Project: Runway, Season 7, Episode 1
Here's a footnote for a week marked by late-night lineup drama and real world tragedy: Lifetime has hauled itself out of the big-dog beta test and gotten serious about learning how to make reality TV. Season 6, shot in L.A., mangled the show's winning spirit so badly we went out with Don Draper halfway through and forgot to come home, but Klum und Co. have pulled it together for a great serve, with big, human personalities and garments to get nelly about. And we're back in New York, thank God. Bolts from Mood were festively arranged like bouquets of fabric in Central Park. (In memory of Jeanne-Claude, perhaps. Oh, and Heidi's pregnant again, so we'll be going through another round of that.)
The new crop posed well for a darling first impression. Ben Chura needs to speak up if he wants to make one, too, but overall they're trickling out everyone's quirks with much more confidence. Successful P:R templates are being shamelessly but effectively recycled: Free-spirit Ping Wu is Elisa Jimenez reimagined as an adorable pixie who gets—and loves—performance; queeny, hilarious Anthony Williams is Tracy Morgan as Chris March, and likely to be the source of every catchphrase you hear this season. Seth Aaron Henderson's geisha-lipped, strappy picnic basket frock reminded us of Jeffrey Sebelia at his best, but the Scott Weiland/Keith Richards teddy boy look he wore for the judges was the Season 3 winner at his worst. We're afraid for him come the inevitable menswear challenge.
Assured cutting and camerawork is in general the biggest and most welcome change. During the fabric snatch-off, we could've easily missed a hoodie reading “The House Always Wins” under a bubblegum scarf—well played, all—and Tim Gunn's workroom visits, repeatedly botched last season, are back to showing one of contest TV's most thoughtful and sincere referees for the accomplished mentor he is, not a Chatty Cathy doll who knows only "Make it work!" and "That worries me." A quick montage of portfolio grabs suggested promise up ahead, teasing riveted sleeves in herringbone tweed, a pile of chiffon in front of a fan, and Laura Bennett's black-and-whites let off their short leashes. It was over in seconds, perfectly paced to flirt with the attention of those rocking 20-tab Chrome windows behind their office spreadsheets. Christiane King made a gathered, blood-colored gown that photographed beautifully in a haystack, but with the season's first Wiedersehen, she and her sloppy yawn of a dress went home. (Jesus Estrada should've followed right behind, wearing that shit-colored, mock-croc hooker tube he stitched together solely to ruin his model's entire year.)
Project: Runway's NYC homecoming was put forward like the classic sportswear that made Kors his fortune. Heidi and Tim are back on Manhattan rooftops. The IKEA nests at the Atlas are cramped and bright, and a wall full of accessories proudly reads “Bluefly.com." (Brilliant, possibly-late-in-the-game product placement was a shot of the designers sketching on HP TouchSmart notebooks on the heels of last week's Consumer Electronics Show, a.k.a. Everyone's Tablet But Apple's.)
So many looks come down the runway in a season premiere it can be hard to sort them out. We caught and loved a cummerbund studded with upholstery nails and Jesse LeNoir's take on the '60s trend. There may be a wizard with prints to rival Season 3's Uli Herzner, and there were glimpses of well-chosen influences like Chloe Dao and Rei Kawakubo. The choice of a first challenge based on editing was deft and hopefully a sign that Lifetime knows exactly how it wants to show us what's going down. Complimenting Henderson, Michael Kors said his work was "very commercial" and shot him a big grin. Having Nicole Richie pop the guest-judge cork was—we'll say it—inspired. Nina Garcia made sure we all learned the term hanger appeal. Season 7 has it—let's hope we like how it looks once we put it on.