Tonight's premiere of "Project Runway" will feature a familiar face from Sacramento and San Francisco runways. Local designer Richard Hallmarq is among the 16 men and women who will compete in Season 11 of the fashion competition on Lifetime.
And for the chosen ones, including Hallmarq, it won't be just fabric swatches and faux fur flying. "Project Runway" is shaking things up. This go-round, instead of individual competitions, each challenge will be a team battle. The designers will have to create and collaborate as eight teams of two.
And as judge Heidi Klum will utter often, "You're either in, or you're out."
Traditionally, when the team challenge comes up on "Project Runway," there's always drama. Imagine that for the entire season. Not only will each designer have to watch his or her own back, they'll have to watch out for their teammate's back as well.
Hallmarq, 39, says he "almost shed a tear for a minute" when the twist was announced.
Another change? Fashion designer Zac Posen will sub as judge for designer Michael Kors.
Nina Garcia, creative director of Marie Claire magazine, is back at the judges' table. And Tim Gunn will once again serve as the designers' mentor.
This was Hallmarq's third time auditioning for the show, which debuts at 9 tonight with a special preview episode at 8 p.m. The Bee first profiled him as an up-and-coming designer eight years ago when he held his first runway show, "Living 4 the Label," at the Brickhouse Art Gallery in Oak Park.
Then, his collection included a flirty, floaty number he called a "paper skirt." Actually, it was made from tablecloth material.
His annual holiday collections featured glittery, Swarovski-studded tops and pants.
He went on to debut women's wear collections at three consecutive San Francisco Fashion Week shows starting in August 2005, polishing his designs and upping the fashion ante to include colorful patterns and textures, even swimwear. Today, Hallmarq could be labeled a true "jersey boy" for his sophisticated jersey knit dresses.
The Bee caught up with Hallmarq a few days before the show's launch.
How excited are you to make this happen?
It's time! I wasn't going to audition (for Season 11). But my assistant said she thought I had a good chance, so I submitted a video. She said, "You're done with school. You're established." So I did it.
Tell us about the pieces you were judged on for your audition video.
They were very simple, yet totally represented me. I love to design with black. People are shocked by that. They think they'll see this punk-rock guy with tons of color. But I've been more conservative as a ready-to-wear designer.
What was your reaction to the team competition concept?
When I walked out on the stage (in New York) I was ready to take everyone on individually. That was clearly a shocker for me. And I'm not sure I would have auditioned had I known. Most designers are like that. If you allow someone on your team to be weak, you're on the bottom, facing the possibility of elimination. So there's no back-stabbing.
Tim Gunn has been the show's mentor from the get-go. How did you take his advice?
He's very helpful and supportive. Tim wants the best for everyone. When it comes down to it you have to really listen to what he has to tell you because it's a professional opinion.
And Zac Posen as a judge?
I was surprised. This is cool, too. He was very good.
Season 4 winner Christian Siriano is a guest judge on tonight's premiere. He's done very well for himself. How was that experience?
It was good, very positive. Christian had kind things to say to everyone.
We know you can't reveal details, but put the experience in a nutshell, including being on the show and living in New York.
It's about self-discovery. The show pushes you to go, go, go! It's motivating and enlightening. And there's so much pressure. Everything is right now! New York was amazing. The view from my apartment was the Empire State Building. The staff, the cast it was a pleasure to be a part of.
What do you want to say to the fashion scene in Sacramento?
It's Team RH. Get on board!
So what are fans saying before tonight's premiere? On Lifetime's "Project Runway" blog, viewers have posted mixed reactions to the team concept, some anticipating it and others predicting that it could be the show's last season.
You can add your comments, follow Hallmarq on Twitter, watch video updates or download the "Project Runway" app at www.mylifetime.com.