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'Runway' hopefuls get to work before unpacking

I get the sense the show is trying to shake things up what with the crazy opening challenge and the extra half hour, which so far seems like a good idea.
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Oh ma God, “Project Runway” is back, and not a moment too soon! I don’t know about you, but my life is just a little emptier without Tim Gunn cradling his chin and ordering shaky designers to make it work. I briefly contemplated buying some Liz Claiborne separates just to get my Tim fix, and then I got past it, in part because the brand is moving to JCPenney in August and it’s not really in stores right now, unless you count Liz Claiborne New York, which is only available on QVC, and I don’t shop QVC because it tends to make me fall asleep. Probably because it only ever occurs to me to watch it when I have insomnia at three in the morning. Anyway, I got over it, and now he’s back with Michael, Nina and Heidi and really, life is good again.

But let’s get right to it, because there is a ton of new designers we have to meet, and it’s going to be hell keeping them straight.

First, we meet Casanova. This is apparently his actual name. Casanova is from Puerto Rico. He is afraid that New York might eat him. Casanova and English aren’t the best of friends.

Sarah Trost is from Toluca Lake, Calif., which really means she’s from North Hollywood. Don’t try to be cute, Sarah, we Californians are onto you.

A.J. Thouvenot is from St. Charles, Mo. He’s so relieved to meet Sarah Trost, because he was afraid he’d have to get a ride from the airport with some old lady who doesn’t know what’s going on.

Like Peach Carr, who is 50 and designs for the ladies who lunch. Peach, why are you on this show? Do you have a death wish? Was St. John not hiring? OK, my first bet on which of the designers gets carted away by an ambulance goes to Peach. Although I have to say, she’s got the spunky attitude. And says hell to the yes when wondering if she’ll be the oldest competitor, which is weirdly cute. I think I may actually root for Peach, as her designs aren’t bad. Go Oldie McOlderson!

Her buddy is Nicholas D’Aurizio, who immediately tells Peach he can’t wait to beat her. Which makes me think Nicholas is an ass.

At Grand Central Station, Casanova meets Kristin Simms from Philadelphia and McKell Maddox of the mangy dreadlocks. She’s from Utah. She has a baby. And I want to shave her head almost as much as I wanted to shave Crystal Bowersox’s.

Kristin is a graphic designer who fell into clothing design. She likes to work with her mistakes. I foresee an early exit for Kristin. Personally, I get kind of annoyed with people who don’t think they need training to design. I want Alber Elbaz to fly in from Paris for the day to beat these dipheads unconscious with his pudgy but skilled little hands. Couture takes training. Years and years of experience. It takes knowledge. It’s not throwing fabric on a mannequin. Aargh! Okay, I’ll stop now.

Jason Troisi has a short temper and wears little hats. He likes tough looks on women. I think he wants everyone to know he’s straight. He also has no game, at least if he was trying to flirt with Gretchen Jones. We learn nothing about Gretchen. Except she’s Irish-American.

Mondo Guerra is from Colorado, and he says people think he’s strange. I think they’re right. But sometimes that works for a designer. Look at Alexander McQueen. I mean, yes, he committed suicide, so it didn’t completely work for the long haul, but his designs were incredible.

Oh, back to Nicholas. He’s an architect. At least he understands structure. I still don’t like him.

We also briefly meet Ivy. Ivy’s line is Ivy H. But that’s all we learn, really, except she’s small and might be Asian.

Christopher Collins is from San Francisco and does women’s ready-to-wear. He meets April Johnston, who just graduated from school. She likes morgues. Her designs are way too costume.

Michael Costello is from Palm Springs. Is any guy other than Jason straight?

Don't unpack just yetThe designers come together, shake hands, and meet Heidi and Tim. Tim announces that the designers aren't really on the show, as it’s still audition time and at least one person is going home before they unpack. The designers can pull one item of clothing out of their luggage, which they can use for the challenge. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t necessarily be excited about that, because I tend not to overpack. Like, I wouldn’t want to waste my limited wardrobe on a model.

Michael Drummond tells us he got into fashion via knitwear. So he’s not loving this challenge, as knits don’t play well with other fabrics.

Oh, Heidi just made the challenge WORSE, if that’s even possible. You have to pass your garment to the person on your right. So, kiss those pants goodbye, friend-o. Casanova is freaked out, because his pants were worth $1070.

Time to meet Gretchen. She’s from Portland, Ore. And she’s green, and she’s boho and I suspect she’s boring and/or tacky if that horrid rust velvet minidress in her book is any indication.

Time to meet Valerie Mayen. She grew up poor. She seems to be doing Jetsons design via Etsy. Not sure that’s a good thing.

Yes, with the new, longer “PR,” there is more time for plugging sponsors. Check out that HP sketchbook, people! Like an iPad, except it’s not!

Andy South is from Hawaii. He’s designing for himself. Jury’s out on Andy.

Ah, Ivy Higa is the tiny mystery designer from earlier. She’s sure she can finish on time. Which means she won’t.

Everyone goes to Mood and bitches about the challenge. Gretchen even makes a face while saying she’s going to “make it work,” and I now officially hate Gretchen. Girlfriend did NOT just make fun of Tim Gunn! Go back to Oregon, hippie.

Casanova is horrified that Valerie is ripping up his pants. I actually had to turn on the closed captioning on my television to understand what Casanova is saying.

Peaches discovers that the shawl she’s stuck with is made of fabric that unravels when she touches it. Michael sniffs that a real designer can work with a feed bag. Michael, it’s a little soon to get bitchy, isn’t it?

Tim weighs inIt’s Tim time! He thinks McKell’s outfit is adorable. He’s intrigued by Nicholas’ outfit, because he’s using polyester to make something upscale. But it’s not there yet. Tim suggests to Casanova that his outfit is vulgar. This is not Casanova’s day. He tells April to make some damn decisions about her inside-out tux jacket. Tim doesn’t seem to love Jason’s reversed kimono. Gretchen talks so much, Tim has nothing to say to her. Again, even though I’m all for sustainability, I hate Gretchen.

Tim is horrified by Peach’s fabric and suggests she hide it under some tulle. Peach is thrilled. But seriously, why couldn’t she think of that herself? C’mon, Peach, you can’t plug that wisdom angle and then act like a helpless girl.

Tim thinks Mondo’s dress is matronly. The cap sleeve worries him. I just hate that zig-zag wool he’s using. It looks like he stole it from a 1970s sofa.

Hmm, Tim announces that they’ll be using the Piperlime accessory wall instead of the Bluefly accessory wall. Piperlime, being part of the Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic empire, probably beat out Bluefly with all sorts of big corporate money, but still, sad to see it go.

Jason’s model has big boobs, and he’s very excited about that. He may be the only straight guy on the show, but he’s really, really straight.

Kristin forgets about her model in hair and make-up. Worse, Peach comes undone in hair and make-up. She doesn’t know what she wants. She can’t make decisions. Peach’s time on the show is limited if she doesn’t get it together.

Casanova practically sends his model down the runway naked. And even once she’s dressed, she’s almost naked. Oh, Casanova, I may not need the closed captioning for long.

Selma Blair joins judgesRunway time! Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are back, and the guest judge is Selma Blair. Although I’m not thrilled about actresses judging the show, I will say Selma Blair has excellent taste and knows her designers, so she’s a big step up from, say, Lindsay Lohan, who may know her designers but usually looks like skanked-out crap.

I like the idea of this dress, but you can tell it was pounded out, as the back gaps awkwardly and the fun detailing was built into the pants. It’s okay to use it, but she doesn’t add much.

PeachThis is a cute little summer dress, but nothing interesting. The real issue is that she didn’t seem to use the scarf for much at all – it’s barely visible. But given how many messes I think are coming down the runway, she may not have to worry.

McKellIt looks a bit maternity in the skirt, but I like the contrast between the menswear top and the fancy bottom. Still, it’s cut horribly and isn’t flattering. And what’s with the shoes?

AndyThis is actually a pretty polished end result. So, maybe the jury’s in on Andy as someone to watch.

The little jumper’s okay, but it doesn’t wow me. Very juniors department.

I have to say, pulling an evening gown out of a polyester jacket is pretty impressive. But the fabric is sagging and wrinkling, which it wouldn’t with proper structuring (though there was no time for that). Plus, it’s boring.

I kind of hate both fabrics he’s using here, but it’s a nice little shift, I guess.

IvyI’m not sure she really did much with the pants, other than some ruching and a Capri cut, but the top is interesting, even though it doesn’t work with the pants. Not exactly an outfit, though I have no idea what she could have done with those awful pants.

Michael C.
This is actually pretty impressive. It definitely looks like it took more than five hours to make this dress.

KristinI like the idea with Kristin’s folded fabric dress, but watching the model try to move in it proves that Kristin doesn’t know what she’s doing. It’s awkward, it looks clumpy and it’s not flattering from the back. But the idea is still kinda cool.

ChristopherYou can tell that Christopher does ready-to-wear for a living. Cute little dress, nice neck detailing, very youthful.

AprilNot really sure what she was trying to accomplish here. It’s deconstructed, but it doesn’t look purposefully so. It just looks… homeless.

GretchenA basic little black dress with cap sleeves. Selma Blair would probably wear this.

Michael D.Love the kimono top and the draping in the back. Nice little outfit.

This looks like a black plastic trash bag. And not in a good way.

A.J.This is fun, but it’s also costume. Not sure if the judges will go for it.

I think I saw Tara Reid wearing this in Ibiza. While slugging back Jell-O shots. In a pool of vodka.

Heidi calls A.J., Andy, Valerie, Sarah, Peach, Kristin, Michael C., Mondo, Michael C. and Christopher. They’re all safe and they can actually move in and pack.

Heidi announces there is one clear winner — Gretchen. Michael thought it was great, Nina thought it was sophisticated and Selma thought it was elegant and simple.

Everyone else was in the bottom. Whoa!

No kind wordsHeidi calls on Ivy first. Michael is annoyed that she didn’t transform the pants, and he feels the outfit tells a story. Selma says it’s an unfortunate pant and it looks like a small town hick outfit. But seriously, what could she do with those awful pants?

Next, Jason. He agrees it blows. Heidi thinks it looks like a hairdressing cape. Burn! Selma sees something interesting in it, because it makes her confused. Michael points out the fact he can see the pins in the garment. Ouch.

April tries to justify her tux jacket. Heidi calls it a hot mess. Michael likes deconstruction, but he needs to see she can construct. Nina says it’s an ‘80s streetwalker look.

McKell talks about her maternity dress. Nina likes the mix of fabric, but the styling is terrible. Michael calls it a disco apron and doesn’t see cohesion. Heidi says it is butt ugly.

Nicholas tries to explain his attempt to turn sportswear into evening. Heidi thinks it’s odd and boring. Michael says it doesn’t mesh. Nina loves the concept, but thinks it’s a snooze.

Casanova talks about his ugly dress. Michael calls it odd and describes it as pole dancer in Dubai. Nina says it’s fascinatingly bad. Selma loved it and loathed it. Heidi asks Casanova to explain why he should be on the show. Casanova doesn’t understand, so Nina repeats the question in Spanish. But Casanova doesn’t really defend himself well, saying he should think more conservatively. Maybe he should have answered in Spanish.

The judges send the designers backstage. Ivy is first to be savaged. Michael says it was a ridiculous outfit, but says she can make clothes. Next, Casanova. Heidi wonders if he doesn’t understand English very well. Michael says the taste level is questionable at best. Selma says it’s a dress you would find at the mall in a store called Dazzles. Selma is pretty good at this judging thing!

On to Jason. Michael liked the way it was put together. Selma gives him points for at least putting together a look. Michael says April fell apart under the time constraints, but says it was modern. Selma forgives her, since it was a five hour challenge.

Heidi and Michael say McKell lives in an alternate universe. And that she’s uncool. But we knew that from the icky dreadlocks. Michael points out that Nicholas had a gorgeous model, but even she couldn’t pull off that dress. Still, Michael and Nina give him points for being able to make a dress.

The sad designers are called back to the runway, so Heidi can tell them, again, they shouldn’t feel safe. Gee, I don’t think they do, Heidi. Commercial break!

Heidi tells April she’s in. Nicholas is also in. Jason is, amazingly, in. He had so much fabric and blew it, but maybe they judges like his little hats.

McKell is out! Ivy and Casanova are ... in. Huh. I would have sent Casanova packing, honestly.

Tim tells McKell he stands by his original judgment that her dress was adorable, even though it didn’t fit the model very well and the styling blew.

The surviving designers move into their new digs and mull over what the next day will bring. I get the sense “PR” is trying to shake things up what with the crazy opening challenge and the extra half hour, which so far seems like a good idea but could easily turn into 30 minutes of product placement. In any case, I’m glad to have Heidi and the gang back, and this crop of designers seems to have enough oddballs and true talents to make for an interesting season. Or at least, I hope so. Just let there be no more hoochie dresses from Casanova.