‘Runway’ Auf to A Great Start

Jul 17, 2006  •  Post A Comment

“Project Runway’s” launch party at the hip Buddha Bar in Manhattan’s “meat packing” district was heaven to “Project”-iles, who would be delirious at the start of season three some 26 hours later.

Outside, on the busy blue carpet, photographers shouted, “Heidi!” Heidi!” “Heidi!” Inside, it was a challenge to make one’s way through the crowd of past and present designer-competitors (Santino was a no-show) and media types.

The drink of the night was a “Project”-ini, which the bartender said was a mix of vodka and a hot pink “fusion” liqueur, and which The Insider passed up because of the recently doubled level of antidepressant in her bloodstream and because she was reeling from the heat and humidity that was even worse inside than out front.

Ms. Klum was flawlessly turned out in a dress by “Project” judge Michael Kors. The strapless silver-and-ice-blue dress nicely played up her third pregnancy in two years with a box pleat in front. The silver accessories were spare and airy. With her hair pulled into a textured topknot, she was not about to wilt.

Also looking heat-proof was Austin Scarlett, the flamboyant season one contestant who is a sartorial throwback to the Babe Paley era. He was wearing a scarf knotted tie-like around his neck. But he also had removed the long sleeves and collar from a vintage white shirt with carefully controlled ruffles down the front. The result: a sleeveless mandarin-meets-menswear look topping the slim black pants and cream boots. Accessories: a gold-and-black bead bracelet on one wrist and a bracelet that glittered like diamonds on the other.

Professionally, Mr. Scarlett is in his element as head designer for the Kenneth Pool line of Amsale’s luxe wedding gowns.

Season two’s Andrae Gonzalo overheard an invitation to step up to pose for a photo that would be digitally superimposed on top of the pin that “Project” host, executive producer and “auf wiedersehen” girl Heidi Klum holds in her hand in a “Project” poster. “You too can be a pinhead,” the disembodied voice said. “Once is enough for me,” said the casually dressed Mr. Gonzalo.

He’s got “a lot of people who want to buy my clothes,” and the beginnings of a Web site, andraegonzalo.com, but no investors, he told The Insider.

Season two’s Marla Duran, whose resemblance to actress Katherine Keener is more marked in person than on TV, was dressed in a whisper of a little black dress that she had frayed to give the slightly raised waist a furry touch that was fun without being silly.

Elegant “Project” mentor and producer Tim Gunn was dressed in an impeccable dark shade that seemed somewhere in between deepest charcoal and black on the color wheel. He looked cool. He told The Insider he had a great time critiquing the highs and lows of the Oscar fashions last February for the “Today” show and hopes they’ll invite him back. The Insider hopes they’ll make more substantial use of him.

Almost as popular as Ms. Klum on the blue carpet was Kara Janx, who came thisclose to being in the final three last season, but who seems to be proof that one doesn’t have to win to succeed. Ms. Janx was wearing one of her fall line’s $375 floral blazers and jeans that were ripped and split in some places that would preclude the wearing of a substantial thong.

“I’ve asked her to sew them up,” said Sharone Sohayegh, her fianc%E9; of four months, boyfriend of two years and acquaintance for eight years. He seemed to enjoy watching Ms. Janx get made over by the crowd. When Ms. Janx handed him her tiny clutch purse, he smiled and said: “That’s what I’m here for.”

Last season’s winner, itsy-bitsy Chloe Dao, also was very casually dressed, in a purple jersey, big-sleeved top, skin-tight jeans and sandals that had wedges almost as tall as she is. Her sister was handing out business cards for Lot 8, their boutique in Houston, at a fast clip when The Insider headed for home, where the cool quotient and the crowd quotient were much lower.