Seán McGovern catches up with season six of the fashionista’s reality soap opera, Project Runway
Beginning its sixth season on Sky1, Project Runway has changed its location but retains the one aspect that places it above all other competitive reality TV shows: talent. Season six relocates the action from New York to Los Angeles, and while it may seem like an unlikely place to create individual fashions, LA features a larger fabric district and just as many opportunities to feature fashions based on their locations.
Some things have remained the same. The beautiful and often shrill Heidi Klum still speaks too loudly at the contestants, and tweets and whirs her little comments about the designs. Bitch-at-large Nina Garcia and Michael Kors are still making the contestants jump through hoops, and design mentor Tim Gunn coins as many catchphrases as ever.
The show is as inventive as always. The designers display their individual talents in episode one by making a red carpet dress and by episode two are given the task to create a chic maternity dress for actress Rebecca Romijn. Even the eliminated contestants earn a huge amount of credibility; the first eliminees in previous series being invariably nutty.
Project Runway tries to bring a human element to the contestants, but when times get tough, there’s no sad music to emphasise the fact that yes, the contestants are upset. They all come from different backgrounds; some have worked in fashion before, others have not. The ambition is conveyed not in how the show is constructed, but in the designs they create.
It’s Project Runway’s credibility has made it last. Christian Siriano, winner from season four, was a contestant who not only had a fully rounded personality but also immense talent. Since winning Project Runway he has launched his own line and his current autumn/winter collection is sold in Saks Fifth Avenue. Project Runway is not exploitative of the contestants’ talent, nor does it portray characters as villains for entertainment’s sake. Conflicts simply arise and occur as they would in any high-pressure situation.
But let’s be honest: Tim Gunn is Project Runway. With an accent like Lloyd Grossman taking the piss, the mentor has been one of the most entertaining aspects of the show. “Make it work” will be inscribed upon his grave. Gunn makes words like ‘consternation’ sound exciting, while injecting Tectonic witticisms like ‘sturm und drang’.
The delicate balance of talent and entertainment make Project Runway something of a rarity. Whether you like fashion or not, a viewer can not help to be engrossed in the flurry of creativity onscreen. This is reality television with a brain; how often can we say that?