Project Runway: All Stars “Av-Ante Garde!”

This week’s episode is brought to you by the letters A and G, which stand for both Agora Gallery, which agreed to allow the show to film there in order to promote their existence to those who might not be part of NYC’s art scene. The artists for a few of the works are also on hand to talk to the designers and help them become inspired, while promoting themselves as well. It also stands for Avante Garde, which is this week’s challenge.

Though there is semi-enthusiasm from two of our five remaining contestants, the other three look a little ill. As we all should–it’s been years since Project Runway‘s Avante Garde challenges have produced anything even close to an Avante Garde look. This is mostly due to the cheapnesss of the proceedings since coming to Lifetime–mini-budgets and one day are, at the most, able to produce a first draft concept of what could be a full-blown Avante Garde look, at best.


The show seems to be semi aware of this problem, so they’ve upped the budget ($400) and lengthened the time back to two days for this challenge. (Which is still shorter than the original Avante Garde challenges, where the regularly scheduled two-day challenge was lengthened to three.) But hey, at least they’re trying, right? They also let the designers sketch at the art museum (the better to interrogate the artists as well.)

The first day is Mood shopping and six hours of work. Most of the concepts are great. Dom’s doing optical illusions. Ken’s making cages. Emily’s binding fabric tubes. And Sam…bought the entire paint section at Mood…. and is making a tribute to gay marriage….based on a photograph of an owl in a glass case. I’m curious how that’s going to work. The rest of the cast is not, and convene another meeting of the We Hate Sams Club. Zanna, of course, does not show up until halfway through the second day, in order to maximize panicked hysteria when she tells them how terrible they are as people for what they are creating.


  • Emily: Her dress is the sort of run of the mill that Project Runway passes for Avante Garde most times. Zanna channels hatred and boredom.
  • Dom: Her overlay looks like it wandered lonely as a cloud. Zanna asks “But how is it going to win?”
  • Kini: If this is Avante Garde, then Elie Saab is the most out there designer working today. Zanna shrugs.
  • Ken: I kinda of love what Ken’s got going. The question is, can he finish it? Zanna worries it’s too Blade Runner. She is wrong–the more Blade Runner, the better.
  • Sam: I’ll give him that the painted fabric is something. The problem seems to be that he has no idea what, or what to do with it. When Zanna hears him say “it’s a tribute to gay marriage” I think she might fall through the floor in utter embarrassment.

Sam tries to cover up his rainbow happiness in purple chiffon, which doesn’t really solve anything. Kini is talking about a black body suit to go with his gown. Emily announces to anyone who cares that if Zanna wants her to go home, she’s going home for an outfit she’s proud of.


Day of runway, and you would think that these people would have enough work to do that we could skip all this drama nonsense. Sadly, you would be wrong. It’s obnoxious enough that the interruptions for the Hair, Make Up and Divorced segments of the Accessory Walls are a relief. Two of our models cannot even see where they are going.

Let’s see which of these outfits gets declared gone.


Alyssa is not wearing anything Avante Garde, and I think we’re all happy on her behalf for that. Georgina Chapman seems to be determined to show us all she can show up for an entire season every week. Isaac Doesn’t have anything else to do than show up anyway. They also try to make it sound like Prince might be the guest judge this week, with their “fashion innovator” and “Avante Garde” fashion pop star. But that would have been too well-timed, so instead its Boy George.



Dom: This is probably the most “Avante Garde” look of the bunch, but that’s as much due to the make up as it does the weird whimsical overlay on what is otherwise a rather basic sheath made of fabric pieces. Her mosaic concept also makes the dress make sense. But the judges don’t think this is enough–which Isaac admits is nonsense, they have no idea what they are talking about.


Kini: WELP. The gown is still just a Barbie gown–like a tacky junior prom for a girl who likes a lot of pink and shiny and not a lot of taste. But the bodysuit under it helps a lot. One can see the Alexander McQueen concept Kini was going for. Does it work? I think that depends on if you’re willing to buy into the idea of the model as negative space or not. (It also may help if you’ve never seen this done as an old school effect in 1980s movies like Legend.) The judges agree that without the body suit this would not belong here, though Boy George doesn’t think they are two looks that work together.


Ken: This look would be utterly boring if she weren’t wearing a black sail on her head. it looks like she was walking into a wind machine and a big black circle of fabric that was going to be a “hole” prop from Yellow Submarine flew into her. Her makeup is really awesome in the few glimpses though. Boy George calls it “Pure Grace Jones,” which is a high compliment. The rest of the judges are bowled over by the concept. When it comes to concepts, and if that’s what we’re awarding, I would say that Ken should win. And he does.



Sam: I like the fabric he created. I really do. I like the underpainted layer, I love the purple overlay. The problem continues to be that Sam didn’t actually have any ideas of what to do with it once he’d made that, other than a basic drape. I feel like this is because if attempted to do anything else, he couldn’t possibly have finished. it’s good to know your limitations, but at the same time, you can see why those who shot for something riskier are annoyed by this. Isaac loves it, for reasons that aren’t clear, because even in his loving of it, he admits it’s more of a germ of an idea, rather than a fully fleshed out one. The rest shrug that it’s not nearly enough.


Emily: It’s a gigantic 90 oversized sweater. Like one of those sweaters I wore in 9th grade during the grunge years, but on a scale for Madame Maxine. I feel like those big fabric tubes are like the real life versions of pixels when you blow something up on a computer screen too large. Which is a neat idea, but Emily doesn’t really have that idea as part of her explanation. The judges shrug that this is a good first draft idea. Alyssa says it’s too wearable. And that’s really the crime they judge on. Emily is out.


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