There's nothing fashion types love more than reworking an idea and making it into something new, and with Making the Cut for Amazon Prime, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (Klunn?) rework Project Runway into something bigger, more expensive, and more expansive for the world's biggest online retailer.
Is it the same show? Yes, and no. All the hallmarks — the silhouette, fancy fashion people might say — remain intact, with a group of designers competing to make the best pieces week after week until someone takes home the grand prize. You know how this works: Designers get a challenge, come up with an idea, pick fabrics, assemble a look, have some sort of nervous breakdown, or scrap with someone in the design studio and voilà! Some skinny (or, increasingly, average-sized) creature sashays in a creation down the runway, earning adoration or scorn from judges. Someone is eliminated and someone wins. Like pairing blue jeans with a white shirt, this formula never goes out of style, and thankfully, the Amazon rework doesn't fool with perfection too much.
Making the Cut adds some cute embellishments though — most of which don't enhance or take away from the classic, they're simply different. Flush with daddy Bezos' immense cash, Making the Cut gets to do things the comparatively basic Project Runway could never. Contestants don't have to sew; seamstresses do that for them now, like the magical animals in a Disney movie. Contestants get to go to glamorous locations, including Paris and Tokyo, to not only show their work but also get inspiration. No more remaining holed up in that stuffy studio! They also get the privilege of being recognized as sentient beings by the one and only Naomi Campbell — one of a prestigious set of judges which also includes Nicole Richie, Joseph Altuzarra, and Carine Roitfeld, all of whom add additional luster to the program. You can absolutely feel the elevated sensibility in the episodes sent to critics, an added allure and sense of romance that makes Project Runway seem more about grit and scrappiness. As for the actual contestants, Making the Cut's coterie seems more curated and focused — almost all of them are career fashion people with already established histories in the field.
What really sets Making the Cut apart from its predecessor — besides the million dollar cash prize — is its emphasis, a strategic distinction that's also its unfortunately timed flaw. Making the Cut promises that each challenge winner gets their wares sent to an Amazon store, where the reasonably priced goods (up to $100) will be available for purchase right away. As recently as a few weeks ago, this seemed on-trend with how consumers buy goods in the 21st century and how fashion designers are overcoming delays between runway and retail.
Of course, the entire world has changed in recent months. Not only are there severe disruptions in the supply and delivery chain happening, but there's a sudden, unprecedented rethinking about what we deem essential at play now too. As the brilliant fashion columnist Robin Givhan mused in a recent piece, clothing has value because of where we wear it, and with nowhere to go for the time being, the "need" for a beautiful dress or avant-garde pair of pants is severely diminished. None of that is the fault of anyone on this show of course, but when it's the main hook of the series, we're sort of back to the original idea. For fashion junkies, and for people who find Naomi Campbell's shade as life-giving as chlorophyll, Making the Cut is catnip. Just don't look for anything revolutionary. It sticks to a formula, and that's fine. The formula works for a reason.
TV Guide Rating: 3/5
Making the Cut premieres Friday, Mar. 27 on Amazon Prime Video.