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Designer Speed Dating

By CaitlinBergmann Fri., Jul. 29, 2011 ,1:05 am EDT

The season starts out with a sort of designer speed dating where we get a quick meet-and-greet of 20 potential contestants. Heidi (looking better than ever), Tim, Michael and Nina have to decide which 16 of the 20 designers present will make it to the workroom.

There are too many designers to learn too much about them, but here are a few highlights:

Serena cancelled her chic destination wedding in Iceland to be here. Anya, a former Miss Universe contestant from Trinidad or Tobago, can or can't sew, and may or may not have sewn the clothing on her rack. Rafael, an Indian version of Ringo Starr, is convinced Nina wants to have sex with him, as evidenced by her "talking sex eyes."

Olivier doesn't have to show any of his clothes; he can stay because he is cute and Heidi likes his accent (confession: I said the same thing when I met him during his audition). Gunnar Deatherage has to go home, not because his fashion is bad, but because his name is too violent for the show to get a PG rating. Anthony is a testicular cancer survivor. Note to Anthony: When Heidi says she wants your knitted animal neckwear, hand it over. This is a competition. Giving your scarf to a judge/host/producer will get you much farther than "rocking one."

Project Runway Season 9 Episode 1It's a 5 am Come As You Are party. Grab a sheet and let's go to Parsons!

Things go rather smoothly in the workroom. There is plenty of fabric and notions and closures, so the challenge is not especially challenging. Drama is at a minimum, because the designers aren't bone-tired yet and still have stores of adrenaline to work from. Being in the honeymoon phase, everyone is getting along quite well, but according to next week's previews, we jump right ahead to the seven-year mark and things deteriorate quickly.

Anya, the beauty queen virgin, reminds us over and over again (and everyone else she speaks to) that this is her first time. She was saving herself for "Project Runway." Rafael is warned by Tim that his head wrap had better make it off his head and onto his garment or his bowl cut will be shown the door. ("Project Runway" historians, refer to the Hermès scarf incident, Season 2, Episode 2, "Clothes Off Your Back.") But despite this explicit warning and historical precedent for being sent home for this exact action, he is still too vain to reveal his unfinished high-maintenance hairdo.

On to the runway.

Project Runway Season 9 Episode 1I'm not sure what qualifies Christina Ricci to be a judge. Perhaps it is her unusually large forehead that gives her accelerated intellectual powers and superior knowledge of all things fashion. More likely it's just because she wears clothes. I do admit that with her help the judges generally get it right. The top three deserve to be there, and the bottom three definitely deserve to be there. With one exception. To borrow a quote from Tim, I don't want to sexualize everything, but am I the only one who noticed that the front of Anthony's skirt is sporting a large patch of pubic hair? It's a merkin.

Bert (straight out of Central Casting to play the role of distinguished older designer; think Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie) takes the win with an adorable twist-wrap asymmetrical dress, of orange (gingham) and gray, which exactly matches Tim's outfit. I love Bert, and he is my pick to take the whole thing. No surprises here.

Rafael is sent home for a hot mess of ill-fitting sweatpants. The good news is that now that he has been eliminated, Nina is free to pursue her sexual conquest of him without breaking any "fairness in competition" laws.