The third season of Project Runway has only just begun its strut down the catwalk and already controversy has reared its ugly head.

After the first episode premiered, sharp-eyed commenters on noted that designs submitted by contestant Keith Michael bore a remarkable similarity to runway photos that appeared on sites such as and

Michael, a 34-year-old self-taught menswear designer secured his position as an early frontrunner in the competition after he won the first fashion challenge by fashioning an attractive halter dress from a bed sheet.

The revelation that he may have copied his designs gave rise to speculation that Michael might be "the villain" host Heidi Klum referred to in a recent Newsweek interview.

"We have a great villain. You always hope for something like that," Klum said.

Promos for the new season referenced a "scandalous controversy that rocks the runway," and showed Tim Gunn, the mentor to the aspiring designers, stating: "This is completely against the rules of the show."

While the broken rule to which Gunn was referring remains unclear, at least for now, he did stress the importance of originality in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune.

"You?d like to think the work they present is their own, and they made the work," Gunn said of the designers.

Speaking up in his own defense, Michael responded to the allegations in an email to the blog Blogging Project Runway, in which he claimed he had submitted five portfolios to the judges.

The portfolio in question, he explained, was "a research assignment I did for a client in which I reviewed key fashion trends."

With the next episode of Runway airing tonight, at least viewers won't have long to wait to discover whether Michael is in, or whether Klum will be bidding him auf wiedersehen.

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