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The official site for "Project Runway" Season 13 offers video, designer portfolios, Rate the Runway photos, blogs and more.

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Mila Hermanovski Blog

Diving Right In

By laurareineke Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 ,4:48 am EDT

It appears the producers might have been listening to the fans. Or perhaps they just realized that they needed to change things up in "Project Runway" Land after 11 seasons, because they certainly have!

Straight away I noticed that the format and opening are different: Edgier, more interesting editing and not as much the old predictable format. I like it. The prize package is the largest to date: $150k to start, and a gaggle of additional prizes like a Lexus and a trip to Maldeves. The runway show is "anonymous" (hmmmm), to hopefully eliminate any question of favoritism (because we know some judges become a little attached to certain designers). And this is huge: not only does Tim make an appearance and weigh in during part of the judging process, but THE JUDGES CAN SEE THE CLOTHES UP CLOSE (EEEEEEK)! Sometimes people ask me if they ever inspect the garments or see them up close. No way, thank goodness...until now! I am a big believer of good finishing, inside and out. When I was on Season 7, I learned quickly that I had to use shortcuts to save time, because the garment only has to look good on the outside. It just has to make it down the runway. The judges are never close enough to the garments to know you that didn' line it or that your seams are all ugly on the interior. What a fright some of our pieces looked on the inside! I wonder how many people who purchased them online after the show were shocked at that.

I also love the fact that the first challenge was slightly "unconventional" (materials-wise), although I hope that is not the sole "unconventional challenge" because we need to see the designers whip out their glue guns and pliers. What a way to throw off the deer-in-headlights newbie designers in the inaugural challenge by taking them to an airfield and making them wonder what lies ahead. Will they be designing flight suits? Jumping out of planes? No, just fighting over the parachutes left behind by the skydivers.

It's certainly an eclectic mix of people this season as well. Is it me, or are there an unusually large number of the cast who currently have or formerly had another profession (i.e., dancer, model, soldier/mechanic, musician, house-husband/full-time dad, part-time babysitter)? And then we have the array of personalities, with no shortage of egos. I guess I miss the days when there were more "real" fashion designers in the cast. Yet another twist: Kate Pankoke, a contestant from Season 11, is competing again. She was chosen by fans (among three designers) to return for "runway redemption." Not a favorite of mine, I have to say. She is already showing her smugness by making a look she calls her "little princess" and thinking she will win every challenge (yet doesn't feel she has an advantage in any way). Let me tell you, there is absolutely an advantage psychologically to having been through the experience already. No one could ever fully comprehend what itʼs like to compete on "Project Runway" unless he/she has been through it. There are not enough words (besides, weʼve been forbidden to talk about it to some extent)!

If I were on Season 12 I'd definitely want to slap Timothy in the workroom. His holier-than-thou approach is quite off-putting. It's great to have a sustainable business model, but just because it's sustainable doesnʼt mean it can't be beautiful; in fact you have to work even harder to make it beautiful and fashionable. Stella McCartney is a great example of doing this successfully. Can anyone imagine Timothy as the winner of "Project Runway"? Ironically, his theatrics and lack of "finishing" (i.e. no makeup, no use of electricity, even in hair styling) come across as gimmicks. Does this mean he will never use an iron for the entire season? And I'll bet you anything those glittery heels he wears are made in China out of super-industrial non-biodegradable material. I love how Zac called him on his mega-toxic technique of using a flame on synthetic material. That poor model of his had to feel like the ugly duckling. I'm glad she decided not to fully execute his silly, overly-affected choreography on the runway.

Speaking of runway, there are too many looks to critique so early on. But I do agree with Braden's win, with a very close second in Sue's look. It was so clever of Bradon to use the cords, and the color he chose was airy and sky-like. Sue's use of color was fantastic, as was her asymmetry and strategically placed ruching. Not bad for someone who can't use a sewing machine! Both of them were smart to use the fabric in a complementary way, rather than overworking it or torturing it the way some designers did. I could not understand what the hype was about for Miranda's dress, which was not interesting enough to warrant her being in the top. Then the judges look more closely and find out the black fabric was not the parachute material so suddenly she's in the bottom two? Hmmm. Seems suspect to me. Angela's colorforms smock looks like a child's sleeveless rain slicker. It is a tough call to say who should have been eliminated, though, because Sandro's taste level is clearly questionable, and his poor model didn't really want the world to see her lady bits. It is awful to send your model down the runway like that.

More changes this season include having to manage one's budget for the ENTIRE season. While this is interesting, what happens if someone blows through their money and makes it to top 5 and has none left? Sudden death? Making an outfit out of muslin and styrofoam coffee cups from the lounge? I wonder if Tim will give them any "suggested" budgets for each challenge. It would be a bummer for a designer to think they would need to scrimp every time, only to be eliminated early on and feel like they should have spent more at Mood. The show also has a new sponsor for the accessory wall/prize package: Belk. Honestly I had to look up Belk on Wikipedia. I had no idea what it was. And when I looked at the website I wasn't impressed. When I thought it couldnʼt get worse than Piperlime, it just did. Nothing against Belk as a company or store, but I'd think in a competition in which contestants are predominantly criticized for either not being fashion-forward enough, or having poor styling, there could be a more fashion-forward sponsor. Belk appears to be a very mainstream store. You can imagine how thrilled we were on my season of All-Stars to have Neiman Marcus accessories to use to elevate our looks. But I have to tell you, no matter whom the sponsor is, there will always be something you need to style the look that is not on that wall. And often times the styling is criticized when either there was nothing appropriate to choose from, or another designer is using that ONE pair of shoes that would have been perfect for your look.

This should be an interesting season; it looks like there are a LOT of locations! The jury is still out on my early favorites. I'll let you know next time.