During an appearance in Salt Lake City way back in 2011, “Project Runway” mentor Tim Gunn expressed his unhappiness with the show’s judges in no uncertain terms. After their bizarre and unpopular choice of the Season 8 winner, Gunn referred to Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia as “crack-smoking judges.”
And Klum was not pleased. “She was very upset,” Gunn said. “She said, ‘I’m a mother. I’m a citizen of my community. And I want to go on record as saying I’m not a crack smoker.’
“I didn’t mean it literally. It was my way of expressing how muddled I was by their decision making.”
Klum obviously got over it. In 2018, when she decided to quit “Project Runway” and start a new fashion competition/reality show on Amazon Prime, “I called Tim and I said, ‘I’m jumping this ship, and do you want to jump with me? I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I’m really eager to see what we can do.’”
“We jumped together,” Gunn said.
Both expressed frustration with the rut they believed “Project Runway” was stuck in, with one season looking much like another. And they were there for 16 seasons. “Our hands were tied for many, many years, because our imagination is bigger than what we were allowed to do,” Klum said.
“Who knew when we were taping Season 1 of ‘Project Runway’ that it would be a success? I certainly didn’t,” Gunn said. “I thought, ‘Well, this will be good cocktail party talk. This will never happen again.’ So, when we actually returned for Season 2, we were in a lockstep, in a way, with a formula that had been determined in Season 1. And then you perpetuate it. … And we couldn’t break out of it.”
(Willy Sanjuan | Invision/AP) Sara Rea, left, Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum appear at the "Making the Cut" panel during the Amazon TCA 2020 Winter Press Tour at the Langham Huntington on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif.
They’re executive producers of “Making the Cut” — along with showrunner Sara Rea, who ran “Project Runway” from Season 6-16. And many of the things they wanted to try on their former show, they’re actually doing on “Making the Cut,” which starts streaming Friday on Amazon. (There are 10 episodes; two will stream each Friday through April 24.)
• The 12 designers compete for a chance to create the next “global brand.” They’re judged not just on the designs, but on their ability to sell their collections and themselves.
• Each designer has a seamstress so they don’t have to do all the sewing themselves. “We didn’t want it to be a sewing competition,” Klum said.
• Designers can come and go as they please — no regimented hours in the workroom.
• There aren’t any of those oddball, unconventional materials challenges that are a staple on “Project Runway.”
• They travel to New York, Paris and Tokyo during the competition (thanks to a big Amazon budget, which is also paying for the $1 million prize).
• And as soon as an episode starts streaming, some of the designs will be available for sale on Amazon.com — most selling for $100 or less.
“For the first time, finally our audience can shop,” Klum said. “That was never possible before. You see something, you want it, but you can’t have it. So here, you have a winning look every week and people can buy it around the world.”
It’s not wildly different from “Project Runway,” but it’s not altogether the same. And both Gunn and Klum said they understood why “Runway” didn’t want to change a successful formula, but they were ready to move on.
“‘Making the Cut’ wouldn’t have happened without ‘Project Runway,’” Gunn said. “In my role as a teacher for most of my life, I would say that ‘Project Runway’ is the undergraduate program and ‘Making the Cut’ is the graduate and Ph.D. program. … It really is about finding the next global brand. And we do.”
And Gunn has no criticism of Klum and the other “Making the Cut” judges, Joseph Altuzarra, Nicole Richie and Naomi Campbell.
“I have to say that I never once disagreed with any of their decisions,” he said. “Never once.”