Making the Cut premiered with an abundance of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn energy, and a sense that it was trying to become something bigger and new. Everything was bigger and bolder, from the visuals to the locations (Paris!).
In episodes 3 and 4, though, Making the Cut seemed to lose its nerve, reverting to two very Project Runway-ish challenges, starting with a team challenge. Because the contestants didn’t do all that well (surprise!) the judges decided they had no passion. And then Tim and Heidi came up with the idea of a one-day, no-shopping challenge, during which contestants had no ability to work with a seamstress.
For a show that has insisted it’s about finding the next global fashion brand, and is absolutely not a sewing competition—well, it became a sewing competition. And to top everything off, one contestant, Josh Hupper, effectively quit, declaring he was done before the judges could let him go: “I’m really not sure I should stay, actually. I think it’s probably time for me to head out,” he said.
In episode three, Tim and Heidi showed the designers their next spectacular runway location: along the Seine. (The way the runways change every episode, both in location and presentation, is definitely one of the Making the Cut’s best features.)
“These collaborations—or collabs, as you like to say—can expand your reach, and bring a new audience, and cut through the noise,” Tim Gunn told the designers.
But even Tim Gunn seemed resigned to this shift: “I wouldn’t like it either! But we’re doing it,” he told them. “The very basic concept of working with other people and brands is key to running a successful business.”
In an interview, Will said, “historically, creative types don’t like to work together,” which is why, of course, reality TV competitions do this all the time: conflict!
Heidi and Tim paired the designers. Sander and Sabato—the youngest and oldest contestants on Making the Cut—formed an immediate bond, complete with cute nicknames for each other, Bébé and Papi, and they eventually won with their coat dress, which has already sold out.
At the start of episode four, Tim Gunn told Heidi Klum, “These designers are so complacent. Who’s putting up a fight?” Then he said: “We need to wake them up.” They did that by having the designers create a new outfit out of previously-purchased fabric in just seven hours.
To quote Jonny, who actually eventually won with his striped midi dress, which is also sold out, “This assignment is stupid crazy.”
I talked to him about that “stupid crazy” challenge and how he won it, and to Sabato and Sander about their collaboration.
Sander Bos: “Who doesn’t love drama? I was there for it”
Sander did not expect a collaboration challenge—at all. “Well, I didn’t watch Project Runway, so I wasn’t really prepared for it, to be honest,” he told me.
As to the general idea of working with another designer, he said “collaboration is very, very important, especially in this industry. It can do a lot for you, but it can also really overpower you.” Sander thinks it makes sense “only when you’re ready to collaborate, which means that you completely understand your own aesthetic.”
He said he was “happy about” being paired up with Sabato. “We definitely had a connection already before we were paired together,” Sander said. “Honestly, his runway had been one of my favorites up to that point.”
Sabato has “a very strong vision: it’s very clear, it’s very pure—something maybe that I don’t really always succeed at,” Sander laughed. “I have a lot more crazy things to push out of me until I think that I get to his adult and sophisticated level of design.”
Their nicknames for each other were part of a wider running joke between the designers. “You know how reality TV is: you wait a lot of hours in the back room, and I had nothing else to do but give everybody nicknames,” Sander said.
All the designers got along well, he added, saying there was “this kind of relaxed bond between everybody. I don’t think we took it too seriously, amongst each other. You know what I mean? I personally didn’t I didn’t really feel this competition vibe.”
During the challenge, Sabato made a huge mistake. While the pairs of designers had access to two seamstresses, Sabato put all their materials in one bag, meaning it was assigned to just one seamstress, who couldn’t complete all the world.
But Sander reacted incredibly calmly when they discovered what happened. I asked him why it didn’t freak him out—I think anyone would have understood if he’d been upset.
“[Sabato] was like, Babe, I fucked up, and I was like, Okay. I thought about A) it could have been me, because I’m the most uncoordinated mess you’ll ever meet in your life, and B) I also didn’t realize that we needed to put it into two bags,” Sander said.
“Everybody makes mistakes. And there was no point that yelling or getting mad. I would rather take that energy and put it into the work and I really wanted us to win this challenge.”
The episode showed Sabato going upstairs to relax while Sander worked hard at sewing, but Sander said it’s not accurate to suggest that he did all the work while Sabato did nothing. “We divided our tasks. We know what we were good at. He was more in control of the aesthetic,” Sander said. “I was mostly sewing because that’s my best abilities; he cut all of the fabric, and once the fabric is cut,” there’s nothing else to do.
Sabato “definitely pulled this weight in this collaboration,” Sander said. “And I think that was just kind of to make it more, you know, dramatic. I mean, who doesn’t love drama? I was there for it. I love it.”
Sabato Russo: “My mind was in mourning”
“I had a feeling that it was going to happen,” Sabato said of a possible team challenge, and he was ready for it. “I’m used to working with teams except for the last few years, because I have my own business, so I do a lot of things by myself. But I am a creative director, so I know [how] to work with a team of people.”
But he was thrilled to be paired with Sander: “Me and Sander, we just looked at each other and we just smiled. Sander is a very young, free spirit, but he has a lot of technical skill and he’s super-creative.”
“Sander being the youngest and me being the oldest, it worked out,” Sabato added.
As to the editing that suggested he was relaxing while Sander was working—which you can read Sander’s thoughts about above— “they’re gonna show what they want,” Sabato said. “I just went upstairs to have a coffee and I lay down for a minute. I mean, it was not five minutes, and then I went downstairs.”
He pointed out, like Sander did, that the two designers split the tasks, and that he did his part after his short break. “I went downstairs and we worked our asses off. Because of my mistake [with the seamstress], I had to sew everything by hand while Sander was doing all of the main stitching.” Sabato also went out to buy more fabric.
During the competition, Sabato had a lot going on internally. “I wasn’t really myself,” he told me. “I want this to be clear because I almost didn’t come, because four days before we left for the show, my mother passed away.”
“I had to fight that, in a sense. It was with me constantly,” he said, but added that “I’m very glad I did” the show.
When the judges called Sander and Sabato up, Sabato said he wasn’t sure if they were going to win or not. “My mind was in mourning, you know. And I was really not focusing. I did focus, but I had to make an effort,” Sabato said. “To be honest, I thought I was gonna win the second challenge. But I didn’t have an expectation. I didn’t. I normally don’t.”
While they were thrilled with the win and wanted to celebrate with each other, “we didn’t have time,” Sabato said, “because the same night they told us about the next challenge the next morning.”
But, he added, “we did an incredible work and, in the end, we are still close friends. There is a huge age difference, but we respect each other.”
Jonny Cota: “I went into the competition with quite a bit of confidence, and got beat down”
Jonny Cota won the craziest challenge on Making the Cut so far: a one-day, one-dress challenge that was basically punishment for the team challenge that disappointed the judges and Tim Gunn.
Jonny told me that the team challenge “process felt disastrous to a lot of us. I think that we have a lot of strong personalities and when trying to work together, the workroom felt more tense than ever before. But I thought the outcome of most people’s collaborations was pretty solid.”
His collaboration with Megan resulted in “the perfect combination of Megan and myself,” Jonny told me. “We had some really tense moments getting to that point, and we almost killed each other. But sometimes tension creates really beautiful outcomes. And I’m really proud of what we did.”
While Jonny “expected a team challenge,” and said “you always have to be ready to work with other people,” he also said that “to be honest, we didn’t really know each other. Episode three, we barely knew each other. So it was a curveball.”
But the bigger curveball was coming. “When Tim announced that surprise challenge, we were all so exhausted. I was at the end of my rope, and I was like, Really, Tim, really? And going into that challenge, I was scared, but within 20 minutes,” he said he told himself, “this is your time to rise above. It ended up being a great challenge for me.”
The episode gave a lot of attention to how Jonny used striped fabric that everyone associated with Megan’s aesthetic, but he wasn’t worried about that. “I knew in my head mine would look nothing like Megan’s,” he said. “I’m such a different designer. I knew what i was going to create with it.”
“It was the best fabric; it was the best option,” he said. “I really had to keep silencing the critiques around me from all the designers and Tim, and just move forward with my plan.”
The dress ended up winning, but Jonny didn’t expect that. “I went into the competition with quite a bit of confidence, and got beat down over and over and over,” he told me. “So even though I knew my dress was strong, to be honest, I had no idea why they were calling me up there. I didn’t think I was going home, but the win caught me by surprise. I was thrilled.”