Project Runway’s Cast of Characters
Warning: Mild Spoilers for Season 13, episode 1, and previous seasons (get out of the Project Runway tag if you don’t want spoilers duh)
I’ve watched every season of Project Runway since its original air date (except for the season filmed in Los Angeles because lol who even did) and like many who watch religiously, I’ve noticed certain
formulas patterns in casting/editing. Every season it’s the same, this season being no exception. So here’s some of my favorite Project Runway cliches, featuring the memorable designers who fit them and predictions for season 13’s cast of designers.
Mr./Ms. No Construction Skills
Every year, there seems to be the designer who seems to lack any form of construction skills. Every year, the other designers gang up on them or “throw them under the bus.” And every year the judges advocate for them much to the bewilderment of everyone else. Two classic examples are winner Anya Ayoung Chee who only learned how to sew 6 months before auditioning and Mr. Michael “I-can-only-drape-dresses” Costello. Last season it was Sue Waller. Every year, there’s someone who just can’t make it work and every year the judges fucking eat it up. Mr./Ms. No Construction Skills should not be confused with The Underdog.
Season 13 candidate: Too soon to tell who will fulfill this role. Will definitely be updating as the season moves forward.
The Underdog may come as a variety of characters with different personalities and traits. While there may be multiple designers who fulfill this description, there’s usually always the misunderstood, somewhat vulnerable designer who surprises everyone by kicking ass and winning challenges. They are usually “thrown under the bus” on the runway, heavily made fun of, or shit talked by fellow designers in the interviews (See: I-Have-An-Opinion/Know-it-all/Gives Unsolicited Advice). The most memorable moment being Team Underdog winning in season 8, destroying the overly confident “superstar” team led by Miss Know-it-all Gretchen herself.
Season 13 candidate: The first challenge and this season’s teaser clearly casts the sweet and gracious Sandhya Garg as The Underdog. You cannot help but root for her and her delightfully unusual aesthetic.
I-Have-An-Opinion/Know-it-All/Gives Unsolicited Advice
Okay, so everyone is guilty of this at some point, but there’s always a designer who *loves* giving their opinion on just about anything and everything. While I am sure the show is edited to make one designer appear particularly egocentric, it doesn’t make hating this person any less enjoyable.
With each challenge, you can always rely on this person giving their opinion on each and everyone of their fellow designers. They will usually dismiss everyone, charitably acknowledge their “only” competition, and tear down The Underdog who they “do not understand at all” and who obviously makes them feel insecure about their own work.
Often, this designer will rotate around the workroom, offering their unwanted opinions/assistance to every other designer. They will also predictably be paired up with The Underdog or No Construction Skills in a team challenge and they will predictably be upset about it and predictably “throw them under the bus.” While most are unmemorable, some past favorites include Ivy Higa (season 8), Kate Pancoke (Season 11 & 12), and Gretchen Jones (season 8 winner).
Gretchen Jones is probably the ultimate villain of Project Runway. Anyone who causes Tim Gunn to lose it on camera (how terrifying was that) and have him call her a bully, deserves this title. Unlike most know-it-alls though, she still won. So, you have to begrudgingly applaud her for that.
Season 13: Korina Emmerich debuts as the leading candidate for this role. She follows the aformentioned formula to a T, going after The Underdog nominee Sandhya Garg. You can see her in the workroom muttering catty observations with her new token gay sidekick Mitchell Perry.
Amanda Valentine who returns from season 12 (who looks a lot like Korina btw) could also hold her previous Project Runway experience over everyone else, believing it puts her ahead of the game (although she shouldn’t hold her breath on that one).
The Den Mother/The Grandpa
While no one qualifies for this role this season, there’s always the older designer who either decides to pursue fashion late in life or has an established career. Most often, the women take on a “mothering” role- the lovable Peach Carr (season 8), most notably. The older designers are often criticized for not designing “young” enough. Villainous Bert Keeter (season 9 contestant and designer for Halston in the 70s) also couldn’t please the judges in this sense with his seemingly outdated designs.
And let’s not forget the season 1’s awful Wendy Pepper who tried a little too hard to mother the younger designers…only to discover someone vandalized the photo of her young daughter.
If there isn’t someone who is actually old, there will most likely be a young designer who struggles to produce “young” or “modern” designs (ex. THE Casanova of season 8).
While there are many other recurring character types of Project Runway, I find these the recur the most. Other cliches include: The designer who refuses to listen to Tim Gunn (and pays for it), The designer who talks back to the judges (and pays for it), The BAT SHIT CRAZY designer (see: Kenley Collins and Elena Slivnyak), the designer with a sob story, and my personal favorite, the foreigner who gets away with saying everything.
Tell me your favorite stereotype or cliche of Project Runway, and your predictions for season 13!