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What’s In and what’s Out: Important Lessons for ‘Project Runway’ Designersby Kevin Otten -- 12/13/2005
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As the new season of Project Runway begins, viewers anticipate that the new group of designers will be as exciting, dynamic, and unique as the first season’s cast. Each one wants to make it to the final challenge, and ultimately to win. But getting there will not be easy. Unlike some other reality shows, Project Runway contestants cannot hide amongst alliances or teams; each person is literally under the spotlight and the scrutiny of the judges. While the fashion world and thus the show have a high degree of subjectivity in evaluating what it is in and what is out, some trends do seem apparent from the first season. Exploring these patterns reveals some general rules which can be used to evaluate and predict the success of future designers. These fashion tips will be used to judge the new designers and their success in Season 2. Hopefully, they will have learned some valuable lessons from their predecessors about what it takes to make the cut.
IN: Being original and creative with your designs
OUT: Repeating or recycling old ideas, and having designs which are bland and boring
This rule should be most obvious for the designers – an artistic discipline like fashion requires originality and innovation! Designers should come up with their own ideas and fresh new concepts which will impress and intrigue the judges. Though there is a high degree of subjectivity with this rule, candidates should strive to think outside of conventional norms to generate new approaches to the design challenges they face.
Though she was eliminated early in the season for other reasons, this is an area in which Vanessa seemed to do well. Her shredded-garbage bag / laundry net evening dress was one of the top picks by the judges in the grocery store challenge. Also, in the envy challenge, she came up with the very original idea of pregnancy envy; though she said she had a difficult time trying to sell the garment in the auction, the originality of her idea probably sat very well with the judges.
Both the judges and the other designers noted that this was one of Jay’s greatest strengths, which weighed heavily on him being the final winner. Although Jay did not win any of the individual challenges, the judges consistently noted his unique ideas and remembered this record when evaluating him at the end. On the other hand, Kara Saun was criticized in the final challenge because her frequent use of furs and leather reminded the judges of Gucci and Prada, which did not seem original enough for them.
Alexandra violated this rule by recycling old ideas from other designers in the swimsuit challenge, which sealed her fate. She was explicitly (and harshly) criticized by the judges for her lack of originality. Mario was also criticized for his lack of creativity in both of the first two challenges before his elimination, by simply tying a shower curtain around his model for her dress in the first challenge, and merely using white cotton with some red beading in the second.
IN: Demonstrating flexibility and versatility with each challenge
OUT: Having a limited perspective, and the inability to adapt
Klum and co. are looking for someone who definitely has a unique style and vision, but they also want someone who can adapt to many different design challenges. The fashion world is always changing, and a successful designer changes too. Being a successful designer means meeting the needs of a constantly changing customer/audience. Show that you can employ a variety of design skills to create different results depending on what is asked of you. Listen to the feedback from the judges, and make sure that you alter your actions if you are hearing the same criticisms repeatedly.
Starr suffered the consequences of this rule early in the show and was criticized because her designs were consistently over the top. Unable to adapt her own style in the Banana Republic challenge, her lack of versatility lead to her quick elimination. Similarly, Austin, who many believed should have been a finalist, was eliminated because of this rule. Austin’s style was consistently glamorous, but often too flamboyant to be adaptable; in the Grammy dress challenge, his garment was criticized as being too glamorous.
Kara Saun, on the other hand, frequently changed the look and style of her designs, even though her own personal touch was evident in each. Successful at adapting to many different types of challenges, Kara Saun won more than any other designer throughout the show. Though she often narrowly escaped elimination, Wendy listened very carefully to feedback given to her throughout the show, which may have contributed to what kept her in the game for so long.
IN: Following the guidelines/rules, and being professional
OUT: Acting childish, immature, and trying to break the rules
Fashion is a business, and while being outside the box is valued, success also relies heavily on being able to employ professionalism, customer service, and a serious approach to the work. Candidates should avoid childish or immature behavior which could jeopardize how seriously their work is taken and how legitimate they are seen as being by the judges.
When Mario instructed his model to give the judges the finger, he clearly violated this rule and was eliminated. He also took only about ten minutes to create his first design. To the judges it could have easily seemed as though Mario did not take his role on the show seriously, and his time was short-lived. Nora came close to elimination in the rock star collaboration challenge because of her emotional outbursts and tantrums when dealing with Kevin and her team. Though she lived to see another challenge, she was eliminated the following week; her prior record could have influenced the judges’ decision.1 2 Next-->
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