Project Runway All Stars Recap: Gladiator Alligator Meets Sicilian Widow

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Photo: Lifetime

Surprise: The designers are off to Paris! Carolyn tasks them with creating a dress that's "inspired by couture" and by Paris itself. As they frantically pack their bags, I get nostalgic for the Paris trip in season three of Runway, where the designers (including Uli!) had to create "jet set" looks for themselves that weren't judged until after they'd worn them on the red-eye. That was a plot twist; those were the days.

Once the designers have landed, they head straight to the House of Valentino for a tour, and there's something weirdly touching about the bustle as everyone prepares for Paris Fashion Week. Both Runway and All Stars perpetuate the myth that fashion is one person in a room who has ideas and then sews them into reality, when in actuality, so much of fashion is much more collaborative. Even though it's just footage of a bunch of people steaming dresses, there's a refreshing spirit of camaraderie. They're putting the "we" in womenswear! The designers are also told they'll be attending the Valentino runway show the next night, and it's gratifying to see how legitimately thrilled and awed by the opportunity they are. "I'm like a straight guy at a baseball game!" Joshua exclaims.

After a sunset cruise down the Seine and a few hours' sleep, the designers head to the Eiffel Tower to sketch for a few minutes. Joshua talks about wanting to work "in color and in black and white, and just mend the two together," while Anthony Ryan doesn't have much planned for his look yet beyond "long and sheer." After touring the House of Valentino, Emilio definitely wants to do something red, which seems risky in general, and even riskier considering his struggle with primary colors last week. Uli's plan is to make an Uli dress, but with a train.

Then it's off to Janssens and Janssens to buy fabric; the designers have been given a 3,000 Euro budget, which isn't an unreasonable amount of money for couture-quality fabric in general. It is, however, an unreasonable amount of money for couture-quality fabric that will be used by designers on reality television to make clothing of questionable quality. That's not an insult to these designers' talent — it's simply not possible to make a couture-caliber gown in ten hours.

Immediately after the designers attend the Valentino show, they're sent back to New York with their fabric to complete the challenge. Everyone is bleary-eyed from the plane but determined to do well. Joanna shows up for critiques and says she's eager to hear how the Paris trip inspired the designers. She immediately sees the Valentino red in Emilio's design and is encouraged by his plan to use applique to create a hand-painted effect, so long as it doesn’t take away from the fabric. Joanna worries a bit about Uli's look, which she calls "gladiator alligator meets Sicilian widow." Why isn't there a television program where Joanna and Tim Gunn just stand in a room and describe things to each other? Joanna tells Joshua his fabric doesn’t "shriek couture" and that she can't quite see where he’s going yet. Anthony Ryan says he's "about to pull a magic trick," so he doesn't have much to show Joanna. "Pray for me," he implores.

Finally, it's off to the runway! Cynthia Rowley joins the judges' panel this week, and Carolyn introduces her as "a friend of All Stars," which causes me to retroactively categorize all other guest judges as enemies of All Stars. Anthony Ryan takes the win yet again (he's now won five out of this season's eleven challenges) and Emilio's safe. Uli and Joshua are the bottom two and are immediately sent into a head-to-head elimination round, in which they'll have one hour, right there on the runway, to "reinvent" their looks. It is totally bonkers and ends in a written vote and I am in full support of it. Joshua, however, is probably not, as he's the one who’s sent home. Cynthia congratulates Uli for her "giant fuck you to all of us" — the judges all criticized the lining, and Uli's reinvented look is made entirely out of lining. Well played, Uli.

And we're down to the final three! Next week's finale will feature Anthony Ryan, Uli, and Emilio creating and showing capsule collections, but honestly: Does anyone other than Anthony Ryan stand a chance? I'm guessing he'll win, but I'm rooting for Uli.