Two things that never happen at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: The show starts on time and it goes on for well over an hour. But this is exactly how Project Runway rolled Friday, bringing the drama and fashion of the popular Lifetime series to the tents. The season 12 finale was one of the most anticipated shows of Spring 2014 with eight hot competitors showing their 10-look collections to a packed audience at Lincoln Center on Friday.

Heidi Klum, always the star, shined in a floor-length gold gown, as she introduced the all-star judging panel: Marie Claire Creative Director Nina Garcia, famed designer Zac Posen and “Django: Unchained” actress Kerry Washington. Klum then shared a tender moment with designer mentor Tim Gunn, gushing, “I love you very much.”

After 12 successful seasons and five Emmy nominations, what’s not to love? Unlike a lot of reality television, Project Runway is a show about real talent, which gives aspiring designers a chance to have their voice heard, and their designs seen, through a collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

The show was opened with a glamorous gothic collection by Alexander Pope. The 38-year-old New Yorker certainly had the crowd captivated with his show-stopping avant-garde finale piece as I overheard someone from the crowd whisper, “He could be the next Alexander McQueen.”

The second collection presented by Kate Pankoke, 24, from Chicago, made the elegant cocktail host in any woman want to throw a soiree with sequined dresses and tailored separates, which flattered the female form.

Next came Brandon McDonald, a 38-year-old from Los Angeles, who sent down the runway a mixture of fashion-forward pieces and ready-to-wear apparel with high-waisted pants, skirts and long dresses with plunging necklines and unique textures.

With a moody palette of reds and purples, the shoulders were a strong feature of Helen Castillo’s collection. Intricate bodices, fitted into long skirts, gave the collection a romantic feel with a vampire flair from the 25-year-old New Jersey native.

Fourth to show was Alexandria Von Bromssen, 38, from San Mateo, Calif., who mixed feathers and leather to create a collection of high-end fashion that still maintained downtown rocker flair.

Inspired by the first flower in the snow after winter to symbolize spring, Jeremy Brandrick presented a feminine collection of beautiful dresses and separates. The 41-year-old New Yorker’s inspiration was clearly seen in the floral detailing and flowy, dream-like fabrics.

Second to last was the inspiring Justin LeBlanc, 27, from North Carolina, who worked with a neutral earth-toned palette of nudes, whites and browns. The designer mixed soft and hard textures to create a cohesive and imaginable collection.

Dom Streater borrowed from the past to create her own interpretation of the future, which added the “Dom touch,” as she explained. With vivid colors and futuristic textures, the 24-year-old Philadelphian closed the show with a bang.

The eight collections back-to-back were an exhausting fashion experience. Each collection, however, possessed something fresh, different and engaging. The most collective feeling among the designers, though, was that of pride as they took their bows – many of their eyes filling with tears -- after their collections walked the runway. The judges are now left with a tough decision, as they must choose the winner.

I, on the other hand, was moved to tears, just like many of the designers who showed their collections. The show left you feeling inspired, seeing the pure sense of joy and pride in the eyes of the emerging designers. For them, it has been a long journey of unique challenges and sleepless nights, as Brandrick pointed out.

But if I were a Project Runway judge and had to pick a winner, I would put my money on Alexandria; It took all my strength not to rip those form-fitting black leather shorts, and feathered headpieces right off the runway. Perhaps, her creations will be in stores soon.