Judge Isaac Mizrahi calls the level of talent on the show "incredible"

By Kate Hogan
January 05, 2012 05:00 PM

Courtesy Lifetime (2)

Project Runway
is always full of designer drama and crazy challenges, but judge Isaac Mizrahi says to expect more of both on
Project Runway All Stars
, airing Thursday night on Lifetime.

“It’s more drama because you’re talking about these people who have already gone the distance, but not exactly won, so they’re kind of being challenged again to try another time,” he tells PEOPLE. “And the tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

As for the challenges, “I think they made them harder on themselves,” Mizrahi says. “The stakes were raised because they had such incredible talent.”

Though a lot about the show — challenges, guest judges — is under wraps, Mizrahi (who recently got married!) says the first episode is “so great. The first thing they do is show us what they’re made of — a fashion show of clothes they’ve made,” he explains. “Then there’s the challenge, but it’s so fun. It’s amazing how you see their minds work.”

However, the fun never lasts for long. “It’s hard to see the first person go home,” he admits. “And week after week it just got more difficult for us.” (Co-judges include Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, model Angela Lindvall and Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles.)

The finale won’t be associated with New York Fashion Week, like typical Project Runway seasons, but the final episode “is pretty grand,” Mizrahi promises. “It’s a fashion show between three designers, and it’s very engrossing. It’ll be an incredible thing to watch.”

Mizrahi never played favorites — “It was important to be objective during this process,” he says — but admits to taking a certain shine to a few designers. “Your human, of course you have favorites,” he shares. “But in the end sometimes I had to vote against my favorites, because they weren’t so great.”

But in general, the level of talent — and cutthroat nature of the competition — will keep viewers coming back for more. “It’s not like there’s one or two designers you peg [as winners] from the very beginning,” Mizrahi promises. “They really had us on our toes. We didn’t know until the last minute who was going to win that competition — I promise you.” Catch Project Runway All Stars Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

–Kate Hogan