'Project Runway 8': Heidi Klum talks new format, new twist and guest judges

project-runway-8-tim-gunn-heidi-klum-320.jpgDesign fans can look forward to more "Project Runway," but say goodbye to "Models of the Runway."

The spinoff show that focused on the designers' models in the competition has fallen by the wayside now that the eighth season of "Project Runway" will run 90-minute episodes, beginning Thursday, July 29 at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

"I personally like 'Models of the Runway' ... and I feel that the time that we did it it was fun," Heidi Klum tells the press Thursday (July 15). "What it is like for the girls is basically what we wanted to show, but to have the half an hour more to show what 'Project Runway' is all about is a better move for sure."

The reality show host emphasizes that the actual structure of the "Runway" won't change, but that the extra time just allows the show to delve deeper into the behind-the-scenes drama, something that viewers and visitors who'd sit in on the Elimination Days at Parsons School of Design requested.

"I think people wanted to see more. We got a lot of letters," Klum explains. "People would always say to us, 'Why did you make this decision? We don't understand why this person had to go or this person.'

"For example, today we have an Elimination Day. It's going to go on four or five hours. On the show it only has 10-15 minutes. So if there is a very special decision day, when the judges might not agree with one another or something really happens, now we have the freedom to show certain things much longer than we ever could before."

This goes for what the designers are going through at the apartment and during their challenges.

"The show lives off of what stories happen naturally," says Klum. "So if one of the designers has a fight with someone, we might stay on that story and follow that story and that would be taking more space up in the show. Or if someone has trouble sewing something, we would follow that story. So it really takes its natural journey on each episode. It'll really be more of the same of what people already know, just more of it."


project-runway-8-andy-south.jpgThat doesn't mean that the show is without surprises though. The 17 contestants, more than the show has had before, won't number 17 for long.

"Well we thought before the designers get to be officially on the show, we'll give them one last twist," she reveals. "Usually I meet all the designers at their apartment. They put their stuff down, and we do a champagne toast and they're officially on the show.

"This time we started with 17 designers and we met at Lincoln Center, which is going to be the place where Fashion Week is going to move to from the Park. So I give them a last challenge and then whoever does not make it through that challenge will officially not be on the show and will not move into the apartment. So we did give them a last twist before they unpacked their bags."

Ouch. That can't be fun to psych yourself up and then have to leave before even starting in earnest.

At least the first episode has one bright point. Selma Blair will be stopping by as the first guest judge, and Klum is a huge fan, not only of the actress' style, but also of her personality.

project-runway-selma-blair.jpg"Selma Blair, she is definitely considered someone who is a beautiful woman, a style icon," says Klum. "She was a great judge. I didn't know how funny she was. I only know her from movies, but when she was sitting there, she was hilarious because everyone always has a certain feeling when they look at a piece of clothing and the kind of connections you make with things you've seen in the past. She referred to so many goofy things that she had seen, what this reminded her of. I think she was a great judge and really, really funny so we're starting off with a fun episode."

Klum also bumped into Irish milliner Philip Treacy at the Oscars and was inspired to create a challenge for this season.

She explains, "I said to Philip, 'Why don't you want to come maybe and do "Project Runway"? We've never  done a hat challenge and I would love it if the designers would make an outfit that goes with one of your hats.' It was so beautiful. So we got to fly Philip Treacy over to America and he brought 15 of his most wildest and craziest avant-garde hats, and each designer got to choose a different hat out of the Button Bag and then they had to design something to go with the hat."

Other challenges include one in which the designers create something for Klum herself and another "unconventional" materials challenge, which Betsey Johnson will come on board to guest judge.

Although Klum is excited for the upcoming season and its guests, she still has her eye on one day landing a really big fish to sit in the director's chair.

"I've said it before, but our First Lady would be amazing to have as a guest judge," says Klum. "That would be my No. 1 dream come true is if Michelle Obama was a guest judge. I think she's super hip and cool and super fashionable and I think she would be absolutely amazing to have."

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Photo credit: Lifetime