Project Catwalk

So Peter and I finally moved on into the 21st century and figured out how to get the foreign TV shows that don’t get into American syndication. The first of these shows happens to be the second season of Britain’s Project Runway, called Project Catwalk. Now we know the British shows have less glamor and money than their American counterparts, but we were still surprised to find out the hostess was Kelly Osbourne. Yes, that Kelly Osbourne: the chubby, short daughter of metal legend Ozzy Osborne. I have no idea what she has to do with the fashion world, and I could only guess she got picked because either a) any Brit that a majority of pop-culture-addicted American teens might recognize instantly has star status in Britain, or b) Britain only has 12 coherent celebrities in its country at any one time, and all of them happened to be busy (or in rehab) when the time came to film the show. Kelly O.’s so heavily coached she completely lacks personality, but at least, looking to be about 13 years old, she’s young enough to pull off whichever themed outfit of the week the sadistic producers stuff her into.

The next surprise is that Tim Gunn’s place has been taken over by Zoolander. Apparently, after Zoolander defeated evil designer Mugatu, he didn’t found a school for children who can’t read so good, as he did in the movie. That was complete fiction! Instead Zoolander took over Mugatu’s empire, renamed himself Ben de Lisi (as if that would hide the New Joisey accent), and moved to London. And he’s the evil anti Tim Gunn to boot! As far as I can tell, his role on the show is to run into the workroom, tell the designers their clothes are awful, rip them off the mannequin and pin on a design of his own. If you’re not enough of a bitch, like Monica (an Australian who moved to England because she hates beaches, WTF), to slap him, you’ll get booted off the runway for supposedly letting him do your work for you.

The first challenge Peter and I personally put ourselves to was testing our foreign gaydar. And that was shocking, too. Peter sussed out there were only 2 gay men among the 6 male designers, which I thought was incredible. But sure enough, the majority of the male designers proved themselves straight! So I had to reflect on why it is that I prefer European designers in the first place. American designers go into the fashion industry because they want to be fabulous, which is why they produce over-decorated clothes that can only work on flat-chested 80-year-old socialites (yes, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, I’m talking about you!) European designers go into the fashion industry so they can feel up rich women and screw models, and as a result, their designs show much more passion for feminine curves.

But I still don’t know what the straight men were doing on this show. The first challenge was taking some ugly thrift-store bought evening clothes the designers had been forced to put on, and turning it into something a bitchy Eurotrash socialite, who looked like Lenin in drag, wanted to wear. The one flamboyantly gay man won it by bringing out a take on the tuxedo dress which happened to have half the model’s butt hanging out. Peter and I were sure he’d be eliminated, because a designer on Project Runway was kicked off for having a dress so short a taint of butt could be seen on the most aggressive strut. But it turned out Tara Parker-Bogswallow, or whatever the socialite’s name was, adored the outfit. I guess it would have been just perfect if the dress had been slit down to the crotch in front as well.

But you know, unless the designer wins, they don’t hear a positive word. If they’re even close to winning, Kelly Osborne woodenly says “your design may have been good, but it wasn’t good enough to win.” No one says anything positive to anyone, and the judges just love turning their knives of criticism. You barely made it, Kelly says; don’t you dare show us shit like that again, or we’ll eviscerate you literally, the judges snarl. Anyone who loses is deemed a “fashion victim.” As if that humiliation isn’t enough, they set the designers upon another, and ask them to select one of their colleagues as the worst. Passive aggression overruled fashion sense in the “make something for your fellow designer” challenge. By the fifth episode, even some of the winning designers had the look of a whipped dog. It’s not just an English thing: I’ve youtubed some German shows, and German judges are every bit as cruel (and even more foulmouthed) about whatever they’re asked to criticize.

But it’s still fun, though so far the outfits do tend more to the outrageously awful, than the dramatically fabulous. The few tasteful outfits Peter and I have liked largely get ignored in favor of 80s retreads I’d be embarrassed to put on even at Shiaw-Ling’s 80s party, which probably explains why Europeans can discern our nationality from miles away. The music for the show, on the other hand, is terrific: the music director is having way too much fun sometimes.

Our last surprise about the show was that there is apparently no sponsorship. While Project Runway has the Macy’s accessories wall, the Tresemme hair salon, the Brother sewing and serging machines, and Mood fabrics, no British company thought of materially investing in Project Catwalk. The designers run all over London for their fabrics and accessories, and make-up is whatever the (straight!) stylists can manage of 1 pound 50 pence, and all the power a hairblower can put out. Furthermore, the wonderful person who made these shows available clipped out the commercials (despite the fact that Peter and I actually delight in foreign commercials). But it was still evident from the promos running during the credits that Britain remakes American shows, like Bones, with their own English actors and everything. Wow.

So anyway, Project Catwalk is fascinating and compelling in more ways than we could have imagined to start.


  1. Jeri

    You missed the first season (or series, as the Brits say). The judges tried the “who should be eliminated” trick on the designers and every one refused to rise to the bait. Such a beautiful display of integrity I’ve never seen before.

    I’m surprised that you don’t say more about the judges, especially Julian MacDonald. Despite the opinions offered by Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, neither have been as nasty to a designer as this sad little man. I don’t think he likes women very much, either.

    This man was insulting and bigotted. He told one girl from Liverpool, who went on to win, that since Liverpudlians, known as “scousers” were lower-class, he really didn’t see her in the high fashion world. He mistakenly asked a girl from Yorkshire if she liked “pasties”, the little meat pies, thinking for some odd reason that Yorkshire was in Wales, where they are popular. That’s like asking a black person if s/he like fried chicken and watermelon.

    The biggest problem I had with the first season was that the final 3 were allowed, with their 8000 pounds, to hire pattern makers, cutters, and sewers, and all the designers had to do was design. Two of the 3 did this, while the 3rd buckled down for the 5 months they had and made every piece of her collection herself, and she came in 3rd. The second runner up, a rather wifty guy named Matthew, altho everyone thought he shouldn’t have been in the competition, won 3 challenges wherein 2 of his challenges, a light coat and a maid’s uniform got picked up for manufacture by a well known British country-wear manufacturer and the Savoy hotel. We’re talking contracts for real money for this 20 year old kid.

    Plus, another concern, something called Jaeger, gave the 2nd and 3rd place designers 5000 pounds consolation money.

    Anyway, I’ve been watching Project Catwalk on youtube. If you search for xLivvieLocke, she has all of season 1 and is loading season 2.

    cjb comments: I later caught Season 1 of Project Catwalk, and I concur with all you say. I may comment on Season 1 later, but you’ve hit upon most of the important points. The point when Julian MacDonald told the girl from Liverpool that there’s never been a “Scouse” designer and people from her city are “common” so how did she think she had any hope of winning made me gasp–it was one of the meanest things I’ve ever seen on TV. My husband thinks he’s Satan the way he goads the designers to putting each other down, and cheered when the designers in Season 1 refused to go for it (it really pissed MacDonald off.) I will be blogging about Project Runway Canada Season 1 which we just finished watching. It’s virtually the opposite in how they treat the designers, and I think it resulted in better clothes coming down the runway.

  2. una niriain

    thank you for your blog of the catwalk. i’m still reeling from mr. de lisi’s enabling and shaming, mr. macdonald’s cruelty, and ms. osborne’s lack of fashion anything.

    i’ll admit, i’m totally gaga over tim gunn; he’s so fun and well, pretty.

    i’ve always loved london shopping and fashion, but i keep waiting to be delighted with designers, judges, and hosts on PC. sigh. i’ll cross my fingers for canada.


  3. una niriain

    do you think susannah and trinny could show PC how it’s done? or the fab five would offer advice to all?



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