Well- fashioned show takes the cakewalk
‘‘ IT’S not just a game, it’s my life,’’ a contestant says, sobbing, in a confessional in the opening episode of Project Runway. It’s easy to laugh; goodness knows I did.
It’s probably also worth tittering over the marionette maker who, in the first challenge of this fashion design reality show, rubs her fabric into the grass because she likes her clothing imbued with nature. And stains, apparently.
After all, you have to have histrionics and loopiness in a reality show. Otherwise it would just be a documentary about a bunch of narcissistic people of whom you’ve never heard and, quite frankly, there are enough documentaries about narcissistic people of whom you have heard to make that concept redundant.
What makes Project Runway one of the best reality shows, however, is that it’s about more than just this. An elimination- based competition in which 15 aspiring fashion designers create new designs each week according to the challenge laid out, it’s a show that depends for its entertainment value largely on the excitement of creative people realising a vision.
And it’s gratifying to see that excitement remains, four seasons in. By that point most reality shows have jettisoned professional credibility in favour of good television. ( Much as I love it, I sometimes wonder why America’s Next Top Model didn’t just change its name to America’s Craziest Bitches several seasons ago.)
So the contestants are all experienced to varying degrees and can sew their way out of a paper bag. Not to suggest that the resulting paper bag garment is something you’d wear. This is high fashion, after all.
If anything, this season takes design even more seriously, with the designers being given fabric for their first challenge, instead of having to use non- traditional sources, such as things you can buy in a supermarket, the clothes they are wearing or the contents of the apartment, as has been the case in earlier seasons.
The judges know how to balance the witty one- line review with constructive criticism based on professional credibility, with designer Michael Kors and Elle fashion director Nina Kors returning for the fourth time. ( They’re joined by a rotating third judge.)
The host, model Heidi Klum, makes the show about the clothes and not herself ( cough Tyra Banks) and has this endearingly genuine bewild- erment about bad design. ‘‘ Your look made us very sad,’’ she says flatly to one designer in the second of two episodes airing tonight. You feel her pain. And let’s not forget mentor Tim Gunn, the most unlikely TV star, who’s like that strict but benevolent teacher who inspires because they so fiercely want you to succeed.
Together it makes for endlessly compelling viewing, which means Foxtel has its work cut out when it launches a local version in July. Fail to match the quality of this and it will be a cheaper knock- off than a Prada bag at a Hong Kong market.
Feel their pain: Project Runway ’ s Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum