Posted : 2013-03-19 19:16
Updated : 2013-03-19 19:16

Lights, camera, sew!

In its special "All Star'' series, Project Runway Korea invited back 12 eliminated contestants from the first four seasons for a shot at redemption.
/ Courtesy of OnStyle

Annually popular Project Runway Korea off to bright start in new season

By Kwon Mee-yoo

While Korea has been invaded by imported reality shows in recent years, it could be argued that the localized version of Project Runway is the best of the pack.

The fashion-designer competition series was a sleeper hit in its first season in 2009 and its audience numbers have been steadily increasing since, perhaps not a surprise in a look-obsessed country where cosmetic surgeries are talked of as casually as hair coloring.

Even for the fashion illiterate, Project Runway Korea has been an entertaining show. It effectively fed off the pressure of young designers thrown in an impossible environment that forces them to weave magic with restricted time and materials, their fate determined on a weekly basis by a snarky panel of judges who invent new insults every time.

While OnStyle, a cable channel dedicated to fashion and lifestyle, also airs the original Project Runway series, which first aired in the United States in 2004, it says that the Korean version has been significantly more popular with viewers.

OnStyle added a new tweak to Project Runway Korea's fifth season, which premiered earlier this month, recalling 12 eliminated contestants from the first four seasons for a shot at redemption. The high viewer ratings for the first two episodes suggest the gamble is working.

''It seems that viewers feel more familiar and empathy for Korean designers who speak the same language and share the same culture,'' said Won Seol-ran, an OnStyle official.

''The show was franchised in over 20 countries, but Korea is one of the most successful localizations. Koreans love reality competition programs and Project Runway Korea adds a dash of high fashion.''

It seems that the show has been growing along with its host Lee So-ra, the supermodel-turned-emcee who was first ridiculed for her verbal mistakes in the first season. Now she looks a lot more comfortable in rating contestants' designs and debating with judges as well as repeating her weekly line, ''progressive designs are applauded; banal designs are turned away.''

''I respect the passion of the contestants who achieve their goals in such a tight time and pressured environment," Lee said in a recent press event for Season 5.

"The designers have grown up so much after leaving the show. Project Runways is all about clothes and it will be more interesting this season."

Project Runway Korea now appears to be becoming an international product in its own right. The show won the ''best adaptation of existing format'' category on the 2010 Asian Television Awards and has been garnering increasing interest from Asian viewers for its mission to reflect Korean trends and culture.

The contestants are often required to create garments inspired by architecture in Seoul or patterns that genuinely represent an image of Korea.

During the fourth season, the designers were challenged to create a uniform for the Korean team for the 2013 PyeongChang Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Rapper Tiger JK and his wife Yoon Mi-rae, an R&B singer, once appeared on the show and the contestants competed to design Yoon's wedding dress.

"I love watching costumes designed by Project Runway participants. I am not a creative kind of person and it is amazing to see the designers make such unique costumes in just two days," Jay Kim, a fan of the reality show said.

In the first episode aired on March 9, the contestants were asked to redo the mission that they were eliminated. Participant Lee Myoung-sin, who ranked sixth in the first season and now owns her brand low classic, won the episode by creating a bow blouse for ballet dancers.

The challenge got more complex for the second episode, as they were asked to add a modern twist to Disney princess characters in Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" to Rapunzel from "Tangled." Jo A-ra, a season 4 contestant, interpreted the Snow White's innocent look in a dress with details from bustier and garter belt and won the episode.

""Project Runway Korea All Stars" is broadcasted on Saturdays at 11 p.m. on OnStyle. Bazaar's Jeon Mi-kyung and designer Chung Ku-ho this season's judges along with Lee and ANDY & DEBB designer Kim Seok-won will serve as a mentor to the designers for the All Stars season.

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