The new cast of characters. Who made the cut? Photo: Lifetime

The sixth season of "Project Runway" kicked off with a new home on Lifetime and new location: Los Angeles, at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Leaving behind its old environs of New York City and Parsons the New School for design.

But the most important things have stayed the same: Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.

The season appropriately premiered with a red-carpet challenge. Designers were given the opportunity to express true innovation and who they are as designers. And, really, what more could you ask for?

Cast members headed off to the L.A. branch of Mood Fabrics with $200 and two days to present their red-carpet visions. The fabric store had the usual drama of rushing around the aisles of fabric rolls in a panic.

Qristyl Frazier, a New Yorker by way of St. Louis, Mo., even bought her own scissors, when the one fabric cutter wasn't working quickly enough to meet the 30-minute deadline.

The show had a few standout characters from the get-go. Johnny Sakalis, a recovering drug addict from West Hollywood, Calif., had a failure of nerves in the first few minutes, and it was truly touching when Gunn set Sakalis firmly back on the road to making it work.

Quirky Ari Fish from Kansas City didn't do sketches, preferring a more conceptual approach of handstands to arrive at her design concepts.

As usual, the 16 "Project Runway" contestants come from varied backgrounds and geographical locations. Ranging from age 24 to 50, they run the gamut from recent fashion school grad Althea Harper from Dayton, Ohio, to seasoned window display designer and NYC native Epperson.

During the competition, the variation in training became readily apparent. Formally trained Mitchell Hall from Savannah, Ga., labored intensely over smocking, while Christopher Straub from Shakopee, Minn., asked, "What's smocking?"

After surprise judge Lindsay Lohan made her entrance, most of the designs that paraded the runway fell squarely in the middle, neither offending nor standing out, and all but six were excused from the runway to continue in the competition.

Most notably, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Sakalis showed an artfully draped red cocktail dress. The six remaining on the runway proved to be the best and the worst.

Hall had a model with measurements that drastically differed from his design and what had looked to be a promising piece was torn apart at the last minute and left looking like a too-sheer nightgown with an overly smocked neck.

Fish created a puzzling garment that Kors aptly labeled a "disco soccer ball."

Frazier had created a lovely evening dress that was unfortunately married to a crazy floral front fabric insert.

And despite his ignorance of fashion terminology, Straub turned out a breathtakingly lovely confection in a short, strapless dress with black gathers topping beige ruffles.

Indeed black and beige slinky fabrics ruled the runway, and in the end, it was Straub who took the surprise win, proving that talent always beats training.

It was no surprise that Fish, although given points for her conceptual ways, was the first to go. More surprising was that Lohan giggled and snickered á la "Mean Girls" when Klum tore into Fish

Looks like the 6th season is off to a roaring start. Tune in next Thursday for more drama on the second episode and a recap afterward on StyleList.

And since you're probably feeling inspired to update your wardrobe, "Project Runway" and Lifetime are giving away an American Express gift card worth $100, click here to enter.