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Always in Fashion: Despite Hiatus Drama, Garcia is Ready to Hit the ‘Runway’

July 15, 2008

By Jill Radsken, Boston Herald

Jul. 15–Too bad no one was filming the hiatus between seasons 4 and 5 of “Project Runway.” It proved just as fierce as the actual show.

In the months leading up to the premiere of season 5 (Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo), the show’s owner, the Weinstein Co., announced plans to cut ties with Bravo after the season 5 winner is crowned and take TV’s beloved guilty pleasure to Lifetime.

Almost simultaneously, “Runway” judge Nina Garcia — known for her smart, stinging opinions — was forced to resign from her day job as fashion director at Elle. The magazine, along with reality TV guru Tyra Banks, is poised to launch its own fashion reality TV show, “Stylista” But stay the course, fans, Garcia will stay on at “Runway” in her soon-to-be-anointed fashion editorship role at Marie Claire.

Phew.

“It’s been a very busy summer,” said Garcia, who is also finishing her latest book (out Aug. 26) called “The 100.”

In a telephone interview last week, the 43-year-old admitted the change of cable address will be bittersweet. “It is very sad. I’m saddened with the move.” She preferred to keep the conversation focused on the current season.

“Listen, we start off with a bang,” she said. The lineup of guest judges and challenges are very exciting.

Well, let’s hope so. Monday, Bravo announced the contestants and some of the guest talent set to appear. The new designers include two originally from Massachusetts. Daniel, 25, hails from Great Barrington, and Wesley, 23, is originally from Blackstone.

On the celebrity side, Diane von Furstenberg will (yawn) make her umpteenth appearance, and B-lister Brooke Shields also gets a spot in a director’s chair. Sears probably paid a pretty penny for its newest celebrity designer — LL Cool J! Woo hoo! — to guest judge, but perhaps Apolo Ohno’s turn — for an Olympics-themed challenge — will be medal-worthy.

For all the attention on the judges, Garcia said the actual designing is key to the show’s success.

“It involves a skill, and that’s what I think is the most compelling to the viewer at home,” said Garcia, who attended boarding school at Dana Hall in Wellesley in her youth.

“Fashion is such an opinion. Everyone can have an opinion,” she said.

But it’s hers, along with host Heidi Klum and fashion designer Michael Kors, that most counts in matters of avoiding being offed on the show.

Though she shudders at a comparison to the equally blunt Simon Cowell (“American Idol”), she defended her tough persona.

“I will tell (them) what I think. I’m not that tough on them,” she said. “I’m tough enough, but the real world is much tougher.”

jradsken@bostonherald.com

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