×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Project Runway’ With Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano

The fashion competition show returns to Bravo determined to be capital i Inspiring.

When “Project Runway” first premiered in 2004, it premiered in a different world. It was a time of low-rise jeans and chunky highlights, trucker hats and skinny scarves, body glitter and “accidental” nip slips. Pop culture was ruled by rude boys and stumbling starlets — the messier, the better.

In retrospect, it was a truly bold move to premiere a show about fashion in such uncertain (read: tacky) times.

Now, 15(!) years later, “Project Runway” is making some calculated adjustments to stay ahead of the times. Season 17 of “Project Runway,” which premieres tonight on Bravo (thus ending the show’s stint on Lifetime), looks and feels much like the show of old, with a few key changes. Supermodel host Heidi Klum has been replaced with the Instagram friendlier Karlie Kloss, while designer and former contestant Christian Siriano steps in for mentor Tim Gunn. In fact, the only holdover on the judge’s panel is “Elle” editor-in-chief Nina Garcia; new faces include designer Brandon Maxwell and former “Teen Vogue” EIC Elaine Welteroth. The workroom, runway, and even the designers’ apartments are revamped for optimal glossiness as if to reassure the viewer just how thorough the show’s makeover really is.

But the biggest differences in how the latest of iteration of “Project Runway” wants to present itself aren’t, in fact, its new faces. One of the show’s big new twists is that many challenges will include a capitalistic new outcome in which both the winning design and a fan favorite (determined by an online vote) will be manufactured and sold through Bravo’s website. This practical focus couples nicely with Siriano’s recent insistence at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that his mentoring style will, unlike Gunn’s, be more rooted in “real fashion industry feedback,” because “what you do after the show [is] to build a brand.” Whether or not this means the judges’ picks will err more towards ready to wear fashions versus tricky to reproduce couture, even if they might like the latter better, remains to be seen.

Most stark, however, is how much the show is tripling down on inspirational inclusivity in a way that feels distinctly 2019. The new season’s models, like those of season 16, are of varying sizes (though I’d hesitate to say they’re quite as wide-ranging as the show itself implies). The judges and designers alike emphasize the importance of being able to tailor to every body, which makes for a downright jarring difference from the earliest “Project Runway” seasons in which “real women” challenges were presented as catastrophic curveballs. There’s also a lovely moment in which one of the models reveals to designer Kavid Kapoor that she is the show’s first transgender model to date, prompting an immediate, thrilled reaction. “Honored” to dress her, Kapoor then speaks movingly about his own experience having to leave the Himalayan highlands of India, where homosexuality is illegal, with his partner of eight years.

Even the judges emphasize their backstories in a way that they never quite have before. The first challenge they set has the designers working off photos symbolizing significant moments in the judges’ lives when they grew to love fashion. Some are more inspiring than others. Welteroth shows off her first celebratory “Ebony” cover shoot of Serena Williams; Garcia talks about immigrating to the United States from Colombia; Karlie Kloss shares a photo of her first runway show.

Still, the message is clear: this is a warmer, fuzzier “Project Runway” that wants to be for the people instead of decreeing the grand laws of fashion from somewhere above them. So far, that doesn’t make for especially fascinating reality TV, a genre that is usually better off for allowing a little more room for rougher edges. But if the vanguards of the fashion world are truly finding it in their hearts (or at least their savvy business brains) to open the doors for talent and designs alike just a little bit wider, it makes for an intriguing new direction nonetheless.

“Project Runway” airs Thursdays at 8/7c on Bravo.

TV Review: 'Project Runway' With Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano

More TV

  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Drops 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2' Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV roundup, Netflix has dropped the first trailer for “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2” starring Kiernan Shipka, and former “O.C.” star Rachel Bilson has been cast in Fox’s drama pilot “Lovestruck.” CASTING Former “O.C.” star Rachel Bilson is set to play the female lead in Fox’s new drama pilot “Lovestruck.” The [...]

  • Ron Howard and Brian Grazer

    Imagine TV Sets 'Mindscaping' as First China Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Imagine Television is developing “Mindscaping,” a 24-episode science fiction series written by Oscar Yang (“Medical Examiner Dr. Qin,” “The Ten Deadly Sins”). The series is the first Chinese-language series developed by Imagine Television, part of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment group, for a Chinese audience. The show is pitched as an original sci-fi [...]

  • Jim PackerPRESS PLAY: Variety Home Entertainment

    FilMart: Lionsgate's Jim Packer Says Starz Brand is Ready for Global Rollout

    Ahead of his keynote address at Hong Kong’s FilMart this week, Jim Packer, Lionsgate’s president of worldwide TV and digital distribution, shares his plans for Starz international expansion. And he recounts his experience of watching Netflix change up through the gears. Back in 2012, when Lionsgate was still casting “Orange is the New Black,” Jim [...]

  • "The Bow Tie Asymmetry" - Pictured:

    Pilot Season 2019: Multi-Camera Comedies Remain in High Demand

    For the second pilot season in a row, multi-camera comedies have proven to be a hot commodity. The Big 4 have collectively ordered 28 comedy pilots this year, including two animated straight-to-series orders at Fox. Of those 28, 12 are single-cams and 13 are multi-cams (including one multi-cam hybrid at ABC and two at CBS). [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Hollywood Agents Warn of Losses to Writers Without Packaging Fees

    The bitter war of words between Hollywood agents and writers continues. Agents are warning that the Writers Guild of America’s proposed elimination of television packaging fees will hurt writers to the tune of $49 million annually in commissions. Sources close to the Association of Talent Agents said Monday that the L.E.K. consulting firm has estimated   [...]

  • UFC 235 Mixed Martial Arts, Las

    All UFC Pay-Per-View Events Moving to ESPN+ Exclusively in U.S. Through 2025

    The UFC — in a major jump to digital away from traditional pay TV — inked an expanded pact with ESPN under which all of the mixed martial arts promoter’s pay-per-view events will be available exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S. for the next seven years. Under the agreement, the ESPN+ subscription streaming service will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content