Project Runway is an American reality television series on Lifetime, previously on the Bravo network, created by Eli Holzman which focuses on fashion design and is hosted by model Heidi Klum. The contestants compete with each other to create the best clothes and are restricted in time, materials and theme. Their designs are judged, and one or more designers are eliminated each week. During each season, selected competitors are progressively eliminated based on the judges' scores until only a few contestants remain; these finalists prepare a complete fashion collection for New York Fashion Week, from which a winner is determined. It won a Peabody Award in 2008 "for using the 'television reality contest' genre to engage, inform, enlighten and entertain."

Genre: Reality, Competition
Running Time: 60 minutes including commercial breaks
Creators: Eli Holzman
Starring: Nina Garcia
Tim Gunn
Heidi Klum
Michael Kors
Zac Posen
Country of Origin: United States
Original Network/ Channel: Bravo
Lifetime
Original Run: December 1, 2004 – present
No. of episodes: 185

Format
Project Runway uses progressive elimination to reduce the initial field of 12 or more fashion designers down to three or four before the final challenge. Each non-finale challenge (the scope of one episode) requires the designers to develop one or more pieces of new clothing to be presented at a runway show. The challenges range in creative diversity to test the designers' ingenuity while maintaining their personal fashion design aesthetic. These challenges may include creating a garment from non-traditional materials, such as: apartment furnishings (Season 3), recyclable materials (Season 3), items from a grocery store (Seasons 1 & 5), edible food items (Seasons 1, 4 & 10), plants and flowers (Season 2), using their own clothes that they happened to be wearing (Season 2 & 9), designing clothing with materials from a party store (season 8) ; or designing for a certain high-profile person (such as actress Brooke Shields, figure skater Sasha Cohen or Miss USA Tara Conner); or designing for a corporate fashion line (e.g., Banana Republic; Diane von Fürstenberg; Macy's; or Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten); or centered on a specialized theme (such as "cocktail party", "wedding gown", "female wrestling outfit", or "prom dress").

The first several seasons were filmed in New York City, at The New School University's Parsons The New School for Design. They shop for materials at a fabric store in New York's Garment District (usually at MOOD Designer Fabrics) – unless the challenge requires otherwise (e.g., denim jackets and jeans from Levi's, confectionery and souvenirs at the Hershey's Store in Times Square, or fabric at Spandex House in Season 4). The designers live together, grouped by gender, at Atlas New York (an apartment building near Parsons) during Seasons 1–3 (back again at Season 5) and at New Gotham during Season 4. Along with the network change to Lifetime, the location changed from New York to Los Angeles for Season 6 only (permanently returning to New York for Season 7.) While on the show, the designers are prohibited from leaving the apartments without authorization, making unauthorized communication with family or friends, or using the Internet to research designs. Designers are also forbidden to bring pattern books or similar how-to materials with them during the show, or risk being disqualified from the competition (as was the case of Keith Michael in Season 3).

The designers are given a budgeted stipend to select and purchase fabric and notions, and then provided a limited amount of time to finish their designs (the shortest being 5 hours and the longest being two or three days, with the exception of fashion week when they are given 12 weeks). Often, the designers work independently, although on some challenges, contestants must work in teams or as a single collective group. Once the deadline is reached, the designers must dress their models and select their hair, make-up, and accessories. Each model walks down the runway, and the garment the contestant made is rated by a panel of judges, who score each look in several categories from 0 to 5, and often provide personal annotations and comments regarding the presented designs. Each contestant does a voice-over while the model is walking down the runway. The judges then interview the remaining designers (usually six) who garnered the highest and the lowest scores (usually a top 3 and a bottom 3), and share their opinions while listening to the designers' defense of their outfits, then confer as a group in private. The panel then announces the winning and losing designers based on their scores and other considerations. Typically, the winner receives immunity for the next challenge, and therefore cannot be eliminated. As the season progresses, immunity is disregarded during later challenges to prevent the designers from getting an easy pass to make it into the final round. Other incentives given to the contestants aside from winning immunity include: The winning garment may be featured in print media, integrated into a limited edition look for a particular clothing brand, or sold at an online fashion store (e.g., BlueFly.com beginning in Season 4 onwards). Generally, the loser of each challenge is eliminated from the competition, with host Klum giving him or her a double air kiss on the runway and wishing the eliminated designer farewell her catchphrase, Auf Wiedersehen (formal German for goodbye with literal translation "until we meet again"), before they depart. Thus, elimination from the show is sometimes called "being auf'd"—a play on words as it can be interpreted as offed.

After the final challenge, the remaining three designers are then told to prepare a complete fashion collection of twelve looks to be presented at New York Fashion Week in Bryant Park. The finalists are given 12 weeks and $8,000 for this task, which they perform at their own homes or studios. While some construction work can be outsourced, the majority of the garments must be created by the designers themselves. Prior to the show, the finalists must return to New York City to oversee model casting, hair and make-up consultations, finishing touches to their clothes, final fitting on their models, and possibly an additional challenge, such as designing another outfit to blend in with the collection (as in Seasons 2, 5, 6 and 8). Their receipts are also handed over to the producers of the show to determine if they went over budget or had outsourcing done as favors, both of which are against the rules. If rules are violated, they may be forced to eliminate a crucial aesthetic factor in their presentation (e.g., Jeffrey Sebelia's blond wigs and pleated leather shorts in Season 3); or the judging panel might lower their scoring, if they insist upon using a forbidden item (e.g., Kara Saun's outsourced footwear in Season 1). The ultimate winner is selected by the judges, and receives $100,000 to start his or her own design line, a feature spread in Marie Claire magazine, and a mentorship from a design firm (ended on Season 3). The winner is also given the optional opportunity to sell his or her collection on bluefly.com. Subsequent seasons have also included a new car as part of the prize package, courtesy of the automobile company Saturn.

Female fashion models, who work with the designers throughout the season, are also in the competition. Each week, as the number of designers dwindles, the number of models is also reduced. Models are randomly pre-assigned to a designer during the first challenge, but from the second challenge onwards, the designers are able to choose the model with whom they wish to work. During weekly model eliminations, the models stand on a runway with Klum, in front of the seated group of designers. The models appear by wearing the same outfit (black dress and barefoot). The designers then pick their models in sequence, based upon their respective scores in the previous design competition. Originally, model selection happened at the start of every episode save for the first. The winner of the previous challenge receiving first pick, and the other designers picking models in order through Klum's random draw of large red shirt buttons with their names stored in a black velvet bag. However, there were times when only the winning designer was given the choice to pick with the following choices: either keep his or her previous model, take the losing designer's model from the last challenge, or switch models with another competing designer. Beginning with Season 6, model selection appears on a companion program, Models of the Runway, usually near the end of that show. At the end of the weekly model selection process, the one unpicked model is sent home. This losing model is also given host Klum's air kiss and Auf Wiedersehen before leaving the runway. Included in the prize package for the winning model is coverage in Elle magazine, featuring the winning designer's twelve-piece collection as part of her prize. However, certain challenges may not require the models at all, such as: giving a competing designer a head-to-toe makeover (Season 2 and 5), designers creating their own looks (Season 3), designing menswear (Season 4), or creating a garment for a specific client (e.g., reconstructed outfits for women who lost weight, or wrestling costumes for the WWE Divas in Season 4). Airing of the model selection ended starting Season 8.

Joining Klum in judging duties are American top designer Michael Kors, Marie Claire fashion director Nina Garcia, and a fourth judge – typically a fashion designer (Diane von Fürstenberg, Vera Wang, Zac Posen, Austin Scarlett, Francisco Costa, Betsey Johnson, Alberta Ferretti, Roberto Cavalli, Monique Lhuillier, Catherine Malandrino), a supermodel (Iman or Alessandra Ambrosio), a celebrity (Victoria Beckham, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Aguilera, Nicky Hilton, Natalie Portman), or a professional from an industry related to the challenge given (Nancy O'Dell, Rachel Zoe, Tiki Barber, Apolo Anton Ohno, Patricia Field, Ivanka Drumpf). Tim Gunn, former Chair of the Fashion School at Parsons The New School for Design and now Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne Inc., acts as mentor to the designers and does not participate in the judging. Instead, he visits the designers midway through each challenge to comment and suggest improvements for each design, as well as announcing additional challenge updates and enforcing the time limit before each runway show. Gunn also usually announces the design challenges along with Klum, and accompanies the designers during their fabric shopping at MOOD or on field trips related to a particular challenge. Gunn serves other functions as well, including bidding farewell to each eliminated designer and model, and visiting the homes of each of the three or four finalist designers.

On July 4, 2006, the show's producers, The Weinstein Company, announced a five-year deal that would relocate the show to Lifetime, beginning with Season 6. In response, NBCUniversal filed a lawsuit against the Weinstein Company for violating its contract rights. A September 2008 court decision granted NBCU's request for an injunction, preventing Lifetime from promoting or exhibiting "Runway" until further notice.

On April 1, 2009, the lawsuit between The Weinstein Company and NBCUniversal was settled, with Weinstein agreeing to pay NBC an undisclosed sum for the right to move the show to Lifetime. Season 6 began airing on Lifetime on August 20, 2009. On August 27, 2009, NBC Universal wound up gaining partial ownership of Lifetime, when A&E Television Networks, which was already partially owned by NBC, acquired the channel's parent company, Lifetime Entertainment Services. It premiered on the Slice channel in Canada on September 12.




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