Program Runway is among the most successful reality TV competition shows on the air. Many have tried to match it's might - The Cut, Glam God, Stylista, The Fashion Show, Running in Heels, The Fashionista Diaries, Launch My Line (does ANTM count?) - but all have fallen short. With Season 7 wrapped and season 8 in casting, it seems the PR dynasty is still going strong. But is the show just another TV gimmick, or does Klum-front program genuinely help emerging designers break into the biz?
To be sure, life is what you make of it; and getting time in the TV spotlight can be a boon to anyone who knows how to spin it. Still, Project Runway is no magic pill for success. Season 1 winner Jay McCarroll received $100,000 cash as part of his prize, but according to estimates his debut fashion week presentation in 2006 cost more than that to stage.
McCarroll wouldn't say how much he spent to produce the 11-minute show in September 2006 that's the climax of his documentary, but insiders estimate a budget of more than $100,000. [Simon] Ungless says the cost of the Academy of Art's show at Bryant Park was kept lower than other fashion shows because sponsors like MAC makeup and Aveda hair care provided free services, but the school still had to pay $50,000 to rent the largest tent space for four hours. He adds that sponsorless designers could pay up to $20,000 for hair and makeup teams, on top of doling out $5,000 to $6,000 each for lead makeup and hair stylists that create the models' cosmetic looks. The models themselves could cost $1,200 to $1,500 each for seconds of stomping down a runway, and top models can charge up to $25,000 per show. An average show might require 10 or more models to show 20 outfits. And then there are stylists (about $6,000, for six days of work) who help designers with the overall aesthetic of the outfits; publicists ($18,000 to $20,000) who invite editors and buyers to the show and persuade them to write stories about the designer; and dressers who work at $50 an hour to put the clothes on the models at the show.
McCarroll wasn't forced to use his funds to show at New York Fashion Week's center stage, but he's surely not alone in his faulty thinking that it would be his ticket to the big time. In fact Project Runway - and the mainstream fashion culture, in general - encourage the Bryant Park, Cinderella-esque myth: Just get to the tents and you have it made, right?! Not so much. McCarroll documented his post-win rude awakening in his film "Eleven Minutes."
"At every turn, there was some pitfall and he always fell in it," says Rob Tate, the film's producer and one of its cameramen. Tate and the documentary's director, Michael Selditch, said they had no idea what the fashion industry was like when they agreed to film McCarroll as he worked on a collection. And even McCarroll didn't know that months of headaches and trial-and-error would be behind the glamorous facade of having a fashion line and runway show.
"There's such a mystique — such a thing about the fashion industry — that they don't want to let too much information out," McCarroll says. "They want to keep it elite, that whole kind of high-end luxurious nonsense."
The problems started with McCarroll's designs, which were based on inspirations of hot air balloons and vintage ads. As he picked looks to put into production for sale and manufactured showpieces for Fashion Week, reality sank in. Time restraints and a strict budget also limited the more intricate pieces, forcing McCarroll to rethink his vision. "If you look at his original drawings, and then you look at what actually ended up on the runway, every one of them is compromised," Tate says. "Every one of them."
McCarroll and Tate blame the naivete on the secretive and "incredibly unnurturing" nature of the fashion industry in educating new designers about its business end. And despite McCarroll's access to established designers through "Runway," such as judge Michael Kors, he says he wasn't warned or given any sympathy.
Read more at desertnews.com
McCarroll may have suffered a bit from the guinea pig syndrome, as it seems winners of subsequent seasons have gotten a touch more savvy. His season aired wayyyy back in 2004, after all - practically a generation ago in the digital age. Maybe he'll spin his recent win on "Celebrity Fit Club" into another eleven fifteen minutes of fashion fame.
Check out the web presences of the six PR winners so far.
Season 1 - Jay McCarroll
Season 2 - Chloe Dao
Season 3 - Jeffery Sebelia
Season 4 - Christian Siriano
Season 5 - Leanne Marshall
Season 6 - Irina Shabaveya
by Mary Egbula, online at EightyJane.com