The co-hosts open up to ET about putting 'Project Runway' behind them as they push the limits of the fashion reality competition genre.
After 16 seasons of co-hosting Project Runway, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn left the long-running reality competition to create an ambitious new series for Amazon. “If we really look at this unencumbered, what can that really be?” Gunn told ET in 2018, after their partnership with the streaming platform was first announced. “We want this to blow everybody away and say, ‘I can’t believe the show even exists. This is incredible.’”
Two years later, the Emmy-winning duo are back with Making the Cut, a global, shoppable series that sees 12 international contestants competing for a $1 million grand prize while earning the opportunity to sell their winning looks on Amazon each week. Each episode, they are challenged with making a fantasy look paired with a more approachable version, which can be mass produced and sold online as the show moves from Paris to Tokyo to New York City. But what sets the show apart from other competition series -- Project Runway and Next in Fashion -- is a fresh take on the format itself.
First and foremost: Gone is the sewing requirement that’s a mainstay of Project Runway. “We wanted to make a show that is not necessarily anymore a sewing competition where you're just being judged on that one particular thing that you made that particular day,” Klum explains to ET. “We wanted to look at these individuals as creators and brands. Ultimately, a brand that can actually last and a brand that can then be potentially big on Amazon and enjoyed by many fans from around the world.”
In order to achieve that, the designers are assigned seamstresses who help execute their looks, which Klum says is a result of taking on a more real world approach to the series. “Not every designer sits there with their sewing machine and does all the prototypes themselves,” she explains. “There's people, you know, me included, I've designed for many brands before and I don't know how to sell at all.”
Of course, the extra help is a double-edged sword, with some designers finding it difficult to delegate or put together clear instructions for their seamstress. “It was such an incredible opportunity. And why would you not harness that opportunity? Why would you not use it? It was baffling to Heidi and me that some were just turning their backs on it,” Gunn says.
Luckily, not everything was tossed out when the pair came up with the new series. Gunn still makes the rounds in the workroom, which are now called “Tim Talks.” This time, however, he’s not so much a mentor as he is a sounding board. “I have what I call a very Socratic approach, which is to pummel people with questions,” he says, adding that they’re not talking about whether a hem is crooked. “We’re really talking about, ‘How does this design work into the larger rubric of the vision you have for your brand?’ And I loved the breadth of what that question poses on the contestants because they really have to soul search to be able to sell themselves and to sell these looks -- one higher end and one accessible -- and rationalize why.”
If they can’t answer why, then the contestants are likely unable to sway a panel of judges that now includes supermodel Naomi Campbell, actress Nicole Richie, designer Joseph Altuzarra, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris Carine Roitfeld and fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni. They, along with Klum, give the designers a chance to make their case or defend themselves from possible elimination, which is no longer confined to a “bottom two.”
Now, any number of people can go during deliberation, which is more like an open forum with the judges essentially giving each hopeful a thumbs up or thumbs down. “You have to kind of be able to explain what you just made,” Klum says. “What we’re trying to achieve here is trying to find someone who understands their brand and who they are, and most importantly, who they’re designing for. And if they can't answer that, then they're not making the cut.”
And the reason behind the change, Klum says, was to escape the “boring,” “monotonous” format that they previously created. “It’s good to kind of surprise the audience,” she explains. “And also surprise the designers and keep them always on their toes.” Essentially, there are no rules that dictate the format of each episode.
At the end of the day, Klum and Gunn ultimately want the designers to “have a real future” beyond what they do on Making the Cut. In fact, ET has learned that Amazon is giving all profits from the winning looks to the winning designers in an effort to support emerging talent and small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. And when it comes to selecting those winning looks week to week, there’s an intense amount of deliberation that goes into it. “We're hoping that people will enjoy the pieces that we've decided on,” Klum says, adding that’s why fans should watch. “You know, to see why that is the chosen piece.”
Klum continues by saying, “We thought that this made for a much more interesting and more realistic show about fashion, how fashion is created and how fashion is being sold.” And what they came up with, Gunn concludes, “is a dream come true; it’s quite phenomenal.”
Making the Cut premieres Friday, March 27 on Amazon Prime with two new episodes debuting each week.