Welcome to the sixth season of Project Runway, which is the first season to be held in Los Angeles. The first designer we see is 30-year old Ra’mon Lawrence, who assures us that he is ambitious, and that he was planning to be a brain surgeon before deciding to follow his passion instead. Logan Neitzel is 25 and hails from Seattle. He considers himself a strong sewer and pattern maker. He also describes himself as a “guy’s guy.” Bald Johnny Sakalis has tried to get on Project Runway three times before. He also tells us that he used to be addicted to crystal meth, which kept him from making the last season. Realizing that his addiction would eventually kill him, he got off the drug, probably through some kind of treatment or therapy. He considers getting on the show a big step for him and vows to do his best.
Gordana Gehlhausen lives in South Carolina. She tells us, “If you give me a sheep, I can make you a sweater.” She says that she wants to win for all the girls with big dreams. Malvin Vien arrives, as do Carol Hannah Whitfield and Qristyl Frazier. The last is this season’s contestant with the “creatively” spelled name; it’s pronounced “Crystal” for the record. Qristyl designs for all shapes and sizes. Shirin Askari tells us she likes multi-functional clothes. Nicolas Putvinski describes himself as the “feather prince.” He used to work for Victoria’s Secret. Mitchell Hall has just graduated from design school and plans to focus on the business side of fashion.
Epperson and Christopher Straub are the next to arrive. Ari Fish and Althea Harper come in next. Irina Shabayeva lives in New York and has a pet poodle who serves as her inspiration. Louise Black hails from Dallas.
Carol Hannah tells Gordana that she once sold some of her dresses in Gordana’s store. Carol Hannah explains, “If you were a woodland fairy and had to go to a gala, you’d wear one of my dresses.” It’ll be interesting to see what the judges think of fantasy movie or Rennaissance Faire get-ups. To be fair, though, costume designer Chris March did almost make it to Fashion Week during his season, so we shall have to see. Carol Hannah also believes that people dismiss her because she’s a blonde Southerner. Maybe, or maybe Chris is right and costume designers are low on the food chain.
Epperson is 49 and tells us that his oldest son is 26– the same age as some of his competitors. He’s this season’s “senior citizen” He shows us pictures of his family.
The designers get the usual note from Heidi inviting them up to the roof. When they get there, Heidi and Tim greet them and congratulate them for getting on the show. Heidi jokes that Louise does not have big hair despite being Texan. Louise says she is inspired by vintage clothes. Here’s hoping that she’s less obnoxious than last season’s Kenley. Mop-topped Malvin favors androgyny in his designs – and his own appearance. Althea has just graduated from college and has interned with Alexandra McQueen and Vivianne Westwood. Christopher is from Minnesota and never went to design school. He is strictly self-taught. He sounds proud of his resourcefulness, but the self-taught designers tend to run into problems, as the judges do want to see more than just technical competence. As Kenley discovered, the judges also want people to have an understanding of fashion history and major designers’ looks.
Tim informs the designers that he will tell them about their first challenge at an unrevealed location. The next morning, the designers meet Tim at the red carpet in front of the theatre where the Emmys are awarded. The challenge: Design a red-carpet look that is both innovative and reflects their point of view. Tim also advises the designers not to limit themselves, as there are many red-carpet events, such as the Oscars, the Grammys, the VMA’s, etc.
The designers rendezvous at their workroom at the Fashion Institute of Merchandising and Design, where they find they have been assigned a model and given her measurements. They have two days to complete the look and a budget of $200. The winner will have immunity for the next challenge. The contestants have 30 minutes to sketch. Christopher designs a dress with a belt, while Malvin tells us that he doesn’t care about red-carpet events, he just wants to make the dress’ wearer feel “treasured.” Ari informs us (loudly) that she doesn’t sketch; she prefers to meditate instead. She does so, while doing a headstand in a corner. Ooookay. She is obviously this season’s flake.
The designers then go to Mood, where they can shop for the next thirty minutes. Shirin tells us that she likes old movies and old Hollywood glamour– and I wonder if she knows what the word “innovative” means. Ra’Mon loves the idea of somebody wearing his design on the red carpet.
Back at FIMD, Tim reminds everybody to be innovative. Johnny’s nerves start to get the better of him and he considers changing his design. Mitchell tells us he fell in love with fashion while watching red-carpet events. Johnny is still dithering and is now wondering if he should go back to his original idea. Qristyl advises him to not second-guess himself. Johnny tells us he needs someone supporting him, as it’s hard to be away from the support he had back home. Althea notices his distress and hopes he can pull through. Johnny and Ra’Mon talk a little. Interestingly, nobody so far has expressed the cutthroat (if true) notion that if Johnny’s nerves continue to get the better of him, there will be one less competitor for everybody else to deal with.
Eventually, Tim notices his distress and asks what the problem is. Johnny answers that he hates all his sketches and doesn’t feel ready to compete. Tim assures him that he is ready. He reminds Johnny of how much he’s overcome and how talented he is. Then he hugs Johnny, and Johnny feels better. Now, I normally make fun of drama queens and kings, because a lot of them are jerks, but Johnny, so far, seems inoffensive at worst. Not only that, but his recovery is apparently a work in progress and this seems to be his first time away from the support system back home that was helping him stay off drugs. So, it makes sense that he’d be scared.
Back to the other designers… Carol Hannah is making a corded bodice, which Malvin loves. He tells us that his own dress is impossible to describe. Ari likes creating her own textures, but she admits that’s time-consuming.
The next morning, Johnny feels better and vows to be strong. Gordana wishes she had been able to go to design school. Chris is baffled by some of the techniques the other designers are discussing. “What’s smocking?” he asks at one point.