There was intrigue — and Heidi Klum in barely there gold — as the lights, camera, action of reality TV hit Fashion Week Friday during the "Project Runway" show that will decide who wins the 10th anniversary season.
Eight contestants thanked their loved ones and shared their inspirations in the hour-long parade before the judges on the Lifetime series and a huge crowd at the Lincoln Center tents.
But only three or four of the eight remain in the running to win the milestone season (the others were shills to keep us guessing). The finale, based on judging of the Fashion Week looks, will air Oct. 18 with guest judge Jennifer Hudson.
"Wow, 10 seasons, who would have thought that would happen," Klum told the crowd, dressed in a sparkly, backless gown. With a front-row kiss for her producer, Harvey Weinstein, she assured fans of an 11th season.
Klum attributed the staying power of "Project Runway" to the staying power of fashion itself and the passion of those who worship it. Klum, the first and only host, said her TV baby stays fresh by evolving the same way fashion evolves — perpetual change.
"How can you say, 'Well, we saw already pants and now there are pants again on the runway?' They're different," Klum said during a round of interviews at the Empire Hotel near Lincoln Center. "A lot of shows got a kick start from our kind of module, in a way."
Klum and Michael Kors, a longtime judge on the series, are proud of the show's no-script nature, drama and all. This season, contestant Ven Budhu, a 28-year-old designer from Queens, earned zero points from many fans when he complained incessantly a makeover guest he was supposed to dress was too large.
"Fashion people by nature are a little high-strung, a little dramatic," Kors said. "You have big egos, and you have someone like Ven, who takes everything verrrry seriously. We try to bring them back to earth."
Kors wouldn't have it any other way.
"Quite frankly, fashion people are interesting," he said. "Nothing against accountants but we are not a group of accountants, that's for sure."
Added Klum: "I always feel bad, as if we were too mean, but honestly it comes purely because we are passionate."
Klum's sometimes public sparring in a contentious divorce from Seal has provided off-camera drama as well.
Can Hudson handle the show's highs and lows? Is she intimidated by her sometimes cranky fellow judges? "I am," she said.
Hudson, stunning in an azul jumpsuit and slimmed-down body, with a 3-year-old son at home, is launching an apparel line for all sizes on QVC. She said she's a longtime lover of fashion but a new fan of "Project Runway."
On the Fashion Week runway, the lucky eight contestants strutted looks ranging from African tribal and highly architectural to color-blocky and reconstructed.
There was a touch of mesh in jackets and tops from Gunnar Deatherage, a self-taught, 22-year-old designer from Kentucky who learned to sew at age 7 from his grandmother.
Elena Silvnyak, 28 and originally from the Ukraine, sent models out with bright yellow and green lips, two-tone fitted dresses and tunics.
An always serious Budhu managed a rare smile at the end of his show, which featured impeccable bodices and necks in constructed layers of fabric on formal gowns and cocktail dresses in reds and off-whites.
Sonjia Williams, 27, another New Yorker, sent down an ode to herself, a "bold, strong, confident woman," with blue lace in leggings and tops, a wide-waisted skirt in a floral print and shorts in a piped leatherette.