Christian Siriano Tells Us What Judging the Teen Version of 'Project Runway' Is Like

The kids school HIM on fashion, Siriano says.
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The kids school HIM on fashion, Siriano says.
Photo: Getty Images for Project Runway

Photo: Getty Images for Project Runway

There is no such thing as too many projects in Christian Siriano's world. In between custom creating some dreamy Emmy Awards dresses (*sigh* Uzo Adubo) and prepping his spring 2015 collection for New York Fashion Week, the energetic designer also filmed a new installment of the franchise that launched his successful career: "Project Runway: Threads." 

But there's a twist. Instead of pitting established and adult fashion designers against each other, "Threads" is a competition featuring kids ages nine through 16. And Siriano is playing the parts of both Michael Kors and Tim Gunn, judging and mentoring the little ones alongside fellow arbiters Gina Kelly, fashion director of Seventeen; Jasmine Snow, accessories editor of Seventeen; and YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen, plus host Vanessa Simmons. Now before you call child services, the show format is very different from "Project Runway" 1.0 as there's a new set of kids facing off in each episode -- both in similar and mixed age groups -- and a winner is crowned every week. (Because it's probably illegal to have adorable, but unsupervised minors pulling all-nighters in "the workroom," right?)

"I think what’s cool on the show is that, when you're young, you really do anything," Siriano told me at premiere party at his Nolita boutique on Wednesday. "You take risks. You don’t have to think about, 'Oh, I have to sell this or get a job afterward.' They’re just having fun and making what they love. It was great to be able to help them, mentor them, and give them constructive criticism, but also try to push them to push the boundaries."

The "Project Runway" season four winner also noted that wee ones were way easier to advise, shall we say, than their grown-up counterparts. "So [the kids] appreciate it, which is very different than the other show," he told me, with a you-know-what-I-mean look. "Where, if you give constructive criticism [to adults], well, they don’t care."

You know how people sometimes say that adults in reality competition shows act like children? Well, Siriano observed that the drama with actual children wasn't due to any in-fighting amongst themselves. Each contender on the show also brought in a helper, usually in the form of an of-age guardian. And that's when things got heated, particularly during what should have been a mother-daughter bonding experience. "There’s more bickering amongst the mom and the little girl. They have a moment," he said with a laugh. "And grandma’s like mad at somebody... So that’s more interesting because the kids finally get to be the boss of the parents and I don’t think parents can handle it. That’s I think what’s a really cool dynamic to watch."

Siriano, in turn, also learned from the kids -- who, in the age of social media and the Internet, have access to a treasure trove of fashion history and pop culture. "They knew more about fashion than I [do]," he exclaimed. "Like, I don’t know what Taylor Swift is wearing on the red carpet every night. I don’t know, but they do. It's really cool to see what they know about the industry, almost like an editor would." One little boy even schooled Siriano on some looks from the Yves Saint Laurent archives circa '80s and '90s. "I have no idea where that was from," he said. "More power to 'ya. It’s amazing."

Photo: Project Runway: Threads

Photo: Project Runway: Threads

"Project Runway: Threads" premieres on Lifetime, tonight, Thursday, October 23, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT. The show will then air each Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, starting on Thursday, October 30.