Making it work: Project Runway still on top in sixth season
Emily Dore | Friday, September 18, 2009
“As you know in fashion, one day you’re in. And the next day, you’re out.” So goes model Heidi Klum’s mantra on Lifetime’s hit reality show, “Project Runway,” where designers bring out the best (and the worst) in the fashion world.
Now in its sixth season, Klum and fan favorite Tim Gunn recently left the fast-pulsed 7th Avenue, N.Y. for the more laidback, surfer-chic L.A. They’ve also said goodbye to their former network: in a switch from Bravo that more closely resembled designer drama backstage at Fashion Week than a corporate deal between two companies, “Project Runway” moved to Lifetime.
So far, this year’s cast seems tamer than years past. No one has stood out quite like Season 4’s Christian Siriano and his “Team Fierce” looks or too-cool-to-care Santino from Season 2. However, with only five episodes aired, there’s still plenty of time for the tears, meltdowns and outlandish styles that have made “Project Runway” famous.
The premise is simple. Each episode features a different fashion challenge, ranging from designing prom dresses to jumpsuits for dogs. At the end of the season, the three best contestants in the challenges present their collections at Fashion Week in Bryant Park, N.Y. The winner of this final challenge gets $100,000 capital to start a fashion line, a feature in Marie Claire magazine and a trip to Paris. The model who features the winning designer’s outfits also garners $25,000 from L’Oreal and a spread in Marie Claire.
Everything and anything has been featured on “Project Runway,” with no material too eccentric for the show. Fabrics ranging from elegant chiffon to plants and flowers have been used in dresses, pantsuits and even wrestling outfits. Memorable looks include the licorice dress from Season 4, the cornhusk dress from Season 1 and Christian’s two-toned runway looks at Fashion Week.
And then of course, there have been the epic meltdowns. No one wants to see their work criticized, but sometimes for designers, it gets personal. In Season 1, after an embarrassing showing in the “Clothes Off Your Back” challenge, Andrae Gonzalo wept profusely during the judging. Then there was Kenley Collins who, with her bright red lipstick and puffy red eyes, tried to defend her work which all too resembled other more famous designer looks.
The judges too have had their run-ins with contestants. Top designer Michael Kors and Elle magazine editor Nina Garcia have dished harsh criticism throughout the years, ranging from Nina’s “Pretty can be boring,” to Michael’s “She looks like Barefoot Appalachain Lil’ Abner Barbie.” Heidi Klum usually sits back and agrees with the judges, though of course in her stiletto heels (while pregnant) and too-tight dresses.
Of all reality hosts though, none is more beloved than Tim Gunn. Former dean at Parson’s School of Design and now chief creative officer at Liz Clairborne, Tim supplied the show with the catchphrase that has made fashion history: “Make it work!” An advisor for the designers, Tim critiques their works in progress, and a smile or look of disapproval can send a designer into panic. After all, no one wants to hear that their design looks like an “elongated marshmallow.”
With Season 6 underway, the contestants have faced their set of run-ins and challenges. Epperson and Qristyl teamed up on a challenge and proceeded to have dress color issues, Mitchell was voted off after being on a winning team and Ari created a look resembling a soccer ball more than a red carpet design. All in a day’s work on “Project Runway.”
The three lucky contestants presenting their collections at Bryant Park Fashion Week will not be revealed until the fall, but until then, viewers can catch “Project Runway,” every Thursday at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.