Speakeasy inspiration earns Auld ‘Runway’ challenge win

With four more challenges to go until the Jan. 17 finale on Lifetime TV’s “Project Runway: All Stars II,” Baton Rouge’s own Anthony Ryan Auld is poised to win it all. He won his third challenge Dec. 20 — the Fashion Face-Off challenge to create a look for a modern woman inspired by the 1920s.

“It feels good, really good,” confessed Auld in his weekly update phone call with The Advocate. “It’s kind of making me nervous though. I kind of feel like it can’t be this easy and then I think how are they going to trip me up … the calm before the storm.”

But he leaves those feeling “at the door” when he walks into the workroom, taking it challenge by challenge. “It’s good that it can still make me nervous at this point,” he added. “I need to stay on my toes.”

Last week’s challenge paired the six remaining designers to create looks for three different settings.

Laura Kathleen and Uli Herzner faced off to create a look for an evening social soirée, Emilio Sosa and Joshua McKinley had to come up with a look for an afternoon garden party, and Auld and Ivy Higa squared off to create the perfect dress to wear to an after-hours speakeasy.

If you’re a regular watcher of “Project Runway: All Stars II” you know there’s no love lost between Auld and Higa. The potential for things to turn ugly surfaced when designers’ mentor Joanna Coles, after raving about Auld’s feather capelet (“I’m going to steal it after you send it down the runway.”) and reminding Higa that she was in the bottom the previous week, asked the two to rate each other’s look on a scale of one to 10.

“I was trying to play nice,” said Auld, who gave Higa “a seven or eight.”

But when she gave him a five not only did his jaw drop, so did Coles’. “If Joanna hadn’t of been there I’d have come across that table after her,” Auld confessed, laughing.

Fortunately, judges Carolyn Murphy, Georgina Chapman, Isaac Mizrahi, Jenny Packham and Gretchen Mol agreed with Coles and not Higa. “I love this dress,” said Packham. “It’s very modern.”

“It’s young and fun,” added Mol. “Very striking.”

“Anthony Ryan, your look was stunning,” said Murphy in announcing him the week’s winner.

Rounding out the Top 3 were Herzner and Sosa. Higa ended up in the bottom.

“If Josh (McKinley) had cleaned his styling up he would have had it,” Auld said of his friend, who came to Baton Rouge last August to participate in Auld’s Mode Fashion Week. “Emilio’s (Sosa) dress looked dated, kind of ‘Golden Girls,’ to me, not modernized at all.”

McKinley remained safe and will compete in Thursday’s high-end ready-to-wear challenge, but last week saw Auld and McKinley say goodbye to buddy Laura Kathleen, who joined them for Mode Fashion Week. Her dismissal instead of Higa’s came as a huge surprise.

“I was shocked, absolutely shocked … even Ivy (Higa) was shocked,” said Auld. “Everyone just knew she was gone. I had my hand over my mouth the whole time; I didn’t know what to say.”

This Thursday’s challenge is high-end ready-to-wear and it should be a strong challenge for Auld. It airs at 8 p.m. on Lifetime TV, cable Channel 26.

“I’m all about that,” he said. “I want women to live in my clothes. I don’t want to just design a gown that you wear once and throw away. I want my clothes to be something that hangs in the closet and you wear for the next 10 years.”

To celebrate his 30th birthday, Auld is having a viewing party Thursday at Hello Sushi on Burbank Drive. It starts at 7 p.m. and the show will be followed by a question-and-answer period with the designer.

“I’m blocking the overall prize, the end goal,” he said. “I’m just so thankful to be on ‘All Stars,’ for the chance to reinvent myself and show who I really am as a designer. That mindset has helped me keep my sanity.”