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Project Runway season premiere recap: La La Land

Season 6 (finally) begins with a challenge perfect for its new L.A. setting: the 16 new contestants attempt red carpet-worthy outfits

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Johnny Sakalis
Mike Yarish/Lifetime Networks

Project Runway

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

Greetings from Planet Disco Soccer Ball! It’s a place where designers do handstands instead of sketching, hold meaningful conversations with their fabric, and wear jumpsuits that look like a 1980s graffiti artist vomited all over them. Welcome! We hope you brought your shiny spaceman halter diaper to kick off the party.

Ah, I kid. And I kid because I love…that Project Runway is back! It’s been just over a year since we last gathered around the EW.com campfire to indulge in a little vicarious stitch-n-bitch, but it sure feels like longer, doesn’t it? As we all well know, Project Runway‘s sixth season began shooting almost a year ago — i.e. in the olden days of yore when Heidi Klum was notpregnant — but due to corporate squabbling, it lived in limbo until last spring.

But now all that bad stuff is history. And after last night, I think we can all agree that Project Runway chez Lifetime is the same show we’ve been obsessed with since 2004. (Though yes, the commercial breaks were packed with a greater number of birth control and tampon commercials than we ever saw on Bravo, no? Gotta know your audience!) The relocation from New York to L.A. wasn’t jarring. And as a New Yorker who understands just how tightly we’re all packed into our fair city, I did appreciate the spaciousness of the West Coast surroundings: from the living quarters to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising work areas. It all looked so lickety-split new, too.

Of course, the real excitement was discovering the 16 new personalities that, by some masterfully impressive Def-Con 9 zillion action, Lifetime had managed to keep hidden all this time. But we finally got to meet them last night, when they were given 200 bucks to show innovation in a red carpet gown. It wasn’t the most surprising or groundbreaking of challenges, but it was fitting for the new Los Angeles setting. And which characters stood out from the crowd? Let’s start with the one who has seam-popping potential to bring a whole lotta drama this season.

I speak, of course, of recovering crystal meth–addict Johnny Sakalis. Due to his addiction, Runwayrejected the poor guy three times before finally offering him a spot in season 6. And what did he do mere minutes into the first challenge? He had a meltdown. Succumbing to the pressure of the sewing room, Johnny took a teary timeout on the enormous red couches, where he seemed ready to pack up his tool box and get the hell outta Dodge. But never underestimate the healing powers of Tim Gunn, who strode on over to Johnny like an exquisitely articulate and debonair superhero (which is exactly what Tim Gunn is, come to think of it) and gave the dude a pep talk. Johnny then returned to the belly of the beast and banged out a flowy red dress that, far from getting him evicted, impressed Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, Heidi, and even scowly-faced guest judge Lindsay Lohan. When not looking like someone just reminded her of the state of her career, Lohan astutely (ha ha) observed that the dress’ deep v-neck front and plunging back were ”sexy.” Wow! Who knew the ”actress, singer, and designer of her own line, 6126” was full of such insight? Simply astounding!

NEXT: The eye candy, the dreadlock , and the rest