She’s a true diva, referring to herself as “moi” and dropping French phrases into her most quotable comments. She knows what she likes, what she doesn’t, and is never afraid to loudly voice her opinions. The most famous designers in the world, including Prada, have created fashions for her. With a new film to promote, she wanted to wow them on the red carpet. That was the challenge presented to the Project Runway All Stars: design a fabulous cocktail dress for the style maker, Miss Piggy.
All reality shows have raised the bar. It’s no longer enough for first-timers to compete to show off their talents, whether that means constructing the most amazing cake, cooking a five-course meal using a secret ingredient or, in this case, designing a dress. So Lifetime’s Project Runway All Stars (minus Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn), have brought back more than a dozen previous design winners to compete for yet another prize. (One wonders with all this competition how these experts, be they chefs, bakers, hair stylists, or designers, have time to hold down a day job. But, as one of the Project Runway All Stars confessed, the exposure is, in a word, priceless).
The Project Runway All Stars episode was screened for an audience at the Paley Center for Media on January 19, followed by a panel discussion. Marie Claire’s Joanna Cole, who appears on the program in the role once assumed by Gunn, served as moderator.
She was joined by Angela Lindvall, a model and Project Runway’s new host, judges and designers Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman (whose husband, Harvey Weinstein, was in the audience), Rob Bagshaw, the executive producer, and five of the design contestants—Austin Scarlett, Kenley Collins, Mondo Guerra, Kara Janx, and Michael Costello.
The TV show began with Lindvall revealing the challenge, to design a dress for Miss Piggy. Project Runway contestants are used to being thrown curves, but, truth be told, have never designed for a subject with so many of her own. In addition to making allowances for Miss Piggy’s curvy figure, the designers had to compensate for her skin tone, her ears (watch those headbands), and political correctness (no leather). Fortunately, Miss Piggy’s outgoing personality, love of color, and flamboyance left room for a great deal of whimsy and playfulness. The contestants were told that Miss PIggy herself would be one of the judges.
All of this was carried out, both in the program and during the panel discussion, with a great deal of tongue in cheek. As has become commonplace with so many of the Muppets, everyone talked about Miss Piggy as if she is, in fact, a real person. One of the designers worried about hurting her feelings: “I was going to eat a piece of bacon this morning and thought I’d better not say that in front of her.” Bagwell called working with Miss Piggy “wonderful,” adding: “She is a fashion icon. There was a lot of fun involved.” He also noted that Miss Piggy plays the editor of a fashion magazine in her new film, The Muppets.
During the discussion, Lindvall said she was “star struck” when meeting Miss Piggy something that has never happened to her before. Chapman added: “I’ve never met a diva like Miss Piggy.”
The episode itself was typical of all reality show competitions. The contestants rushed off to purchase their materials, rushed back to begin the work, and exhibited all the inevitable emotions—exhaustion, elation, confidence, self-doubt, jealousy, cooperation, and, ultimately, relief that the entire thing was finally over.
These past winners are truly talented. Except for perhaps one or two of the dresses, what these designers managed to turn out in a short space of time was miraculous. As the models came strutting down the runway to display the creations, the judges voiced their opinions, none more outspoken than the pig herself. The winner, Michael Costello, produced an outfit that glowed and sparkled, fitting for someone who never shuns the spotlight. Several of the other dresses—Kenley Collins’s flirty and flouncy number that used pink and white giraffe print—were also winners. No surprise, then, that someone in the audience asked where the fashions could be purchased. Answer: the winner of the overall competition will have a boutique at select Neiman Marcus stores.
That’s the ultimate goal: a platform. As this challenge’s winner, Costello observed: “It puts you on a whole different level.” And, what better addition to the resume than having designed for Miss Piggy.
See the Project Runway All Stars fashions created for MIss Piggy in the museum’s gallery. For information on upcoming programs at The Paley Center for Media, go to the website.
Top photo, courtesy of Lifetime. All others, Michael Priest Photography.