COVID almost ruined ‘make the cut.’ But Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum ‘Made It Work.’


In the fashion world, the global pandemic fundamentally changed the way the industry viewed art, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and aesthetics. How drastically have things changed? Tim Gunn started wearing sweatpants.

“I was sitting in my apartment in my stiff upper lip plush shirt clothes, and then I thought it was ridiculous. I’m really not very comfortable, ”Gunn told me in a recent Zoom In season 2 of Make the cut, which debuted this weekend on Amazon. “I started to wear my pajamas all day, every day. Then I thought, now I really feel like a redneck. I feel like Ralph Kramden.

When I tell him people would be shocked to hear that Gunn the elder Project track host who may never have been seen in public in a costume with less than three pieces, was, dare I say, lounge, he laughs and immediately goes on the defensive.

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“I never left my apartment! I am going to tell you. I wouldn’t even go downstairs to get the mail. Eventually it got to the point where he went deep in his closet to find the t-shirts and sweatpants he would wear to his fencing lessons. (In case you’re wondering when, bless his heart, Gunn’s story might cease to be relatable.)

“I felt so much better,” he says. “I felt better physically, frankly. I felt better psychologically, mentally and emotionally. And I understand. I understand the comfort trap. Now I have empathy for it. Before the pandemic, I had a real contempt for her. I thought, comfort, who cares about comfort? If you want comfort, stay in bed.

All of this to say that the pandemic has changed us all in ways we may never have imagined and may never return from. If one were looking for a silver lining in all darkness, the new perspectives and ingenuity that have burst into so many industries, especially ones like fashion, are fascinating to analyze now that we are starting to step out of the cave. trauma.

Gunn and the whole team that worked on the fashion branding contest series Make the cut could talk about this firsthand when it comes to how their industry managed to innovate and continue to make a cultural mark when the runways, design houses and manufacturers all came to a standstill.

Season two of Make the cut, which was filmed in a production bubble at the height of the pandemic, is an emotional chronicle of the hardships and consequences circumstances have endured on creative entrepreneurs. But it also shows how brands and retailers – and, yes, online monoliths like Amazon – have pivoted in real time to cope with a changing world.

Of course, that meant a stressful change in the tissue even, if you will, of what made Make the cut such a splash to begin with. “I have to share with you, I was a little concerned about season two…” Gunn admits.

When it premiered in March 2020 – my sincere apologies for setting you off with this date marker –Make the cut was, without a doubt, the most ambitious and grandiose fashion competition the reality TV genre has ever seen. Directed by Project track partners Heidi Klum and Gunn – “we’ve been married for 17 years … the longest marriage I’ve ever been in,” Klum joked to me one day – the series ignited more fireworks bursting with each successive gadget.

The series’ challenges and parades would be filmed around the world, from New York to Paris to Tokyo. Designers would be tasked with producing an “accessible” version of each look for each challenge, with the winning garments being immediately available for purchase on Amazon at a price of $ 100 or less. The grand prize: $ 1 million to invest in the designer’s brand. Beyond all this, inclusiveness would be paramount: it means designs that are fluid, inclusive of the body, and sustainable.

As much as it was fashion, it was also cinematographic. The first season kicked off with a parade in front of the Eiffel Tower that would even make Anna Wintour look up from her sunglasses in amazement. Klum told me it was so beautiful that people might have suspected it was a green screen: “It’s almost like I don’t think people are going to believe us that this was filmed in Paris in front of Eiffel Tower.”

Especially when it first aired, with the world trapped at home, the show was a poignant passport, taking viewers into an escape fantasy where travel and glamor were once again possible. But beyond that, even a casual reality TV fan familiar with the soundstage format of how these shows are typically filmed has been left speechless by the Herculean production effort required to make the Season 1 a success. globetrotters.

“I thought, well, the travel was one of the highlights of the first season, and we can’t travel anymore,” Gunn says. “What’s it gonna be?” We will just do groundhog day, sort of, with each of these missions and fashion shows all looking alike.

So the entire season – and the entire existence of the crew and competitors on set during the pandemic – has become the most extensive application of the star’s signature slogan to date. “It was the ultimate exercise to ‘make it work’.”

Fashion [is] a barometric gauge of our society and our culture. It’s historic. It’s cultural and societal and it’s economic. True fashion must therefore reflect what is happening.

He admits to having underestimated the prowess of the production team. the Make the cut crew created a “fashion bubble” in an event venue in Malibu, usually set up for weddings, and transformed different areas of the properties.

There was a work set, of course. The first episode’s outdoor fashion show hung oversized crystal chandeliers between the towering trees that lined the catwalk, as if Cinderella’s ball had taken place in a Malibu canyon. For the avant-garde challenge, a disproportionate carnival was erected, both whimsical and menacing, as imagined by Ryan Murphy himself. The runway of the modern wedding episode created the appearance of models walking down the aisle at a ceremony in a fairytale Japanese garden.

“When I came to sit down for the first episode and saw all the beautiful chandeliers and that runway at night, I mean I was floored,” designer Jeremy Scott said. “I was like, well, holy smoke, it’s amazing and beautiful and rich.”

While the series’ production design has remained unprecedented, making it seem like we travel the world from one location, there are some notable differences between Make the cut season two. Among them are new judges Scott and model Winnie Harlow. Unlike last season, which saw Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Carine Roitfeld and Joseph Altuzarra shoot in different episodes around the world, due to pandemic protocols, Scott and Harlow ruled the entire season – an opportunity they have. savored.

“I’m lucky to be able to wear beautiful designer and branded pieces, but I’m not always a part of the design process so it was really inspiring to see that,” Harlow said, recalling having thought the premise of the show sounded “so futuristic”. to her when she heard about it last year.

Scott remembers being blown away by the different elements: the world tour, the link with Amazon, the huge price tag. “When you ask me to go back and think about it, it’s like it’s a Rubik’s cube of pieces put together.”

Think about Make the cut Like this grand fashion experience, Gunn is quick to point out the success, even considering the impact COVID could have had on the stepping-stone opportunities the show has provided for contestants. All of the shoppable looks sold out within 48 hours on Amazon, so the company is doing larger-scale production this season.

In fact, of all the bells and whistles behind Make the cut, this is the element by which Scott is most blown away. “It’s almost like grabbing the clothes off your screen,” he says. “It’s so futuristic, really. I wish I could show my fashion so that people can do the same and take whatever clothes they want. How rad would that be?

At a time, in particular, when candidate businesses have been affected by COVID, it is a powerful force. While not a constant topic of conversation, the realities of the pandemic and the heavy emotional weight designers carry because of it are present throughout the season.

Unlike the first season, when contestants were surprised to learn what the show was all about – they had no idea about the trip, the million dollars, or the Amazon element – this year’s crop was watched and learned from what this group had done. Plus, they knew what it could mean for their brands at such a difficult time in the business. The stakes are practically on Mount Everest.

“I think the times we live in have had an impact on the way we dress and live our lives,” says Harlow. “I think it was really great to get away from what we were faced with filming this show because it was a moment for these designers to really step out of that open space and into a more creative space and come up with new ideas for when we finally get out of these funks.

The emotionality of the pandemic ignites an interesting conversation with Gunn. Sometimes, rightly or wrongly, people think of fashion as an escape, or a privilege, or even light and silly. But this season of the show tackles issues like the pandemic, inclusiveness, and the realities of the world in ways that those who reject fashion might not recognize.

“When I was teaching, I made a distinction between clothes and fashion,” he says. “We need clothes. We don’t need fashion. We want it. We have a fervor for it. But we don’t need it. And the main differentiation for me is that with fashion, it is a barometric gauge of our society and our culture. It’s historic. It’s cultural and societal and it’s economic. True fashion must therefore reflect what is happening.

When he and Klum started doing Project track in 2004 it was a landmark experience as, for the first time, they showed how fashion designers create their work. When the couple left, it was because they had a vision of what should be an evolution of that experience, a vision that was not possible under the constraints of the Project track model: A show, he says, “that was relevant to the current fashion industry, that can’t be limited to a pretty dress.”

“It really has to be all of the marketing and merchandising, business, retail, advertising… all of that. If you want to be a successful designer, you have to have a brand.

The pandemic has forced a re-examination of fashion and clothing on all of these terms. Now with Make the cut and its focus on branding and marketing – the marriage between high fashion and affordability – we can see the first fruits of what has emerged from this thinking.

Say, for example, Tim Gunn wearing sweatpants.

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