Tonight at 10 pm/ET, Bravo invites viewers to take a second stroll down the runway — the reality contest Project Runway, that is, executive-produced and again hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum. The stakes this time around: Not only will the winner be handed a cool $100,000 to help launch his or her own line, but he or she will also win the keys to a 2007 Saturn SkyRoadster, a mentorship from the Banana Republic Design Team, and the winning designs will be featured in Elle, as photographed by the magazine's world-renowned Gilles Bensimon.
How will Runway 2 be different from the original? Among the surprises that Victoria's Secret's go-to girl has in store are an even larger field of fashionista wannabes (16 versus 12), the return of a familiar face (Welcome back, Daniel Franco!) and appearances by even more A-listers from the rag trade. "The second time around, it's much easier to get people to participate," shares Klum. "Especially in the fashion industry, where people can be snobby and worry that they won't be 'cool' anymore, it's quite dangerous to go into reality. But since we have already put on a successful show, we had a lot of people knocking down our door wanting to participate" — including Michael Kors, who will return as a judge with Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, and Parsons School of Design biggie Tim Gunn.
Talking about the players, Klum sums them up as "a crazy bunch," adding "you won't have the 'Wendy Pepper' this time, you'll have different, hysterical people. Some are more flamboyant and some are quieter. They are their own characters." Not that Runway, like, say, Donald Trump's The Apprentice, will let a blatant fame-seeker coast for too long on zero merits. "Our show is not about the personalities of the contestants, it is about their skills and how good a designer they are and will be," she points out. "We didn't cast them as actors; they're real and talented people." That differentiation, she says, "is why we got nominated for an Emmy. The show is about talent and not about people 'doing a show.'"
Of course, having Franco, the first to get cut by Klum during Season 1, back onboard adds a little sizzle to Runway's steak. Explaining the encore, the German beauty says, "Everyone deserves a second chance. We always thought he was a great designer, but things [are judged] challenge by challenge. He was very courageous wanting to try it again."
"Courage" is the watchword on Runway, as Klum, Kors et al either keep designers' dreams alive or rip them open like a seam. "Most of the time, in each challenge you can simply see who did better," says Klum. "I throw the ball at them, then watch to see how the ball comes back to me. Are they [doing something] interesting, or do they give me a 'play it safe' thing?"
"Some people just have it," she declares, "and some don't."