Klum returns with new season of ‘Project Runway,’ reflects on how famed designing show took flight

By Frazier Moore

NEW YORK – Soup or salad for lunch? Heidi Klum ponders the issue as a waiter stands by.

“I’m a Gemini,” she notes. “I can never make up my mind.” Then she does. Salad.

This would seem to be a rare lapse – as a judge on “Project Runway” (as well as a co-creator, executive producer and its host), she certainly has no problem rendering a verdict on each design offered by contestants on the show, which returns for its fourth season Wednesday at 10 p.m. EST on Bravo.

“I judge clothes from my perspective, and I’ve been in the business for a long time,” says the 34-year-old German-born supermodel/designer/personality/entrepreneur.

As she settles in for lunch with a reporter, she has just come from presiding at a “Project Runway” fashion preview across the street at Lincoln Center. There, the season’s 15 contestants were introduced, each presenting several creations while music throbbed and cameras flashed.

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“Fashion makes us all individuals,” she says, her chattiness flavored by her faint accent and occasionally bumpy syntax. “At the end of the day, maybe it’s not all that free of a country. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, but you can wear what you want to wear.”

“Well, you can’t go naked,” she acknowledges.

This “Project Runway” season was shot in Manhattan last May during a marathon of design challenges, runway judgings and banishment of 12 contestants.

The season will conclude with the three finalists showing their designs during New York Fashion Week in February. Klum and her fellow judges, designer Michael Kors and Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia, will choose the winner, who gets $100,000 to start a fashion line.

“Project Runway” turns fashion’s creative process into a high-stakes competition, waged under pressure-cooker conditions and unfolding in plain sight under the guidance of fashion guru Tim Gunn, whose by-now-famous catch phrase exhorts the contestants to “make it work.”

Obviously, the concept for the show is inspired. But Klum says some serious tweaking was required to make THAT work.

And, Klum adds, initially she didn’t mean to be host. Not until Bravo asked.

Now, with the new season finally reaching the air, Klum can’t help but marvel at her series’ enduring success.

“We had no idea what we were gonna fall into when we started,” she says. “But I go really open into things. I always try. We’re here, we might as well make the most out of it. And that’s what I tell the contestants: ‘This is your chance to show yourself. Show your talent to everybody. Do it!'”