A guide to the three major fashion reality competitions, what sets each of them apart and why you should watch.
With the debut of Making the Cut, co-hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, there’s now three fashion reality competition series vying for audiences' attention. In addition to the newest entry from Amazon Prime, there’s the long-running Project Runway, which returned to Bravo for seasons 17 and 18, and the Netflix original, Next in Fashion, which debuted its entire first season in January.
All three see a pair of hosts guiding a group of contestants through episodic challenges that require them to put together winning looks and avoid elimination by a panel of judges of industry icons. But in this new age of fashion wars, what sets each series apart and what makes each worth watching? ET breaks it all down.
Making the Cut
The Competition: A dozen designers visit three of the world’s fashion capitals as they face assignments that will test not only their design skills but also their ability to run all aspects of a business in hopes they make the cut.
Hosts: Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn
Judges: Model Naomi Campbell, actress Nicole Richie, designer Joseph Altuzarra, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris Carine Roitfeld and fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni
The Grand Prize: $1 million to invest in their brand and the opportunity to create an exclusive line available on Amazon, as well as a mentorship with Amazon Fashion
What Makes It Different: As Gunn and Klum told ET, they wanted to move beyond the format they created after 16 seasons of co-hosting Project Runway and create a more forward-thinking, global and shoppable competition. Gone is the sewing element as a collection of international designers are given seamstresses they are tasked with providing detailed instructions to create weekly fantasy looks paired with a marketable option. The winning looks are then immediately available on Amazon’s Making the Cut store.
Why You Should Watch: Not only will longtime fans of Gunn and Klum will want to dive into this reunion between the two -- and trust us, it feels oh-so-good -- but the show offers a realistic, inside look at the fashion business that the others do not. Here, the designers only make the cut if they can defend themselves in front of a panel of judges who have the option of changing their decisions about who to save and who to cut.
Standout Moment: The mic’d judges, who don’t hold back on their comments and reactions as each of the looks come down the runway. Campbell is notably harsher than others, often going back and forth with the judges before the looks have even made it to the end of the catwalk, while Richie can be heard noting which ones she’d like to add to her closet.
How It Ranks: This is the must-watch of the group, especially considering it is brand new and reunites our favorite two. Consider it the most fresh, fab and fun of the fashion competitions.
Where to Watch: Season one on Amazon, with two new episodes premiering each week
Next in Fashion
The Competition: Eighteen designers go head-to-head in challenges of self-expression to see who has the skill, originality and determination for a chance to become the next big name in fashion.
Hosts: Alexa Chung and Tan France
Judges: Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart plus a rotation of designers and industry icons
The Grand Prize: $250,000 and an opportunity to debut their collection with a luxury fashion retailer
What Makes It Different: Taking place all in one warehouse, the designers sketch, “shop” for fabric and sew in the same place, which is then converted into a runway for a pop-up fashion show for the judges to watch and review the final outfits, which almost always include a men’s look as well as a women’s. The judges then go backstage to talk one-on-one with the contestants as they get an up close and personal assessment of the outfits before deciding who to eliminate.
Why You Should Watch: Thanks to the Netflix model, season one was released at all once, letting viewers binge the entire competition in one sitting. Fans of the Queer Eye host will enjoy the energy he brings to hosting and his little tidbits of fashion advice sprinkled throughout the episodes. But the pairing of contestants Angel Chen and Minju Kim provides the most unexpected endearing and watchable moments on the show.
Standout Moment: The first half of the season’s team format, which is a twist put on the designers who must immediately pair up and stay with that person until most of the competition has been eliminated. Some designers are clearly not happy with their partners, whose designs either help them win or are responsible for the team going home. But unlike the ill-fated season 10 of Project Runway, which grouped the contestants into bickering teams, the partnerships here seem to yield mostly fruitful results.
How It Ranks: This is the least successful of the three but it tries the hardest. Add it to your watch list, to get to when your Netflix queue dries up.
Where to Watch: Season one on Netflix
The Competition: Sixteen designers compete in weekly design and sewing challenges to become “the next great American designer.”
Hosts: Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano
Judges: Designer Brandon Maxwell, Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia, journalist Elaine Welteroth plus a rotation of celebrity guests
The Grand Prize: $300,000, a feature in Elle magazine, the chance to be featured in a Bluprint digital series, and a mentorship with the CFDA
What Makes It Different: The Bravo series is the original competition, setting the template for others -- even RuPaul’s Drag Race -- to follow for years to come. Following the departure of Michael Kors, one of the longtime judges who delivered some of the best one-liners, each season ultimately became defined by the contestants, who have created some of reality TV’s most iconic moments. In recent seasons, there’s been an expanded focus on challenging designers to create more inclusive clothing -- including size, gender and adaptability -- that will appeal to a wider audience and think beyond the runway.
Why You Should Watch: With the changeover in front of and behind the camera, the reality series got a boost of fresh energy that's made it still worth your time. Kloss' abilities as host continue to improve with each season while Siriano is a natural in front of the camera and the most recent crop of contestants are much stronger than their predecessors.
Standout Moment: Siriano’s workroom feedback. The designer and season four winner has a very different approach to mentoring than Gunn. Unlike his predecessor, Siriano is far less patient with indecisive designers and is much more frank about what the judges will like or won’t like on the runway. Sometimes the contestants listen and sometimes they don’t -- and it is the ones who defy Siriano that often get an “I told you so” lesson the next go around.
How It Ranks: As previously stated, this series is a classic and basically the TV version of comfort food. While waiting for new episodes of Making the Cut, check out the latest two seasons. (Of course, there are seasons 8-16, hosted by Gunn and Klum, on Hulu.)
Where to Watch: Seasons 17-18 on Bravo on Demand