Saturday, February 18, 2006
Runway Roadkill
I'll admit it. I've become a fan of a reality TV show. The show that's currently mesmerized me is Project Runway. It's the show where young fashion designers compete to have their line of clothing displayed at "Fashion Week" in New York.

What is it about this show that draws me? First off, I can't recall another TV show that features sewing machines. And not just any sewing machines, but a room full of clunky machines with stressed-out designers hunched over them. What's more, the show is all about pattern design, pin cushions, and dressmaker dummies. There's just something riveting about watching young people cut out a pattern. On the show, big drama happens when one of the machines breaks a needle. Last week, a sleeve popped off a model on the runway. Oh the tragedy!

The show also documents the creative process. The designers are given a crazy challenge, they go buy fabric, and have a ridiculous time limit to pull off a masterpiece. Along the way, the designers question their ideas: "My design is crap!" They tear things up and start over again. They completely change the design from the original sketches to the final product. Sometimes, the ideas the designers come up with at the beginning of the show are really interesting. Then, seeing the final product strutting down the runway is disappointing. Ideas that sound predictable in the sketching phase can be stunning in the final stages.

There is also this interesting dynamic between the men and women on the show. The men tend to be very confident and boastful: "I'm the strongest designer here" macho talk. A couple of shows ago, the designers had to make clothing out of plants (ha!). Andrea went on and on about how this challenge was perfectly suited to him because he worked for a florist at some point in his career. His moss dress lost the challenge. Last week, Nick designed a guy's suit. He bragged that "menswear is what I do." The suit he designed puckered like a prune, and he got booted off the show.

Meanwhile, the women designers tend to doubt themselves. Not all of the women designers have shown this trait, but it is an interesting pattern to watch overall. The women question their fabric choices. They ask for input. They fuss over their dress dummies, saying "I'm just not sure about this..." Sometimes, after tears and stress, their designs turn out fabulous.

The guys of course tend to assume this creative style is a sign of weakness. Last week, Santino criticized Kara for asking for input about her fabric choices. "She so pathetic." Of course, her design rocked and his bodysuit was a sad, sad piece of work.

Let me just add here that I think the judges have conspired to keep crazy Santino on the show way, way too long. His ice skating dress that was supposed to look like a "phoenix rising out of the flames" was a disaster. He should have been booted off the show way back then. I think the only reason he made it to the "final four" was because he's such an outspoken jerk that it makes for fascinating TV watching. If he'd lost like he should have with the ice skating dress, the one that shed feathers all the way down the runway, all the show would have been left would be polite young people who collaborated and worked well together. Can't have that in a reality TV show!

Just three designers remain. The tension mounts! Who will win the top prize? And what crazy TV show will steal my brain next?


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