While watching the 13th season finale of Project Runway, I could not help but reflect on how the television program just keeps getting better, season after season. The talented designers have been stellar from the beginning and I am blown away by the creativity and the designs that have been produced.
Why does it strikes a chord with me? I have always been fascinated by reality competition shows involving the creative process. It did not matter if it was fashion, hair styling, home decor, home renovation competitions, I watched them all. Several have come and gone, but Project Runway has held its own and is still on the air 13 seasons later.
I have always been fascinated to hear where artists get their inspiration, what makes them tick, what they prefer to create, how their process works, what habits or rituals they have and do they have parents or siblings who are also artistically inclined?
I am curious about the latter because my great aunt was a private dressmaker who made fancy dresses and bridal gowns for her clients. It was her passion and she produced exquisite works of art for well over 40 years.
Also, my mom tells a story of when I was 2 years old, she was creating her Christmas dress and when she stepped away momentarily as busy moms sometimes do, I got into the scissors and tried to “help” her with her project. (…I know! I gasp too when she tells the story!) Fortunately, I did not have enough time to make a big mess. Much like in a Project Runway moment, she was able to reinterpret my creative contribution and to improvise decorative panels around the empire-waisted gown. Apparently, the dress was a hit at the Christmas parties. Needless to say, I still feel huge remorse for that.
Given that natural creativity runs like sap through the family tree, I cannot help but wonder if the gift for garments runs on both sides of the family and is somewhere within me, untapped. I do own a sewing machine and I have sewn goodie bags for Christmas, I have made curtains and have even fashioned a skirt to hide an ugly pedestal sink, nothing terribly complicated but those seedlings of skill remain something I am curious about. Taking a sewing class remains on my bucket list, perhaps something to explore in retirement, but I don’t have my hopes up, especially having flunked “scissors” in kindergarten.
Until we figure that out, Project Runway will always be my guilty pleasure. The designers they cast are all top-notch in their respective disciplines and never cease to impress, challenge after challenge. I do get jealous, especially when they make it look so easy and that they can whip together amazing garments in hours. But we all know that hard work, blood, sweat and tears are part of that process.
Of all the judges, more often than not, I tend to see things as Nina Garcia (Creative Director of Marie Claire Magazine). Rarely have I disagreed with her perspective. Her insight, talent and 25 years in the industry have contributed to her keen eye for what is next in fashion. I like that she can tell it like it is and clearly articulate the good, the bad and the ugly in fashion. Her biography confirms my feeling that she is a strong supporter of new talent, a nurturing quality that is very important in my own career in coaching young colleagues in finding their voice.
As the new judge since season 11, Zac Posen brings a new freshness to the show! Even though his perspective is different from former judge Michael Kors, I believe that there still remains a good balance overall in views from the judging panel. His words of encouragement to the designers are genuine and authentic. His natural charm make the delivery of a negative review still sound upbeat yet constructive.
The designers’ mentor, Tim Gunn, is one of my idols. His 2010 book “Gunn’s Golden Rules – Life’s Little Lessons for Making it Work” confirmed what I wanted to believe: he was indeed kind, generous and a consummate gentleman. His rich background in the fashion industry and his gentle nature make his calm interactions with stressed out designers a pleasure to behold and a source of inspiration.
Tying it all together is our beautiful Emmy Award winning Heidi Klum who is always delightful as host and a great mastermind in bringing the project together so successfully as executive producer. As a top model, designer, entrepreneur, public figure and mom (among the many hats she wears), Heidi also brings well-rounded knowledge and experience and can speak to the practicality of the looks proposed on the runway. Much like Nina, Heidi will tell it like it is.
As a panel, I think their encouragement and generosity of spirit is exemplary for today’s reality television and is probably one of the key reasons why Project Runway works.
If there was one bit of advice I would offer the show is to not let the drama between contestants upstage the runway. There are plenty of other shows to feed that appetite. To me, Project Runway will always be about the fashion, the creative process, the designers, and launching the next generation of talent.
Alumni contestants are the emerging fashion icons who will inspire the next generations to find their signature style and articulate who they are, and to step out into the world with strength, heart and confidence.
Heartfelt thanks to the entire cast, crew and designers for a production I truly enjoy! Auf Wiedersehen!
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