So what’s it like being the show’s bad guy?
Sometimes I think I’m edited to sound meaner than I am. [Laughs] I’ve reconciled with that. When 300 editors are watching your collection, they are either going to destroy you or adore you. If [the designers] can’t handle me, come on!
What do you expect from the contestants?
I’m expecting fantastic. I don’t want to see boring. I don’t want to see ugly. WHY?! Why do I have to see ugly?
Speaking of which, you said that Bradley Baumkirchner’s baggy gold top in the doggy design episode was good enough for “Elle”. Really?
[Laughs] It’s what’s happening in fashion now, this bubble silhouette. And I was like, ”Bradley knows this!” They should know. They’re designers!
Were you ever worried about doing a reality show?
At the beginning I was like, ”I’ll be fired. I won’t have another job in my life.” The biggest concern was that the fashion industry, being so elitist, might turn up its nose at this. But it hasn’t.
Do you judge people’s outfits on the street?
I don’t walk around just judging people, but sometimes I’ll think, ”If we could change the shoes, it could work.”
How was Project Runway pitched to you?
They told me that they were going to be doing a show that really explored how designers work and it wouldn’t be about a bowl of bugs. I’ve never been a reality TV fan, except for American Idol.
What don’t you like about reality TV?
It’s the opposite of fashion!
Are you accosted on the street now?
People talk to me like they know me. There’s absolutely no barrier at all. They’ll say [imitating a high-pitched female voice] ”God, Santino should be institutionalized!” or ”That Wendy Pepper, she’s totally wacky!” I’ve heard everything.
Do you have a specific aesthetic you are looking for in the judging?
No, my consistent thing is that I want them to hone their aesthetic. You don’t want to see Giorgio Armani being Jean Paul Gaultier. I want them to be consistent and surprising at the same time, which is tough.
How do you feel about the way you come across in the judging?
People say to me, ”You and Nina are so tough!” I’m tough, but I really am trying to be helpful. I try to give it a little humor.
Like when you called the crotch on Bradley’s Cher outfit ”insane”?
Oh, it was. It was insane.
— Michael Endelman