13 surprising things you probably didn’t know about ‘Project Runway’

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‘Project Runway’ has been running for 18 seasons. Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris
  • Bravo’s “Project Runway” is on its 19th season, but fans might not know everything about it.
  • Contestants usually film for 18 hours a day, and the judging process can take up to seven hours.
  • Contestants don’t go home immediately after elimination so there aren’t any spoilers.

The cast doesn’t have access to things like the internet or television while filming.
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Erin Robertson won season 15 of ‘Project Runway.’ Bravo
According to a 2013 interview with The AV Club, producer Sara Rea said contestants don’t have access to the internet during filming.

“We want all their inspiration to come from the things we leave for them and what they can see. We don’t want any outside influence to sway what they’re being inspired by or what their emotional state is,” she said

She went on to say that while driving around New York City, contestants can see news on billboards or hear of current events, but the producers “try to balance it so it doesn’t affect them in a negative way.”

Mood Fabrics closes to the public when the designers shop there on the show.
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The designers shop at Mood Fabrics in New York City. screenshot/INSIDER
In the same interview with The AV Club, Rea shared that the popular fabric store closes for the contestants. 

“We have a very close, long-term working relationship with [Mood] and we make sure we’re posted on their schedule so they don’t close too early,” she said. “We tell them, ‘Hey, we’ll be there in 30 minutes,’ and they start closing down the store for us.”

Tim Gunn said he hated season 14 of the show, and he called it “lackluster.”
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Tim Gunn was a mentor on ‘Project Runway’ for 16 seasons. Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Tim Gunn was a mentor and producer on “Project Runway” for many years, and he has a least-favorite season. 

In a 2015 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gunn said, “I’m telling you — and I haven’t said this very much — I hated season 14. I hated it. I felt that other than a couple of designers, they weren’t working up to their potential. The whole thing was lackluster.”

He went on to say that he felt season 14’s contestants were not hungry enough and that the judges didn’t offer valuable, constructive feedback to the designers.

A filming day on “Project Runway” can last up to 18 hours.
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Jhoan ‘Sebastian’ Grey competed on, and won, season 17. Barbara Nitke/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
If you think the designers are being snippy with one another, it’s possibly because of the difficult schedule and constant filming throughout the production of a season.

Season-two contestant Diana Eng told New York magazine’s The Cut in 2009 that the designers are filmed for 18 hours a day and are often woken up with camera crews looming over them. 

Rea confirmed in her interview with The AV Club that the shooting and work schedule for “Project Runway” is as grueling as it sounds. She said that the designers work until around 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., and most of them are up and working before 5 a.m. 

A few people who have worked on “Project Runway” said that winning doesn’t necessarily make designers famous in the fashion industry.
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Jack Mackenroth competed on season four of ‘Project Runway.’ Barbara Nitke/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
In a 2015 interview with Paper magazine, season-four designer Jack Mackenroth said that despite the show’s public reputation as a driving force in the fashion industry, most of the contestants don’t go on to be successful designers.

“Most people just go back to their old careers and continue to struggle. Fashion design is a cutthroat business. Well established designers go bankrupt right and left. And quite honestly the fashion industry frowns on ‘Project Runway’ and doesn’t take the designers very seriously,” he said. 

Former guest judge Teri Agins also expressed that the “Project Runway” winners don’t really get a leg up in the fashion industry after the show. 

She told The Washington Post in 2014, “One of the reasons [the show] petered was it failed to do what it claimed it would.”

Gunn said he wasn’t paid for the first two seasons of “Project Runway.”
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Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum on ‘Project Runway.’ Keith Bedford/Reuters
Despite being considered one of the best parts of the show, Gunn said he didn’t get paid to be a mentor on the first two seasons of “Project Runway.”

Per Oprah.com, Gunn said in an interview with the “So Money” podcast, “The first two seasons I wasn’t paid at all and I didn’t know that people were paid for reality television.”

He added that it wasn’t until someone approached him about representation at the GLAAD Media Awards that he realized “Project Runway” should be paying him.

Sometimes the show auctions off designs, even if they’re not completed.
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Sometimes the designers’ clothes are auctioned off after the show. Lee Celano/Reuters
Some of the clothes designed on the series end up being sold on the Project Runway website. 

Season-seven winner Seth Aaron Henderson said at a Fashion Week El Paso press conference in 201 that clothes produced by contestants “go up for auction immediately after the show.”

“It’s clearly stated that these may or may not be finished,” joked season nine runner-up Joshua McKinley Cook.

Per New York Daily News, in the past, some of the designs from the show have gone up for auction “as is.”

To ensure their creations are totally original, the designers aren’t allowed to use any sewing patterns on the show.
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Brandon Maxwell, Karlie Kloss, Christian Siriano, Nina Garcia, and Elaine Welteroth on ‘Project Runway.’ Miller Mobley/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Rea told The AV Club that the show limits the designers’ supplies to help ensure everything created is original.

“We don’t want them relying on other people’s designs or other materials, and we don’t want anyone to have an unfair advantage so we limit their resources to what the necessities are with their dress forms and their scissors and their sewing kits,” she said.

She continued, “We want them to create from what they know, not from a pattern book. It doesn’t help them and it could also be derivative, [and this rule] puts everyone on the same playing field.”

The runway show and judging process can take six or seven hours to film.
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Each episode only airs snippets of the judging process. Getty Images/Larry Busacca
Although the runway show, judging, and elimination typically only take around 10 minutes of each episode, the entire process takes much longer, according to Rea. 

The producer told The AV Club, “From runway show to elimination is about six or seven hours. There are breaks in between to move cameras and stuff, but it takes about seven hours.”

A lot of thought goes into the supplies offered during the show’s unconventional materials challenges.
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The designers sometimes have to use unconventional supplies to complete their looks. Getty Images/Frazer Harrison
One “Project Runway” episode that fans look forward to each season is the unconventional-materials challenge, during which the contestants must create stunning designs using items that otherwise wouldn’t be used to create clothing. 

Rea told The AV Club that there is a team dedicated to curating the unusual materials for these challenges. 

“We have a team of people whose main job is to sit around and come up with ideas, and they bring them to us and we try to visualize all the different materials,” Rea said.

She continued, “I always like it when they present it to us as a list of what’s in that store. Like, what’s in a hardware store? It helps you say, ‘Well, what would I do? What could they use to make something?’ And then we go with what we think would be the most fun and we try to make it different from a previous season.”

Heidi Klum and Gunn left “Project Runway” after 16 seasons because they said they were being held back creatively.
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They now have their own Amazon reality competition series called ‘Making the Cut.’ Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters
In 2018, host Heidi Klum and mentor Gunn chose to leave “Project Runway” together to create a new design competition show with Amazon called “Making the Cut.”

Per The Wrap, at Amazon’s Television Critics Association panel earlier this year, the pair opened up about their decision to leave. 

They cited budgetary restrictions and the show’s unchanging format as primary reasons why they chose to pursue another series. 

“When you do a show, someone always has to pay for it, and other people want you to do certain things, so you can’t have the creative freedom,” Klum said. 

Gunn spoke about the show’s format saying, “We were in a lockstep in a way, in a formula that had been determined in season one. And it perpetuated further into season three, and then eventually into seasons 10 through 16, and we couldn’t break out of it.”

Designers don’t get to go home immediately after being eliminated.
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Every contestant has to stay for the full competition. Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
After the designers are eliminated and sent to the workroom to clean up their space, they’re not immediately sent home as portrayed on the show — they’re “sequestered,” potentially for weeks, according to season-nine contestant Bert Keeter.

Speaking at the same Fashion Week El Paso press conference, he said, “They don’t let you go home. They basically keep you sequestered. You all travel in a pack even if you are the first person voted off, you’re there five or six weeks.”

He continued, “They separate you and you go down to the basement and stay down there for 12 to 14 hours. So the people who watch the show can’t tell who is off the show. It’s torture.”

The finalists aren’t the only “Project Runway” designers featured at New York Fashion Week.
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Many of the designers get to show off their work at New York Fashion Week. JOHN TAGGART/Reuters
On the finale episodes of some seasons, a handful of finalists debut their collections at New York Fashion Week.

However, in reality, many of the season’s designers create and show collections in an effort to keep audience members from guessing who the actual finalists are.

Culture Map Houston reported that for the season-eight finale, 10 of the season’s 17 competitors created collections for fashion week. 

Rea told The AV Club, “[Non-finalists] get the same amount of time and money as a finalist. They also create the same number of looks for their collection. Otherwise, people may be able to figure out who is ‘in’ and who is a ‘decoy’ or an eliminated designer.”

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