Season three of Lifetime’s Project Runway All Stars brings a slew of changes to the reality competition of familiar fashion faces, including new additions Marie Claire senior fashion editor Zanna Roberts Rassi as workroom mentor and actress Alyssa Milano as host and judge. And for the first time, the cast includes three Project Runway champions.
“The level of talent is amazing, and there are quite a few surprises,” judge Georgina Chapman told The Hollywood Reporter, dressed in a floor-length Marchesa Voyage dress for the Wednesday night premiere at NYC’s Hudson Common. She avoided doing research on this season’s designers before production. “I want it to be about the clothes, what I see on the catwalk that day. I think everyone deserves to be judged with a fresh eye. I’ve learned from experience with Project Runway All Stars that you never know what you’re gonna get. You can have preconceived ideas about people from the season before, and they will bring something totally new.”
Still, some things never change. “The most difficult thing about judging anything is sending somebody home, of course,” said judge Isaac Mizrahi, who particularly looked forward to judging season 10’s Christopher Palu and Elena Slivnyak. “Me and Georgina struggle with that the most, we sort of wring our hands like, did we do the right thing? … There’s always this moment, like, can I just bring them back for just one more?”
Mizrahi, Chapman, Rossi and Milano rang in All Stars’ third season alongside competitors Palu, Slivnyak and Viktor Luna; guest judge Eric Daman; Project Runway winners Dom Streater, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Dmitry Sholokov; and Project Runway designers Helen Castillo, Brandon McDonald, Alexander Pope, Josh McKinley, Kenley Collins, Emilio Sosa,Carlos Casanova, Fabio Costa and Sandro Masmanidi Dinchiyan. Guests were treated to sliders, fries and vegetables during a screening of the first episode, briefly introduced by Milano: “I hope you guys like the first episode, and if you don’t, then just lie to me!”
Rassi, who received advice from Tim Gunn and former All Stars mentor and Marie Claire boss Joanna Coles, was equally impressed with fellow newcomer Milano as she was with the designers she mentored. “It was so interesting watching the way she approached it from her self-proclaimed non-fashion point of view, and how it differs between Georgina and Isaac’s,” she told THR, wearing sequined Marc Jacobs trousers and a black Boden cashmere sweater. “It was great because we’re all fashion industry people. I think the person at home watching this is really going to appreciate her opinion.”
But beware of the inevitable friction between Milano and Mizrahi, who added of the new host: “It’s not a critic, model or designer’s perspective, it’s literally someone who loves, wears, appreciates clothes, creativity, fashion. Sometimes, she would say things and I’d be like, ‘Oh really, Alyssa Milano?’ And then she’d go, ‘I know we love and hate each other, but there’s room for the opinions!’”
Milano, donning a graphic Peter Pilotto dress with Stella McCartney shoes, had watched the show for many seasons and was excited to see the work of season three winner Jeffrey Sebelia, his fellow finalist Mychael Knight, and season five’s Korto Momolu, among others. She was also surprised to learn that the regal and poised Chapman is just as hilarious as Mizrahi off-camera and to rediscover her personal affinity for fashion.
“I found myself getting into that trap where a lot of actors and celebrities play it safe on the red carpet because they’re afraid they’re gonna be ripped apart on Fashion Police or whatever list, and there was a time when I just forgot that fashion’s supposed to be about self-expression, taking risks and having fun and feeling good,” said Milano. “Doing this show was a great, great reminder for that. I’m really grateful that I had that, because I’m now having a lot more fun getting dressed.”
For the NYC red carpet event, which featured pop-up stations from Alterna, QVC and Mary Kay, competitor Slivnyak wore a black lace dress, which she swore she bought from a dollar store. “You can wear anything you want, but the shoes and the accessories are what make the outfit look expensive or cheap,” she said. She was particularly overjoyed to be included in All Stars, as she was eliminated the earliest from her season in comparison to her competitors. “This time I had my game face on – I wanted to show that I wasn’t as bad of a designer as people thought I was.”
Palu, who has been designing for Haute Hippie, admitted he was most intrigued to compete with Sebelia, who constantly stirred up drama during season three. “I watched him when I was 15, 16 years old, and now I’m competing against him? What has he done in between his season and this season? Is he gonna be easy to get along with?!”
Luna, who joked that his advantage was knowing his way around the Mood fabric store, looked forward to correcting his biggest regret from season nine. “Be a little bit more of who I am, and letting people know who I am. I brought more jokes, more of myself, and I let myself cry, laugh – everything.” He also became incredibly close to Slivnyak, even though “when I saw her in her season, I thought, wow, she’s a bitch!”
The third season of All Stars premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, with the challenge to create a punk-inspired garment under unique production circumstances. Debbie Harry serves as guest judge.