The dapper Tim Gunn and myself
The Mentor and the "Brokeback Cowboy" Project Runway Designer
Tim Gunn, Kelly from GenArt Chicago and myself
Striking A Pose: A Yoga Sandwich, me and the two Yoga-loving Cameramen!(look at my big old smile!)
Just got back from "The Windy City"(it was actually snowing!), where I was for the Chicago Casting of Season 3 of "Project Runway". I was honored to be asked to judge the next batch of designer hopefuls who want to embark on the crazy ride that I just went through.
Along with Tim Gunn, Kelly from Gen Art Chicago, an Elle Accessories editor , we saw approximately 200 "designers" hoping to be "in" to the next round. Chicago, I must admit was an interesting experience, to say the least. I can sum it up in three main categories:
1) The Students, who were either just out of design school, or in their Senior Year. Most were eliminated from the start when we soon realized the garments they brought were "Senior Thesis" student work. As an Instructor myself I have to admit that their unique design style has not been fostered yet and they require more time before they embark on this journey we call "Project Runway". Their work just looked so "student-esque"(again take my word for this).
2)The Moms, who brought their "Happy Hands at Home" (Tim's words not mine) creations .These women were so full of candor and emotion when they would describe how they have been "knitting" or "sewing" for years(showing us examples of their work) and how this was a lifetime dream. Marla must have inspired them. However, while their work was exceptionally made, it might have lacked a design aspect or unique style that would make them viable candidates to be in the NY stage of Fashion.
3)GhettoFabulousPromDresses.com: In came the designers and behind them came their "models" with the Ghetto Fabulous Prom dresses with cut-outs where they should not be, straps grasping skin that should not be grasped and skin being exposed that would make a "Muffin Top" blush! How they thought that they belonged in New York and/or be in the show was beyond me, maybe the Soul Train Music Awards, but not "Project Runway".
There were some good designers, whom we let "In" . We were moved by their unique spirit, design talent and vision. We sort of knew it right away that "Project Runway" would be good for them and visa versa. On another note, Tim Gunn , and the producers also commented that I(sort of) created a new phenomenon. I asked why? Well, nearly HALF of the aspiring designers were Instructors of some design school or another! I got a kick out of that.
Halfway through the casting, I asked Kelly (GenArt), where were the local Chicago Designers? I knew that there must be a small circle of the talented "underground" Chicago designers, the ones that GenArt sponsors, for example(we have those here in LA and in NY as well) .She said that they just did not want to show up, for whatever reason. I was troubled that they might have felt it was "below them" , because I once, thought that as well, before I decided to go to the casting myself last year. How unfortunate that we did not get to see them , they were missed .I hope they did not feel that being a part of "Project Runway" would be "below them" because for me, it has "projected" me to a place that would have probably have taken me longer to get to without my participation on the show.
Finally a few suggestions to Season 4 castings: No "Pitchety Patchwork "(yes, it's the new 'whickety whack') tops and jackets! We saw one too many of these jigsaw puzzle-looking contrast-fabric tops and jackets that even Grandma won't wear for Christmas or Thanksgiving! Next: Bring a model who actually is with an agency. And I advise students to have a couple of years under your "design belt" after graduating from Design/Art School, so you can foster your own individual ideas and creativity -- and have something other than "Senior Thesis Garments" to show prospective judges. I had an amazing time seeing Chicago designers and would-be designer hopefuls. We did find some talent and hopefully one or two of our choices will make the cut. We shall see over this summer.