Hosted and executive produced by the Project Runway alums, the show would center on a diverse, global batch of designers competing in New York, Paris and Tokyo to bring their brands to a level they’d never before experienced.
For the longtime creative partners, part of what made Making the Cut so unique was the fact that it capitalized on the power of Amazon’s reach in both entertainment and commerce. While the winner of each season would take home $1 million to allow for the development of a global brand, the winner of each individual challenge within the show would be able to have their clothing up on the Amazon store, by the time that any given episode aired.
Below, Klum and Gunn discuss their reasons for leaving Project Runway behind, the highlights of their international journey in Season 1 of Making the Cut, and the prospect of shooting future seasons in a socially distanced world.
DEADLINE: Prior to Making the Cut, you’d both worked on Project Runway for almost 15 years. Why was 2018 the right time to leave that show behind and create something new?
HEIDI KLUM: I mean, the list is kind of long, why. But to make the list shorter, it’s because we needed this to be in full circle. It’s great to have a fashion competition show, but how great is it if you actually could wear the clothes? How amazing would it be when you have someone like Amazon who can then ship this around the world, and you have it in two days? And how amazing is it that this can be streamed and seen in over 200 territories?
I think that was our main thing, to be seen worldwide—to have casting of designers from around the world, because we’re dressing people from around the world. That was super exciting for us, to do something like that.
When you’re always stuck in one place—which is amazing—you can do a lot there. But how amazing would it be if we could travel the world, and actually go to all the fashion capitals of the world, to really get our designers excited? Then, on top of it, [we’d have] an amazing judging panel to push these new designers along.
So, the list is long. We could do so many amazing things with Amazon.
TIM GUNN: Also, when Project Runway began in 2004, the fashion industry was in a very different place. It’s evolved considerably. Heidi and I had a vision about how we wanted to alter Runway, but owing to its success, no one wanted to play with the formula.
So, when the opportunity presented itself to step away and shop this idea to people, it was quite thrilling. Amazon not only was excited to be part of this, but they were full collaborators with us. It was really a team spirit and effort and a fantastic experience that, I think Heidi would agree, has spoiled us.
KLUM: Yeah. A fantastic experience also because, having Amazon as a partner, it’s like an octopus, with all these tentacles around the world. But really, they’re letting us be the creative people, which is amazing. Not a lot of people let you have freedom nowadays. A lot of people are like, “Oh, yeah. No. It has to be this, and it has to be that,” and all of a sudden, your whole idea goes away. I think what’s amazing is, they were like, “Be creative. Do what you do best, and run with it.” They just let our whole team do what we wanted to do, and I think that’s amazing, that this big company let the creative people be creative.
GUNN: It is fantastic, and very unusual.
DEADLINE: Tell us more about playing with the formula. What did you convey to Amazon early on, in terms of the vision you had for the show?
GUNN: We definitely wanted to visit fashion capitals, and we wanted those capitals to be distinctive. So, from New York, to Paris, to Tokyo and back to New York, it brought a great deal of diversity. It brought a great deal of inspiration for the designers, and wonderful thresholds for all the different assignments.
KLUM: I think at the end of the day, the main core of what this show is, is for their creativity, but really, to watch the journey of a garment. Because like I said earlier, it goes into reality. For the first time, people fall in love with an outfit. They fall in love with the inspiration, and possibly even the designer and the brand that is behind it, and they can go and buy it. And you can follow this journey of what you’re wearing, what has arrived in your box.
You see how we give them an assignment, or even a city to be inspired by, and then you see the hamsters on the wheel. It’s running, and the journey starts. [There’s] the idea of running to the store, finding the fabric, and creating this with all your passion, and all your backstory, your present story, your dreams and everything. Then, it goes on this journey, and in the end, people can hopefully love it and buy it. So, I feel like that is the integrity of it, and I think for so many years, that has also been my passion, is watching creative people work. I think that this admiration for creativity is also key.
GUNN: It is. I think it’s also important to note that Making the Cut was never intended to be a sewing competition, [though] the designers are creating clothing, or creating apparel. It’s really a branding competition, and we gave the designers assignments that speak to all the various components that go into a brand. So, it’s a much broader look at the fashion industry than people are used to seeing, and hopefully, they learned a lot.
DEADLINE: Can you elaborate on ways in which the fashion industry has changed, and how you intended to represent that here?
KLUM: I think what is important is, you don’t lose the art of creating, but also, you have to have that perfect combo of practicality, creating that beautiful, amazing fashion basic that you want to have. Because again, we’re going into the real world. It’s about dressing people [that] come in different shapes, colors and sizes, versus having what we remember, or what we, I guess, admired, [as far as] the perfect person to be walking on the runway.
Things have changed over the years, you know? We’re wanting to cater to all people, and that’s why we’re all going into the world of 200 territories; that’s why we have people of all different sizes walking down the runway. I think that is so important, because it’s real. We’re all real people, and we all look different, and we all can buy this, and hopefully wear it, and feel good in it.
But fashion has also changed in terms of how we shop. [There are] more online shoppers now than we have walking around. I mean, I hope that our cute, favorite little boutiques, and that kind of flare of boutiques will not go away fully, because we love that too, being able to wander around. But how amazing is it to [be able to] go online, and go into places you normally are not able to go? If you came from a small town, for example, and you can only buy what is in your town…Now, boom. You can have everything from around the world.
GUNN: Making the Cut is very proud to look at fashion through a lens of commerce, because as Heidi says, if people aren’t buying things, who cares? You put it in a vitrine, in a museum?
I also have to say, from my seven-plus years as chair of the fashion program at Parsons, and 29 years of teaching design, the two easiest things to create in fashion are a t-shirt and a float in a parade. And when you [recognize] that everything falls between those two bookends, it’s extremely difficult to create innovative, inspiring work that is neither of those.
DEADLINE: What was the process in finding high-level fashion designers for the show, who were ready to take that next step, and create the next great global brand?
KLUM: I mean, we met with so many people. People came from all over the world. They just kept coming in and out, in and out, with the rolling racks, tried on so many things, and it was beautiful to meet so many people from so many different places. We’d see videos; we’d see pictures. They all had a portfolio of all the things they’d done before.
The casting for the first time around was big, I guess because they wanted to see what Tim and I were doing. But you have to also keep in mind, when we did the casting the first time around, [prospective contestants] didn’t know that there was a $1 million carrot dangling over their head, as a winning prize, along with this being with Amazon and everything. They had no idea. They were all hopeful that there was going to be something amazing, but I mean, look around at what is happening in other television shows. Who else has a $1 million price tag at the end?
GUNN: And who else has Amazon?
KLUM: So, that was amazing. They didn’t even know that, and still, there were so many people that came.
DEADLINE: What were the biggest challenges in bringing Season 1 together?
KLUM: We wanted to make sure we had people from around the world. We wanted to make sure that they all had a different design aesthetic, that they all had a business brain, and not just the artistic side of it, but also that they had something, as a person, that is fun to watch. Because at the end of the day, yes, we’re looking for the next great global brand. But you also want to have 12 people that are not afraid, when all of a sudden there’s 20 cameras in the room, and a crane going over their heads.
They’re with that for weeks and weeks, day in and day out. People come into their bedroom when they wake up in the morning. So, you have to be a certain kind of person that can also take that. I mean, we’ve had people run away in the middle of the night before. Right, Tim?
GUNN: We certainly have.
KLUM: You had to be able to handle it. But it has to be a good, eclectic mix of different individuals from around the world.
GUNN: What was so disarming for Heidi and me is, we’re used to these competitors, these designers, being just that—competitors. This group built a community; they helped each other. They truly cared for each other in a very sincere way, and it was a beautiful thing to be part of.
DEADLINE: Were there particular highlights or standout moments from the Season 1 shoot?
KLUM: It’s hard to say, because I loved all of it. When you have your team together, and we’re thinking about all these things, and then it’s actually happening…I mean, try even just to fit into Naomi Campbell’s schedule for all those weeks. When we’re in those places, we can’t believe all these people were sitting there, and traveled with us to all these amazing places, and gave us all of their time.
Every little moment was amazing. Even the heat in Paris at that time was amazing. I mean, I don’t know how many times we had to say, “Make it work. Make it work.” Those poor models were dripping, we were dripping, but you can’t even see it. I don’t know how that happened, but even that was amazing. So many amazing memories…It was definitely a time for me, for all of us, that we will never forget.
And ultimately, we found an amazing brand, at the end. People have really fallen in love with our designers; also, with Esther [Perbandt]. She got a little line on Shopbop that she got to sell, and people are loving it. Also, Jonny [Cota]’s line, people are buying. Especially in a time like this, where people are thinking more about how they’re spending their money, I was very happy to see that all of those winning looks ran out the door, and people really loved it. They support the designers, and it’s made me super happy.
GUNN: I just want to say, the moment that Heidi and I were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, getting ready to launch our fashion show, was completely and totally surreal. We just turned to each other and asked, “Is this green screen? Is this really real?”
DEADLINE: You mention in the show that you’ve now worked together for around 16 years. What has it meant for each of you to have this long-standing partnership?
KLUM: It feels great to be able to do this with people that you love and trust. We’ve had so many amazing moments together, and it bonds in a different way that you just don’t have with people who you didn’t have those moments with. You know, it’s hard to explain. It’s just history. It’s kind of like a bed that you feel great going into, and you feel protected, in a way. Because we have each other’s backs, and we love each other, and we care for each other, and we also speak our truth. So, if there’s something that a person doesn’t like, you just say it. It’s like family.
GUNN: Yes, exactly. And we can finish each other’s sentences.
DEADLINE: Are there hopes or plans for future seasons of Making the Cut? Given all the international travel involved with the series, how do you think it might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, going forward?
GUNN: We’re crossing our fingers that we will have the opportunity to have a Season 2. We just know it can’t be the same, and we’re trying to figure it all out.
KLUM: The thing is, when major things happen, creativity has to push harder, and everyone is doing that right now. The hamster is going, day and night, on that wheel, and I’m hopeful that we will put something together again that is worthwhile watching.