Besides its focus on the world
of high fashion, what makes Project Runway stand out from other
reality shows is that its contestants are challenged creatively and
intellectually. Rather than being a race to discover who can debase
themselves the quickest (a la Fear Factor or America's Got
Talent), PR encourages real artistic expression in a novel,
I have always enjoyed the show
whenever I happened to catch an episode here or there, but this is the
first opportunity I've had to watch an entire season. I found
myself absorbed by the widely divergent contestant personalities, their
design abilities, Heidi Klum's chirpy goofball nonsense, and Tim Gunn's
fatherly concern for his brood of designers.
We start out Project Runway:
Season Five with a new cast of designers. The sixteen contestants
come from all walks of life and range from recent college graduates
to well-established professional designers. I would venture to
say that all of them, with perhaps one exception, are truly talented.
Based out of Parsons The New
School for Design in New York, each episode opens with host Heidi Klum
presenting our cast of designers with a challenge to create a look,
within some very stringent parameters. There are limits on time,
budget, and sources for inspiration. Every challenge is different,
often pushing designers to incorporate elements foreign to their individual
styles. This, ultimately, is the real test of PR's contestant/designers
- whether they can remove their own perspective sufficiently to meet
the challenge and, by doing so, reach toward true innovation.
"Let's Start From the Beginning"
The designers' first challenge
is to create a look with items found in Gristedes, a grocery store in
"Grass is Always Greener"
With their models as clients,
the designers create cocktail dresses using "green" fabrics.
"Bright Lights/Big City"
The designers' task is to
create an NYC-inspired look based on their own photos of the city.
"Rings of Glory"
The challenge is to create
a women's look for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
"Welcome to the Jungle"
In pairs, the designers create
looks for Brooke Shields' character on her TV show, "Lipstick Jungle."
"Good Queen Fun"
Drag queens are paired with the designers, and they work together
"Fashion that Drives You"
The designers must create a look using car parts.
"Double 0 Fashion"
Under the direction of Diane
von Furstenberg, the designers create a look inspired by her Fall 2008
"What's Your Sign?"
Paired with previously-eliminated
designers, the remaining contestants create a look based on signs of
Recent college grads - and
their moms - work with the designers to create a look appropriate
to their nascent careers.
"Rock N Runway"
For one another, the designers
create looks inspired by particular musical genres.
Following a visit to the New York Botanical Garden, the designers
create evening gowns inspired by natural forms.
"Finale, Part I"
The designers must complete
their collections with a wedding dress and a bridesmaid's dress.
"Finale, Part II"
After editing their collections, the three remaining designers present
their work at New York's Fashion Week at Bryant Park.
The episodes generally follow
a set formula, with little deviation: the presentation of the challenge,
a preliminary design session, a shopping trip for fabric and materials,
a bit of coaching from Tim Gunn, the work session, and finally the runway
show. After the show, contestants are critiqued by judges Heidi
Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia, and a rotating guest. At the
end of every episode, a winner is declared, and the designer with the
poorest marks is eliminated from the show.
There are some surprises here.
Without giving too much away, there are some designers who improve markedly
in terms of grappling with the terms of each challenge. Others
remain stuck in their own aesthetic approach. The process of elimination
did not go the way I had guessed during the first episode. Joe
Faris, for example, while not the best designer in the group, was able
to stretch his comfort zone and achieved good results on most of the
challenges. On the other hand, Stella Zotis, a self-described
rock-and-roll/biker leather specialist, did all she could to utilize
leather in every challenge, even when it was totally inappropriate.
The winning designer - who
I won't reveal here - turns out to be very adept at architectural
forms and exceedingly creative in the construction of her looks.
Unfortunately, she is a truly unpleasant person, and I reacted to her
negatively. Her faux-whimsy and annoying fairy princess manner
did little to cover her amoral personality. She was a sneaky whisperer
throughout the season, quietly shit-talking behind the back of just
about every other designer. Her win is understandable in terms
of her ability as a designer; it's unfortunate that her lack personal
integrity makes it so difficult for the viewer to enjoy.
Four discs are economically housed in a single-width keepcase.
I appreciate this space-saving trend with multi-disc TV releases.
The keepcase comes in a simple card slipcover.
The Weinstein Brothers' home
video concern, Genius Products, presents Project Runway: Season Five
in a vibrant full-screen transfer that replicates the show's somewhat
over-saturated look. The transfer is fine; the original video
is the problem here, with colors often looking pumped-up with artificial
sweeteners. Although it makes sense for a show about fashion to
be visually eye-catching, the approach here seems like a post-production
afterthought rather than a prepared design scheme.
The main audio track is a strong
Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Music is favored, and plays almost constantly
throughout each episode. Dialogue is well-represented, although
moments that are lost in the mix or were whispered too low for the microphones
to pick up are helpfully subtitled.
The package announces Never-Before-Seen
Extended Episodes, although nowhere are we provided any detail about
this. The episodes all run in the neighborhood of 45 minutes,
which is standard for an hour-long show sans commercials. I can't
tell where material may have been added.
The only extra feature is a
brief, five-minute follow-up featurette called Wear is the Winner
Now? The concept is self-explanatory, and in the interest
of avoiding spoilers, I won't elaborate.
Project Runway is a
terrific show and the fifth season is up to its usual standard.
An inspired concept that challenges contestants to use the best parts
of their brains, Project Runway is solid entertainment for anyone
with an interest in any aspect of the arts. Highly Recommended.
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.