When Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn parted ways with the show that made them cultural juggernauts, there was a certain sense of disbelief, but as they return to the fashion reality show world with Making the Cut, it makes a lot of sense. That is perhaps most especially true in the case of Tim Gunn, who gives the impression of being a person who wants things to progress.
While there is a familiarity in structure, there are a lot of differences, and they push the effort to the next level. In many ways, these are all changes that fans are going to love, but there is a certain aspect to the show that may turn some viewers off. That difference is in the resume of many of the contestants. Reality competition fans may understand this as the difference between the first few seasons of Top Chef and what the show ultimately became. That show moved from hopefuls who were in the early stages of potential careers to those who already had their own restaurants or worked upper-echelon jobs. Here, we’ve gone from people dreaming of any fashion job while creating dresses in their spare time, to people who have successful boutique brands, have already been to New York’s fashion week, and/or have deals with major labels already behind them.
Instead of shining a spotlight on people who might never be seen otherwise, at least without years of work, we’re “Shark Tanking” people who have proven themselves to a relevant degree and we’re looking to propel them into becoming the next massive, global brand.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and as I said, it fits with the idea that we are getting to the next step in the idea of a reality competition show, but it does have the potential of leaving some viewers less interested. On the other hand, it does add a measure of ability to help out those who don’t “Make the Cut,” because they get meaningful exposure when they actually already have something to sell.
The other changes are all serious positives, though some are perhaps unveiled jabs at sticking points with the old show. Most notably, this is not a sewing competition, as Tim Gunn makes a point of saying. Contestants have seamstresses to help them bring their ideas to life. It’s a show about design and business ideas, and while there is a time crunch involved, this isn’t a show that looks to have the imagination stifled by what one person can sew in a day or two.
More importantly, the show is global. The contestants are from around the world with a split of those from the United States and those from various other countries. Not only does this obviously bring other perspectives into the effort, but it gives an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse, for example, of the life of a German contestant and her “hard edge” boutique storefront. This alone adds exponentially to the value of the show. While there is certainly “global fashion” in some sense, there is also a far more real sense in which there isn’t. The mindset of Ohio squaring off with the mindset of Malaysia is pure gold, and watching Tim wander the workroom is now a show unto itself.
But, Making the Cut is a show more global even than that, because it travels itself, and the designs will be available on Amazon as episodes release. The contestants will travel to New York, Paris, and Tokyo, and use those amazing cities as inspiration. As amazing as that makes the show, as we walk the streets with the designers, it leads to some curious moments. The opening of the series has one of the contestants fly to New York for the show’s intro, just so he can immediately fly to Paris, which is a three-hour drive from his house.
As I mentioned, the show also takes advantage of its Amazon home by offering limited editions of winning designs with each episode. For most (if not all – I haven’t seen them all) episodes the designers are tasked with making two looks – one that is more “runway” and one that is closer to the realm of ready-to-wear. It’s the second that will go online on Amazon Fashion in the “Making the Cut” store.
Noticeably absent from the show is the incessant sponsor shout outs, which also comes with a slimming of the show’s prize package. The winner gets an exclusive line on Amazon Fashion and one million dollars.
Now that the endgame is here, it makes complete sense that Tim Gunn would gravitate toward something that was another step forward. Watching his reactions during even the first episode reveals the almost bizarre level of empathy he enjoys by being any part of providing this opportunity, and perhaps betrays the experience of contact with a host of people throughout his career that he wishes he could teleport here with him. Gunn is cynic kryptonite and the fact permeates everything about the show.
The ten-episode series kicks off this Friday, March 27th, and two new episodes will premiere each week, with the finale on April 24th. Judging their looks and industry acumen are some of fashion’s most recognizable and influential names, including Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld and Chiara Ferragni.