As the legal battle over the rights to "Project Runway" was waged, Season Six's contestants found themselves cooling their high heels for about a year. But now the show, which moved to L.A., is finally at home on Lifetime and airing at 9 p.m. Thursday.
The wait may have been worth it for Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman, a designer who is clearly ahead of his time. If he had his way, all men would follow his example of wearing man brooches and shorts with calf socks. "It's already happening," he insists. "You see men rolling up their pants with higher socks. And the great thing about doing runway is that you can create a fantasy, take it a bit furthur than the everyday interpretation. Maybe a brooch could be reinterpreted into a tie clip."
Born and raised in Bronzeville, he has a unique background for "Project Runway": He left medical school, where he was training to be a neurosurgeon, to enroll in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he switched to studying performance art and fashion. Since then, Coleman, 31, has worked for Target and Kohl's and moved to Minneapolis. Right now he's getting ready to show his own label, Ra'mon-Lawrence, at New York's Fashion Week.
How does he hold up against this season's competition, which includes someone calling himself "the feather prince," and a young lady who wants to make clothes with their own water purification systems? "There is some drama," he says. "Let's be honest about that."
He calls his approach to design "beautiful chaos." "It's fearless and passionate," he explains. "It tends to be very over-the-top, but still wearable." In the first episode, Coleman exhibits surprising sensitivity. "I don't want to give her a big butt," he says of his model.
"The big butt is a big but," agrees mentor Tim Gunn.
Here's what Coleman has to say on . . .
His marital status: "I am not taken. I wish I was."
The move to Lifetime: "They're taking a new approach, and giving you more insight to the contestants. You understand us as people and as designers."
Being a role model: "I think there are so many black designers that only focus in the realm of urban wear. There are very few black designers who are doing things a little more avant garde, very few doing women's wear."
His inspirations: "I'm a melting pot. I love architecture, I love Frank Lloyd Wright. I'm highly influenced by music -- Bjork, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Mozart, Dépêche Mode. Put them together, and you get some amazing reactions. There are also random things that influence me, like books or a painting. When I was working on my upcoming collection, I got stuck one night watching 'The Blue Lagoon,' and I ended up kind of fixated on Brooke Shields in that movie."