project runway season 9 tim gunn heidi klum nina garcia michael kors winning look

Bert Keeter's winning Project Runway design. Photo Courtesy: Lifetime

Twenty (make that 16) aspiring fashion designers kick off season 9 of "Project Runway" with a little pajama game.

To ratchet up the drama (and extend the first episode to 90 minutes) judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, Micheal Kors and mentor Tim Gunn convene to review the portfolios of 20 designers and trim the cast by four.

Then, roused from their Atlas Apartment beds by Papa Tim Gunn at dawn, the chosen 16 are allowed to take one thin and dreadful white bed sheet and are marched to Parsons workrooms in their sleeping gear to begin their reality quest to New York's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
And sew it goes:

The Challenge: Take a single polyester and cotton blend bed sheet and the pajamas off their backs and transform them into a runway-worthy garment.

The Making-it-Workroom Drama: Naked sleepers whine at Gunn about their material disadvantage.

The season's divas-in-training, Laura Kathleen and a former Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Anya Ayoung Chee, arrive wearing a negligee and silk pajamas. It's almost as if they cheated with a covert trip to Mood fabrics.

Bert Keeter self-mockingly lists his age as 102, but is really 57. He earns sentimental early favorite status with his orange gingham boxers and tug-at-our-inseams story of designer rehabilitation. Back in the '70s, he worked for Halston, Bill Blass and Arnold Scassi before his partner and best friends died of AIDS and he spiraled into grief and alcoholism. Everybody loves a comeback.

Anthony Ryan Auld, 28, has a backstory that's compelling too: He's survived testicular cancer and is color-blind.

We're also intrigued by the quirky, bespectacled Becky Ross, 38, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult and is seeking design salvation.

The Guest Judge: Is actress Christina Ricci, who in keeping with the theme of the night is a bit of a snooze.

Who's In: The top three includes Ayoung Chee who wows the skeptical judges --who almost cut her in casting because she just learned to sew-- with an impeccable silk pants and halter combo. Also in the top: Auld makes the cut for "something out of nothing" lace-edged T-shirt and coordinating mini that piques Klum's fascination with "what you guys wear to bed." Keeter proves 102-year-old guys are the new 57 with a completely chic dress fashioned from a bed sheet he dyed to give contrast to a gingham-boxer bodice. Garcia thinks his boxers are "adorable." So he gets the win and immunity next week.

Who's Out: When Kors calls your interpretation of the bed sheet a "Flintstone disco pouch" and says your model's pants fit like she "ate too much" you're on the short list for Klum's dreaded 'auf. Such was the case with Rafael Cox, 27, the first season 9 cast member sent to clean out his workspace. Cox heads home to Atlanta threatening to design again. "Despite the fact that I'm out, I'm not going to turn off my sewing machine."

For more "Project Runway" scoop, read our exclusive interview with last season's controversial winner, Gretchen Jones.