Why Project Runway Works

1. Tim Gunn has unimpeachable integrity.
I love Tim Gunn.

I want him to be my older brother. His earnestness, his meticulous dress, his deep throaty voice and his intense pride in the designers bring me such comfort each week. There are rules, and by golly, Tim Gunn will follow them. And he had a lot to contend with this season: Keith gets kicked off the show; Jeffrey makes Angela’s mom cry; Jeffrey nearly gets kicked off, himself. He even had to deal gracefully with Keith coming back for the reunion episode and presenting his assinine conspiracy theories. Plus, there were the usual, weird twists and turns the producers dreamt up. But he treats all situations as true opportunities for his designers to learn, to shine and to win. It is clear that he is an educator and a mentor to each of the competitors. He seems to hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but he is always totally honest, and his advice always benefits the designers. The losers may resent the judges, but I think they all walk away respecting Tim Gunn.

2. It’s educational.
I don’t know anything about fashion. Who does? The judges. They know what they’re talking about. I love to hear their critiques. Desn’t mean anythign to me most of the time, but they force me to believe it.

3. The drama is real, not contrived.
A bunch of artists are brought together to show their stuff and compete against each other. They have egos. They have ideas. They have their eyes on the prize. And they’re on camera. What choice do they have but to have slashes and conflicts? Doesn’t take a casting genius to work that one out. Real personalities come out under real circumstances.

4. The competition is real.
These poor people are put through the ringer. They are given some curve balls from week to week. And I am amazed that they don’t just crack sometimes.

Each episode, with it’s miniature runway show, is a microcosm of the whole thing, the culmination, the finale at Fashion Week. It’s like reliving the drama every week. And it all builds naturally to a logical and highly entertaining conclusion.

5. These designers are true colleagues and competitors.
It’s like summer camp. They work together. They learn from each other. They advise each other. They inspire each other. And they know that any week could brig the fluke that gets the knocked off the show. None of them is safe, so they pull for each other. They want to win, but sometimes I think they don’t want anyone to lose. Even after Laura’s accusations of fraud nearly got Jeffrey kicked off the show, I believe they understood each other better. I believe that Jeffrey doesn’t hate her. And I believe that the playing field was absolutely level. This goes back to the notion of integrity.
After someone gets kicked off, people are so sad. And when someone wins, they are genuinely happy. The hugs look and feel so good.

If they hated each other, this show would be boring and stupid.

6. The judges have real compassion.
They sound like bitches at times, but they want to see beauty, and they usually do. And I just love to hear the judges say nice things about people. Even if they miss the mark, the designers clearly have passion and their work has artistic merit; and I love that the judges get that, and say so.

7. The competitors are actually talented.
These people are pulling out all the stops to do their best work. It matters to them. And even if I’m surprised or disappointed to see certain designers cut during the season, I have no doubt by the last episode that these final competitors are the ones who belong there. We viewers have something to believe in and someone to cheer for.

8. The result is something beautiful, not something ugly and sad.
We’re not voting people off the island. We’re not forming alliances to take anyone down. We’re not watching hook-ups in the hot tub. We’re not watching families melt down. We’re not watching husbands trading their psychopathic wives. We’re not watching spoiled socialites soving their hands into the wombs of livestock, pretending to care about how “simple” people live. These are artists. These are craftspeople. What is captured on this series is the product of years of real work for each of them. And week after week, nearly without fail, they produce something beautiful.

9. Even the losers can succeed.
These people have a future after this show. They are talented. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be on the show. Just by virtue of being on the show, they have enough publicity to make some hay. And each of the four finalists, whether they won the fashion Week competition or not, has gained enough notoriety and has shown enough consistent good work that they could easily ride this thing through to a successful career. Not everyone will be in Elle, maybe, but not everyone can be, and not everyone needs to be.


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