The unexpected benefits of Harvey Weinstein‘s downfall continue to proliferate through the entertainment world. This month, Amazon Prime debuts “Making the Cut,” its first fashion competition show starring longtime “Project Runway” hosts and Emmy-winners Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. But it likely wouldn’t have occurred without the collapse of The Weinstein Company.
READ MORE: Competition Series Emmy Predictions
While “Runway” aired on “Lifetime,” it was owned and produced by TWC. When the company went into bankruptcy after Weinstein’s crash, Bravo swept in and acquired the rights from the new owners, Lantern Capital Partners. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama with Bravo flipping production companies, but the overall outcome was that Gunn and Klum decided to move on to greener pastures and “Making the Cut” is the result.
Featuring 12 designers recruited from around the world, “Cut” enters a crowded fashion competition field that doesn’t just include an almost back on its feet “Runway,” but Netflix’s high-profile “Next in Fashion” which aired earlier this year. How “The Cut differentiates itself from those shows are numerous, however. “Cut” arguably recruited more established designers (emphasis on “arguably”), provides the contestants with sewing services on multiple challenges, transports them to Paris, Tokyo and New York, features a grand prize of $1 million and, most notably, makes a ready to wear version of each episode’s winning look available on Amazon’s marketplace. One-stop shopping if you will.
Notably, as the world battles the coronavirus, Amazon’s priorities are on the essentials. For clarification for this story, the company revealed that while many of the winning looks are already in stock, COVID-19 continues to develop and service is being impacted. Customers will still be able to shop winning looks, but delivery may be delayed and Amazon will update customers as needed.
Oh, and did we mention Naomi Campbell is one of the judges? Trust us, you’ll want to stream it for her critiques alone. Also joining the judging panel is designer Joseph Altuzarra (impressive), Nicole Richie (actually has the fashion business chops) and, depending on where the designers are, legendary fashion editor Carine Roitfeld (the French Anna Wintour, a huge get) and Italian fashion “influencer” Chiara Ferragni (meh). And, of course, Klum and Gunn who have a chemistry that’s been sorely missed these past few years.
In order to bring “Cut” to fruition, Klum and Gunn recruited their longtime “Runway” producer Sara Rea who guided the show during its Lifetime incarnation. Rea jumped on the phone earlier this week to discuss the project with The Playlist.
The Playlist: I really enjoyed the episodes of the show provided to the press so far. After what happened with “Runway” how did this whole adventure and partnering with Amazon come about?
Sara Rea: Adventure is the right word. You nailed it. When Heidi and Tim decided that maybe it was time to jump ship, as Heidi had said, Amazon became really the perfect partner. Everyone over at Amazon was excited about Heidi and Tim, and a fashion show but also the 360 experience that if you were to get by being able to buy the clothes. And for the designer to be able to sell clothes immediately, it all just made sense. We sat down and looked at what we really wanted this show to be about. In a nutshell, we wanted to focus on the brand element as well as the design element. We wanted to see someone come out of this and really be a household name, have a future and a business. We wanted to give the designers that inspiration by going to new and different places. And we wanted to reflect fashion in 2020 which is a more democratized world where the customer and the viewer, their voices really matter. And so we wanted to have a live audience to represent that. We wanted, again, to have the runway look, and then the accessible look so that the viewer could really relate to everything that we were doing. And fashion’s got a history of being a little bit snooty and we wanted to take that away and make it feel a little more democratized. Hopefully, we did that. Hopefully, the viewers feel like it’s relatable as well as aspirational.
Compared to where you guys were with “Runway,” the look of the show in terms of how it’s shot and the aesthetic is a big change. How did you arrive at putting such a big shine on “Making the Cut”?
Thank you for noticing, because it was months and months of conversations and a constant thing. We were trying to make sure that this show had its own identity. It looked and sounded and felt like its own show. And we did want a more cinematic version of the competition show. And what we were trying to approach to accomplish with the visuals was cinematic and [give it] a documentary feel because that’s how we produced the show. We gave the designers a lot of latitude to come and go as they please and to navigate this process the way that they would navigate anything in the real world.
Obviously, you have Heidi and Tim on board in terms of recruiting designers for a new program, but did you reach out to specific contestants to be a part of it? Was it just a normal application process like any other show?
We did all of the typical things you do for a reality show. But, because it’s so talent-based, we have to get into those niche worlds that they live in to get their attention. We also went to Instagram. Word of mouth is huge for us. So we spread the word as much as possible. And we also do more pointed research where we are like, “Hey, this designer is fantastic. We should reach out.” So it runs the gamut because it is so niche [and we need to] make sure we find the [right candidate].
In that vein, when you were recruiting contenders did you make sure to tell them, “Hey you won’t have to sew your own stuff, that’s the difference in this show, it’s more of the real world?” Or were they unaware of that aspect before they got to set?
Some of them hadn’t [sewn] in so many years that that was a big conversation for the casting process. So we told them what they’re going to have to sew, “Stop, you are, and you’re going to have to sew a decent amount, but there will be support.” So they knew enough because otherwise people were just completely terrified because a lot of these people haven’t sewn in 15 years! We told them they’d have help, but they’d better crank up those sewing machines and practice before they show up.
I believe there was one designer in particular who wasn’t able to cut patterns? Was that shocking to you?
Yes, I was surprised. Yes, sir. I was like, “What the hell are you doing?” Because we were transparent. I mean, I think another designer tells that designer at that moment like, “Hey, he doesn’t know how to cut a pattern.”
Yeah, I was thinking, “Wait, how do you even have a business? How is this happening?”
I do feel like that specific designer knows how to pattern, I think a lot of it was just the whole experience and then getting spun out. And then when you get into the work but you can’t function, that’s what it felt like.
Just sticking to the contestants for a second. Obviously, you guys are coming into a competitive space in the sense that “Runway” just finished, Netflix has their own show, “Next in Fashion.” Somehow, it seems that all three shows have had a gay streetwear designer who had the same aesthetic. Your contestant, Johnny Cota, looks very much in a way like the designer who just won “Runway,” Geoffrey Mac, did you cringe at all when you saw that? As a producer were you’re like, “Well, next year let’s try to not find the aesthetic look that everybody has these days in terms of a designer?”
Don’t judge me, but I haven’t seen the last season of “Runway” or [“Next in Fashion”]. I mean, I know it sounds like I should be doing it. But I don’t know. For whatever reason I truly haven’t been watching.
But I can still answer your question, I think. I think it’s our job to be aware. I say that as I offer this policy that I haven’t watched, so, I guess I failed at that part of my job. [Laughs.] I think we’re always going to want to make sure we’re presenting different types of designers and looks. I have a not great answer for it because, one, I haven’t seen it. But also, we’re just going to do our thing and make sure that at the end of the day, the designers within our show are diverse from an aesthetic standpoint and from a personality standpoint, and from a background and what they have to share with the world as humans. I think as long as they’re doing that, we’re doing it right.
One of my favorite things about the show is that Naomi Campbell is giving everything everyone wants as a judge. Well, at least from Naomi Campbell. I know she’s friends with Heidi, but can you just talk about that recruitment process and getting her onboard?
Yes. Naomi is a force of nature in the best possible way, I agree. She gets so invested and she’s just so fun to watch and listen to. And it was the Heidi relationship [that got her interested]. Heidi texted her and asked her if she would be interested and we got her on board and it was great. I mean as you saw in the first episode, those designers’ reactions were priceless. It was for all the judges, but Naomi was definitely a big part of the excitement for the designers. Because they had no idea until that moment who the judges were going to be, so it was fun to watch them literally melt into tears.
Designer Joseph Altuzarra is also fantastic as one of the new permanent judges. When did you realize he’d be so good in this capacity?
Well, you never 100% know, but I sat down with him in his office in New York and he talked for, I don’t know, an hour and I’m like, “This guy is really thoughtful.” I could just tell that he took things seriously, but also was very comfortable in his own skin. It’s someone that’s not used to be on television in front of a bunch of cameras and lights and people. You never know if they’re going to sink or swim. And I was so thrilled to watch Joseph just soar. I mean he was, like you were saying, he was fantastic, he was thoughtful, he was invested. He could grow on his own experiences with talking to the designer. So, there’s that sense of a truly authentic experience that he understood where they were and wanted to help them get to where they wanted to go. So I was blown away by how great he did. I mean, we threw him in the hot seat and he just [soared].
Having gone through this experience, when you guys do a season two, cause I do think the show is going to be a hit and we will get through this coronavirus, whether it’s now or in the fall or at some point, have you guys already thought about where you’d like to go around the world? Or where you’d like to take the show in a second season?
We have our list of dream [locations] because we always do. We did a year ago but yeah, we, we definitely have some ideas of where we’d love to go.
And is there anything you can tease about the finale? Or maybe something that might surprise them?
It’s a nail biter. When I get in the edit, I always try to mimic or at least be aware of how I felt watching it. I remember those days. And it was a fun TV, but it was also intense. I got to give the judges credit, they took this seriously and they’re so inventive. They were so invested in these designers, that the entire journey was going back to what you were just saying about Joseph. They were giving constructive criticism because they cared. And yeah, they were hard on them at times and it was uncomfortable at times, but it always came from a good place. And then when that only continues to build, so when you get to the finale and they’re sitting there together making decisions based on the totality of this experience, it’s pretty intense.
“Making the Cut” debuts on Amazon with two episodes Friday. Two additional episodes will debut every week until the finale on April 17.