Grab a parachute and hold on to your seat, cause Project Runway season 12 is about TAKE OFF.
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn are back with a whole new season and a whole new runway, welcoming 15 new designers and one lucky former contestant to the starting line of a more than half-million-dollar race -- the biggest prize package in Runway history.
With that much at stake, you know someone's getting pushed.
The season 12 premiere started straight out of the gate, assembling the new hopefuls on an airport runway where they are quickly greeted by the returning designer voted back by the fans for a second chance -- Kate Pankoke from season 11.
I've been outspoken about my support for fellow season eight alum Valerie Mayan to return, so I was kinda bummed to see Kate. But good luck to her -- she'll need it. Especially since some of these season 12 designers aren't afraid to push.
Heidi and Tim revealed that the designers will be creating looks out of skydiving parachutes (which careen down from the clouds -- much to Tim Gunn's amusement). But first, they'll have to scramble for their chutes.
At the starting gun, Kate took a nasty tumble as she raced for a yellow one. But on second inspection, this recapper thinks the lady was PUSHED. I'm just glad she fell on grass and not the tarmac.
(Did anyone else see the push...?)
Anyway, after the designers scraped themselves up, we learned that there are some other new revisions to the classic Project Runway recipe. And so far, fans of the show seem to like what's cookin'.
For one, Tim Gunn is now Top Gunn armed with a one-time, overriding save of an eliminated designer. He will also be joining the judges at the runway shows to offer advice and show the top and bottom looks up close and personal. The runway shows will also be anonymous, meaning the judges won't know whose designs are whose until after they are scored.
But where are my manners? Roll call, please! The 15 new designers of season 12 are:
Alexander Pope, 38 - New York, NY
Alexandria von Bromssen, 38 - San Mateo, CA
Angela Bacskocky, 33 - Richmond, VA
Bradon McDonald, 38 - Los Angeles, CA
Dom Streater, 24 - Philadelphia, PA
Helen Castillo, 25 - Union City, NJ
Jeremy Brandrick, 41 - New York, NY
Justin LeBlanc, 27 - Raleigh, NC
Kahindo Mateene, 34 - Chicago, IL
Karen Batts, 29 - Queens, NY
Ken Laurence, 24 - Birmingham, AL
Miranda Kay Levy, 29 - Milwaukee, WI
Sandro Masmanidi, 28 - New York, NY
Sue Waller, 45 - Brooklyn, NY
Timothy Westbrook, 24 - Milwaukee, WI
In the Workroom:
Season 12 is chock full of characters.
There's Sandro, the Russian bull in the china shop who seems charming one moment and sinister the next. Alexandria's brooding and moody demeanor doesn't seem to be making her very many friends. Sue, on the other hand, gets by with a little help from her friends as she struggles to use the Brother machines.
Justin (pictured above) blew me away at the Atlanta castings. His work is really special, and I love his commitment to representing the deaf community. Bradon seems authentic, grounded and incredibly driven (and gets bonus points from me for being a dancer). Sassy-shoes Ken isn't afraid to share his opinion -- I have a feeling we'll be hearing some zingers from him this season.
But the diva of the workroom by far is Unicorn Princess Timothy. Did he mention he was a sustainability designer? I like some of his ideas -- but not necessarily the way he expresses them. No wonder his fellow Wisconsin-er Miranda wasn't too thrilled to see him. Is this guy for real?!
No trip to Mood for the first challenge. The designers can use black and white supplemental fabrics, but the core of their designs must be parachute material. They get two days to complete the challenge.
Oh yeah -- Tim also announced that when they do eventually shop at Mood, there's another change: no more cash. The designers will now be managing their own spending for the entire season using their new GoBank accounts and debit cards.
I wonder if any of the designers will go broke? (I know I would...)
On the Runway
Looks like black boxes aren't just for planes.
In perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment in Runway history, Sandro's swimsuit encountered a garment malfunction to end all garment malfunctions. Sandro's design showed off his model's "good china," as my dear friend Peach Carr would say.
Vagina on the runway aside, this was one of the most memorable shows in years. All of the bright colors and varied silhouettes made for one helluva runway. I'll go on the record and say I am VERY excited to see what the designers create this season.
The Best and the Worst
Nina Garcia and Zac Posen return as judges this season, joining Heidi with special guest judge, actor Kate Bosworth. Tim joins the panel as a consultant of sorts, offering his feedback and insights.
Sue and Bradon received high-flying marks from the judges and landed on top while Sandro, Miranda, Timothy and Angela plummeted to the bottom.
Sue pulled off some major "make it work" magic with this gown, proving she can roll with the punches and still deliver a knockout. These colors are so bright and joyful and the pleating details create interesting shape and texture. Great drama and impact! But was it just a happy accident?
Bradon said he wasn't sure what he was doing when he started this design but his quick construction and strong instincts did not fail him. This gown is sublime. The billowing train in those dreamy pastels with that bright pop of pink made this look a real show-stopper.
Zac Posen said this design looked like "a slutty cat toy." It's like Sandro decorated his model with every accessory on the Belk wall. Probably to distract the judges from her southern exposure. It's clear Sandro can construct a garment, the question is does he have good taste?
Nice concept and silhouette from Miranda here. But she didn't follow the rules. I mean, c'mon! This is the unconventional challenge. The parachute materials are supposed to be the core of the design. As a result, Miranda fell from the top three to the bottom. Do not piss off Heidi!
Oh, Timothy. After torturing his poor model with sniff-your-armpit choreography and then depriving her of shoes, makeup, heat styling and hair products, no wonder she ditched his performance piece. This dress just looks SAD. Zac also called him out on the disconnect between being a sustainability designer and then burning synthetic material.
But there was something else about Timothy that Zac said "killed him."
Kinky-Boots Timothy had the audacity to wear strappy, sparkly heels to the judges' critique, prompting Nina to ask if he had stolen them from his model. Ain't nothin' wrong with boys wearing some fierce heels, but if you're going to make the statement of sending your model barefoot down the runway, maybe you should save the glitter clackers for another day.
Angela told me she was a genius patternmaker during the Atlanta castings, but it looks like she stumbled under pressure here. The color blocking is nice, but Heidi is right -- this look is incomplete. Give this model an umbrella and she's the Morton salt girl.
The Judges' Decisions
Braden's design soared above the competition, earning him the top spot and immunity for next week's challenge. Nicely done and well-earned!
Angela failed to impress the judges and she and her parachute poncho were sent home.
Mondo's Last Word
Miranda dodged a bullet this time. While her design may have been stronger than Angela's, she ignored the rules. If it were me, I would have given Miranda-the-riveter her marching orders. And if Timothy's not careful, he might be getting a dishonorable discharge as well.
But overall, season 12 looks exciting. Just from the teaser, there's diamonds, the grocery store, carnival rides, SHOES, camping and (no surprise) major meltdowns. And from the looks of the premiere episode, I think we'll be seeing some pretty amazing fashion as well.
Got something to say? Tell me about it in the comments. And view galleries of all the season 12 designers' runway looks and portfolios at mylifetime.com.
Project Runway All Stars champ Mondo Guerra is back to dish on the designs and drama of Project Runway season 12. His exclusive collection of eyewear with national optical boutique SEE hits stores this fall and he's partnered with Merck for "I Design," a national HIV/AIDS education campaign that underscores the importance of patience tailoring important treatment goals with their doctors. To learn more about Mondo, visit mondoguerra.com.