Bravo's 'Project Runway' Returns The third season of Bravo's cable TV hit Project Runway begins Wednesday night. The Emmy-nominated show promises plenty of drama this year with a new villain, essential to any reality program, but what else about the Project Runway formula works?
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Bravo's 'Project Runway' Returns

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Bravo's 'Project Runway' Returns

Bravo's 'Project Runway' Returns

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If you've been missing the guilty pleasure of Project Runway, then mope no more.

Unidentified Man: Fifteen designers will battle to make their mark on the world. And only two words will stop them:

Unidentified Woman: You're out.

(Soundbite of laugh)

NEARY: That's right, dear listener, tonight, on the Bravo channel, we can gather ‘round for season three of Project Runway, hosted by Supermodel Heidi Klum. This show gives each participant a shot at winning $100,000 and the chance to show a collection at New York's Fashion Week. Whose seams will be perfect? Whose designs will the judges disparage? And which of the participants will be the one, all the others love to hate?

And if you're a fan of Project Runway, what keeps you coming back each week? We'd like to hear from you. Give us a call. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255 - that's 800-989-TALK.

And here to tell us more is Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan. She joins us from the Post's bureau in New York City. Thanks for being with us, Robin.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Editor, the Washington Post): Oh, it's my pleasure.

NEARY: So I understand you've seen a preview of this new season.

Ms. GIVHAN: I have seen a preview, and let me just say that I have already been taken to the woodshed by some of the pure Project Runway fans who were not happy, that I revealed who won the first challenge. So no one has to yell at me for that. I did not, however, reveal who gets sent home first.

NEARY: But you did, in fact - in an article that appeared in the Post today -you did in fact write about one of the participants who, I guess, is really kind of the villain in the piece. Tell us a little bit about him.

Ms. GIVHAN: Yes, well, my - I'm actually thinking that if you're trying to figure out who is going to be the contestant that everyone else loves to hate, its going to be this guy, Malan Breton.

NEARY: What…

Ms. GIVHAN: Who was born in Taiwan and has this sort of global background. He's lived in Australia and Hawaii, I believe, and all sorts of other places. And he just has an extremely high opinion of himself and his accomplishments.

NEARY: Now, I've seen some of the other seasons of Project Runway. Is he worse than some of the - there, and they've included some very - people with pretty big personalities, I have to say, big egos at times. Is he worse than most?

Ms. GIVHAN: Oh, absolutely. Well, I would say that he's a different kind of annoying. The other ones have been a bit, sort of screeching, in their confidence. They've just been sort of loud and in your face and a bit, sort of, obnoxious. I think he is a lot more subtle, and he is more insufferable, actually. He just sort of seems to think that the whole notion of having to actually participate in some of these outlandish challenges, is a bit beneath him.

NEARY: Okay.

Ms. GIVHAN: But you sort of go, but Malan, have you never seen the show?

NEARY: Let me just remind our listeners that they are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Robin, I know, I've seen the show, but a lot of people out there may not have. So, maybe we need to get our audience grounded in what makes Project Runway so entertaining. It's on Bravo, and yet it's a very popular show, even though Bravo doesn't have the biggest audience of all the channels out there. It's been nominated for an Emmy twice. What do you think about it is about it that makes it so much fun to watch?

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, I think it has a lot of the same ingredients that other reality shows have, in that you've got this cast of characters who, I think, a lot of different people can relate to, who are in this very self-contained environment. They all live together in an apartment. They have to work together, all, you know, from day to day. And they're contact with the outside world is very limited.

And, they're put in these stressful positions, in which they're given some kind of fashion design task. And in the past, they've had to design a skating ensemble. They've had to design a cocktail dress for Nikki Hilton. They've had to design a dress for Barbie. And they're given a very limited amount of time to do it. Sometimes they have ridiculous materials that they have to work with.

NEARY: They had to work with, one show that I saw, they had to work with gardening flowers and leaves, and…

Mr. GIVHAN: Yes. Once they were sent to, essentially a greenhouse, and they had to pull all their materials from that. I believe in the first season they had to make a garment using candy. And in another one they literally had to rip apart the clothes that they were actually wearing.

NEARY: And we should mention to those who haven't seen it, not only do they have to design something very quickly, but they do the sewing themselves.

Ms. GIVHAN: They have to do the sewing, and they're assigned a model who then wears the garment in a little mini runway show.

And I think what really draws people in is the fact that, in general, the designers, the participants, are talented. I mean, they either have a professional background in design, or it's been sort of their passion for many years. And then they're critiqued by members of the fashion industry, you know. I mean, Michael Kors, a designer, is one of the regular judges, and so is Nina Garcia, who's the fashion director of Elle Magazine. And so I think people feel like they're really getting kind of a legitimate critique and an understanding of the whole design process.

NEARY: Yeah. Let me see if we can get a call in here, Robin, before the end of the show. Joe, in Mohawk Valley, New York. Hi, Joe.

JOE (Caller): Oh, hello. Good afternoon. How are you today?

NEARY: Good. Go ahead.

JOE: Well, I fully appreciate the show, because I'm a finish carpenter, and I deal with precision on a regular basis. And to look at these fashions from that point of view, I just find it fascinating that they can work with various materials and make something of beauty out of it.

NEARY: Would you like to see a show like this for carpenters, Joe?

JOE: No, no. I think that'd be rather boring, actually. No, no.

NEARY: Well, thanks for your call, Joe. It might be more dangerous too, with the tools you guys use.

Ms. GIVHAN: I think its dangerous enough wielding shears.

NEARY: I think the thing that fascinates - thank you very much for calling, Joe - I think the thing that fascinates me, Robin, part of what fascinates me, is the speed with which they have to not only come up with the idea but then execute these designs. And then I'm always amused, in the fashion show, when the judges will say things like, well, that seam is not straight. And, you know, you can see all the stitches. And I'm thinking, well of course you can, you know, the poor person. You know?

Ms. GIVHAN: I think in the first episode, like poor girl could barely use this industrial sewing machine, and finally just said, you know, forget it. I'm just going to stitch it all by hand.

NEARY: Right.

Ms. GIVHAN: But, you know, I think part of what's exciting and sort of fun about the show is this kind of breathless feeling of, are they even going to be able to finish the garment, are they really going to be able to execute this incredibly complicated idea that they have. And in, if you try to figure out, okay, well how does this apply to the real world of fashion design, I mean, there is sort of a relentless pace that designers have to keep up. I mean, as soon as they design a collection for fall, they're immediately on to the next season before that collection, the first collection, even goes down the runway. So there is this feeling of being a bit of a hamster on a treadmill.

NEARY: Yeah. What's the fashion industry's take on the show? Do they like it?

Ms. GIVHAN: In general, yeah. I mean, I think it's become a bit of a guilty pleasure for people in the fashion industry. In part, because it's a very entertaining show. But also because - essentially, no matter how absurd the challenges become, they're always sort of rooted in this idea of the design process. And they've been very smart in that they've brought in judges who are really, you now, members of the fashion industry. The model Iman was a judge. They had, there's a guest judge in the opening episode…

NEARY: Well, you know, Robin, maybe judging is in your future. What do you think?

Ms. GIVHAN: I'm available!

NEARY: Thanks for joining us today, Robin.

Robin Givhan is fashion editor for the Washington Post. She joined us from New York City.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

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