Amazon's latest venture into entertainment is Making The Cut, a reality competition show about designers fighting to become "the next global fashion business." If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's probably because it is: Making The Cut follows the same premise previously popularized by Project Runway (Bravo's hit show that launched in 2004) and later replicated by Next in Fashion (Netflix's answer, which debuted less than two months ago). All three shows gather a talented crop of designers from around the world and put them through a series of rigorous design challenges, each one focused on a different theme. After the group has been weaned down to a select few finalists, they are then given the opportunity to design an entire collection. In the end, one designer is pronounced the winner and is given a specific amount of money.
But if these shows are so similar, you may ask, why do we need more than one? Well, just as Master Chef materialized in the wake of Top Chef's success, it is possible to coexist — and thankfully, each of these competitions offers something slightly different to its viewers. There is Project Runway's "mentor" element and Next In Fashion's behind-the-scenes look at constructing a new runway for each challenge. And while both of those shows keep their contestants confined to New York, Making The Cut takes full advantage of Jeff Bezos' deep pockets by flying their contestants to far-out destinations around the world — starting in Paris, France before hopping over to Tokyo, Japan and finally settling in New York.
In an effort to help you decide which of these three reality design competitions is right for you, NYLON has created a definitive ranking of each show based on four essential categories: who has the most charismatic hosts, the most knowledgeable judges, the juiciest drama, and the most engaging overall episodic structure. Did your favorite make the cut?
Next In Fashion (6/10): A good reality show lives and dies on the charisma of its host(s), and luckily, Next In Fashion's Alexa Chung has charisma to spare. Bubbly and witty with a keen sense of fashion, Chung is excellent, exhibiting the eternally bright spirit that has always made her such a darling for the posh British crowd. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about her co-host, Tan France. While the Queer Eye "fashion expert" isn't lacking for energy, he often comes off as trying too hard, preventing him from ever truly forming a bond with the audience.
Project Runway (7/10): When Project Runway announced that Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum would be parting ways with the show, it seemed like a death knell. How could this show possibly go on without the two personalities that built it from the ground up? Two seasons on, it's clear that was a false alarm — it's been mostly business as usual, with Karlie Kloss even stepping in for Klum and season four winner (and the show's most successful contestant) Christian Siriano replacing Gunn as mentor. Still, like Next, the "new" Runway has largely survived on the strength of one host (Siriano), while the other (Kloss) has simply rested on being...just okay. Thankfully, while Kloss doesn't possess Klum's essential charm, the supermodel has certainly grown more comfortable as the seasons have gone by. Who knows? Maybe season 20 will be her year!
Making The Cut (10/10): A wise man once said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Which is why it's hard to argue that any hosts can compete with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, who formed the blueprint for the entire reality design competition genre when they launched Project Runway back in 2004. As a host, Klum is the epitome of class and poise. As mentor, Gunn is irreplaceable, unafraid of letting designers know the cold hard truth about their designs but visibly desperate to use his years of expertise to help anyone who's willing to listen and learn. Though Making the Cut is not Project Runway 2.0, the collective strengths of these two hosts have clearly stood the test of time. If anything, the experience of switching networks to create something new from scratch has only bonded the pair together even more.
Main Judges and Guest Judges
Next In Fashion (8/10): While most competition shows have a dedicated judges panel and a rotating cast of celebrity guest judges, Next In Fashion took a different approach, forgoing the former and opting only for the latter. In some ways, this was good, especially since Next sought out guest judges that actually knew about fashion — mostly designers with proven success, like Christopher Kane, Tommy Hilfiger, Philip Lim, or Prabal Gurung. But in other ways, this strategy left something missing. Without judges that followed these designers from beginning to end, it was hard to track gradual progress, as one-time guest judges can only judge based on what they see in front of them that week. The closest thing the show had was Instagram's Director of Fashion Partnerships, Eva Chen, who judged several episodes and brought a fresh perspective by frequently reminding the designers how important it was for their looks to translate on social media. Unfortunately, her appearances only made me wish she was there every week instead.
Project Runway (8.5/10): Project Runway's judges panel has fluctuated a lot since the show's inception, but its most recent slate — featuring Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia, designer Brandon Maxwell, and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth — is undeniably one of its strongest. Not only are each of these judges highly knowledgeable about fashion, but together, they also form an eclectic mix of very different tastes, which comes in handy when it's time to critique potentially divisive looks. In many ways, this trio is the brightest spot of this ever-changing show. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the show's guest judges. It was exciting to see someone as influential as Serena Williams judging the finale, just as it was great to see model Paloma Elsesser advocating for clothes that flatter all body types or Thom Browne judging tuxedos. But too often, Project Runway seems content to book any celebrity so long as they're a recognizable name, regardless of their (lack of) connection to fashion. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as much as the next person. But do I really trust Rachel Brosnahan's opinion on avant garde gowns? (The answer is no.)
Making The Cut (9/10): When your main judges include supermodel Naomi Campbell, former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, The Simple Life's Nicole Richie, and top designer Joseph Altuzarra, it's easy to think you don't need anyone else. And while this panel is indeed excellent — consistently offering honest critiques and worthwhile suggestions for improvement — the show is ultimately brought down by taking the anti-Next approach and opting to forgo guest judges completely. Sure, Italian fashion influencer Chiara Ferragni steps up in the back-half of the season, but only as a permanent replacement for Roitfeld. While subsequent episodes may surprise me by including some true guest judge appearances, for now, I can't help but crave some fresh opinions. Nevertheless, it's Naomi Fucking Campbell. Naturally, I still stan.
Making The Cut (6/10): In the six episodes of Making the Cut provided to critics, one thing I found myself sorely missing was drama. While Naomi Campbell does give a few impassioned speeches reminiscent of her classic "Don't compare yourself to me" rant to contestants that present shoddy work, overall, there is a lack of high-pressure chaos (an essential for any good reality TV show). In its place is a noticeable relaxedness, defined by an atmosphere that clearly values creativity more than insurmountable stakes (the contestants are literally given seamstresses to finish their work up for them overnight) — which, granted, is great for the designers, but not necessarily enjoyable for viewers at home in search of a bit more spice.
Project Runway (8.5/10): After 18 seasons on air, you'd think Project Runway had exhausted its well of drama. We've never met a better reality TV villain than season one's Wendy Pepper, nor have we had a moment more batshit than Zulema Griffin making three models compete in a walk-off before settling on which one to use. Yet somehow, even at this late stage in its run, Runway still delivers. This season provided Dayoung Kim's decision to leave the competition after passing out backstage, Victoria Cocieru's diva-ish threat to quit just because she struggled in one challenge, and several moments when Nina Garcia accused Sergio Guadarrama of plagiarizing other designers. Plus, who could ever forget the comeback of the century that came when Tyler Neasloney responded to Brandon Maxwell's snarky critique of "I cannot see Karlie wearing it anywhere, honestly," with, "Not even to dinner with the Kushners?" TV gold!
Next In Fashion (9/10): It may only be March, but I'll say it now: The moment Kerby Jean-Raymond dramatically walked off set after refusing to eliminate two Black designers (for a streetwear challenge, at that) — huffing as he says, "I need to leave the room...I'm really mad" — will go down as one of my favorite TV moments of the entire year. I rewound it at least three times after seeing it, and since then, not a single day has gone by where I haven't reflected on it. This was Drama with a capital-D. You can't pay for mess this juicy. This scene alone would have warranted Next In Fashion's top placement in this category, but the show also managed to provide even more than that — not least of which was their decision to give the finalists only three days to design their ten-look finale collection. Talk about working under pressure...
Next In Fashion (7/10): There's something quite bold about pairing your contestants off and keeping them like this for more than half your season, but Next In Fashion is nothing if not bold. Unfortunately, this decision brought the show down a few pegs: while it allowed for more competitors (18 spread over ten episodes), it served as a disservice for those who never got to display their individual skills. While collaboration is a key aspect of running any fashion business, there is something to be said for having your own aesthetic, and waiting until episode seven to see them wasn't the best gauge of the cast's individual talent. Luckily, the show has other elements that make for a fun viewing experience, such as the fresh idea to offer a behind-the-scenes look at how runways are built from the ground-up (which, unlike Project Runway, does change with each challenge) or the lighthearted weekly "Tricks" and "Tips" segments, where Chung and France take turns offering advice about topics that range from what underwear to wear to how best to match your denim in a Canadian tuxedo.
Making The Cut (7/10): It's funny to imagine Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn figuring out how to format a show in a way that doesn't ape too heavily from the show they were responsible for popularizing. Nevertheless, Making The Cut does an admirable job of taking a familiar concept and making it feel somewhat new — most notably by sprinkling each episode with segments that invite viewers to experience these different locales alongside the contestants. The runways are beautifully shot (in places like the Eiffel Tower or The Louvre, no less), and unlike Runway and Next, viewers actually get to hear the judges' opinions on the looks as they go down the runway instead of waiting until final critiques. However, Making The Cut also makes the egregious decision to squeeze in several "Date Night" segments that simply show Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn frollicking around whatever city they happen to be in, doing mindless activities like fencing or performing with the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Given that this show should be focused on the designers who are competing, this move feels a bit self-indulgent, capitalizing on the appealing return of Heidi and Tim to our TV screens in a way that feels annoyingly meta.
Project Runway (9/10): Sometimes, longevity makes all the difference, and when it comes to how these shows move through each episode, Project Runway feels tight and seamless where the others flounder. Even with its huge 90-minute episodes, at no point does Project Runway appear to lag. There is a briskness that flows through each segment: each week, viewers can expect to see designers working, rushing to complete their looks, showing them on the runway, and ultimately, getting judged. Sure, this Bravo production has the added benefit of ironing out its kinks over 18 consecutive seasons, but that doesn't change the fact that watching Project Runway feels much smoother than watching either Next In Fashion or Making The Cut.
Third Place: Next In Fashion (30 points): While Netflix does an admirable job of tweaking Project Runway's formula just slightly enough to prevent it from feeling like a retread, its lack of a judges panel and frustrating host choice in Tan France ultimately lands it in last place.
Second Place: Making The Cut (32 points): Buoyed by the star-power of their two hosts and the bottomless pockets of their creator, Making The Cut may be the last to debut, but it's certainly not the worst show in the bunch. With a little more drama, it could have even won the whole thing.
First Place: (33 points): Taking the lead by only one point, Project Runway barely came out on top, but deserves its first-place spot nonetheless. While it's easy to imagine both Next In Fashion and Making The Cut fine-tuning the elements that brought them down in their respective debut seasons, for now, it's clear that, after 16 years and 18 seasons on air, Project Runway is still at the front of the pack. You can't compete with the original, I guess.