19 October 2011

Project Runway: A Study in the American Dream

Over the weekend, H and I were discussing my future in style and style writing.* From where does my inspiration come? Where have I learned what I know?

Among the expected magazines, biographies, museums, and now "traditional" bloggers, as cheesy as it sounds, up pops "Project Runway."

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a trashy reality TV show. I'm that horrible human being watching the train wrecks in gleeful vapidness. That being said, Project Runway isn't all that. Not at all. Once I think about it for less than 30 seconds, it's clear it's so much more. In my mind, Project Runway is not only an inspiring show about fashion, but it - yes, here's where I aim high - it marries much that is good and unique about the United States.

First, there's the entrepreneurial spirit of design, of taking a chance, and the passion that comes with a true belief in what you're doing and creating that some of the first immigrants and colonists had when they crossed the oceans. I'm sure others will disagree with the comparison of political and religious refugees to fashion designers, but these designers - some of them, at least - and the judges and Tim live and breathe fashion and design. They believe they can make it, and make money off of it - or already have. They believe it can change people's lives and outlooks on life. It does.

Secondly, there's the crassness of reality TV. Like it or not, this is an American phenomenon (yes, yes, the Swedes started Big Brother, but Real World? Wholly and unabashedly American). As a culture, we revel in the normalcy - or not - of others' lives. We take delight in the ridiculous that only we Americans can create. Project  Runway doesn't shy from its origins, and gloriously embarks on set up drama and despair.

Lastly, there's the intellectual. As designed as the drama might be on Project Runway, the creators and producers don't leave out the finest elements and points of the craft of design. They don't leave out the business aspect of the industry. As revealing as it might be about my design background (or lack thereof) I learned more about how to design and build a document from the designers, Tim, Nina, Michael, and Heidi, than from any other one source. From them, I've learned how to judge a piece and understand what may or may not be a critical design element. It's not just about "what works," but also about the brains of design and fashion.

Putting all of this on TV is purely American: Nowhere else in the world can anyone be an intellectual with the ease we can here. Despite our global connectivity and communications, nowhere else in the world can we plug in to crass entertainment and learn. Nowhere else in the world is the most average person given the chance we are here. That is the American Dream: taking an idea, a belief, and "making it work."

*Speaking of taking chances and getting the chance, I'm thrilled to say that I'm part of a new project: Finessed Fashion. An online mag, Finessed is "fashion, intellectually speaking." Check it out? Please?

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