Project Runway: All Stars fans can expect some of the most creative designs ever featured on the show this season, mentor Joanna Coles says.
"After the first [season] aired, we had all these [past competitors] clamoring to be on the show, and so I felt confident that the talent would actually be much greater," she said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "It was like a postgraduate program."
She added that the challenges are "much stronger" this season. As new host Carolyn Murphy recently told The Hollywood Reporter, the challenges will include an unconventional holiday-themed challenge, an eco-friendly challenge, one revolving around a graffiti theme and another that takes the designers to Paris.
"You see people step it up, but you also see a degree of grown-up commerciality that was missing from last season," Coles said. "So there are clothes that absolutely could have been bought in the workroom right there and then. One of the challenges, which was to design a dress to be sold in the high street, the winning item was absolutely gorgeous and fantastic, and I know it's going to sell out."
The 13 returning designers are Wendy Pepper, Andrae Gonzalo, Kayne Gillaspie, Uli Herzner, Suede, Althea Harper, Emilio Sosa, Peach Carr, Ivy Higa, Casanova, Joshua McKinley, Laura Kathleen and Anthony Ryan Auld. Coles noted that several were runner-ups on their original seasons, so they came back even more determined to win. But, she added, many of the designers appeared to have learned from their mistakes the first time.
"Having watched themselves in the previous [seasons] and having understood where they went wrong, they came back determined to focus less on the people in the room and more on the execution of the garments," she said, adding that the final five "barely talked" to each other because they were so focused on their work.
Coles also revealed that she "insisted" on having more airtime this season, emphasizing the importance of mentoring in the design process. She also said she was able to spend more time with each of the designers this year and therefore was able to get more involved with them on a personal level.
She added that she hasn't felt any pressure to be similar to Project Runway's beloved mentor Tim Gunn or come up with her own catchphrases, a la "Make it work" and "Carry on."
"I am in the TV show like I am in real life: very direct, very straightforward," she said. "I say pretty much what I think, as Tim does, but we're very different, and I think I've had sex more recently than Tim." (Gunn recently revealed he hasn't had sex in 29 years.)
Coles added that there hasn't been a decision made on whether she and judge Isaac Mizrahi will again host an aftershow, saying it's likely a decision will be made halfway through the season, as it was last year.
As for how her recent move from editor of Marie Claire -- long associated with Project Runway -- to Cosmopolitan will affect her role on the show, Coles would only say: "I don't know. That's a really good question. In my head Project Runway is so associated with Marie Claire, but there are probably new things we will do with Cosmo."
The second season of Project Runway: All Stars premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday. Watch a promo below.