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Project Runway All Stars: Avante Garde Light

And then there were five. Angela has cute shoes and an interesting necklace. Perhaps that’s why her dress is so dull? Oh, no, her dress is a plain black and white number because they needed something that would pop when they turned off the video lighting and flipped on the blacklight. That leads us to today’s challenge: the Avante Garde challenge. Avante Garde which will include all the decorative lighting tech these designers can handle (ie, not very much), plus a blacklit runway. One day challenge, Budget is $300 to spend at the “lighting store,” (Home Depot?) and another $100 to spend at Mood. Guest judge this week is Pharrell, who will option the winning outfit to be used in some nebulous way by “one of his stars,” whatever that means.

THEY’RE AT BARBIZON!!!  (Shout out to my lighting peeps!) There is an awful moment when Mondo refers to LEDs as “LCDs” and I die a little inside. Jerell gets fibre optics and LEDs.  Austin buys fairie lights to string through tulle. There’s also fog machine in a can, but no one wastes money on that. Michael seems to be buying nothing but gaff tape, and this confuses me. Kenley goes over budget on rope light and has to cut back. Onto Mood! Michael buys felt, plus some ugly pink fabric. Mondo tests his fabrics under blacklight before buying. Austin is in tulle heaven. Jerell is the only one who seems to think through how prints will pop and change under black light. I fear for the 1980s and what he might produce today.

Back at the work space, the show has set them up a blacklight room to see how their fabrics will read. (I’m still waiting for someone, anyone to refer to the lights by their wildfire brand name, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.) Mondo is stressing because he hasn’t found his inspiration. Michael churns out a dress from his pink fabric, only to completely reject it after he’s nearly finished and head back to square one. At least he works fast enough to be able to do this.

Time for Joanna. She starts with Kenley, who’s stretching herself out of polka dots and into plaid. The plaid is a homemade design made from gaff tape and glo tape on black upholstery fabric. It’s actually pretty impressive. On to Jerell, who has a bunch of magnetic LEDs like you see decorating kid’s bar mitzvah tables, a bunch of those fibre optic toys like you see at July Fourth celebrations, Judy Jetson hips on his dummy and little else. Joanna oohs over the kids toys, since there’s nothing else for her to see. Austin has a piece working that Joanna calls “part alien and part Elizabethan.” Austin’s vision is “starry sky.” Joanna then asks “isn’t this too romantic for someone like our guest judge?” which is the most racist thing I’ve heard out of a mentor on this show ever. Austin is too polite to point that out. Michael isn’t draping–of course he isn’t, he’s working with black felt. This blows Joanna’s mind. She calls his outfit “Very Lady Gaga” and he corrects her and calls it “Very Michael Costello.” Snort. His nearly finished second take on an outfit currently has one glaring issue–the spike tape design on the felt bubbles and puckers as it follows the curves of the dress. Under white light it’s not so bad, but the blacklights highlight every bump. In order to fix this, he needs to make little cuts in the tape and fold it over itself over and over to make it straighten up. Joanna doesn’t tell him this by the way, I just know that from a decade of working with gaff and spike. Mondo! Poor Mondo has little to show Joanna, right now because he’s still waiting for inspiration to hit. While he’s waiting, he’s made these not uninteresting panels of spike, neon and ropelight that look a little like miniature airport runway lights. He admits he’s not sure what he’s doing with them yet. Joanna looks a bit alarmed, even while nodding that the panels themselves are a neat idea.

By the end of the work day, Jerell’s outfit is starting to seriously resemble a sea anemone. Austin’s looks like an unfinished piece of undergarment from the 17th century. Michael’s has Minnie Mouse ears sticking out of the shoulders, like bizarrely inflated pectoral muscles. Kenley has somehow created her same damn 50s dress from the homemade plaid fabric and then hidden it with a big bulky samurai shoulder top. Mondo finally gets his vision, hours after Joanna leaves and the moddles have been fit.  Better late than never I suppose.

Day of runway! Kenley is still frantically weaving lights into her samurai top. Michael is in a panic because he can’t get his lights to work properly, and tells his girl not to sweat, lest she electrocute herself. Austin says he feels like God creating the heavens. Oy. Mondo can barely figure out how to change a battery, let alone trouble shoot lighting equipment, and nothing is lighting up. What can you expect from a guy who called them LCD lights?

Onto the runway!

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