Meet the New Yorkers From Project Runway, Season Eight

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Nicholas D'Aurizio (left), Ivy Higa (center), Casanova (right), and Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (smooching in the corner). Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime

Project Runway returns to Lifetime on July 29, and the channel — amid a flurry of press releases about its newly expanded 90-minute episodes and "Accessories Wall" partnership with Piperlime — has revealed the identities of next season's contestants, of which there are seventeen total. No, you're not going crazy thinking that sounds like an awful lot of no-names to keep track of. When the show first debuted, there were only twelve contestants. The subtextual implication? "Dear Bravo, Eat us. Much love, Lifetime."

But is more really better, or is it just more? Can Tim Gunn furrow his brow, finger-pat his pursed lips, and sincerely feign interest in the often home-ec-on-steroids creations of seventeen different designers in the span of what'll ultimately be edited down to an 83-second workroom check-in? We've got fourteen weeks to figure it out. In the meantime, click ahead to learn more about the three New York residents we hope will be dominating the airwaves.

HOMETOWN HERO NO. 1: Nicholas D'Aurizio
What you need to know: He's 32, a handbag designer living on the Upper East Side, loves himself some Prada and Alexander McQueen, and wore terrifically high-waisted pants as a kid. Nowadays, he's more likely to sport puffy vests, Reeboks, and embellished button-downs (you can take the boy out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the boy). For the PR audition, D'Aurizio presented a selection of cloaks, capelets, and a handbag made of industrial felt, readily admitting his love of Twilight and Interview With the Vampire. Try not to hold that against him.
Why he's worth rooting for: When the casting directors called D'Aurizio to tell him he'd made the show, his reaction went something like this: "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" Enthusiasm goes a long way on reality TV, and D'Aurizio's ebullient personality is instantly likable.

HOMETOWN HERO NO. 2: Ivy Higa
What you need to know: Originally from Seoul, the 30-year-old fashion designer idolizes Issey Miyake and Consuelo Castiglioni, and is a self-proclaimed scarf, bag, and pocket junkie. The collection she presented at the casting session was inspired by Japanese samurai, and included numerous convertible/reversible pieces, and a print inspired by spattered blood. (This was awesome because it gave casting judge and Season Six winner Irina Shabayeva slightly nauseated pause.)
Why she's worth rooting for: She may seem soft-spoken compared to the other New York contenders, but there's a dark-horse ferocity to her work. Plus, she stocks her kitchen with Hawaiian snacks and beef jerky — a combination that hints at the coolness bubbling under her quiet exterior.

HOMETOWN HERO NO. 3: Casanova
What you need to know: His real name is Carlos Casanova, but like Prince, just one name'll do, thankyouverymuch. He's 33, originally from Puerto Rico, now living in a huge apartment in Astoria, and obsessed with John Galliano. The crazily sequined pieces he put forth during auditions looked tacky at first glance, like something Cher (who also needs but one name) might've worn to the Oscars, but hearing him explain his M.O. in a thick, adorable accent will melt the heart of even the most hateful fashion hard-ass.
Why he's worth rooting for: The guy's name is Casanova. What else do you need to know?