Posted by: allstaragility | March 1, 2012

Lessons from the Runway

I have a confession- I LOVE Project Runway!  Seems a little odd, doesn’t it?  I mean, you have to agree that I am on quite the opposite side of the fashion spectrum as the contestants, judges, and mentors on the show.  Heidi Klum?  Auf Wiedersehen.   I have no desire to own any of those kind of garments (although, I must admit, it would be nice to be able to fit into them!).  Give me my Adidas pants and sweatshirt any day.

If you are not familiar with the series, let me give you a brief synopsis.  They start by selecting a group of upcoming, fashion designer wannabees.  Each week they are given a challenge- a particular direction in their design (Avant Garde, day-to-evening, etc) and some sort of twist (i.e. in their materials- once they could only use items from a pet store!).  The final creations are then judged and one person is eliminated each week.  The final 3 get to show a collection at fashion week and one person named the winner with blah, blah, blah prizes.

People are surprised I am drawn to this show.  I do not sew.  Just ask my Mom.  I was forced to endure a few years of the Sewing Project in 4-H and loathed it.  The closest I came was helping my Grandma make a few dresses for one of my dolls when I was little.

Yes, it is a reality show.  But what sets it apart from some of the popular ones on TV is the fact that it is not a popularity contest.  It isn’t a bunch of beautiful people, scantily clad and playing in the sand, who are constantly thinking of strategy, alliances, and who next to stab in the back.  In contrast, these designers are oddballs; quirky and very unique.   They are passionate about the pursuit of their dreams.   They are innovators, inventors, problem solvers and believers in their own visions.   They are “judged” on these merits, even though I sometimes think that the judges are a little out there, themselves.

One thing I appreciate is the shear creative genius to be able to design and fabricate those wearable works of art (or garbage…  that might have been a challenge, once.  If not, maybe I can give the producers a new idea).  Seeing the dedication and desire to do their best work  while struggling within the constraints of the challenges is inspiring.  To me, it isn’t always about the end result, but the creative process that went into it.

Plus, it isn’t Project Runway without my favorite character- Tim Gunn!  He is the mentor to the contestants and a more likable TV personality I have never seen.  As they are in the throes of creation, he comes in to evaluate and give suggestions.  He lets the designers know when it is time to rein in their crazy ideas, helps focus the direction they are taking a garment and kindly tells them when they are completely on the wrong path (“No, Jackie O would not have camel toe”).  I have learned from his approach to teaching. He is honest in his opinions, not to be snide or create drama, but only to push each person to do their personal best and expand their comfort zones.   Instead of saying “this is how it should be”, he allows the designer to think it through and discover the answer themselves.  As my students will attest, I have stolen his trademark phrase, “Make it work!” and probably use it way too often.  What a profound  saying…  no matter what, it all comes down to determination!

What I like best about the series is seeing other people in their element, doing what they love, working hard to succeed, overcoming obstacles and hardships, and getting guidance from somebody who knows the industry and truly wants to help them do their best.  Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?

Project Agility, anyone?

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