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July 19th, 2006 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

Homo Work

Gay designers strut their stuff on Project Runway.

     
Tags:
"Student work."

That's how Tim Gunn, the fashion design chair at Parsons School of Design, appraised many applicant offerings on Bravo's latest edition of Project Runway. As the show's mensch/mentor, Gunn must pick 15 fashion designers (from thousands of Marc Jacobs wannabes) who will vie for a chance to strut at NYC's "Fashion Week." Gunn surveys the room, sniffs as if someone's just farted, and sums up the sweat of unknown designers—in his own kind way—as unsteamed crap. The scene, and the rest of the third season's first two episodes, is nothing short of fabulous.

Why has PR become my favorite "real-i-tv" show? Maybe it's the chance to see artists create rather than having to watch the dreck on America's Got Talent balance knives while standing on stilettos. Other than Monster Garage, I don't know of a show that does the "creating thing" half as well. (Who knew watching someone sew could be compelling?)

It may also have something to do with PR's other selling point: its undeniable gay factor. Project Runway is the gayest show on television that doesn't spend a lot of time talking about how "gay" it is. Unlike other reality shit-coms, such as Big Brother, where token homos are cast to provide tension and comic relief, or makeover shows like Queer Eye, where fairy gayfathers spray bons mots at freaked-out straight folk who just want to be on TV, PR consists primarily of queer boys, both in front of the scissors (such as Gunn) and behind, who actually want to succeed in a real, live business. Well, except for host Heidi Klum. She's a Germanic supermodel from another galaxy.

Last season, on PR2, there were seven gay guys. And PR3 looks to have at least five. Considering the subject matter, it's no surprise. After all, this is fashion with a capital "F," the bastion of nelly boys such as The Devil Wears Prada's "Nigel" (Stanley Tucci), whose quip-filled cliché about not wanting to play ball so he could scour a women's fashion mag cuts to the core of this show's fag-base.

Now, I've never quite figured out why so many gay men want to be fashion designers (or sign-language interpreters or Olympic divers), but that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that this is one place—like Wonder Woman's famed Paradise Island—where an often subservient class, in this case gay men, can call the shots.

Think about it. Where else could PR1's prissy Austin Scarlett or PR2's over-the-top Santino Rice do what they do (scream, fight and sew) with such relish—and succeed? This season is no different. The battle royale for fashion queen looks currently like it's a three-way contest between the faux-accented Malan, the curiously coiffed Kayne and gay-boy-next-door Robert, who incidentally is a real-life designer for Mattel's Barbie doll. I can't wait to see the kind of catfight these dudes will stitch together.

So what if it's student work? This is one class I plan on watching for a long time.


Project Runway appears on Bravo, Wednesdays at 10 pm.
 
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