• Publication date: July 15, 2011

Who Will Be the World's Next Fashion Visionary? Project Runway: 15 Designers Compete for the Industry's Respect

Among the plethora of fashion-based reality shows out there today, none has earned the critical and industry approval of Project Runway. Unlike other programs, where winners (along with promising runner-ups) achieve nothing more than 15 minutes of fame, many alumni of the Runway have become legitimate members of the fashion community in their own right.

Among the plethora of fashion-based reality shows out there today, none has earned the critical and industry approval of Project Runway. Unlike other programs, where winners (along with promising runner-ups) achieve nothing more than 15 minutes of fame, many alumni of the Runway have become legitimate members of the fashion community in their own right. Yet that is not coincidental, especially from season 4 onward; show participants are usually not newbies but individuals with at least some rudimentary experience in the business.

The tone of Runway also sets it apart from others. In contrast to Tyra Banks' brash, though admittedly entertaining mannerisms on American's Next Top Model, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn provide levelheaded, practical advice for contestants. As a result the series has developed a very diverse audience: brawny men, their fashionista partners, and adolescents can enjoy each week's events with equal fervor. This season 15 designers are battling for an editorial feature in Elle magazine, one hundred thousand dollars, a chance to distribute their clothing worldwide, and a brand new Saturn Astra.

A prerequisite for a career in fashion is both originality and creativity; subsequently the profession tends to attract interesting, eccentric, and occasionally flamboyant people. The men and women in season 4 are no exception, and have traveled from cities as distant as Ramallah to participate. A variety of ages are represented as well, ranging between 21 and 46 years old.

In the season premiere viewers are introduced to the latest batch of designers. For their preliminary task, contestants must create a piece of clothing that best represents their individuality. Simple enough, but there's a catch: all 15 members have only 10 minutes to rummage through a pile of fabric. What they find, fabulous or not, will be the sole material used in their design. Random models then don the garments and hit the catwalk, while the judges evaluate each creation.

Observing each contender's creative process is how viewers truly familiarize themselves with the cast and their eccentricities. For example, Texas native Elisa Jimenez has no time for mannequins or measuring tape, and instead uses her own body as a sewing guide. Stranger, perhaps, is Elisa's decision to soil her white, silk dress with grass stains � just to add a special touch. There's also Kathleen (aka Sweet P), a biker babe with an abundance of tattoos to match. But what fashion program would be complete without a walking clich� of the industry? Male diva Christian Siriano has no qualms filling that role.

After eight successful seasons and a Primetime Emmy, Project Runway continues to both entertain and inspire budding designers around the world. Derivative versions of the program have popped up in countries such as Turkey, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and Brazil � just to name a few. In 2007 fan favorite and show mentor Tim Dunn launched his own television endeavor, the aptly titled Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.

Year: 2007-08

Duration: 60 minutes

Genre: Reality-TV

Starring:

Heidi Klum

Tim Gunn

Michael Kors

Nina Garcia

Created By: Eli Holzman

Rating: TV-14