Project Runway Blog

Season 13 Premiere: The Judges Decide

By laurareineke 07/25/2014 04:15AM GMT

"Runway" is back! I'm back to recap it! You're back to talk about it! Tim's back to facilitate the whole enterprise, thank goodness. Heidi Klum, Zac Posen, and my favorite ice queen Nina Garcia are back to judge, and they're starting early by evaluating the 18 finalists to decide which 15 will move on to the actual competition.

I like Sandhya immediately when she shows Tim a cropped jacket she made out of a print of hands flipping the bird. Attagirl. (You can see print in action on a larger jacket in Sandhya's closet tour video; it's glorious.) Angela looks like a delicate fawn in headlights when she gets in front of the panel, but she gets a pass despite her nerves. Fade and Heidi chat in German which hopefully softens the blow when Nina flatly says she hates all of Fade's clothes except the ones he's wearing. Zac describes Kristine's rack as "secure" and I think it's meant to be a compliment about her collection but instead it sounds like he's impressed by the stability of the aluminum rack holding everything up. The judges see all the contestants and isolate themselves to confer, move some headshots around on the table in front of them with furrowed brows, then make their final decision: Tim, Emmanuel, and Nzinga are the first casualties of the season. Womp womp.

In the workroom, Tim introduces the winner of the Runway Redemption vote: Amanda Valentine! I'm very happy to see Amanda, who I liked a lot during the team-based Season 11. (Did you just wince thinking back on that season? Because I did. Oof. If anyone deserves redemption it's the Season 11 designers.) He also introduces the first task of the season.

The challenge: With one outfit, give the judges a glimpse of a hypthetical spring collection.
The parameters: Must choose from an assortment of fabrics provided to them at the start of the challenge. They have one day to complete the look.

Tim does his walk-through of the workroom, which is hard for me to get invested in this early on without knowing more about the designers' individual strengths and weaknesses. I mean, it's the first challenge: Everyone sorta looks like they're floundering, none moreso than Angela. Is she getting the "unecessary histrionics" edit or is she really this nervous all the time? Goodness. Her anxiety is making ME anxious. Thankfully every designer gets his or her butt in gear to put a finished look down the runway. No hot messes yet, knock on wood.

Our guest judge is the radiant Julie Bowen of "Modern Family." Let's talk about the runway show! (You can see all this week's looks, and rate them yourself, in our Rate the Runway gallery.)

Top Three
Sandhya - The judges value the inventive fantasy elements of the look, including the dip-dye technique and the delicate embroidery details at the back, and while they agree that it could have been better finished, it presents a level of creativity that they clearly want to see more of this season. Sandhya gets the first win of Season 13.

Char - Nina's charmed. She loves the cotton jersey. While Julie isn't a huge fan of crop tops, she likes its implementation here. The judges like the look even more when they see it up close, and they're all complimentary of the fact the look seems like it would be part of a cohesive, elegant collection. Smart fabric choices, good design: Char is safe.

Amanda - The judges think it looks stylish and commercial, though Zac and Heidi don't seem as thrilled about it as Nina. This look is actually so attuned to Nina's preferred aesthetic (sleek and editorial) that I wouldn't be surprised if Amanda designed it with the attention of appealing to her specifically. She's safe.

Bottom Three
Angela - "Instead of calling those 'slits,' I'm going to call them 'sluts,'" Nina says pointedly, cementing her status as the Simon Cowell of "Runway." Angela says she was trying to amp things up after being told in her audition that her work was too safe, and the judges seem sympathetic to that defense. Angela's safe for now.

Mitchell - Rule of thumb for new "Runway" contestants: Don't describe your look as "cool" or "fun" unless you're 100% certain the look conveys those vibes on its own. It just gives the judges fodder to mock you. Zac goes so far as to say this look wouldn't even qualify Mitchell for design school. (Burn.) "I know what Mitchell will deliver," Nina says, "and I don't want to see it." Buuuut he's safe.

Jefferson - Heidi is just "Nah" about this, start to finish, and so's Nina, and they make no effort to hide it. The proportion of the crop top paired with the high-waisted short is the biggest problem here, and it becomes even more of a problem when Jefferson doesn't seem to see it. The judges waffle between ranking this look or Mitchell's lower, but they land on Jefferson, so he's the first to go.

We've got a diverse cast on our hands and so far everyone appears relatively focused and competent. Then again, this is Season 13, and while I'm not terribly superstitious I know better than to assume things are going to go smoothly. What do you think? Which of the designers stands out to you so far? Who do you feel presented the most promising look? Let me know in the comments!

Also, don't forget to check out recaps of the premiere from our esteemed "Runway" alumni: Nick Verreos, Mila Hermanovski, Althea Harper, and -- new this season -- Alexander Pope.