There’s a scene in 24 Hour Catwalk where a contestant is eliminated for not following the rules. Upon his departure, he faithfully delivers one of reality TV’s most reliable tropes: “I’m not happy. I’m not sad. It is what it is.” That seems to sum up the show: it is what it is. Another inessential spinoff of Project Runway, a show whose spinoffs have been delivering diminishing returns for years now, so what do you expect?
Catwalk delivers the hectic atmosphere of the PR fashion show finale but without the pesky elements of the designers having time to make anything good, the audience’s familiarity with the contestants or that famous crabby drag and bore, Tim Gunn. If Project Runway All Stars made you miss regular Project Runway, 24 Hour Catwalk will make you miss Project Runway All Stars because at least on that show you presumably already know and love a few of the contestants, who have had a proven track record of making clothes that somebody out there would conceivably wear. Even host Alexa Chung seems to be (unintentionally) parroting some of Heidi Klum’s vocal inflections as she speaks to the contestants, which just adds to the sense that nobody was trying too hard when it came to this show.
Catwalk begins with a Quickfire-type challenge, as four designers are asked to open a mystery trunk and create a look based on what they find in there with help from a “fabric closet.” The designers have two hours to work on this project and as they do, they shout “How are you doing over there?” to each other in the manner of Project Runway, but the conceit, along with the “I-just-met-her-but-I-hate-her” accompanying ‘tudes, rings false and seems staged.
In tonight’s case the designers are asked to make an outfit out of a ‘70’s-style leisure suit. Two of the designers craft items that look inspired by trash bags, one fails to follow the rules and then there’s Richard, whose look the judges (Cynthia Rowley, I expected more from you!) don’t care for, but at least it doesn’t look like garbage. Just like that, after the challenge, two contestants are removed and it’s down to two: middle-aged toughie JoAnn and kilt-wearing Richard who has a hard time making it sound like he’s not reading his narration off a chalkboard.
Then the contestants are asked to look into a trunk again and use what they find to create three looks in 24 hours. In this case, JoAnn and Richard need to make looks inspired by three issues of the New York Times from three different decades. They also need to include the actual paper as part of the outfit, IE we have two of Project Runway’s most warmed-over challenges mashed together. “Newspaper? You’ve got to be kidding me,” is Richard’s completely spontaneous-sounding soundbite. “The problem with working with newspaper is that it is very delicate and can tear easily.”
The contestants each receive the help of three professional sewers, none of whom are very interesting except for a woman named JustRaymona who is Justnothaving any of Richard’s nonsense. “It makes me wonder: is she capable of doing this? I don’t know,” Richard ponders about her.
The general tone of the runway challenge should be familiar to anyone who has ever seen the group challenges on Project Runway, except on Catwalk the designers all name their looks things like “Bianca” and “Diana,” which comes off as silly and bush league in this context.
Eventually the designers show their looks in a runway show. I don’t know if it was the time constraints or the designers themselves but I will generously say that about a third of the looks were not hot-ass-messes. Boobs were hanging out, one model was wrapped in a long iridescent red piece of cloth like a Christmas present and one looked like she was wearing Tom Waits’ straitjacket from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The judges pick a winner but I have a theory that they didn’t actually like the clothes they were judging. They used terms to describe the winning line like “Visual feast” or “ I admire JoAnn’s dedication to her craft” or “She really went for it.” Not a lot of “That is gorgeous: I want to wear it right now!” (Yes, by the way, JoAnn wins. And we start all over with four contestants next week. I think. )
Due to its unoriginal premise and failure to summon television gold from its contestants (thus far) Catwalk is not an easy show to pay close attention to. If you have a large stack of magazines and you haven’t worked your way through it completely after finishing Project Runway All Stars, then by all means, keep Catwalk on in the background. But for a show about how fashion moves so fast, this show moves pretty slowly.
—Alexa Chung, you are on American soil now. You will pronounce “Herbal” the right way!
—Alexa Chung, brush your hair!
—When Ron predicted the judges would react to his look by saying “Ron I love it. It’s something Michelle Obama would wear,” I felt sad.