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Making the Cut feels like a thinly disguised Amazon marketing campaign

  • "It’s hard to get away from Amazon in this show because the clothes themselves are intrinsically linked to Amazon," says Hazel Cills of the new fashion reality competition hosted by Project Runway alums Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. "Each week the designers are presented with a new challenge (to collaborate, to create streetwear) and the winning outfit gets mass-produced and sold on the site, so you can buy the clothes right off your screen (just close your Prime video tab and head on over to your Prime shopping tab!) a move that echoes what Project Runway adopted with the company Nineteenth Amendment. Viewers don’t get to see who sews the Making the Cut mass-produced clothes either, though I doubt it’s artisan Parisian seamstresses. And once you take into account that Amazon is launching a luxury fashion platform soon, as first reported by Women’s Wear Daily, the timing and existence of Making the Cut feels like nothing but a marketing move. The emphasis, throughout the show, is that the judges are looking for an entrepreneur as much as they’re looking for someone who can make cool clothes. But the show frequently tilts towards the former, and any fantasy and fun with fashion are zapped out...What’s disturbing about Making the Cut is that, for as long as Amazon has created and distributed original programming, that programming has not really reflected the business of Amazon itself. I haven’t noticed Midge Maisel downloading anything to a Kindle, at least. But unlike Netflix and Hulu, Making the Cut is backed by a billion-dollar e-commerce store, and its content blurs the line between television and advertising."


    • Making the Cut feels inaccessible as a mainstream reality show: "Making the Cut is comprised entirely of designers who have managed to gain a foothold in the fashion industry; these folks, seemingly cast for reasons other than TV drama, are more forcefully in competition with themselves than one another," says Daniel D'Addario. "They’re not tasked with sewing — we’re told that 'in the real world,' designers don’t have to — and the challenges they face are vastly more grounded than Runway’s flights of whimsy, focused on generating garments that the public can actually buy. In short, Making the Cut is a serious-minded and apparently earnest attempt to mint a genuine fashion-world superstar, a process that manages to leach much of the fun out of a formula that already has entertainment and education entwined in its DNA. Project Runway’s problem has never been that it isn’t instructive enough to an audience who’s likely learned a great deal about garment construction and the fashion market from it, and yet Making the Cut sets out to solve for that. It doesn’t just center accessibility of design by making winner designs available for purchase on Amazon (a clever tie-in): It makes contestants’ viability as the potential center of a global brand the object of the game.  Which is putting the cart before the horse to such a great degree that conversations about who should stay or go on the show get muddled."
    • Making the Cut benefits by ditching the drama and focusing on its "next level" contestants: "Many already have their own brands and have paid dues in the fashion world. (The youngest contestant, Sander from Belgium, is 24.)," says Gwen Ihnat. "As a result, the designers fortunately hurdle over the petty rivalries that often plague Runway; it’s heartening to see them check in on each other, swap fabric, even offer a last-minute pressing before showtime. Any tension comes from the designers’ own internal battles as they grapple with the best way to conquer each week’s challenge. Themes do not include hardware or candy, but are more straightforward like 'haute couture' or 'collaboration,' with usually two outfits due for each assignment: one for the runway, and one that’s more accessible and can immediately be mass-produced for the show’s Amazon store. By shifting part of the focus to fashion as a marketable business, Making The Cut appears to have cut out all the gimmicks, and unnecessary drama, focusing instead on the personalities, talent, skill level, and the design itself."
    • It's like Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn have escaped from reality TV prison: "Making the Cut opens with Heidi Klum twirling in the rain and then running toward Tim Gunn, with the Danger Twins song 'So Marvelous' playing on the soundtrack," says Andy Dehnart. "While they both keep walking and talking, Heidi breaks the fourth wall and looks into the camera and effusively starts chatting with us. There’s so much explosive enthusiasm that it’s like they’ve escaped from cable reality TV prison, and they’re ready to spend some money—Amazon’s money, that is. It’s an exuberant opening to a show that is a breezy watch and full of creativity, though not a reinvention of the form."
    • Making the Cut looks brutish in comparison to Next in Fashion: "Making the Cut is up against it on a number of fronts, not just because it is a reality show with obscenely deep pockets that is dedicated to luxury and consumption and has arrived in the middle of a global firestorm that makes all of that look less palatable than it might have four months ago," says Rebecca Nicholson. "There is also the matter of the competition to the competition. Netflix’s Next in Fashion, which arrived earlier this year, had a more suitable warm-and-winning approach to its trade, and it makes this look brutish by comparison." She adds: "It is tough to conjure up much enthusiasm for any of it, partly because it all feels so familiar. There are a couple of twists on the format, but mostly it is (big) business as usual. Early on, only one or two characters get picked out as a focus for our attention. There are 12 contestants, so that makes sense, but it also dampens the sense of competition, because it is hard to care about the people we are yet to meet. The contestants are each assigned a seamstress to free them up to design, not sew. The seamstress works off-screen, so there is little to show in the way of creation, only conceptualising, which is hard to lift, as a spectacle, for the screen. And there is a brutality to the judging, which I wasn’t expecting, perhaps because I had been lulled into a false sense of security by the supportiveness of Next in Fashion."
    • For the Making the Cut's contestants, Amazon's patronage proves a double-edged sword: "On the one hand, the winning look each week is manufactured and made instantly available to hundreds of millions of customers," says Alison Herman. "On the other, there’s a sometimes uncomfortable focus on accessibility and commercialism." Herman adds: "The Making the Cut ethos makes itself felt in what it doesn’t show as much as what it does. Designers have seamstresses to assist them, but they work overnight and are never seen on camera; ditto the makeup artists and hairstylists who collaborate on runway looks, even though their work is crucial to the final effect and often praised accordingly. Models, often developed into secondary characters on Runway, are kept largely mute and interchangeable. There’s a real sense these contenders are being trained to be bosses, not workers, and that the former are intrinsically more worthy of our attention. With Amazon as a platform, it’s hard not to draw the line between Making the Cut’s omissions and its parent company’s own troubled history with marginalized workers."
    • Making the Cut suffers from a flaw of being released when people aren't looking to buy clothes to wear outside: "What really sets Making the Cut apart from its predecessor — besides the million dollar cash prize — is its emphasis, a strategic distinction that's also its unfortunately timed flaw," says Malcolm Venable. "Making the Cut promises that each challenge winner gets their wares sent to an Amazon store, where the reasonably priced goods (up to $100) will be available for purchase right away. As recently as a few weeks ago, this seemed on-trend with how consumers buy goods in the 21st century and how fashion designers are overcoming delays between runway and retail. Of course, the entire world has changed in recent months. Not only are there severe disruptions in the supply and delivery chain happening, but there's a sudden, unprecedented rethinking about what we deem essential at play now too. As the brilliant fashion columnist Robin Givhan mused in a recent piece, clothing has value because of where we wear it, and with nowhere to go for the time being, the 'need' for a beautiful dress or avant-garde pair of pants is severely diminished. None of that is the fault of anyone on this show of course, but when it's the main hook of the series, we're sort of back to the original idea. For fashion junkies, and for people who find Naomi Campbell's shade as life-giving as chlorophyll, Making the Cut is catnip. Just don't look for anything revolutionary. It sticks to a formula, and that's fine. The formula works for a reason."
    • Making the Cut is a pretty good follow-up to Project Runway, but its episodes are too long: "Not everything about Making the Cut works as well," says Kristen Baldwin. "The episodes run a little long (about 58 minutes each), perhaps because each one features silly-cutesy vignettes with our newly-reunited hosts: Heidi and Tim go to the Moulin Rouge! Heidi and Tim try fencing! Just give me Heidi and Tim talk to designers, please. As part of the rejiggered judging process, contestants explain their garments in a sort of thesis-defense conversation, and much hoopla is hooped about the possibility for those talks to save a designer from elimination. (Note to producers: The 'Judges’ Save' was lame when American Idol introduced it in season 8, and it’s equally blah here.)"
    • How Making the Cut compares to Next in Fashion and Project Runway: "Making the Cut and Next in Fashion aren’t exact clones, but their differences from Runway do seem reverse-engineered to avoid too much overlap," says Judy Berman. "While Next pairs up designers for a series of team challenges (confusingly, some have a previous relationship with their collaborator and some don’t), Making feels like a big-budget flex from a company with some of the world’s deepest pockets. The debut season flies contestants from New York to Paris before the first challenge even begins; Tokyo is next on the itinerary. (What a luxury jetting freely between neighborhoods, let alone hemispheres, seems in the time of coronavirus.) Its top prize of $1 million dwarfs the $250,000 Runway gives winners. Unseen seamstresses stitch together garments overnight because, as Gunn often repeats, this isn’t a sewing competition. Judges include style stars Naomi Campbell and Nicole Richie. The show tries to make the most of Tim and Heidi, who couldn’t have come cheap, with silly but inoffensive skits where they visit local tourist destinations."
    • Heidi Klum calls her and Tim Gunn's partnership "the longest marriage I've ever been in": “You know, Tim and I, we’ve been married for 17 years,” Klum says in promoting Making the Cut. “It’s the longest marriage I’ve ever been in. A marriage sometimes goes a little stale. You still love each other, but sometimes you need to just, you know, get a little fresh wind into that marriage. I feel like that’s what we needed.”
    • Tim Gunn on Making the Cut vs. Project Runway: "One of the major differences is that (Project Runway) was intent upon limitations, intent upon saying, ‘We’re going to give you parameters that are so constrained that it’s going to test your creativity in ways that no one can anticipate,’” says Gunn. “As a teacher, I loved that aspect. But Making the Cut is very different. We want to give you all the resources that we believe are important for you to succeed, and then it’s all up to you.”
    • Showrunner Sara Rea says Amazon lured them from Project Runway by giving "us the moon": "We wanted to take them to fashion capitals, emerging capitals, and give them sort of the best of the best,” said Rea, who worked with Gunn and Klum for years on Project Runway. “So we went and we asked for the moon. And they gave it to us … We got a lot, a lot of yeses. We were, to be honest, we were a little shocked.”
    • Klum and Gunn on why Making the Cut is the perfect show for coronavirus quarantine: "Given how challenging this time is and how worrisome it is and how uncertain everything is, people need to have their spirits lifted up," says Gunn, who moves from Project Runway mentor to co-host on Making the Cut. "It’s a feel-good show, it’s a wonderful, much-needed distraction. It’s inspiring and it’s uplifting, so we actually like the fact that we’re premiering at this time."

    TOPICS: Making the Cut, Prime Video, Next in Fashion, Project Runway, Heidi Klum, Sara Rea, Tim Gunn, Coronavirus, Reality TV