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10 Ways Project Runway Changed the Fashion Industry

Eila Mell literally wrote the book on Project Runway. Whether you're a long-time fan or a scoffer, the very fact that so many people know about the s
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Eila Mell literally wrote the book on

1. Before Project Runway there was a perception that fashion was an insider's industry, and would never work on television.

The Project Runway team had a vision for the show and were undaunted. Executive Producer Desiree Gruber: "We knew how exciting it was. If you're in fashion you know the drama that takes place to get things made. When you see a runway show it seems like the designer decided these things months ago. Behind the scenes people in the industry know they might have changed their minds the night before and stuff didn't arrive in time. They didn't have enough leather to make a long skirt so they sent the models out in minis. There is a lot of last-minute preparation that has the power to change the entire tone of a show."

2. Project Runway inspired thousands of kids to go to design school.

Producer Eli Holzman: "A few years after Project Runway premiered I called the dean at Parsons to ask whether the show was having a positive impact on them. I was shocked by her answer. She told me their enrollment had practically doubled, and that, industry-wide, design programs had seen a huge influx of new students."

3. Project Runway taught people what designers do, and that it isn't easy.

4. Before Project Runway the average person had never heard of Fashion Week.

One of the show's best rewards is the chance to show at New York Fashion Week. Yet, before Project Runway brought it into people's living rooms, most people didn't even know it existed! Michael Costello (Season 8): "It's a wonderful opportunity for us. We can't be thankful enough because it allows us to live our dream."

5. Project Runway is one of the only mainstream shows with a cast made up of a large percentage of openly gay people.

6. Project Runway taught people that models can be smart as well as beautiful.

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Producer Jonathan Murray: "From day one Heidi has been a huge factor in the success of the show. She has great instincts about everything. She is not afraid to express what she thinks and is not afraid to show that she believes in someone. When Bunim/Murray stepped in to the show in Season 6 she was pretty seasoned. As new producers to the show we saw that what she had to say had a lot of value. Just spending time with her you quickly see how good her instincts are."

7. Project Runway gives established designers a voice they seldom get.

Michael Kors: “The interesting thing is you never get to hear designers talk. You can read what they say in an article, you see a still photograph of them, and you see their clothes and you connect the dots, but the missing part is hearing designers talk about fashion on a regular basis."

8. Project Runway has taught us the power of being nice.

Season 2's designers went on a field trip to meet Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week. They asked what advice she could give them. Fern Mallis: "I said the most important advice I can give you is to be nice. They looked at me as if I had four heads. Tim just smiled from ear to ear. I explained to them that at the end of the day there are a lot of designers out there all doing good work. Ultimately, we all want to do business with people we like. You can get much more accomplished by being nice. You don't have to be a diva or a bitch to succeed in this industry. People remember and gravitate to the nice people. Tim was so appreciative that I said that. I'll never forget right after that episode aired I went to a screening and Sarah Jessica Parker grabbed me and said, 'I loved what you said to them. I loved it. That was the best advice I think that was ever given to them.' I got great feedback from that over the years."

9. Project Runway has brought fashion into the mainstream.

Marie Claire editor Zanna Roberts Rassi: "It's catapulted fashion to the middle of America and it's made it accessible, achievable, and relatable. Fashion was quite a scary, almost sacred world that no one knew about and you kept the lid on it."

10. Project Runway introduced the world to Tim Gunn.

Is there a more beloved television personality? Kara Saun (Season 1): "All the advice he gave was sincere and spot on. It was clear Tim was on the side of the designers and that he truly was invested and cared about the work and assisting us in being the best we could be."