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A sneak peek at this summer's best reality show

Sizing up Project Runway 

A sneak peek at this summer's best reality show

If you want to score some real pop culture cred, the only reality show worth watching is Bravo's cult phenomenon Project Runway, returning for a third stylish season July 12 at 9 p.m. As before, a dozen or so aspiring seamsters compete for the title of America's next great fashion designer. The contestants demonstrate their couture visions via challenges (redesign the Postal Service's uniforms; make a party dress entirely out of flowers) with brutal time constraints. One by one, the clothes horses get cut by the judges until three remain to show their full collections at New York's Fashion Week.

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An interest in fashion isn't required to enjoy the show, or to gab about it around the watercooler. You only need the ability to determine whether something's pretty, articulate why you hate what the models are wearing, and vent about which designers get your Calvins in a bunch. On that note, below find completely uninformed, biased opinions on a handful of this season's 15 contestants.For more information (and Tim Gunn's excellent blog) check out www.bravotv.com.

Alison Kelly Alison studied fashion design in Florence, got a degree in the subject from Massachusetts College of Arts, collaborated with Fred Segal, and started her own line, Dahl, which features "origami" apparel created out of a single swath of fabric folded into one-of-a-kind frocks (talk about Runway ready...). And she's only 25. I'm pegging her as the new Chloe/Kara Saun.

KayneGillaspie Possibly the second coming of Austin Scarlett, Kayne graduated magna cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and won the Critics Choice Award for evening wear. Since then he's gone on to become the king of beauty-pageant couture, having dressed the top five contestants in the 2005 Miss Oklahoma USA competition. Inspirations include Bob Mackie and Madonna, so expect oodles of flair.

Michael Knight A possible contender for the Wendy Pepper/Santino Rice Asshat Milliner Award, Atlanta-based Knight entered Runway "to win the competition and take over the world." Not a subtle one, this Michael. Will the clothes back up the mouth?

Laura Bennett Laura fills the Wendy/Marla slot of untrained 40something mom still clinging to the dream of becoming a high-fashion designer. Unlike her predecessors, however, Bennett apparently focuses on jewelry design more than clothes. This does not bode well. Also, Laura looks like she'd cut a bitch. I am concerned.

Malan BretonHere's an odd career track: from model to Paula Abdul backup dancer to the voice of ESPN to aspiring fashion designer. Women's Wear Daily named Malan one of its new designers to watch in 2005. I think his stuff is 80 percent hideous. Plus, he considers noted legging lover Sienna Miller to be the height of modern fashion, and thus is dead to me.

  • A sneak peek at this summer's best reality show

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