Culture > Television

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Television | Fashionistas design an artistic reality show

Issue: "Exit strategies," Aug. 5, 2006

The competitors on Project Runway (Bravo, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET), a show now in its third season, include kids out of fashion school, genius designers living in cardboard boxes, and moms who are really, really good with a Singer. Each week hostess Heidi Klum (pictured) presents a challenge and the designers have two days to dream up and create a product such as a gown for Miss USA or one for the likes of Barbie. Models (real, live, 80-pound humans) then walk the runway for three judges, who every week send one designer back to his cardboard box. The final three create a collection for New York Fashion Week, the textile equivalent of the World Cup, and the winner gets-among other things-$100,000 to start his own line.

Given America's fascination with clothes, this show's popularity makes complete sense. Never mind that all the clothes made are for women-men love this show, too. This process, the making of art, is like labor and delivery-horrifying and exultant and quite messy, but at the end of it all, there's this beautiful . . . thing. Project Runway shows us how it happens: Each designer frenetically cuts and sews in an attempt to make a wearable dress that stays faithful to his creative vision. Turns out making fashion is about as hard as making any other kind of good art.

The artistic process itself is so beguiling that when the show ends, you forget that you haven't seen any random acts of sex or violence or terrorism. All the same, sin crouches: We see how pride, envy, and worry can wreck a designer's work and his relationships. The ribcage or upper thigh of a model occasionally shows, but this is rare: Project Runway is not about the models, who say little. The show is really about art and how artists make it. For believers in a creative God who creates in terrifying and fearful and wonderful ways, this show is worth the hour.

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Harrison Scott Key
Harrison Scott Key

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