Project Runway: Still Making It Work

Austin + model, Project Runway, Season 1, Episode 1

During a snowstorm, I came across the first season of Project Runway in its initial run.The show had been a poor performer on Bravo, but a savvy new executive had arrived and ordered the show to be relentlessly rerun during the holidays, a prime time for TV channel-surfing.

The strategy worked: the show became a smash hit and transformed Bravo into the monied reality show network it is today. But the partnership with Bravo was not to last—after extensive litigation, the show moved to Lifetime starting with season 8.

When it launched, PR was a new type of reality show featuring competitors who were craftspeople: they could manipulate fabric into fashion according to their personal taste and construction skills. They were like the mice in Cinderella, creating fantasy dresses on command.

It is amazing (and entertaining) to watch a designer in an inspired moment. By giving someone a design challenge, you are giving that person limits, forcing him or her to push “outside of their comfort zone” and apply his or her skills to untraditional materials (raw parts from a car), a limited amount of material (whatever you are wearing), specific elements of design (awful fashion trend from the past), or a designated silhouette (swimsuit). Some of the most “limiting” challenges has led to the most striking fashion: Austin’s corn husk dress (grocery store challenge), Leanne’s rubber minidress and Korto’s woven seatbelt coat (the aforementioned car part challenge).

The PR winner is not always the one who shines throughout the season; Season 1 victor Jay didn’t win any of the challenges (not even for the Chrysler Building dress!). Some of the most consistently outstanding designers make it to Fashion Week, only to disappoint with the final collection—having no limits can be a detriment. There’s also the pressure to come up with several looks dedicated to one theme while being “fashion-forward”: on trend but not derivative, unique but not costume-y.

Snap prediction for season 9 final 3: Bert, Danielle, Anthony.

Another Project Runway: All-Stars special is in the works. Curious. I wasn’t pleased with the result of the first one—poor Korto. It seemed unfairly stacked in Daniel V.’s favor.

Favorite designers: Jay McCarroll, Austin, Chloe, Kara Janx, Mychael, Christian, Rami, Leanne, Korto, Maya.


Blogging Project Runway

Tom & Lorenzo

Tim Gunn’s Facebook page

From his early podcasts to his “Tim’s Take” videos and blog posts, Tim has remained active in sharing his thoughts with fans throughout the show’s run. For the past few seasons, he has posted his episode commentary videos on his Facebook page, and I hope that has not changed now that he is a producer (one hopes that now he has less to criticize in terms of the editing). Tim’s insider opinions on PR are insightful and diverting, offering behind-the-scenes revelations and hilariously on-point commentary. Tim’s eloquence and lack of filter is gold.

Poet Ron Silliman is a Project Runway fan and blogs about the show. Love it.


6 thoughts on “Project Runway: Still Making It Work

  1. loved the first couple seasons, then moved to Europe and got off them. Keep saying I’m going to catch up and never do …

  2. I love Project Runway and have watched from the beginning. I still think there are many talented designers out there and every year I find one or two I like. The new season just started so I’m still not sure about this new group. but amazing what they can do with challenging materials. I love Tim Gunn 🙂

    • Hi Musa – Agreed! I loved the unconventional materials challenge this past week and I was with Heidi on the deserving victor – BIRDSEED WINS.

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