Get Set for 'Runway,' Round 5

Who will succeed "Project Runway's" fop of fierceness, Christian Siriano?

"Runway's" latest contestant lineup, announced today in preparation for Season 5's Wednesday premiere on Bravo (9 p.m. ET/PT), is as eclectic as ever — but perhaps more poignant than ever. This cycle marks Bravo's last strut down the New York Runway before the show moves to Lifetime and Los Angeles.

"From an aesthetic point of view, it is the most diverse group," says executive producer Jane Lipsitz. In terms of cast chemistry, "it reminds me of Season 1 a little bit." Along with the requisite drama, tension and tears, "there's a lot of comedy in this season, which we didn't necessarily have last season."

Good 'PR' for fashion

After four seasons, "Project Runway" is still in style.

The show's formula is holding up, says Molly Goodson, editor of pop-culture site PopSugar.com, which regularly posts about Runway. "The show is definitely still fresh. It attracts such incredible characters that it's impossible to get stale. … They're doing a really excellent job of not compromising talent and still attracting great personalities."

Last season's Christian Siriano/Rami Kashou/Jillian Lewis showdown finale garnered Bravo its best ratings among 18- to 49-year-olds, 3.75 million viewers — 9% higher than Season 3.

Runway fashion does OK, too. Kashou's $280 Grecian drape dress sold out the first time it was offered on HSN, in May. And last month, winner Siriano dressed Whoopi Goldberg in leg-baring black ruffles for the Tonys.

Still, the show has experienced plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, most significantly next season's move to Lifetime and Los Angeles.

"Hollywood glamour holds a special place for most designers," says "Project Runway" executive producer Desiree Gruber. "It's going to be a fun season to let designers run wild and meet new people and have new challenges," a few of which will be held in New York, including the Fashion Week finale. Gruber calls working with Lifetime "great": "They're clearly very excited about the possibilities."

Other changes for the future: Elle will be out as sponsor, and Marie Claire will be in. Judge Nina Garcia, identified in Season 5 as Elle's editor at large (she was fashion director), returns the following season as Marie Claire's fashion director.

All of which makes this cycle "a little more special," Goodson says. "No one knows exactly what's going to be different when it moves."

Gruber isn't worried: "People will go where there's good programming today. I think the fans will follow the show."

By helping to democratize style for both consumers and creators, "we've helped to expand the fashion universe," says Gruber, who sees the show as "getting more and more relevant," considering the spike in Runway-inspired sewing camps for kids, internship requests at Elle magazine, applications to the fashion program at Parsons the New School for Design and fashion-focused programming, including the Gruber-producer Stylista, premiering on the CW this fall in the post-"America's Next Top Model" time slot, in which 11 aspiring fashion editors compete for a job at Elle.

"Do I feel like "Runway" is at the forefront of fashion? No," says Gruber. "But I don't think we're trying to be. We're trying to discover and give a platform for young talent."

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