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New contestants hit the ‘Runway’

MARION CURTIS/starpix via apSupermodel Heidi Klum remains as the host for “Project Runway,’’ now on the Lifetime cable channel. MARION CURTIS/starpix via apSupermodel Heidi Klum remains as the host for “Project Runway,’’ now on the Lifetime cable channel. (Marion Curtis/Starpix via Ap)
By Erin Carlson
Associated Press / July 10, 2009
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NEW YORK - Let the sew-off begin: After a massive delay, “Project Runway’’ is revealing its new batch of aspiring fashion designers.

Until now, they lurked in the shadows, prematurely sidelined by a legal battle over the popular design-challenge series, which began on Bravo but ended up in the hands of Lifetime.

As the female friendly network prepares for the Aug. 20 premiere, the 16 contestants’ diverse faces and backgrounds are ready for launch. Three of them - Nicholas Putvinksi, Gordana Gehlhausen, and Irina Shabeyeva - hail originally from Russia, Bosnia, and the Republic of Georgia, respectively.

Yet another contestant, Malvin Vein, lists his favorite designer as “himself’’ and inspiration as “the farmers of rural China.’’ Another, Louise Black, claims the first garment she ever sewed was her very own wedding dress.

Nearly half call New York City home.

Season six takes place in Los Angeles, where celebrities such as Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan will make cameos during challenges. The panel of chic remains: Heidi Klum as host/judge, flanked by mentor Tim Gunn and judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors.

“Look out for the girls,’’ Klum said Wednesday, during a break from filming the show’s seventh edition in New York. “The girls are very strong on season six. There’s a lot of crying, there’s fighting going on, there’s a lot of drama going on - but especially with the girls.’’

As it happens, the finale was taped - months ago. In February, the three top finalists trotted out their designs at the Bryant Park tents, but unlike previous seasons, they were not able to show themselves because the season had not yet aired. The crowd of fans and fashionistas clapped politely during the taping but lacked enthusiasm for anonymous designers they were not personally invested in.

That was because “Project Runway’’ - the cult series that transformed Bravo into a hot destination for addictive reality television - lacked a home base. Trapped in lawsuit limbo, the series was mired in a dispute involving NBC Universal, which owns Bravo, the Weinstein Co. and Lifetime.

The dispute began in April 2008 when NBC Universal sued Weinstein after the production company made a reported $150 million deal with Lifetime for “Runway.’’ In a settlement announced in April, NBC Universal said it would be paid by Weinstein for the right to move it to Lifetime.

Lifetime has since announced a spin-off, “Models of the Runway,’’ which looks at the reality competition from the models’ perspective, slated to debut following the new “Runway’’ premiere.

“We did it almost a year ago, so you do kind of forget but it was definitely a great season, and we all had a lot of fun,’’ Klum said. “We laughed a lot and we saw some great fashion.’’

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