We know, we know: After last year’s horrible season finale — which we will forever refer to as “Mondogate” — we swore off Project Runway. But old habits die hard, and we found ourselves watching the Season 9 premiere last night, just to see whether it was worth our time. And you know what? We weren’t disappointed. Although the idea of bringing 20 contestants to New York only to cut four in the first half hour was gimmicky, the challenge was great: Tim Gunn roused the designers at five in the morning and dragged them into the work room to create a look from their pajamas and bed sheet. So far, the characters are intriguing and the judging makes sense — even Nina and Michael behaved themselves! Our take on the 15 contestants who remain now that the Rafael Cox has been auf’d is after the jump.
Contestants we love
Anthony Ryan Auld: Anthony sort of has the look of a drama queen about him, but we found him surprisingly pleasant this week. And his outfit — a paragon of pattern-matching, with great lace stripes and a gorgeous (if a tad short), jewel-tone skirt — was one of the rare Project Runway designs we could actually imagine wearing.
Anya Ayoung Chee: At first, it seemed Anya would be little more than a beauty queen who decided to try designing on a whim. But she surprised us — and the judges — with a gorgeous outfit that found her successfully sewing silk and making pants for the first time.
Becky Ross: At 38, Ross says she feels ancient on Project Runway, but her blue-streaked hair and fun designs make it clear she’s young at heart. We thought her retro-futurist one-shoulder frock was wearable and chic.
Bert Keeter: Speaking of young at heart! Boy, do we love 57-year-old Bert, an industry veteran who worked with Halston but left the industry and turned to alcohol after the AIDS-related death of his partner and several friends. Happily, his heartbreaking story isn’t the only thing Bert has going for him: When the judges said they feared his style was too conservative, he turned his boxers and T-shirt into an edgy, challenge-winning dress that any stylish young thing would be love to own.
Fallene Wells: We admit, Fallene seems like she’ll be a love-her-or-hate-her character. She definitely has a Manic Pixie Dream Girl vibe going on, and we doubted she could make the barfing-clown T-shirt work, but we actually liked the simple dress she came up with and think she might have something unique to offer.
Contestants we hate:
Danielle Everine: Frankly, we think Danielle was lucky to miss out on the bottom three for this updated Daisy Duke disaster. What she came up with this week worries us that she’s going to be one of those weird, young designers that think frumpy clothes are actually cool.
Joshua Christensen: Just… no. This former banker nearly escaped elimination for a look that actually included a hoodie shrug. Based on their early designs, we think Christensen is some combination of boring and clueless, and we actually would have preferred to see him get the boot over Cox, who at least seemed entertaining.
Laura Kathleen: Every Project Runway cast needs a ditz. Laura is this year’s model, and we honestly didn’t think she’d make it through the first cut, with her rack of bright dresses that managed to be both overly simple and garish. The outfit she made for the challenge was a bit better, although the fit on the pants was kind of yucky.
Contestants we need to see more of
Kimberly Goldson: We actually thought her outfit this week, with the weird shirt, was pretty bad. But it was still better than what many of her castmates came up with, so we’ll give her a pass for now, since she got almost zero screen time.