Project Runway: The Complete First Season

On the surface, a series about dressmaking promises to have about as much flexibility as a Vivienne Westwood corset. And yes, it borrows compulsively from other every other reality production and has a host that seems to be sleepwalking through her part, but beneath the wool of its knockoff premise, Project Runway reveals a singular vision: that there's something irresistible about talented people tragically invested in what they do. Stir emaciated models, too much booze and cigarettes into the mix and you have a show that is as seductive as a sale at Holts. Set primarily in the basement of the workrooms of New York city's Parsons School of Design, Project Runway takes viewers inside the art of couture, where the goal is as much to be seen as worn. Hemmed in by merciless deadlines, tight budgets, fraying nerves and occasionally loopy project specifications, 12 designers, chosen from across the U.S., vie for the chance to sell their wares on a bigger stage at New York City's Fall Fashion Week, 2005. The winner also earns an apprenticeship at the Banana Republic's design studio, as well as the tidy sum of $100,000, which can bedazzle a lot of T-shirts. On its original run on Bravo!, the network splashed the show's host, supermodel Heidi Klum, on every add promoting the series (she is, in fact, front and centre on the DVD cover) and though the task ultimately falls to her to pronounce the loser definitively "out," it is the designers who are front and centre in this production, a focus that Klum, as executive producer and the brain-child behind the series(!), insisted upon. Unlike the bigger network productions, Runway manages to preserve a documentary feel despite The Apprentice-style antics that are at its core. Heavyweights industry insiders — designer Michael Kors and Elle Magazine's Nina Garcia are regulars, cast in the roles of American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul — lend an air of legitimacy to the proceedings and help enforce the workmanship elements that keep the show from dropping into bitchiness (although, prepare yourself for the occasional "girl fight"). For viewers hooked by the original airing, there are still plenty of morsels to chew on, including behind-the-"seams" and "Wear"-Are-They-Now segments that, despite their cheesy re-titling, are highly entertaining. For newbies, well, there's the show, and mark my words, never has sewing seemed more filled with portent. Plus: a biographical gallery of the designers, French and Spanish subtitles and Dolby Digital Sound. (Mirimax)