TV

“Making the Cut” Is the Fashion Show Heidi and Tim Always Wanted to Make

The dynamic duo are back with a new fashion competition series, more creative control, and all that sweet, sweet Amazon money.

The worlds of fashion and entertainment are full of behind-the-scenes drama, but Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum are willing to tolerate only so much messiness. It’s one of the main reasons the Emmy-winning former hosts of Project Runway walked away from the show in 2018 after 16 seasons, and started over with their own Amazon Prime fashion competition series, Making the Cut. By the time Klum and Gunn left PR, it had jumped back and forth between TV networks—from Bravo to Lifetime and then back to Bravo—and endured the meltdown of The Weinstein Company (one of its former production companies) in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

“Heidi and I looked at each other and said, ‘We love the show. It’s done so much for us, but we have a vision that goes beyond what we’ve been doing,’” Gunn tells NewNowNext. “We had been pushing for Lifetime to make changes, but they didn’t want to do it. I mean, even including models of all sizes was a five-season battle. We wanted the conversation to be about branding and what the fashion industry is all about. It’s not just about sewing a dress.” Project Runway has since been revamped with an almost entirely new set of judges, but it has kept the same format.

Tim Gunn and Will Riddle.
Jessica Forde
Tim Gunn and Making the Cut contestant Will Riddle.

The good news for fashion fans is that there’s room to love both Project Runway and Making the Cut. But comparisons are inevitable. Klum and Gunn are executive producers and the hosts of Making the Cut, like they were for PR; Klum is a judge, and Gunn is a mentor to the competing designers. However, they say Amazon has given them a lot more creative control. Though Netflix was interested in working with them, they chose Amazon because of its global retail platform and supportive creative team. “It’s been a phenomenal experience,” Gunn says.

In addition to supermodel and entrepreneur Klum, judges include supermodel Naomi Campbell, fashion editor Carine Roitfeld, fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra, fashionista and entrepreneur Nicole Richie, and social media influencer Chiara Ferragni. Klum and Campbell are the most opinionated judges, but Campbell is more quick-tempered and doesn’t hesitate to throw shade with her scolding (and sometimes scalding) lectures. Richie is more likely to go easy on a contestant, while Altuzarra, Roitfeld, and Ferragni fall somewhere in between.

Heidi Klum, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld, Nicole Richie, and Naomi Campbell.
Amazon Prime Video
(L-R): Heidi Klum, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld, Nicole Richie, and Naomi Campbell.

“Naomi is Naomi,” says Klum. “I’ve known her for many years. She’s brutally honest. That’s why I love her.” Richie, she adds, is a comedian at heart. “She’s really goofy and funny.”

The first season of Making the Cut premieres March 27 and consists of 10 episodes, with two streaming each Friday until April 24. Here’s what audiences can expect from it.

Heidi Klum and Naomi-Campbell.
Amazon Prime Video

The Prizes

While most other TV fashion competitions have a grand prize in the range of five or six figures, Making the Cut tops them all with a whopping $1 million on the line. Winners of episode challenges get their winning designs sold on Amazon’s Making the Cut retail store and sometimes earn additional prizes, like in the fifth episode, when the winner snags an exclusive limited-edition collaboration with Puma.

Amazon Prime Video

The Contestants

The 12 contestants in the show’s first season (six men and six women) come from diverse backgrounds. Their ages range from 24 to 64, and they hail from the United States, Italy, South Korea, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, and Belgium. Sander Bos, the youngest contestant and one of the openly gay male designers, is by far the sassiest of the group.

An interesting twist: Almost all of the contestants already have their own label. But Season 1 doesn’t boast the type of cutthroat feuding often seen on Project Runway. In Episode 4, Klum even calls the contestants “snoozy” for not showing enough passion to win. “I agree we need to wake them up,” Gunn replies. They proceed to give the contestants a high-pressure challenge that brings out some competitive cattiness.

Nicole Richie and Naomi Campbell.
Amazon Prime Video

The Challenge Requirements

Project Runway contestants have to sew their own designs in the competition, but Making the Cut doesn’t require this. Seamstresses (who don’t appear on the show) get a limited time to assist the designers, who can still choose to do their own sewing and even help other designers. Contestants also have more flexibility while shopping for materials than their PR counterparts, with no time or budget restrictions. They are also allowed to return to the store after they’ve started work on their designs.

Amazon Prime Video

The Locations

The U.S. version of Project Runway takes place almost exclusively in New York City. Making the Cut is more of a globetrotting show—the first season was filmed in New York City, Paris, and Tokyo. The first episode features a stunning nighttime runway show in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Jessica Forde

The Models

When it comes to race and body size, the models are more diverse, and more male models appear on Making the Cut than on Project Runway. Unlike on PR, the models are not identified by name. Though a few look androgynous, it’s unclear if the show has any transgender or nonbinary models (the retooled Project Runway does offer this sort of gender diversity).

Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Chiara  Ferragni, and Joseph Altuzarra.
David Scott Holloway

The Judging and Eliminations

Unlike Project Runway, the mentor on Making the Cut attends runway shows and eliminations and is allowed to give feedback to the judges if they ask. The winner of the challenge is announced, but not which contestants had the highest and lowest scores. Judges can eliminate more than one contestant per episode and change their minds after at-risk contestants are allowed to plead their case.

Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.
Amazon Prime Video

The Behind-the-Scenes Extras

PR contestants live together during the competition, but Making the Cut contestants stay at hotels. The show also gives us a peek at what Klum and Gunn up are to while contestants are working; Gunn shares his passion for fencing with Klum, while she makes a guest appearance at dance rehearsals at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The two even learn to make sushi together.

“On Project Runway, we barely interacted [on screen],” Gunn says. “We wanted to do more together. We wanted the audience to see aspects of me and Heidi that they wouldn’t see otherwise.” Adds Klum, “We’re not just sitting in our hotel watching TV. Let’s learn things, and people can learn along with us.”

Making the Cut premieres March 27 on Amazon Prime Video.

Writer and editor whose work has appeared in AXS.com, Examiner.com, Lifetime, People, and Billboard.