There have been a few seasons where it felt like Project Runway was trying to find its footing after the move to Lifetime. The designers seemed uninspired and their stories weren’t that compelling. There were no great stand-out personalities like Austin Scarlett or Jay McCarroll.
But this season, Runway is strutting its stuff again. There have been controversial designs like Peaches’ polka dot dress and Casanova’s granny looks. Still, the new designers like Mondo and Michael C. are far more talented and interesting than in recent years. And, enhanced by an extra half-hour long, 90-minute format, which allows for more time with the judges during deliberation. After all, designers are in and they are out, but Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia are here to stay.
In a recent conference call interview Garcia spoke about Marie Claire, Tim Gunn’s recent judges on “crack” comment, and what gives a Runway winner staying power.
Project Runway airs Thursdays at 9:00 PM/8:00 Central on Lifetime.
Q: How is your three-year-old son, Lucas, doing and is he into fashion and into dressing up?
NINA: No, not yet. He is not into dressing up yet. But he is very excited about his little brother.
Q: Oh, that's great. So, he understands?
NINA: Yes. I mean, I don't know, we'll see when the time arrives. He understands there's a baby that's coming and it's going to be his little brother. He's very excited so far.
Q: Did you hear that Essence magazine hired a white fashion director? Since there are very few or any, other fashion directors of color, as a fashion director and a woman from a Latin American background, do you feel that there's enough diversity in terms of fashion editors and directors?
NINA: Of course, there's always room for diversity. But I'm proud of the fact that over the past few years there's been many designers, models, and editors from very different nationalities. So, there is no stopping the diversity. It will happen sooner or later.
I already think in terms of the fashion business there's a lot of Latin's involved in fashion that have very good positions… So, I do think there's diversity already. I think it's just been a little bit blown up, out of proportion.
Q: Since you're the fashion director at Marie Claire and you're the judge on Project Runaway, how do you make time for family with such a busy schedule?
NINA: It's all about time management and keeping priorities straight. I'm very family oriented. So, yes, family comes first, but it's about keeping organized. I'm lucky to have a very, wonderful husband and great help. So, that's been very helpful. No social life, that's the other secret. None of my friends see me.
Q: Do you refer to the books you write while you're judging on Project Runaway?
NINA: Do I refer to it? No. Not really, but I think the program and the books are very related because a lot of the challenges that we have on the show kind of relate with everyday circumstances that I write about. My books are for the women out there that have to solve problems or have questions and that's what I like to do. The show addresses those same kind of dilemmas. So, it's kind of helping in fashion dilemmas.
Q: What do you think Christian Siriano has that granted him the ability to find such mainstream success, post Runway? Do you see any up and coming contestants who have the same ability to achieve that success?
NINA: It's a tough business to make it in. It takes a long time. I don't think people realize how long for a normal desire that's not in a celebrity that's on a television show. It's taken Marc Jacobs 20 years. It takes a long time.
But, what Christian has that has helped him tremendously is he's got the tenacity, the personality, the creativity, and the age where he is prime to really work very hard and go for it. You need a lot of components to make it and some designers take longer than others. It's a tough business. It's just not instant fame like other fields. Fashion is a little longer. But, yes, Christian has a lot of elements that have made him very successful.
Q: Have you seen anyone else who you think has that?
NINA: Well, you have to wait until this season's over, but I do think the winner of this season could very well have the same kind of stamina that Christian has.
Q: What does one day in the life of Nina Garcia looks like at Marie Claire?
NINA: Well, I'll give you a typical day like today. I came in, I'm looking at December layouts. I'm making sure that the front of the book—we're working on our gift guide. So, I'm doing the layouts or approving layouts for that gift guide. Kind of putting to bed the December issue, making sure all the stories are in. Simultaneously, I am speaking to the editors who are in Europe and coordinating our January cover, our February cover, and our March cover. So, we are taking about all these covers that are happening very soon and ironing out what's going to be the shoot for the January issue—January and February. So, assigning the stories, picking the photographers, picking the stylists.
Tomorrow, we'll have a run-through for our February cover. That's very exciting. So I'll meet with the stylist, go over the clothes. So I kind of looked at what's in the closet already so that I'm prepared for tomorrow's meeting. So far that's today.
Q: Wow, that pretty packed for just one day.
NINA: Yes, but its fun.
Q: In an interview earlier in Season 8, Tim Gunn referred to the judges this season, as "crack smoking." He said it in jest, but have you regretted any of the judging decisions you've made so far this season?
NINA: Absolutely not. The situation is, Tim gets a closer look at the everyday life of the designers and what happens in the studio and what happens with their personalities. We don't. We really have no idea. We are like the viewers at home. We are just sitting there, watching the runway, and we have no idea the background: what happened, how much time they've spent on an outfit, how much they didn't spend on an outfit. We are just judging them for their work.
It's the same situation as if we were in a fashion show. On seeing the show, I don't know if John Galliano had a nervous breakdown or didn't. I have no clue. I'm just part of the audience. I'm there as an editor. It's the same function that I work in my everyday life.
So, there is no personal or emotional point of view. We don't bring anything emotional, any connection because we don't see it. We don't have any relation with the designers other than the Q&A that you see on television, which I think gives for a more well-rounded and… more objective critic because it's not emotional.
Q: Have you or the producers ever considered having the designers make you some maternity apparel to wear to a special occasion this season?
NINA: Oh, that would have been great. I don't think it was discussed because the season was already planned by the time the news broke out. But I know in the past we did a maternity. I think it was the first or second season we did a maternity challenge, but a real one would have been great. That would have been so welcomed for me. I would have loved it.
Q: This year, there’s some interesting behavior from the designers when they get up in front of you guys. How much does their attitude, particularly their poor attitude, plays into deciding who goes home?
NINA: Well, in the past, we have looked at the attitude because, as you know, when you're in business, it's a lot about how you feel with your co-workers and how you are going to either direct a team, or work with a team. That plays a big part. Forget your own personal relationships with your team and with your company but also so much part of designers now is dealing with the press, and dealing with the buyers, the retailers. So, it is important to have a good attitude.
We take that into consideration. It's not the deciding factor. But I think we look at that. Absolutely, we look at that.
Q: Can you puzzle out why there's such a huge disconnect between how judges are perceiving Michael C.'s design versus the other designers?
NINA: I don't know. I mean it's very interesting to watch this because we only sensed a little bit in the deliberation. You know that they picked on him, and threw him under the bus, and he's kind of picked on. I don't know. I think he's just a very sweet guy and they've decided to jump on him. He really is very sweet. From what I've seen in the television, in the back, what's happening in the workroom, it seems that he is not such a good technical sewer, he's more of a draper. So, I feel like in that sense, they've kind of all ganged up on him. But I know he's got some really beautiful things, Michael.
Q: What trend would you never be caught dead wearing?
NINA: That's a tough question but probably anything neon and very short. I don't think I would go there. That time has gone. It's past and gone.