Project Runway All Stars Recap: The final three compete in their version of The Hunger Games. But no one dies!

I was trying to find a mystical quotation about endings or journeys coming to an close, but damn if Rumi didn’t talk a lot about love! Which means that it’s up to me to provide some eloquent gloss on last night’s events—the night where Project Runway All Stars came to its complicated, emotional conclusion. To you I say: This is not a day to feel bereft, or lost or unduly abandoned—this is a beginning for us all! And when the winner is announced, and he receives his (BOW NOW NA NA NA NOW!) $100,000 cheque and embroidery studio and whatnot, we too will all be set free—granted, without an HP Digital Suite courtesy of L’Oréal Paris—and yet, free to pursue our own long-sought dreams, like The Hunger Games, or a hot dog.

And in a shocking template modification, I will not award/unaward measly points for things that miffed and/or pleased me based on my own impossible metric. Instead I will strive to provide the most charitable and non-petty remarks on this utterly momentous event—the first ever finale of the first ever season of Project Runway All Stars!

How we feel about things »

It’s Happening Oh God

I love Project Runway finales because they do away with all those neon-lit workroom scenes with huffy designers pinning and taping dress forms. Instead, they get right to Austin hangin’ 10 in the Flatotel common room with Mondo and Michael, curlers bobbing in his hair. I’ve occasionally thought that Austin resembles a handsome British woman, but I see now that he’s a dead ringer for a young Dame Maggie Smith!

There’s definitely some tension in the room between Michael, Mondo and Austin as they tease and spray their hair into various wave formations. Austin has become the de facto outsider—which is a fairly consistent thing when looking historically at Top Threes—with the exception of Project Runway season 9’s gong show of a finale. I wish I had a .gif that could encapsulate all that I mean, but sometimes, as with mystical quotes, the Internet lets you down.

As Austin drapes himself in a black paillette-encrusted blazer, Mondo sassily quips something about Liza Minelli knowing whether he went through her wardrobe, but it just doesn’t have any bite—Mondo’s heart doesn’t seem in it.

Then there is a rainy cab ride to Gotham Hall, Austin talks about fashion orgasms, Mondo does his little baby run in the rain, and Michael does nothing of consequence, just the way I like it.

And then they’re working, working! In the makeup room, Austin declares that he wants “rouge cheeks, sort of a doll… face,” which I interpret as something along these lines?

I feel so sorry for these guys! Only four days to make the collection and now on the day of, they’re presented with multitude construction issues that in Michael’s case lead to some model manhandling.

Joanna Coles, in a gesture that I can only describe as stoned, insists on lint-rolling Mondo’s outfit… which is I guess something that mentors can do if they want/have no other important mentoring duties to attend to? And p.s. why isn’t J.C. showing off those mad gams of hers? Red trousers? Come now.

The Last Runway Show of All Time

Angela rehashes her usual intros for the judges—BLAH BLAH Georgina “deliciously gorgeous” Chapman, something about Mizrahi and guest judges Tommy Hilfiger and that smiley fella from Neiman Marcus? If I was awarding points, I would probably give Eric Daman’s golf clap a solid one million. But I’m not, so just drop it.

Let’s Pause for One Quick Sec

I’ve never had the feeling that I wasn’t watching something real on Project Runway (crazy, right?), but my goodness! When Austin describes his collection as inspired by an 18th century vampire now living in Williamsburg and occasionally borrowing clothes from her dandy Hasidic friends, I am just floored. Doesn’t it seem like the scene in a movie where he’ll just start to weep and babble incoherently and several burly men will suddenly arrive and sweep him off the runway?

Project Runway All Stars, what have you done to this poor fop—he is but a boy!

Austin Scarlett—“Austin Scarlett”

During his collection, I am crying out of one eye. I know I’ve aggressively favoured Austin throughout this competition, and for that I am now… not sorry. His collection doesn’t exactly move me, but he does. You’re my little prince, Austin Scarlett!

Mondo Guerra—“Therapy”

Mondo’s collection is pretty incredible—that inkblot dress with the red armband, the suit. It’s interesting to compare this to his season 8 collection, because it relates so much to that work without seeming too self-referential. It is fantastic.

Michael Costello—“Serengeti”

Michael’s collection is pretty fabulous. He’s come a long way since season 8, and while I was loath to admit it earlier, guy’s got the chops. You got the chops, Mikey C.! I admit defeat!

And then it’s over and there’s some milling about and shots of quasi-celebrities. Hey, it’s Project Runway’s Nina Garcia! What a fox—with a faint Celine Dion quality. But seeing Nina makes me wonder: where the hell is Tim Gunn? :(

PRAS Last Judgment: The Reckoning

When the designers shuffle out to meet the judging panel, I have this sudden fear that whoever loses All Stars is going to die or something. While the boys wait to find out which of them is to be executed lose, there’s a nice, fatigued discussion of feelings that really highlights the unbelievable stresses they’ve been under. They might also just be sedated or something.

Austin, Mondo and Michael continue to loll in their pink stockings, and the judges masterfully assess the work with a kind of clarity that I’ve yet to see on Project Runway Cottage Country. “Whose dream do we buy?” is the best summary of the Project Runway philosophy I’ve ever heard, c/o Georgina Hotface Chapman.

In the end, it came down to Austin and Mondo, which is sort of the Platonic ideal in my books. It’s not just a revision of the season 8 showdown between Mondo and eventual winner Gretchen Jones, but a context for Mondo to challenge himself even more—a second chance to sell his dream to a different set of judges. The world is in good working order!

Michael accepted his tickets to Paris gracefully, and seemed truly thrilled that Mondo had won, which left Austin alone but stoic in his defeat. I am undeniably sad that he lost, but in my mind, that mincing cream puff of a man went down like a hero. I hope he produces a rock operetta about his Hasidic dandy vampire—I feel like there are a lot of people out there who’d want to get on board that sweet ticket.

Until further notice, Auf Wiedersehen! Catch you on the dark side.