For the last few years, Project Runway has been a "must see" if I was home on Thursday nights at 9pm, but the debut of Season 11 changed it all for me. I've learned how to set the DVR and catch episodes on the road in order to follow one of 16 competing designers, Richard Hallmarq, as he progresses through a series of fashion challenges.

Hallmarq came into my fashion world in 2011 when he was visiting Benicia. We talked about the upcoming Benicia Fashion Weekend and how he could help take the event to another level with his contacts in the industry. I connected with him immediately, finding his enthusiasm for fashion inspiring and his personality electrifying. His collaboration with the fashion show resulted in the showcasing of his ready to wear collection, getting a model from the America's Top Model television show and adding a visual media specialist for enhanced imaging, providing an opportunity to promote a first-class fashion event throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Customers responded to Hallmarq’s collection, which focused on wearable jersey knit tops, tunics and dresses.

When I flipped on Season 11’s audition episode in January, there was Hallmarq, competing to be one of Project Runway’s finalists from hundreds of contestants from around the world. As of episode 10, he was one of 6 remaining designers. The challenges have included designing for the wait staff of SPiN, a chain of "ping pong social clubs" founded by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, who was the guest judge for the episode. Hallmarq and his team made really cool men's clothes that were functional and fun with the stenciled logo "Balls Are My Business" on the pants and shirts. Included in the design were ball-catching nets on poles that coordinated with the black outfits.

Bette Midler was the guest judge for The Ultimate Hard and Soft episode, which paired hardware with flowers. Richard used black window blinds and created a corset effect with a flower underlay. The Little Bit Country, Little Bit Rock N Roll challenge asked the teams to design an outfit for the stage and a red carpet look for country singer Miranda Lambert (who was the guest judge for the evening). Richard won the challenge with  an open-weave tank dress enhanced with fringe of ribbons and metallic rope. At the last minute he cut up a Mood (N.Y. fabric store) promo t-shirt and used it as lining for the see-through mesh dress. Lambert couldn't wait to perform in it at an upcoming concert.

Judges Joan and Melissa Rivers complimented Richard's aqua, color blocked tunic knit dress for the Senior Fling episode, designed for mature women.  They thought it was versatile for a modern woman and could be worn many ways.  Even Heidi Klum proclaimed that she would love to wear it with leggings and boots.

The show has had many twists and turns this season, including putting the designers into teams instead of working individually. It has caused a lot of tension, at times escalating into tears and nastiness. 

Designer Zac Posen has joined Nina Garcia, editor of Marie Claire Magazine, and producer/host Klum, replacing long running design icon Michael Kors. Guest judges have also included Kristen Davis and Emmy Rossum, adding interesting input into who is "in or out" of fashion for the week.

At this writing, I am not sure if Richard will be the winner of Project Runway’s Season 11, but for the rest of the episodes you will find me glued to the screen on Thursday nights, rooting for him and his ability to provide beautifully made, functional clothing for women. In my book, Richard is already the winner.