NEW YORK —Project Runway returns Thursday night (Lifetime, 9 ET) for its 10th season, one that judges Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia promise will be less about the showroom drama and more about the designers' work.
"This is a very sophisticated group of designers," says Kors. "These people know what's going on in fashion. They are plugged in." Klum, Garcia and Kors reminisce about the show with the help of USA TODAY reader questions via Twitter.
Q: Which is your favorite challenge? @Shop_grrl
MK: Every year you get to see how creative (the contestants) are with an unconventional challenge. You get to see if they can think outside the box and still have taste.
NG: For me, when they can use fantasy and creativeness. That's when I think that we get the best. When we can see how they can go far with their creativity.
HK: Our very first challenge ever on Project Runway was an unconventional challenge. It was when Austin Scarlett made the corn-husk dress.
MK: I mean we're still talking about corn-husk dressing.
HK: I was actually against it, doing this for the first challenge. I was really against it. I was really worried. I was worried that they were going to do some hodgepodge arts-and-crafts thing, and it was going to make the show not the way we wanted it. We wanted to have a show with real fashion and I was scared when they make things out of lollipops or fruits and vegetables. … I was worried that we were going to look really stupid. But actually it was great. It showed that these people are really talented that they can make anything out of a corn husk. Or Nora (Caliguri) made something out of a lawn chair.
Q: Who is your favorite winner? @SunnyCAH
MK: I think Christian Siriano has to be the hands-down favorite.
HK: For me, too.
NG: For me, three.
HK: He has the whole package. You have to have personality. You have to have point of view. You have to be the squeaky wheel, otherwise you don't get no grease. He calls all the time, he makes sure people don't forget about him, and he designs beautiful clothes that you can actually wear — casual or to the Emmys. I've worn many of his dresses. Sometimes designers send me things and it's unwearable. They have a great idea, but the execution is wrong or the material is wrong. He can hold his own with designers who are well known.
Q: What was your favorite season? @SunnyCAH
HK: The season which Christian was on was Season 4, and I loved it. Very early on you knew that he was going to be great. It was almost difficult for us to hide that to the audience because he has that star quality as a designer.
MK: I think Season 2. You had a lot of talent and a lot of drama. We laughed a lot. They were unpredictable. You thought they'd be fabulous and they weren't, or you thought they'd be terrible and they were great. That was an interesting one. We had Chloe Dao and Santino Rice, and they were like night and day. I was always intrigued.
NG: This season is pretty great. Because it's an anniversary season. There's a lot of looking back.
Q: Which fashion trend can't you stand? @CaitlinLowery
HK: Big shoulder pads. They make you look like a football player. I'm not into that. They can be nice and sharp, but when it turns out to look like a football player, I don't love it.
MK: My fashion trend that I hate: hot pants on people who are too big to wear them.
NG: The one that I'm hating at the moment are those platform shoes with spikes. I'm over it.
Q: What is the next up-and-coming trend? @CaitlinLowery
MK: Shoes without a platform. Single-soled shoes. That doesn't mean flat shoes, it can be anything from a flat to a heel.
NG: There's been a lot of minimalism. I think we might see a little bit of gypsy coming up.
HK: I love gypsy. … Gypsy is easy to get ready … for wash and wear.
Q: What are your thoughts on sustainability and fashion leaders' roles? @AnupamaPasricha
MK: We are constantly talking to the fabric suppliers to convince them it's not about wearing straw bags. It's not about wearing things that are scratchy and itchy, but we certainly need to develop more things that feel great, look great, perform well that don't damage the planet. I think we're getting better. It's only baby steps. If people make the effort, it will happen.
NG: At Marie Claire (where Garcia is fashion director) we are always very interested in that subject. We go to great lengths to highlight the designers doing that. … Sustainability is something that interests our readers. We devote numerous pages to that.
MK: Gretchen Jones was the first designer on the show that gave credence to how important this was going to be. And I think fashion is sometimes about doing things first, and it was the first time we had a designer when it was really part of her ethos, part of her platform. She is making sustainable clothes.
(Segue to questions from the writer)
Q:Who comes up with the challenges?
HK: The producers. We have meetings before, and sometimes someone will have an idea and throw it out there. And then it's like a collaboration. We sit around the table. We have meetings a few months before the show starts, and everyone kind of throws it on the table and it gets back-and-forth.
MK: The only time I get involved is if it's a Michael Kors-centered challenge where I work with the producers to come up with something interesting.
Q: Which winner would you consider most successful?
MK: I go back to Christian.
HK: Christian, in like the conventional way.
MK: Chloe and Christian.
HK: She actually sells on HSN or QVC. Chloe is very successful on a different kind of level. She's maybe making even more money than Christian.
MK: She's more mass than he is.
HK: So it depends on what you think is success. She is also very successful. He is more seen and talked about in the fashion world.
MK: She made the decision that she's not interested in being part of the New York fashion scene, so she has created her own niche.
HK: She's more commercial, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Q: What can readers can look forward to this season?
MK: To me, I have to say this is a very sophisticated group of designers. These people know what's going on in fashion. They are plugged in. There is a real sense of polish to them. Over the years, a phrase I've used, and it's not a compliment, is 'Becky Home-ecky,' someone who wants to cut up a pair of sheets and make a dress. Suddenly they're thrown into this situation on Project Runway. This isn't that group at all. They know fashion, they know what's current. I think they know what kind of woman they want to design for.
NG: I'd have to agree with Michael. It's less about the showroom drama and more about their work.
HK: I think it's a great mix of talented people, but also funny people. At the same time, there's a lot of tears.
MK: They are a dramatic group.
NG: They're sensitive.
MK: Yes, sensitive is a nice word.
HK: There's one girl who is very tough in front of us, but backstage she breaks down a lot, she cries a lot. We also have some very high fashion challenges, but we also have some really fun challenges that will make people laugh out loud. It's a really good mix of it all.
Q: What sort of surprises can viewers expect?
MK: They are a sensitive group, and the show is hard. Some of them perhaps are not cut out for how hard the show is, quite frankly. And they're human beings, they're individuals, they have to do what's right for them. We'll see how they handle the stress.
Q: What didn't I ask that I should have asked?
MK: How do we look so young after all of this? … How incredible is that? Because we've actually reversed the aging process.
NG: We're looking younger?
MK: I mean babies have been born, careers have exploded, and somehow we look better than ever.
HK: And I love that we're not sick and tired of each other. I love going to work. We always laugh, we always have a good time. We appreciate what we have. And sometimes when we get a little catty with the designers and what outside people think is mean, you have to really be there to understand the heat of the moment.
People don't understand that when we do the Q&A with the designers, it's really five hours that is shrunk down to 15 or 20 minutes on the show. … People see that little snippet, and sometimes it's like that one harsh thing that you said, but you know all the nice things that you say go out the door.
Sometimes I think people label us as really hard or this one is nicer. We're all trying to push them to be better and for the next time around that they work harder, dig deeper, challenge themselves more. Sometimes they just want to come up with something generic, so they slip on by to the next round. We want them to win every week.
MK: The best challenge for me is when I think they all look good, when no one is terrible. I actually find that that's very intriguing.
HK: Yeah, we've had that this season. … It hasn't happened before.
NG: It hasn't happened a lot. You feel really good. You're like, "They're listening to us."
HK: And when you see that happen, you realize that they are dealing with grace under pressure. They're able to get better. You know some people fall apart under the pressure, some people kind of get stronger. But we've had some episodes this season — I don't think we've ever had it before — where we all sit there, and go, "Wow, there's no one here that we hate."
Q: Will there be a Season 11?
(Silence in the room, long pause)
HK: I would tell you a lot, but we're not supposed to.
MK: Do you want to know my dermatologist?