When “Project Runway” began, Tim Gunn had modest expectations.
“I thought, ‘Well, this will be good cocktail-party talk. This will never happen again,’” he recalled.
Then it happened again and again and …
There were 16 seasons with Heidi Klum (shown here) as host and Gunn as mentor; there have been two more since they left to plan “Making the Cut,” the designer show that’s debuting now on Amazon Prime. There have been two junior editions with Klum and Gunn and seven all-star editions without them.
“Runway” has bounced from Bravo to Lifetime and back to Bravo. It has changed owners; it spawned variations in at least 31 countries, including Vietnam, Ukraine and Mongolia.
And now it has some competition from its former stars. “Our hands were tied for many, many years,” Klum said, “because our imagination is bigger than what we were allowed to do.”
Mostly, she said, there was a reluctance to alter a success. “There is a certain look to a show that … they didn’t wanna change. And then, when everything kind of fell apart …”
The show was owned by the Weinstein Company, which crumbled during the sex-abuse charges against co-founder Harvey Weinstein. A new company took over; during the confusion, Klum, Gunn and producer Sara Rea began pitching an idea for a new show.
With Amazon, Klum said, possibilities seemed wide-open. “They said, ‘Think big.’
“And we’re like, ‘Okay, airplane.’
“And they were like, ‘No, not that big.’
“I was like, ‘Million dollars for our winner.’
“(They said,) ‘Yeah, we can do that.’”
Amazon didn’t buy a plane, but did buy a lot of tickets. For the opener, contestants flew to New York from Italy, Israel, Germany, Malaysia and U.S. cities … then flew to Paris for the first challenge.
Many of them already had successful careers. “’Project Runway’ is the undergraduate program and ‘Making the Cut’ is the graduate and Ph.D. program,” Gunn said.
Still, the show wanted a variety of contestants. “One thing that was important was diversity in design aesthetic,” Rea said.
One contestant was forever using (and wearing) bright colors; “I don’t do black,” she said. Another seemed to do nothing but black.
It would have been a mistake, the judges said, to have only established designers. “We have to keep producing the next set of wonderful and great designers,” Naomi Campbell said.
Nicole Richie agreed. “To meet somebody young and new and creative is always exciting.”
On “Runway,” the contestants do their own sewing … which may not be realistic, Klum said. She says Michael Kors, the famed designer, said: “I don’t remember the last time I sewed anything.”
So the “Making the Cut” contestants leave their plans for a seamstress to finish overnight. “It comes back and sometimes it’s a bit of a hot mess and they have to figure it out,” Gunn said. “And that’s okay, because that’s how the real world is.”
– “Making the Cut,” Amazon Prime
– Two episodes a week for five weeks, beginning March 27