Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn on the Paris runway for their new show, Making the Cut

Jessica Forde

Gunn evaluates the progress of designer Megan Smith

Jessica Forde

Klum and Gunn in Tokyo

Bruce Yamakawa

Campbell in Tokyo

Keith Tsui
Fill 1
Fill 1
April 08, 2020

The Brand Tour

Art meets commerce in the new design competition with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, streaming — bien sûr! — on Amazon. From the Paris opener to the final cut, it’s all about finding fashion’s next global phenom.

Don't expect to hear "in fashion, one day you're in and the next day you're out," but you might catch an occasional whiff of "make it work."

Those were the favored catchphrases of supermodel host Heidi Klum and mentor Tim Gunn as they led Bravo's Project Runway through 16 seasons of fashion-design competitions. They jumped ship in 2018, only to resurface this year with Making the Cut, which rolled out March 27 on Amazon Prime Video.

This new fashion matchup shares much with its predecessor: Klum still hosts with marked exuberance. Gunn continues to deliver his thoughtful critiques. And a gaggle of fashionistas again send their forged-under-pressure clothing inventions to the runway in hopes of staying in the game to the end.

This time, though, producers have raised the stakes and the skill level. "I did not want to do something I had done for 17 years. I wanted to make this different," Klum says.

On the new show, more seasoned designers compete for a bigger prize: $1 million to give the winner's brand a serious boost. Fittingly, at the conclusion of each episode, a winning design goes on sale immediately in the Amazon Fashion marketplace.

"For them, it's the biggest platform on the planet," says Klum, who waited to announce those perks until the competitors were gathered together on film for the first time. "They nearly fell off their chairs," she says with a laugh.

Making the Cut could be described as Project Runway grown up. Gone are outlandish challenges like asking the designers to contrive an outfit from whatever they can scavenge in a five-minute dumpster dive.

These12 designers, selected from hundreds of international applicants, have already established their looks and brands to some degree. With each challenge, they are urged to advance their creativity and their business savvy.

The show's stated goal is to help make the brand of the ultimate winner a global phenomenon.

"It's about how we stay true to who we are aesthetically, but create something that a big group of people are going to connect to," Nicole Richie explains. She's one of five judges who appear at the first runway show, held at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Richie has herself successfully penetrated the fashion market with her ready-to-wear brand, House of Harlow 1960. (She started designing clothes when she was 11 and wanted stylish figure-skating outfits for competitions.)

The other four judges are Klum; Carine Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris; Joseph Altuzarra, the award-winning Parisian designer and creative director of Altuzarra; and supermodel icon Naomi Campbell, who provides some of the best zingers during elimination rounds.

In one instance, after a designer presents an awkward sleeve combination, she offers, "That would be my nightmare to have to model that outfit."

"It's real life," says Sara Rea, executive producer and showrunner, who also left Project Runway for this venture. "We don't want to sugarcoat what it takes to survive. This is truly one of the toughest industries."

Rea says she and her fellow exec producers — Page Feldman, Jennifer Love, Klum and Gunn — carefully considered how to motivate participants to connect art and commerce.

They decided to give any designer on the cusp of elimination one last chance to make a case before the judges for their creative vision and potential market.

"Can they speak for themselves?" Rea says. "Can they stand up for their brand?" If so, then maybe — just maybe — they get to remain. Just as Klum's passion for fashion was infectious on Project Runway, she radiates enthusiasm here. Her smile alone could light up the runway.

As usual, she can't resist putting dibs on some of the outfits that come down it. "I'll take one of those," she'll say cheekily, though she already has so many clothes that her enormous walk-in closet is "something of a department store." ...

For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of emmy magazine, or click here.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2020

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