As Project Runway season 9 winds down (this week is the penultimate episode with four designers remaining, and the finale airs Thursday, October 27), Lifetime has announced a major change to its schedule for the next round of the series: Project Runway All Stars, originally set to premiere November 3, has been moved back to sometime in 2012.

Meanwhile, the show’s other spin-off, Project Accessory, has been pushed forward, and will now premiere after the Project Runway finale on October 27.

Why the changes? Lifetime didn’t say when they announced them October 14, but we can venture our guesses, especially in light of how late the changes were made.

Even with its regrettable 10:30pm premiere timeslot, a Project Runway finale lead-in may help bolster early ratings for Project Accessory, which pits 12 accessory designers with varying specialties against each other. The show is hosted by actress/model Molly Simms and judged by designer Kenneth Cole and InStyle editor Ariel Foxman, with Vivre CEO Eva Lorenzotti as the show’s Tim Gunn.

After the premiere, the show will move to its normal 9pm Thursday timeslot. So here’s hoping that the premiere is enticing enough to keep viewers coming back without Runway to lead them there.

My guess for the last-minute schedule shift is that Lifetime didn’t want to attempt too much change too quickly when it comes to the Project Runway franchise — nor burn off both its spin-offs at once, if either or both becomes a hit.

Though it brings back memorable designers from across the show’s previous eight seasons, Project Runway All Stars will indeed be more spinoff than regular season, because none of the well-known faces of the series will be involved. Supermodel Angela Lindvall, hardly a household name the way Heidi Klum is, will host, while judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia will be replaced by designers Isaac Mizrahi and Georgina Chapman, and Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles will serve as mentor instead of Tim Gunn.

Lifetime is pitching the absence of Project Runway‘s four mainstays as a positive thing for the all-stars, whose designs have already been evaluated and eliminated by the regular PR judges. Instead, Mizrahi et. al. will bring “a fresh perspective on their art, providing counsel and insight” to the all-stars.

The thought of Tim Gunn’s absence might tempt you into believing that All Stars will be the cheap street-corner knockoff to Project Runway‘s designer original. But before you do, get this: The winner of Project Runway All Stars will receive a grand-prize package that is significantly larger than that of Project Runway‘s normal package. The winner gets the opportunity to sell their exclusive collection in select Neiman Marcus Stores and on, $100,000 worth of technology and office space from HP and Intel, a $100,000 cash prize from L’Oreal Paris, a feature spread and one-year assignment as guest editor for Marie Claire, and a sewing and embroidery studio provided by Brother International. Fancy!

For now, we turn to Project Accessory, which has more to prove, and a slightly more disappointing prize package, by comparison: The winner will receive $100,000 from eBay Fashion to start their own line, a feature spread in InStyle and professional runway hairstyling for one year from John Frieda Precision Foam Color.

But Project Accessory is airing in this calendar year. So at least there’s that.

(Image courtesy of Lifetime)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.