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Project Runway season premiere recap: The Safe Way

The season opens with a reprise of the classic grocery store challenge, but most of the contestants stick with easy materials

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Heidi Tim

Project Runway

TV Show
Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, Zac Posen
Current Status:
In Season

You can take it out of the box. You can trim it with white stitching. You can throw it on a statuesque glamazon and attempt to drape it so ”it covers her boobs up a bit.” But as we all learned last night on the season 5 premiere ofProject Runway, a tailored trash sack will always be — to borrow a phrase from she who made the unfortunate choice to work with said plastic material — an ”ugly, cheap-ass garbage bag.”

Oh, how I’ve missed you, Project Runway!

I happily would have watched many more minutes of Stella the Hard-Rockin’ Trash-Bag Lady running her mouth off about her reams of black plastic — especially since she kept hilariously referring to it as ”fabric”: ”My fabric is trash!” ”This is the worst fabric!” ”I really don’t have any fabric!” That she delivered these and other gems in her glorious Queens, N.Y., accent is but the cherry on top. ”I design…for hookahs, pimps, or whoevah’s tough enough to wear it,” she told us by way of introduction. Stella, you are awesome.

So here we are back in Runway land after a short four-month break. Already, it’s obvious which designers have the biggest personalities. There’s the mono-monikered, refers-to-himself-in-the-third-person-and-uses-the-word-wackadoodle Suede, and of course Blayne, who’s so tanorexic he could moonlight as a bicycle reflector. He’s also the one who apparently never got the memo that Destiny’s Child and the Pussycat Dolls have done the whole –licious suffix thing, and that just because last year’s winner threw around a catchphrase doesn’t mean he has to force the word girlicious! into every moment he’s on camera. Is he trying too hard, or is he just excited to be there? I’ll give him a chance — as long as he refrains from any more beat-boxing. And I won’t soon forget Heidi’s look of pure, unadulterated ”huh?” when Keith told her he has designed with her in mind over the years — right after describing his aesthetic as ”urban, a little bit raw.” Um, dude…?

But on to the real fun. For the first time in Runway history, the show repeated a classic challenge. And not just any old one, either: The producers went all the way back to the first episode of the first season and returned to the New York City grocery store Gristedes. We were even treated to a reunion with that challenge’s winner, Austin Scarlett, who showed up in his best Quentin Crisp garb. Like bulls barreling through the streets of Pamplona, the designers tore into the place, scooping up colorful rubber balls, tricolored pasta, and in the case of Terri, ”mop heads, mop heads, mop heads.” The Aerosmith-meets-Lauren-Hill-meets-Michael-Jackson gal was smart to go this unusual route, as was Kelli, who made a point of avoiding tablecloths and shower curtains. I was stunned at the number of designers who went for such an obvious, uninspired fabric substitute. It was lazy. Few contestants made this mistake in season 1, and after four years of episodes from which to draw pointers, this year’s crop of hopefuls should have known better than to cop out so glaringly during a test of innovation. As Tim Gunn said after assessing the garments in the workroom, ”I just think the judges are going to say you guys are a bunch of slackers!” (That spectacle was only slightly more awesome than the sight of Tim rocking the Gristedes PA system as the designers shopped.)

NEXT: Jerry gets everything wrong