Twelve designers with established brands but little notoriety compete on a show hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn to solidify their spot in the fashion world — it looks and sounds like “Project Runway,” but Amazon Prime’s new reality competition “Making the Cut” imagines what “Project Runway” could have been with less drama and a bigger budget.
“Project Runway,” whose 18th season wrapped last month, was the first of its kind as a reality competition focused on fashion design and was famously hosted by Klum and Gunn. That is, until their departure in 2017, when the pair left the show and signed onto “Making the Cut.” With creative twists on its beloved forerunner, “Making the Cut” is easily addictive and refreshingly upbeat, even if some of its innovations do fall a little flat.
Designers are tasked with creating at least two looks each week, one high fashion and one deemed accessible, with an enticing weekly prize: the winning accessible look is available for sale on Amazon immediately after each episode is released. Watching how each episode plays out is all the more exciting for the viewer when they know a piece of the extravagant show could find its home in their closet.
The reminders of Amazon’s far-reaching capacity do not stop there. With its abundant funds, the show is able to fly the cast to New York, Paris and Tokyo for their runway shows. Zoomed-out views of city life and famous landmarks pepper each episode, but the point of all the international travel remains unclear. Designers are told to derive inspiration from their surroundings, but only a few do so explicitly. Even so, the settings make for some beautiful shots that complement the luxury fashion feel of the show.
Like “Project Runway,” judging involves acknowledgment of only the highest and lowest scoring designers. “Making the Cut” revitalizes this format, though, by introducing greater uncertainty. Any number of contestants can be sent home at a given time, and designers in the hot seat have a chance to plead their cases for staying and change the judges’ minds. While the premise is interesting, only four or so designers actually end up receiving feedback from the judges each round, leaving other interesting designs unacknowledged.
The viewer is left wanting to hear more from the judging panel, not only because there are many other designers who do not receive evaluations, but also because the judges themselves are fascinating figures who would unquestionably have a lot to say about every item that walks down the runway. With a panel comprised of Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Chiara Ferragni, Carine Roitfeld and Joseph Altuzarra, viewers would hope the program made the most of its celebrity cast, but in this department, the show disappoints.
Of all the innovations “Making the Cut” employs, what truly distinguishes the show from the traditional reality competition model is its wholesome cast interactions and positive energy. Designers applaud and celebrate each other’s successes, lend each other a hand to finish up a seam or cut a pattern, and accept failure gracefully.
The absence of toxicity could potentially leave something to be desired — after all, the guilty pleasure of tuning in to other people’s drama is certainly part of the appeal of reality TV — but surprisingly, the drama is not missed. Instead, the designers’ friendly rapport endears the audience to them more and encourages viewers to feel for them when they recount their uphill battles gaining footholds in the cutthroat industry.
Part of the reason for the relative harmony of interactions is that these competitors, some of whom have already shown at New York Fashion Week and other renowned events, do not have a desperate need to prove themselves. Their focus is refining their crafts as artists. This focus is made clear by the fact that the designers do not sew their garments themselves, instead cutting patterns and leaving the technical work of sewing and assembling to a team of seamstresses.
As much as “Making the Cut” departs from “Project Runway,” ultimately a huge contributor to the show’s appeal is the perpetually chic and delightfully effervescent duo of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. The two finally reunite as hosts after 16 seasons of self-professed TV marriage and “Making the Cut” leans into this partnership. Cutaways to Klum and Gunn exploring the city together make for cute moments that give viewers more time with the charismatic personalities who act as parents to the designers.
The remodel of reality competitions that “Making the Cut” has to offer renders it sufficiently compelling, as it strikes an interesting dynamic by mixing couture with commercial and extravagance with shopping on Amazon. Even with its recycled “Project Runway” template, “Making the Cut” does — as Tim Gunn would say — make it work.