After an endless legal battle kept the series in limbo for nearly a year, Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, and Co. finally return on a new network, in a new city, and with some brand-new twists (including a spin-off!)

By Missy Schwartz
Updated May 26, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Heidi Klum had envisioned a major overhaul for Project Runway‘s sixth season. A different color palette for the set. New seating for the judges. A spruced-up, elongated catwalk. In a word: change. After five seasons in New York, the hit reality competition for aspiring fashion designers was moving to both a new city, Los Angeles, and a new network, Lifetime. And the show’s statuesque host had her heart set on a revamped world. But when she first stepped onto the soundstage in downtown L.A. last fall, she almost fell over in her stilettos. Before her was an exact replica of the Manhattan set that Runway has used since 2004. Same logo. Same lighting. Same everything. ”I was shocked,” Klum says. ”It was déjà vu. I was looking forward to different scenery, and everything was the same!”

Well, there can be comfort in familiarity, right? Especially in times of turmoil. And lately, there’s been nothing but turbulence in the Runway universe. Beginning in April 2008, the hit series became the disputed pawn in a trio of lawsuits between The Weinstein Company (which owns a majority stake in the show), NBC Universal (parent company to the series’ original network, Bravo), and Lifetime (which bought the rights for seasons 6 through 10). The legal deadlock kept the fate of the entire series hanging in the balance for almost a year. ”By the end of production [of season 6],” says new exec producer Jon Murray, ”we started to joke around, like, ‘Are we going to have to show this to our friends and families in our living rooms?”’

Nope. Thanks to a resolution reached in April, Runway will soon be back in almost everyone’s living room. Season 6 premieres Aug. 20 on Lifetime, amid a blowout marketing campaign that is one of the biggest in the network’s 25-year history. Between Runway and a new spin-off — Models of the Runway, which focuses on the glamazons who flaunt the designers’ creations each week — the femme-friendly channel hopes to up its cool quotient something fierce. And despite a delay of nine months for the new season’s debut, team Runway insists the series is still as fresh and addictive as ever. Says exec producer Jane Cha: ”It’s like we’ve been keeping a baby under wraps in the house and now we’re ready to give it a party.”

NEXT PAGE: ”Los Angeles is indisputably the home of the red carpet. It’s the home of film and television costume, and it has a celebrity dimension that New York doesn’t have. Watching the first elimination this season, I thought, Wow, we should be here.”

Episode Recaps

Project Runway

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.

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