Everyone’s favorite catty fashion competition, Project Runway, has returned for its ninth season, and thanks in part to a kooky and congenial (for now) cast of contestants, the show is still a breath of fresh air after seven years of cutting fabric and getting cut by German supermodel Heidi Klum. Judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are back for more insults and eye-rolling, and designer mentor Tim Gunn returns for more brutally honest advice and encouraging catch phrases (“Make it work!” “Carry on!”). After seeing just one episode of the new season, we know that we’re going to be in for a wild ride of tears, laughs and drama amongst the eccentric cast of characters, some of whom have already proven to be forces to be reckoned with.

The crew of judges decides to shake things up in the season premiere by narrowing the field of contestants to twenty and then cutting four designers after viewing pieces from their personal collections. It is at this audition that we get our initial impressions of the contestants. Some of our favorite first impressions include those of Rafael (who senses some major sexual tension between him and the stoic Garcia) and the self-proclaimed 102-year-old Bert, a recovering alcoholic who has worked with legends like Bill Blass and Halston. After ousting the four most mediocre designers-in-training, Klum sends the remaining sixteen to their home at the Atlas Hotel, a Runway icon in and of itself.

All is well and good until the always dapper Gunn arrives at their suites in the wee hours of the morning, informing them of a “come as you are” party. The designers roll out of bed in their jammies and do the walk of shame to their workroom in Parsons, The New School for Design. Like so many other wacky challenges in Runway history, the designers’ task is to create a garment using the clothes they are wearing as well as one sheet from their beds. Of course, some contestants soar above the rest. Others are left in the dark, like Julie, who must create a piece out of her silly patterned fleece pajama bottoms. Some designers who stand out include former Miss Trinidad and Tobago Anya, who apparently doesn’t really know how to sew, make pants or dye fabric (so she claims) but receives unanimous praise from the judges anyway. Another is challenge-winner Bert, who creates an adorable and chic mini-dress out of his bed sheet and orange-checkered boxers.

At the judges’ panel, it’s more of the same as we’ve seen on seasons past. Kors is as orange and whiny as ever, Garcia scoffs at the slightest sewing or proportionality misstep and Klum squeals at any outfit that she could potentially don to accentuate her chest. One of our favorite personalities, Rafael, is unfortunately sent home, but for good reason: he created a legging/jean/sweatpants hybrid out of a bland grey fabric and refused to utilize his leopard-print headscarf for fear of looking “like a homeless person.” Oh, Rafael, you shall be missed.

While the season nine premiere doesn’t give us a whole lot of drama and bitchiness, the sneak peek of future episodes promises plenty of arguing, crying and, of course, stunning fashion.

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