And they're off.
On Thursday night, 16 talented designers faced their first test on Project Runway; at the end of the 90-minute season premiere, one was shown the door.
It wasn't Patricia Michaels, Taos Pueblo -- in fact, Michaels was among the top three finishers on the winning team, Team Keeping It Real.
In a new twist on the show's formula, the contestants have been divided into two groups who must (to some extent) work together to complete the design challenges. But ultimately each designer must stand by a creation with his or her name on it, and face judgment alone.
The assignment given the designers was to create an outfit inspired by New York City. Michaels chose to make a short dress of pieces of hand-painted leather with a vibrant blue underneath. With its right angles and continually-overlapping pieces, the piece suggested a cityscape, with buildings rising in the distance and fading into a gray atmosphere.
Judges Heidi Klum, Zac Pose, Christian Siriano and Nina Garcia gave Michaels' creation high praise; their only criticism seemed to be that Michaels was a bit too chatty when asked to describe her creative process.
Although another designer (Daniel Esquivel) won the contest, Michaels clearly gave him a run for his money, and she looks to be an early fan favorite. Writing on the Lifetime site, blogger Laura Reineke called Michaels "the designer I [am] most excited to follow as the season goes on." Andrew Wolt of the Baltimore Sun felt Michaels should have won. Referring to her by the translation of her Native name, he gushed, "Water Lily is an illusionist! That white dress with the flaps had little peeks of blue under them and it was subtle and awesome!"
The next episode of Project Runway will air Thursday, January 31, at 9 PM Eastern/8 PM Central time on the Lifetime network.