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Project Runway

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What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show is a contest, and there's some unsportsmanlike behavior -- which the cameras tend to linger on. But you can also take away positive messages about working hard and being creative.

Positive role models

While the contestants certainly aren't uniformly well behaved or nice to each other, they all try very hard to win and demonstrate resourcefulness and creativity as they do so.

Not applicable

Models are seen being fitted in outfits that can be very skimpy (including lingerie).


Occasional profanity such as "hell" or references to sex.


Sponsors' products are mentioned frequently. Sponsors have included TRESemme, Garnier,, Piper Lime, Macy's, and Elle and Marie Claire magazines.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Designers are seen drinking and smoking cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this popular reality contest includes scenes in which models are fitted into skimpy clothes. Designers drink and smoke and use mild profanity like "hell." The contestants are all motivated and creative, but they can also be two-faced and gossipy about their fellow competitors. Instead of focusing on the creative process, the show tends to highlight prima donna personalities and unprofessional behavior.

What's the story?

In PROJECT RUNWAY, more than a dozen designers -- ranging from instructors at fashion schools to small-time designers with their own businesses to very young recent grads -- compete in weekly design challenges. The finalists then create their own lines to present at New York's Fashion Week. The winner gets money, a magazine fashion spread, and other prizes. Hostess/executive producer Heidi Klum meets with the designers when their challenges are announced and on the runway when their pieces are judged by famous designers, magazine fashion editors, and other celebrity guests. Tim Gunn, head of the Parsons School for Design, is the liaison to the designers and guides them through their challenges.

Is it any good?


Watching the designers create their pieces in incredibly short amounts of time with small budgets -- and usually in the midst of hysteria a-- is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, Project Runway doesn't really linger on the design process (sketching, selecting fabric and materials, cutting, pinning, measuring, sewing, detailing). Instead, the cameras tend to focus on the drama between the contestants' over-achieving, arrogant personalities as the designers scramble to finish their challenges (and cut each other down). Then viewers watch as the competitors' unique designs are displayed on the super-thin bodies of aspiring models. Is this what we want teens to be thinking is real?

It's easy to get sucked into this admittedly addictive show. For kids serious about design, it offers a peek into the nasty side of the fashion industry -- what's behind the glitz and glitter and bling. But beware: This show is a very slippery slope and hard to turn off once you start.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the unglamorous side of the fashion world. How much education, hard work, and risk does it take to become a designer?

  • Does being a worthy competitor mean foregoing any gestures of cooperation?

TV details

Premiere date:December 1, 2004
Cast:Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Project Runway was written by

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Adult Written bylifeisminty April 9, 2008
This program is extremely addictive and very entertaining. I suppose commercialism and unprofessionalism by the contestants are the only issues here, but those can be excellent springboards for dialogue with younger viewers (the show does have an avid fanbase with young teens, you know.) However, creativity and hard work are also reinforced as important traits, which I feel is a good message to put across. I think the whole family should watch together.
Adult Written byprojectrunwayfan April 9, 2008
Kid, 11 years old September 13, 2012

great but lots of ads

This show is an amazing look into the fashion industry, but has some flaws-lots of distracting drama, and most of all, LOTS of consumerism. Every five seconds mentions some company which can help the designers. Over all, very addictive and worth watching.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism