On the season premiere of ''Project Runway,'' the 15 newbies move into their fancy apartments, which they proceed to ransack for materials for their first outfits

By Mark Harris
August 07, 2015 at 06:20 PM EDT
Project Runway: Mark Abrahams
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  • Bravo

The ”Project Runway” premiere: Home makeover

They’re back! The first episode of Project Runway‘s third season brought us all the pleasures that fans of Bravo’s excellent (and Emmy-nominated) show have come to expect: The perma-pregnant, slightly scary Heidi Klum. Caustic sourpuss judge Michael Kors, who seems just a highball and a caftan away from becoming the reincarnation of Paul Lynde. And Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn! Let us pause, before the season gets too frantic, to praise the real star of Project Runway. Tim Gunn is every gay man’s ideal pal — with his air of harried hyper-responsibility and kind forbearance, he is the show’s designated driver among hysterics, the guy who will always know where you left your keys. And he can even make the sentence ”Use the Macy’s accessory wall as well as you can” sound like sensible advice for all of us.

If I’m dwelling on PR‘s regular cast rather than on this season’s new batch of aspiring designers, it’s because there are 15 of them, and it’s way too early to start caring. That said, they already have an advantage over most other reality-competition contestants because (and this is the Bravo touch) they actually know how to do something. The pumped-up sloths who loll around the Big Brother house all summer always look like they’re there because they missed out on their first two job choices, Minor Porn Actor and Career Criminal. But throw any preposterous assignment at PR‘s contestants — this week, it was to make dresses out of the fabrics and furniture in their apartments — and they grab a sewing machine and get to work. And even the worst of them is industrious.

What did we learn from the first hour? Not much more than that most of the women seem focused and most of the men seem homosexual, both useful skills for this show. We also got the beginnings of answers to a few key questions:

1. Who are the villains? The prime candidate so far is Jeffrey, who showed up sporting sunglasses, a neck tattoo that I can’t even bring myself to describe, attitude to burn, and a hoodie apparently designed by Blair Witch Sportswear. (Oh, and a joy buzzer, because why not?) Jeffrey’s designs have ”a lot going on” (translation: Aaaggghh!); his model threw feathers into the air, and Heidi looked Teutonically affronted. Jeffrey may be, as she pointed out, this year’s Santino. But watch out for the snooty, reptilian, and talented Malan, who wears a tie and whose favorite word seems to be ”irritated.” Malan represents Bravo’s other villain prototype; he is in the wanna-slap-his-face tradition of Top Chef‘s overdressed oenophile Stephen. Malan is from Long Island City, N.Y., but seems to have grown up in a 1941 RKO melodrama. Let’s hope he sticks around for a while.

2. Who are the sitting ducks? Well, obviously, the first one was Stacey, whose too-sheer, crumply dress with the boob-unfriendly top wasn’t the worst thing on this week’s runway, but who sealed her fate when she revealed she couldn’t really sew all that well. That probably saved Vincent, who at 49 is this season’s oldest competitor, and who seems to have been kept around for his meltdown potential. ”I did not know how to handle stress and pressure well when I ran my business in New York,” he told us. This week, he handled stress and pressure by making a hat out of an inverted breadbasket. The result looked like a hat made out of an inverted breadbasket.

3. Who could win? Way too soon to tell, but Robert (the guy who designs for Barbie dolls), Keith (the ambitious menswear designer who won immunity for next week by working the panel with a story about Gone With the Wind), Michael (the guy from Atlanta who, with genuine inventiveness, made a ruffly white flapper dress out of coffee filters that, said contestant Kayne approvingly, ”looks soft and like it would smell like Febreze”), and Laura (the fiercely turned-out mother of five who looks like she could probably throw a mean right hook) all seem to have a shot.

And a special shout-out to Uli, who said, ”When I saw my garment walking down the runway, I was happy.” Uli understands that the fact that it was not walking of its own volition is only a technicality, no matter how often Heidi says, ”Remember, models, this is also a competition for you” (did she even say it this time?), before she sends those blank, silent ladies back to the warehouse for another week, where one imagines they subsist on a diet of oats.

Scenes from coming weeks seem to promise fights between people with undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder (there’s a shock) and, better still, Tim Gunn giving the whole group a stern dressing-down. Can’t wait.

What do you think? Who do you pick to be the season’s villains, stars, and flame-outs?

Episode Recaps

Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano guide undiscovered designers through the harrowing rites of fashion.
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  • 12/01/04
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  • Eli Holzman
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