The last time Project Runway showed in the tents, it was a year ago, and Jessica Simpson was the guest judge — this after a season in which the Lifetime show tapped noted fashionista and design savant Faith Hill, whose affinity for ill-fitting pants has been well-documented in the opening of Monday Night Football. So when we walked into the tent this time around and saw seats near Klum & Co. labeled “L’Wren Scott” and “Jennifer Love Hewitt,” it seemed like a genuine toss-up as to which one might be the panelist — one is in fashion, the other wears clothes, and is Lifetime’s most noted and possibly only Golden Globe nominee for her role as a massage-therapist prostitute (prostisseur?), who also wore clothes. They're both totally qualified!
In the end, it was tall-drink-of-water Scott who strolled the catwalk — in a tight-fitting and frankly pretty groovy red dress — alongside Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, and Heidi, who wore a daring backless jumpsuit that flashed a tremendous amount of sideboob. Nearby sat actress Malin Akerman, sporting a flattering lacy black cocktail dress and a Heidi-themed updo — the movie, not the lady, although come to think of it, we’ve seen Klum sporting a braid-and-bun combo before, too, so maybe Malin is just trying to convince Lifetime to make a movie of Heidi’s life called, like, A Klum With A View, that she can star in, and get her own Golden Globe nomination. Adjacent to Malin was the aforementioned Jennifer Love Hewitt, who came out to support her past-and-future employers in a skintight (and not tremendously flattering) orange-y bandage dress and a new ‘do that’s shorter and darker than we’re used to, with heavier bangs. We also spied designer Betsey Johnson, looking way more relaxed than we would look if we had a show of our own coming up, and PR alums like Austin Scarlett (who arrived too late to be seated and who spent the duration of the show dabbing his forehead with a hankie in standing room, and whose new mustache makes him look like a very handsome thirties movie villain), Mila Hermanovski, Nick Verreos, and Jay McCarroll, who was doing an interview with a very manly, gruff-talking bald dude holding a Tonight Show microphone, and who we heard respond to the question, "What are you up to?" with the old chestnut, "Oh, about 5'11."
Right before the show began, we noticed a commotion near the entrance and traced it directly to the arrival of Andie MacDowell, seemingly unable to resist a chance to hop on the PR bandwagon — by which we mean public relations, given that she is both a L’Oreal spokesperson (the company is a Runway sponsor) and the star of an upcoming ABC Family series. Austinites on Twitter later noted that MacDowell allegedly had been scheduled to give the keynote speech today at a Hospice Austin fund-raiser, but canceled on them for mysterious reasons. If true, then apparently those reasons involve the fact that she needed to give some charitable publicity to her show, Jane by Design, which she advertised by entering arm-in-arm with co-star Erica Dasher. MacDowell looked very pretty in a blue Alberta Ferretti, but also refreshingly like she is not trying to pretend she is in her late twenties — which she explained thusly: “I always try to find someone ten years older than me to aspire to.” We were steered back to our seats before we could hear who her current decade-ahead inspiration is; for our part, we would’ve looked the reporter square in the eye and said, “Emma Stone, obviously,” but we don't know that she would have gone for the totally bald-faced lie.
We were likewise impressed by MacDowell's capacity for looking relaxed and interested throughout the entire endless-feeling show. With nine designers left per the most recent episode, we sat through nine collections, none of them uniformly great or memorable — which goes for much of the cast itself, actually, as each contestant who failed to give us a name elicited mumbles in our section of, “Wait, who is that again? Do you know who that is? Is that Philip? Oh, there is no Philip. Hmm.” The design work itself was likewise all over the place: Burt’s looked a bit like Forever 21 eveningwear; disappointingly, a weepy Kimberly started out with patterned casualwear and ended with a black glittery gown, with no real cohesive story getting her from A to B; and Joshua showed neon lace-up bike shorts straight out of an eighties rave. If we had to guess, we’d say the three collections with noticeably dramatic accessories are the finalists — Laura Kathleen, Anthony Ryan, and Anya — simply because that feels like a tie-in to the upcoming Project Accessory (yes, that’s a real thing), and we suspect that Lifetime will be incapable of resisting plugging their new show on their old stalwart, perhaps by inserting an accessories-y challenge in the finale. LK’s and Anya’s were also the two strongest and most expensive-looking shows, and two of the very few which felt at all cohesive. Regardless of any prognostications, our hearts belong to Bryce. “Hey, I’ve found something more terrifying than Heidi Klum,” he said after he walked out and faced the clearly unnerving crowd. “I’m gonna make that a T-shirt. ‘Klum and Doom.’” Hey, Bryce, grab Malin Akerman and pitch that one to Lifetime. Who wouldn’t watch?