Running On The Runway

Project Runway

Tim Gunn Delights In The Fast-Paced World Of “Project Runway.”

This season, Project Runway (returning Thursday, Aug. 6, on Lifetime) is once again stretching the minds of talented designers with challenges that push the boundaries of fashion. Cohost and mentor Tim Gunn maintains that the show could “use the same challenges every season because we have different designers with different points of views, different DNA, and they’ll solve the challenges differently,” but admits that much of the show’s fun is seeing new challenges and how the designers adapt to time and creative constraints. “Our challenge on our end is finding new challenges for the designers that are of substance, that help them explore who they are as a designer and just don’t seem like some cheesy contrivance and, frankly, it’s hard.”

However, it’s not quite as hard a time as some of the contestants have in fully understanding that the time constraints and challenges are in real time, not some fictitious TV editing schedule. “That’s the big shock for the designers. They can’t believe that they really have 10 hours. ‘What do you mean? It’s 10 hours to conceive, to shop, to drape and to draft, to cut and to sew, to fit the model and style the model, it’s 10 hours?’”

In its previous 13 installments, some of the more creative Project Runway challenges have ranged from designing uniforms for the U.S. Postal Service to creating haute couture gowns on a budget. And when Gunn spoke with us, the contestants were mid-challenge and “working with materials from a corresponding industry that changes as rapidly as fashion does.” After so many seasons, Gunn is still in awe of the tenacity, talent and time management of the show’s nimble-fingered contestants. “The fact that they get anything on the runway, let alone something that’s great, is nothing short of miraculous,” he marvels.

As for contestants we can look forward to in Season 14, Gunn touts many in this eclectic group. “This year it’s particularly diverse. I’ll share with you a comment of Nina’s that she’s actually repeated three times now — I think, the most recent was yesterday — about a couple of the designers, saying: ‘I wish they could be more sophisticated.’ I said to her repeatedly, ‘They’re not. It’s not who they are as designers. They’re not sophisticated and they’re not going to be and that’s not who their customer is. They have an entirely different niche and their muse is someone entirely different. They’re not in that world.’ For me, especially coming up from many years of teaching, that’s perfectly valid. If you only look at people through a lens of sophistication, you’re cutting off a lot of the world.”

And much of that world consists of the passionate viewers who have faithfully watched the show for years. “You know what I love about Runway? The viewers have spanned three generations. We have kids, we have their parents and we have their grandparents all watching us,” Gunn says. “[The show] doesn’t paint some wonderful, romantic, bucolic, beautiful story. It’s gritty, it’s hard, it’s daunting. If it motivates people to want to be part of it, I’m thrilled, because that’s really what the industry is about.”

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