Project Runway’s tribunal of judges has, unlike many other aspects of the fashion industry, undergone no permanent alterations in the show’s ten seasons. Despite a network change (it aired on Bravo from 2004-2008 and has since run on Lifetime), myriad guest judges, and some really weird challenges (so, so many outfits made out of food), bubbly Heidi Klum, analytical Nina Garcia, and metaphorical Michael Kors (and sage mentor Tim Gunn) have remained as constant as Kors’ permatan.
But yesterday, Lifetime announced that Zac Posen will be sewn in as Kors’ replacement for the show’s eleventh season, which premieres Jan. 24. According to a Lifetime press release, Kors is leaving after 10 seasons as judge due to scheduling conflicts (seasons 10 and 11 were filmed back-to-back), but will return as guest judge for the season’s finale. CFDA award-winning Posen followed up on the statement with an ebullient tweet. As of now, Posen is a “featured judge,” meaning Kors may return after this season.
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Until then, the show will be without Kors’ disparaging opinion of mother of the bride-esque designs, but it won’t lack star power. Lifetime posted an impressive list of guest judges that will appear on season 11 including Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Miranda Lambert, John Legend, Joan and Melissa Rivers, Emmy Rossum, Kristin Davis, Jordana Brewster and designers Rachel Roy, Tracy Reese, Chris Benz and Project Runway season four winner Christian Siriano.
Posen isn’t the only Runway shake-up. The upcoming season is called “Teams Edition,” which means it will feature only group challenges. The 16 designers must work together for every challenge while ensuring their own garments stand out on the runway to the judges. Previous seasons have had a mix of group and individual challenges, but this time, designers will have to prove that they are a team player that can also stand out among the crowd. Given contestants’ general distaste for team projects in seasons past, we can only guess that this wrench was thrown after casting. Collaboration probably won’t mean blunted personalities, though—the show’s history of cattiness and fierce protection of creative property likely means that the all-group aspect will throw open the door for new drama and competitiveness.