By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Obviously taking its cues from Top Model, where the wannabe mannequins are put through a series of humiliating paces, which usually involve flouncing around in underwear, Project Runway offers a contest among 12 fledgling fashion designers, the winner to be rewarded with $100,000 and a catwalk show.
Their plots are nearly identicaleach week both shows' contestants face a challenge, are critiqued, and then one gets the axbut with Project Runway you won't hate yourself quite as much in the morning. Maybe this is because the designers actually have to do something, as opposed to the teenagers on Model, who are put through their phony testsserving tea in kimonos to mean Japanese businessmen, rappelling Mount Everestbecause otherwise you'd just have to watch them walk back and forth for 10 weeks.
And of course there are male aspirants on Project Runway as well, which makes a nice change, though it is disconcerting to see the women repeatedly dissolve into puddles of self-doubt while the men fairly crow with bravado.
On the first episode, the designers are given $50 and let loose in a supermarket, instructed to purchase whatever they want and make it into an evening dress. Most of them go for aluminum foil and ribbonhey, that's what we'd buy toobut one guy buys corn.
You would expect that the over confident fellow who stays up late tailoring butcher paper into a foil-edged frock coat and layers it over a garbage-bag dress would be an early favorite, but perhaps he is playing too consciously into the judges' prejudices. The panel, composed of Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, and Patricia Field, kick him to the curb, with Field, believe it or not, snorting derisively at his trash-bag gown.
In a surprise and delightful turn of events, the corn guy, who resembles an incredibly young Yves St. Laurent (not, one suspects, entirely an accident) and whose dress looks like it's meant for a wood nymph, wins first place, and for a moment drops his foppish hauteur and appears genuinely grateful. Apparently the judges, all fashion people themselves, are willing to overlook the fact that his husks shriveled overnight.