'Project Runway': Season 12 premieres with a slew of changes and a returning designer

tim-gunn-project-runway-season-12-325.jpg"Project Runway" returned to Lifetime on Thursday (July 18) for Season 12 and, while things seemed business as usual at first, the show gradually revealed a handful of changes to its format, as well as its biggest prize package ever.

As the designers arrived at an airport runway (Get it? It's a runway.), host Heidi Klum informed them that this season's prize package was worth over $500,000, the biggest prize in the history of the show. Before she and fan favorite mentor Tim Gunn could reveal just what that included, it was time for the designers to begin their first challenge -- the unconventional material challenge.

Just what would the unconventional material be? Why, the parachutes off the backs of the air divers who just landed at the designers' feet, of course. As the competitors race to snatch the parachute of their choosing, returning designer Kate (voted back by fans after competing in Season 11) literally gets stomped and trampled. It's slightly awesome -- if by slightly, you mean completely.

In the early goings, it's always hard for the producers to introduce each designer, so one gets some early attention. That one would be Timothy. Why? Because Timothy is slightly crazy. (Again, slightly = completely) Timothy has a built-in rivalry with Miranda, as they are both from Wisconsin and compete there. Didn't know there was a competitive fashion scene in Wisconsin? Me either.

Anywho, Timothy doesn't really refer to himself as a designer. No, he's a "sustainability-focused platform artist," which mostly means he's prone to saying insane things like "Remember your core, remember the unicorns and don't lose sight of your values and what you stand for" and "What's fascinating about burning something is that it's neither additive or reductive -- it's entirely transformative."

As another designer says, "Timothy might be full of s***." He doesn't use anything that needs to be plugged in, won't allow his poor model to wear makeup or have product in her hair. In fact, nothing electric can even be used to style her hair. Teasing comb it is! (I think the model cries at one point. I would.)

The other standout designer is Sandro who's just a bit sleazy and from Russia. He designs some sort of high-waisted shorts that leave little to the imagination. As Kate says, "What would the first challenge be without a little vagina?"

After watching his model try desperately to hide her privates and Timothy encourage his model to do some extremely bizarre choreography during her walk, it's time to get the the runway.

As the designers sit and await the start of their first runway show, Heidi lays bare just what's at stake this season. It's a lot. Are you ready? Take a deep breath -- we're off: $150,000 provided by GoBank, $50,000 of tech from HP/Intel, a year's supply of Resource Spring Water, a trip for two to the Maldives from Resource, a capsule collection, a complete sewing studio from Brother Sewing and Embroidery, a fashion spread in Marie Claire, a 2014 Lexus IS350, $100,000 fabric allowance from Tide Pods and a $50,000 styling contract from Loreal Paris. (Are you overwhelmed? Because I am.)

Other changes to Season 12? Tim sits on the judging panel this year, but he doesn't judge. Rather, he's afforded the Tim Gunn Rescue, which will allow the mentor to save one, and only one, eliminated designer. Additionally, the runway show will be anonymous, so the judges will be judging blind. Finally, the designers will manage their own spending throughout the season, using a sponsored GoBank account and debit card. (That shouldn't be a disaster at all.)

The runway show goes about exactly as it seemed it would. Timothy and Sandro's looks are complete messes, with Timothy's model gloriously rebelling and ignoring his dumb choreography demands. Angela also winds up at the bottom for making what looks like a disposable rain poncho.

Bradon and Sue's looks make the top, though it's a travesty that Kate didn't find herself there because her gorgeous yellow and white sundress looks real and not like something made out of a material designed to help a person fly through the sky. Bradon takes the win.

Somehow, Sandro is safe despite his intensely questionable styling, designing, sewing -- well, despite his questionable everything. It's between Angela and Timothy and Timothy is saved likely because his sort of crazy is good for TV, as is his weird rivalry with Miranda.

It looks like it's going to be a wild season, "Project Runway" fans. Any season that can somehow down the road prompt the divine Nina Garcia to utter "It almost looks like she has a foaming vagina" is destined to be a winner.

What do you think of this year's crop of talent? Are you in for the long haul? Did the right designer go home? Win? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo/Video credit: Lifetime
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