Project Runway is a competition-based show that features a group of talented clothing designers who are competing to show their own fashion collection at New York City’s Fall or Spring Fashion Week at Bryant Park. The honor of showing in one of the primary tents at Bryant Park is an honor that cannot be bought or quickly earned. Famous designers like Vera Wang, Dolce and Gabanna, or Calvin Klein are the top-attended shows at Fashion Week; however since the first airing of Project Runway in December of 2004 the competing designers have brought in huge audiences.
The Project Runway series is hosted by German supermodel Heidi Klum and can be seen on the Bravo cable television network. The judges are pulled from some of the top fashion design houses or fashion and beauty magazines that America has to offer. Michael Kors is a famous American designer and has served as a judge on the show during all three seasons. The other primary judge, besides Kors and Klum, is Nina Garcia who is the Fashion Director for the top-rated Elle magazine. While Kors, Klum and Garcia make up the core of the judging panel, there is always a third guest judge who is brought in according to the style or challenge of each episode. For example, in Runway’s Season Two, world-class Olympian figure skater Sasha Cohen served on the panel to help judge the skating costumes that had been designed and constructed by the design contestants. Other guest judges included: the legendary Diane Von Furstenberg, musician Sarah Hudson and Tara Conner, Miss USA. One of the recent Project Runway challenges instructed the contestants to sketch, design and construct Tara Conner’s evening dress for the Miss Universe pageant.
The competition is based in New York City, and much of the design work and judging take place at Parsons School of Design. The Chair of Fashion at Parsons, Tim Gunn, has become a figurehead for the show and serves as a mentor to the contestants. His oft repeated reminders to the designers to “Make it Work” and “Carry On” have become two of America’s most famous catch phrases. Tim Gunn’s sophisticated and calm approach to the design process enables the designers to turn out couture clothing on a small budget and even smaller time schedule. Frequently, each designer is given $ 100.00 to spend at Mood Designer Fabrics in the Garment District in order to make a dress that would appear to a consumer to be well over $ 1000.00 retail. The time constraints placed upon the designers are stress-inducing. Merely a day or two is given to create, shop for and construct tailored and unique pieces that speak to each designer’s particular aesthetic sensibility. Each look is then worn on the runway by a group of fashion models selected to appear on show. While the look is paraded down the runway, the judges take notes and ascribe a score to each design. Once all looks have been shown, the designers are told whether they received a high, middle or low score and are eliminated accordingly. Typically one or two designers are eliminated per episode.
When the last three designers remain, all three are given a budget of $ 8000.00 and sent home for three months to construct a collection of 12 pieces to be shown at Fashion Week in New York. Once the collections have been shown, one designer is chosen as the winner of Project Runway. He or she wins $ 100,000 to start their own collection, a new car, and an apprenticeship at a major fashion house.
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