Tim Gunn on what makes Making the Cut more than just another Project Runway
The fashion mentor teases which designers to look out for — and discusses what happened with Martha.
For years we knew Tim Gunn for his warm but firm directive to “make it work;” now he’s back to advise designers on how to make the cut.
Along with fellow Project Runway alumna Heidi Klum, Gunn developed and executive-produces Amazon’s new reality competition Making the Cut, which premiered last week and drops two new episodes every Friday.
Despite the Runway talent and genre, Making the Cut is an entirely different show from its Bravo (then Lifetime, then back to Bravo) predecessor. “We wanted the show to bear a relevance to where fashion is today,” Gunn tells EW of his and Klum’s concept for the series. “You can’t merely have a conversation about a dress being pretty; it really has to be about how does this fit into a larger rubric, and most specifically, branding. Because that’s what we were looking for — the next big fashion brand.”
The new series gathers 12 international designers in Paris (!), where every week, each of them designs a mini-collection, with at least one “wearable” look that complements the more high-fashion runway ensemble(s). Led by Klum, a panel of judges (which has so far included the likes of fashion legends like Naomi Campbell and Carine Roitfeld) chooses the winner of each challenge. Then, in what Gunn calls “the real cherry on top” of the series, the accessible look from the winning collection is immediately available for purchase on Amazon once the episode airs.
The global perspective was essential to Gunn and Klum’s vision — “you can’t have a relevant fashion discussion these days and not open it up globally,” Gunn explains — and setting up at Amazon made it possible for Making the Cut to go fully international. “I don’t know that we could have had another partner and been able to pull it off as well,” he says. “I’m used to the network, so to speak, being there as a naysayer, and ‘Oh no, you can’t do that; oh no, that won’t work’ — and with [Amazon], it was a matter of, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s think big!’ And it was just something I’m so unused to, and so spiritually uplifting.”
In another significant change from the Runway model, the contestants work with the help of seamstresses, who come into the workroom at night to do basic garment construction from the designers’ instructions. The (more industry-realistic) approach means “the designers learned quickly how to communicate,” Gunn points out. Furthermore, with the emphasis on finding a global fashion brand, Making the Cut is more concerned with a designer’s vision than their craftsmanship; “It’s not a sewing competition,” Gunn says. That element created a unique drama in the second episode [spoiler!], when designer Martha Gottwald lost her way, lamenting that she couldn’t sew and ultimately safety-pinning a bold piece of fabric around her model like a beach towel instead.
“She was using it as an excuse,” Gunn says with a sigh. “I think she felt very intimidated in that environment, and I know she was terribly homesick, and she wanted an out. But we wouldn’t have brought someone on the show who actually didn’t know how to sew. They’ll self-destruct. There’s no reason for them to be there.”
Case in point [and spoiler from the first two episodes]: Despite her claims that she never constructs clothes herself anymore, Berlin-based designer Esther Perbandt snagged victories in the first two challenges. “She has myriad strengths,” Gunn says of the apparent frontrunner. “She has a beautiful design vocabulary, in terms of her own work. She knows how to construct clothing beautifully. She has a tenacity that allows her to unerringly just work, work, work through every obstacle. She knows how to style beautifully, and she’s a really lovely person, which is a great enhancement when you’re a strong designer. She has the whole package.”
Perbandt hasn’t locked in the win yet, though. Viewers should be paying attention to “everyone who’s left,” Gunn warns. Also making an impression in the early episodes is Milan-based Sabato Russo, the oldest in the group and a designer with “an extremely high taste level, [and] what I would call a magical grasp of textiles and how to drape them,” says Gunn. “I mean, in a way, he’s a male Esther.” On the flip side, Belgium-based designer Sander Bos is the youngest in the competition, and “to be perfectly blunt,” Gunn admits, it “couldn’t be more accurate” to call him the “wild card” of the season.
“Just wait,” he teases. “I think you’ll be very surprised.”
Making the Cut