Unless you are the stylistic “fashionista” who adores the world of red carpets, statuesque models and high-end clothes, this will probably not convince you to watch Project Runway. The idea of spending an hour watching designers squabble over fabric is enough for most of campus to stop listening.
I tuned into this show with the same prejudices and preconceived notions, thinking I was entering a shallow and effeminate world in which the dreams of contestants revolve around apparel that no “real” person would ever take interest in or want to buy for that matter. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the show, like the few other good reality shows, revolved around human relationships, the struggle for success against doubt and the excitement of victory.
Project Runway follows a basic, one-per-episode elimination format for a group of fashion designers. These designers are given one challenge (creativity, red carpet appeal, celebrity requests), which they have one day to prepare. Their creations are then taken to the runway, where a panel judges them on their creativity, utility and closeness to the prompt. After this judging, the top designer is given immunity in the next challenge and the bottom designer is asked to leave.
The opening of this season which designers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, including a highly trained neurosurgeon who traded in a life in the medical field for one of glamour and art. The challengers were all given the task of making a dress for a red carpet event, receiving 30 minutes to sketch their creation, a $200 shopping spree and two days to complete the dress with a pre-selected model.
Tensions ran high during the design process and one contestant buckled and broke down under the pressure, weeping anguished tears of failure. The show fashion advisor and human “pick-me-up” Tim Gunn eventually comforted him enough to get back into the competition. Other notable contestants during the design phase include one who miscalculated the size of his model and was forced to stitch the dress directly on, sending the model directly to the runway in what looked like a ghostly night gown.
Runway does a pretty good job of picking models that lack the fashionable “skeleton-look” popular in most of the industry. All of the girls on this show seem to take eating as a priority as opposed to a nuisance.
Finally, at the competition, many of the contestants’ designs were revealed. Since the theme was the creativity and boldness with the red carpet award setting, many of the designers went full-force in designing something new and original. This ranged from what was referred to as a “schizophrenic” mix of purple and green to a bizarre ‘80s groupie ensemble. There were also simple designs which, while lacking creativity, made up for it in elegance.
Ultimately these designs were judged by the panel made up of major designers, the host and a guest judge, which in this case was Lindsay Lohan. The judging was quick yet constructive with many of the judges offering good feedback. For the most part, they avoided falling prey to the sin of pretension and voted off the design that was radical to the point of incoherence.
For people who don’t religiously follow fashion, this show can provide good moments of drama and insight into the human condition. The contestants benefit and suffer from the fact that they aren’t reality show caricatures and are people with realistic feelings and goals. The downside to this is it lacks the trashy entertainment value of other reality television shows.
If you find this show interesting for the fashion, then you’re probably already a long-time fan. However, if you’re in the mood for reality television that doesn’t result in cheap gimmicks, catfights, or mud wrestling, then this could be an entertaining hour-long look into the competitive world of fashion and art.