Veteran mentor Tim Gunn, left, is back, along with a new judge, designer Zac Posen.
NEW YORK — Skeptics, be silenced, says Tim Gunn.
Even with Project Runway‘s overhaul — a new judge (Zac Posen instead of Michael Kors) and, more radically, a new format (team face-offs) — the show’s mensch of a mentor says the new Season 11, premiering Thursday on Lifetime (9 p.m. ET/PT), is his favorite “ever.”
Though he hasn’t seen an episode, “all I know is the experience that I had doing it,” says Gunn, looking his signature soigne self in a chalk-stripe navy suit and purple pocket square. He’s amid a space as integral to the show as the Parsons workroom: Mood fabric store. When it came to taping, “I loved every second of it.”
In large part because of the (controversial) team challenges. The season starts off with 16 contestants split into teams of eight, designing individual looks but presenting as a group. The weaker team — which may boast the strongest contestant — loses a designer. On the other hand, a lackluster designer might get carried along thanks to the strength of his or her team.
All of which creates “a lot of friction,” says Gunn, who admits he had a “moment of pause” when he first heard the idea (host and judge Heidi Klum wasn’t so keen, either). “But then I had unbridled enthusiasm.”
The budget is divvied up by the team’s treasurer. And Gunn’s critiques are conducted en masse, which means “if they see something going awry with the design work of one of their teammates, they have a responsibility to speak up … because you don’t want to be on the bottom.”
For sure, the conceit adds up to entertaining reality TV. “What happens to one designer in particular is absolutely unbelievable,” Gunn says. “She’s really, really outstanding, but she’s like the Flying Dutchman of doom. It’s, like, wherever she goes, the team loses,” even though she’s not the contestant who’s sent to clean up her space in the workroom.
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