Credit: Megan Tantillo/Lifetime Television

As you know in fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day… you’re talking to reporters about the utter misery of being out! Don’t click through if you don’t want a SPOILER on last night’s Project Runway premiere. Season 9’s first eliminated contestant chats with EW after the jump.

Credit: Megan Tantillo/Lifetime Television

Rafael Cox took a lot of heat from Tim Gunn when he declined to incorporate the most interesting part of his sleepytime ensemble — a leopard scarf — into his look for the Week 1 pajama challenge. But his hesitation to remove the scarf from his own noggin and put it on his model stemmed from more than just a bad hair day. “It was from an old friend and had a lot of value to me,” said Rafael. “I have very few things that I really cherish, like sunglasses. I sound so shallow. But it was almost like a child giving up their first blankie.” Did he regret the last-minute accessory, which Michael Kors called a “Flinstone Disco Pouch,” and his overall look? “I’m glad I chose to do what I did,” he said.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If the first challenge had been more open-ended, what would you have ultimately wanted to show the judges?

RAFAEL COX: I’d like to have done the “real woman” challenge. You know, give me a size 14 or 16 or hell, even a 22. That’s something I really take pride in, just making clothes for everyday women. I have clients who are size 2/double-J breast, size 10, size 8. I can dress anybody’s body, not just a model’s body.

Nina seemed horrified that her pants were too tight.

The show is a fashion show, but let’s be honest, I think women every day wear tights. Did I really just design a pair of pants that nobody has ever seen before? Like, if you look around at the mall, tights are everywhere. It’s not a garment that’s awful. It’s still a piece of clothing everybody wears. The tights were made just clearly for my model. You have to choose what is flattering for you, but for me, realistic women wear tights.

I’m wearing leggings right now!

You should call Lifetime and tell them that!

I’m intrigued by Anya, the former Miss Universe contestant with only four months of sewing experience. How is she going to survive on Project Runway?

You know… to be honest, I went to school for fashion design. I know what it takes to make clothes, and, um… [laughs]… yeah. I have a lot of questions in my head. I can see [Anya’s sewing ineptitude] being a great topic they’ll prolong for awhile. Anyone who’s been in design knows that in four months, you really just learn how to thread a machine. You sew pieces that are wearable, that’s what you can do on a sewing machine. But then there’s draping, there’s patterning, there’s cutting the fabric, there’s altering patterns. I don’t know! Maybe she’s like super fashionista woman something. I wouldn’t be surprised if they milked it for all it’s worth.

Who’s your favorite designer of the remaining 15?

Viktor and I really bonded during the show. I think he has a really good eye for fashion and I really like his stuff.

Did you get to end up keeping the leopard necklace?

That was the most bittersweet part! Whatever goes on the model’s back, that belongs to Project Runway. I had to kiss my scarf goodbye, and tell it that our moments together were over. It’s probably trash to them, but it means so much to me! [Laughs.] I’m sorry, I’m being dramatic.

A lot of viewers have claimed they won’t watch the show after Gretchen won last season. Do you understand why she won? Did you see where Michael and Nina were coming from, from a more objective fashion perspective?

Well, the way they edit those shows is always funny. My critique from [last night’s] episode was not as bad as it was shown. Michael and Nina both had some good comments for me; they liked the detailing of my blouse. The only thing they hated was the tights. To be honest, when you have people that are in fashion like Michael and Nina, their eye is totally different from a celebrity guest judge — not to say Heidi Klum, because she’s a supermodel, she’s a professional — but they can see trends. They can predict so much, but they’re not an exact fashion forecast system.

I think Mondo should have won. You want something different, you always want an emerging designer who’s coming up with new ways of presenting yourself as an aesthetic. Gretchen wasn’t bad, but I don’t think she would cater to so many different women. Whereas Mondo, his designs come down to creative women who want to wear a funky blouse and different types of textures. I’ve heard that a lot of people kind of wrote off the show. I don’t know, it’s just one of those things where judges are judges. It’s not like American Idol, where the public votes. Michael and Nina and Heidi just make the best choice based on what they think is best for fashion at the time.

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