Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn are definitely making it work while Making the Cut. For 14 years they were the producers, the hosts and frankly, the heart and soul of Project Runway.
Klum and Gunn couldn’t have picked a better time to move on, launch their own Runway reboot.
The actual competition on Runway, especially the all-star seasons, has nose-dived as the producers place more importance and value on the characters or personas themselves and less on the actual clothes they make. It is why often the best designers don’t actually win as the producers are more concerned with sending a message with their chosen winner than rewarding excellence.
On Cut, Klum is still her quirky, adorable self not afraid to dish out the honest criticism. Gunn is still the candid but thoughtful mentor who like a proud father takes the successes and failures of his designer “children” to heart. His authentic, genuine reactions and emotions bring some humanity to what is a cutthroat competition.
They are joined by judges Naomi Campbell, Joseph Altuzarra, Nicole Richie and Carine Riotfeld.
Although Making the Cut does follow the tried and true Runway pattern it does deviate from the design freshening up the formula.
One great change is that the designers are from all over the world not just the United States. We are introduced to them in short bio segments and unlike Runway, the production doesn’t focus on their sob stories but instead it is their struggles as professionals that take centre stage.
The 12 designers visit and compete in three of the world’s fashion capitals: New York, Paris and Toyko. For me, the journey was highlighted by a stunning runway show at the iconic Eiffel Tower.
The challenges are not just design oriented though. They also explore the business of fashion itself.
At stake is one million dollars for the winner to invest in their brand and the opportunity to create an exclusive line available on Amazon Fashion.
The winning look from each episode will be available for purchase exclusively on Amazon Fashion in the Making the Cut store.
One change that might garner the show some criticism is that the designers don’t have to do all of their own sewing. They can leave instruction packages for a seamstress to follow so they can prepare the garments for them in morning, if they choose to do so. One presumes that the thought was that with a seamstresses chipping in, the competitors could focus more on the overall look and the actual design.
Those who cannot sew do face an uphill battle especially when the instructions are not made as clear as the designer thinks they are. While having a seamstress may sound like an advantage, for some it becomes a nightmare.
Every week more than one contestant can be sent home and when it comes to deciding who will continue on and who will hit the bricks, the designers have a chance to change the judges’ minds, plead their cases if they are on the bottom. Sometimes the Hail Mary play works and sometimes it flops.
The designers themselves are all experienced professionals.
The contestants are:
Sander Bos, 24, Hasselt, Belgium: Featuring avant-garde inspired looks, Bos is a young designer who runs his namesake line. Raised in a small town in Belgium, he is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and is eager to make his mark on a global scale.
Rinat Brodach, 35, New York City: Brodach was a fan of fashion from an early age while growing up in in Israel and later came to the US to study design. Her eponymous line features a minimalist chic, gender-free aesthetic, reflecting her own straightforward personality. She recently dressed Billy Porter for the Critics’ Choice Awards and her designs have also been worn by Laverne Cox and Adam Lambert.
Ji Won Choi, 26, New York City: The Parson graduate is a designer of elevated, active streetwear that she sells under her namesake brand and has collaborated with Adidas, with pieces worn by Beyoncé and Kendall Jenner. Born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in Oklahoma, and educated in New York City and Paris, her work is a reflection of how Choi sees herself in the world.
Jasmine Chong, 31, New York City: Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chong is the owner of her self-titled feminine ready-to-wear line, has previously shown at NYFW and her line has been featured in a number of fashion magazines. Inspired by her seamstress grandmother and her fashion designer mother, she is focused on creating beautiful clothing that appeals to all body types.
Jonny Cota, 35, Los Angeles, CA: The self-taught owner of the elevated streetwear brand Skingraft, Cota produces two men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections yearly and has shown five times at New York Fashion Week. In addition, he has dressed celebrities including Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé.
Martha Gottwald, 28, Richmond, VA: The Louisiana native and mother of two is owner of the womenswear brand Neubyrne and has been featured in British Vogue and shown at NYFW. Like Gottwald herself, Neubyrne embraces color and whimsicality. The survivor of a near fatal car accident that taught her about strength and endurance, she is a relatively new designer who was inspired by artisans she met in Singapore.
Troy Hul Arnold, 34, New York City: An adjunct professor at Parsons, Hul Arnold was born in Trinidad and Tobago before coming to the US as a child. His brand, Hul Arnold, features minimalist, avant-garde menswear inspired looks for women; one of his designs was worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on Glee. Hul Arnold takes an artisanal approach to his fashion, and he refers to his pieces as functional sculptures.
Joshua Hupper, 38, Shanghai, China: Founder of BABYGHOST, a wildly successful e-commerce fashion brand based in China, Hupper’s designs have been featured in Vogue and on runways around the world. His line features youthful, feminine ready-to-wear fashions for the “mischievous girl.” Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hupper’s talents were shaped by his artistic upbringing and internships with Diane Von Furstenburg and Thakoon.
Esther Perbandt, 43, Berlin, Germany: Founder and namesake Esther Perbandt was born and bred in Berlin, toughened up in Moscow and polished in Paris. Owner of her eponymous line, which features edgy, menswear-inspired separates, Perbandt has created more than 30 collections over the brand’s 15 year history and has been running her highly successful boutique in Berlin for ten years. As an artist, she has also collaborated on countless music, film and theatre projects.
Will Riddle, 31, New York City: Riddle’s design skills, featuring a modern take on old glamour, have led to a series of impressive jobs, including Atelier Director at Oscar de la Renta, 3.1 Philip Lim, and now men’s designer at Kith – a far journey from growing up in a trailer park in Ohio. With an impressive resume under his belt, Riddle is ready to start his own label.
Sabato Russo, 64, Milan, Italy: A seasoned designer with a 25-year career in the industry, Russo is owner of the brand Satorial Monk, which focuses on high end simplicity. A former model who is able to speak four languages, Russo has a global point of view that is reflected in his sophisticated, timeless looks. Russo is currently working on his “Made in Italy” line entitled Sabato Russo.
Megan Smith, 38, Los Angeles, CA: Born and raised in Kansas City, KS, Smith first discovered her love of fashion design while creating clothes for her Barbie dolls. After designing private label for several major bands and retailers, Smith branched out and launched her own line “Megan Renee.” The response to her first runway show during Los Angeles Fashion Week was so overwhelming, she launched her online boutique to sell her collections to customers worldwide. Her line features feminine, 70’s inspired cocktail attire.
The drama fans of Project Runway have come to expect inside and outside the design studio is present in Making the Cut. One competitor cannot take the heat, storms out and Gunn has to track them down and do his best to talk them out of quitting the show. Sparks fly when personalities clash during team or duo challenges. Many a competitor feels the heat and comes close to that breaking point. And then there’s Naomi Campbell, who never minces her words or shies away from controversy.
Making the Cut is Project Runway produced with more style, more precision, more pomp and circumstance, more raw emotion making Project Runway look so junior in comparison.
Auf Wiedersehen, Project Runway.
Hallo, Making the Cut.
The first season of Making the Cut will have 10 episodes with two episodes dropping on Prime Video every week starting on March 27th.
Top Photo: Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. Photo: Prime Video.