We know the drill: designers receive a crazy challenge, they have less than 24 hours to create an amazing garment, and in the end, someone is in — and the rest are out. But while
, premiering Thursday night, borrows some similarities from its big sibling
, host Molly Sims promises that the two shows are nothing alike.
“It’s a whole lotta something else,” she tells PEOPLE. “On Project Runway, they’re all talented, and making clothes through these difficult challenges, but we put another challenge on top of it. Some of these people have never made some of the things they had to make — shoes, jewelry. They haven’t worked with wire, or metal, or made a stiletto that a girl has to walk down the runway wearing. It’s incredibly challenging.”
The 12 contestants on Project Accessory make three different types of items throughout the competition: handbags, jewelry and shoes. “Sometimes they have to make them at the same time, other times they get to choose,” Sims shares.
The format is similar to Runway — there’s a challenge, a budget, a time frame — but Sims says the judging works a bit differently. “We want to see, ‘Who’s your girl? What’s your inspiration? Do we see you as an artist behind that?'” she shares. “It was very interesting — some items are amazing, and sometimes it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Contestants style their own models, too, which adds extra pressure.
“What’s interesting to see is the camaraderie between the designers,” Sims says. “If some are amazing at making handbags, sometimes they help the others, who don’t know how.” That’s not to say there isn’t your typical reality drama. “Being in a confined space like that, with so much pressure, it’s different,” she says. “We have some really fun people, some real talent. I’ll let you pick your cast of characters.”
The winner of Project Accessory receives $100,000 from eBay. “On the very first show, I told them about the prize, and I had to repeat it like three times — they were dumbfounded,” Sims recalls. “To them, $100,000 is a lottery ticket — the chance of a lifetime for their accessories to be seen.”
And while there won’t be a big final event like New York Fashion Week — “We have our own little twist on that,” Sims teases — but there will be lots of surprises, some quite pleasant. “One necklaces was made out of rat traps,” Sims says, “and I would’ve paid $500 for it.”
Catch Project Accessory, which tonight, features guest judge Debra Messing, at 10:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime. And find behind-the-scenes video and blog posts on Sims’s new website, mollysims.com.