Mondo has been in a funk all season, so why should Kenley's point about sketching make him any funkier? 
 
Finally, the designers sit down with Kelly for more math. My favorite. Austin is on target. Michael is on target. Kenley is slightly over, so she trims a half yard. Mondo is actually under budget. 
 
Back in the workroom, Mondo is depressed. Mondo needs control. Mondo is scared of failing. Meanwhile, someone actually at risk of failing is Michael, who discovers his print has huge white trim on it. May have wanted to unravel the roll a bit, pal. But he now realizes he can't make sleeves with what he has. Eh. With a neckline cut down to the navel, who's looking at sleeves? 
 
Mondo feels something that he loves is pushing him away. Mondo is, I think, sulking at this point. Michael is not cool with his negative energy, and if Mondo's one true friend is getting sick of him, you know Mondo's become a pain in the ass. 
 
Joanna brings Nanette to the work room so that someone with an actual clue can give commentary and Joanna can occasionally talk about bras. Nanette thinks Kenley's outfit is too baggy. Kenley promises it will flatter the model's body once it's done. More importantly, Nanette misses the keyhole. I do, too. 
 
Michael is almost done with his dress, because it's ONE SEAM. Nanette tells him he needs to close the plunging neckline. Get a hook-and-eye closure, Michael. Joanna brings up her familiar complaint, "HOW CAN I WEAR A BRA???" Does Joanna ever have anything else to say? 
 
Austin thinks only models can wear Michael's clothes. Michael doesn't understand what the judges see in Austin's designs. Clearly, these two are not fans of one another's work.  
 
Nanette thinks a great raincoat could be huge, so she's excited for Austin. Joanna worries it will fall on the hideous/fabulous line. Ah, yes, this is the only other thing Joanna says, but she also says this a lot. But at least she can mix it up a little. 
 
Joanna doesn't know what the hell Mondo is doing. Nanette thinks it looks like playwear to her. Yikes. I'm not sure I love it, either. 
 
Mondo notes that Michael's dress is the SAME thing he always makes. But when looking at his own design, Mondo thinks his dress is like a pitbull that's so ugly it's cute. I don't think most women buy clothes that are so ugly they're cute. Just a thought. 
 
The outfits come together, and Austin is noticing rumpling. Kenley is feeling fine, even without a keyhole. Mondo is feeling wishy washy, and Mondo is never wishy washy. Oh, Mondo. I am having such a hard time rooting for you lately. 
 
Mondo notices that Kenley doesn't match her seams when she uses patterns. He has such a good point -- SO simple to do, and it's something that's been brought up to her, too. Man, sometimes I just want to shake this woman. Take some advice, come ON!  
 
Michael is sure he has the win. Why? It's a caftan. It's the same caftan he always makes. Oh, but short sleeves. Big difference. 
 
Angela Coathanger welcomes the designers to the runway. Our judges are Georgina Chapman, Isaac Mizrahi and Nanette Lepore.
 
Austin
There are a lot of things I like about this raincoat, but a lot of things I don't -- and a lot of things I'd like more than two seconds to examine. We're down to FOUR designers, Lifetime, give me a damn minute to look at the clothes. Anyway, the color isn't my favorite, I like the swinginess of it, but it does seem rumpled.
 
Michael
Oh look! It's too long and only for skinny women.
 
Mondo
I don't love this. The ruffle on the bottom makes the last panel look like curtains. 
 
Kenley
I think real women would wear this. But I miss the keyhole, and the mismatched seams are now really bugging me. 
 
Isaac really likes Mondo's dress, but wishes it wasn't so blocky. Nanette says a woman with curves wouldn't be able to wear it. Angela thinks he should have styled it with sandals.
 
Michael says his dress is timeless and feminine. Nanette wants to put it in her suitcase. Um, Nanette? If you think a woman with curves couldn't wear Mondo's dress, she REALLY couldn't wear Michael's dress. Unless she was selling herself by the hour. Angela and Georgina think it was too long. Isaac thinks the strap across the back is a little Canal Street. Nanette says backless things don't sell well.
 
Georgina likes Kenley's quirk factor, but finds the pattern problematic. Nanette wishes the keyhole had happened. Isaac thinks it's a really good dress, but he hoped it would be more inspired. 
 
Isaac wouldn't have known Austin's coat was a coat, but he can now forgive some of its problems. But he thinks it should have been pressed. Angela thinks it would sell well at retail. 
 
The designers are sent away and it's time for them to talk. Angela thinks Austin's design was a favorite. But Nanette thinks he chose the wrong fabric. Nanette respects Mondo's decision to use a variety of fabrics. Angela thinks it was her least favorite of his designs. I have to agree with that. Georgina thinks Kenley didn't make the fabric work with her design. Isaac thought her dress was a little frumpy. What? The print is a problem, but how did the dress he thought was such a good dress become frumpy?
 
Nanette notes that Kenley doesn't take advice. I think this is the bigger issue here, honestly. Everyone's pissed that she doesn't listen. 
 
Nanette was impressed that she likes Michael's dress so much more than the sketch. Georgina thinks he needs more confidence. 
 
Austin is… safe. Mondo is the winner. Huh. He thought he was going home. I almost thought he might go home, too. Michael is… in. Kenley is out. 
 
Okay, her dress wasn't her best. The print was a problem. But guess what? If your average woman saw it in a store next to Michael's dress, they'd pick Kenley's, hands down. Kenley has repeated the same silhouette, but no more than Michael has -- and he only designs clothes for women who are so underweight we can count their ribs. Yes, Kenley bugs the crap out of me. But so does Michael, and I have to say, there's something really annoying about the idea that the one designer who actually seems to give some thought about what looks good on real women isn't going into the finals. It's much easier to design for anorexics than it is for people with actual curves -- just ask Olivier from last season. 
 
So, no women in the finale. For a contest centered on women's clothing. But hey, guys, have at it. At least we know all the final designs will look fab on coat hangers, models, and 15-year-old boys. Yay!
 
Who do you think should have gone to the finale? What did you think of Mondo's dress? And would you buy it? 
 
 
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Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for EW.com. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.
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