A DIY "Project Runway" Tour
Our guide to all things "Project Runway": great fashion boutiques, bars, and activities in New York City, plus an interactive map.
On the popular Emmy-nominated show Project Runway, 15 up-and-coming designers compete in weekly challenges for the chance to show their collections during New York's Fall Fashion Week.
It's a fascinating peek inside the fashion world and the creative process with all of the juicy backstabbing, unexpected surprises, and theatrics you'd expect from reality TV. And, of course, there's its endearing breakout star, Tim Gunn.
The Budget Travel office is in the midst of the Garment District (one lucky staffer spotted Gunn getting coffee next door), and we know that fashion in New York doesn't have to be expensive. We've rounded up a guide to 10 Project Runway-related sights, among them, alum Emmett McCarthy's downtown boutique, trendy bars where contestants partied, and the go-to Garment District source for fabrics.
You'll also find our 10 New York fashion favorites, including spots for vintage shoes and make-your-own jewelry, as well as a Q&A with Tim Gunn, sample-sale tips, and an interactive city map—all you need to make it work!
Season four's designers, whom Gunn has declared the strongest group yet, gathered here for their first, rather uninspired challenge: They each had to choose from a $50,000 assortment of premium fabrics and design an outfit that expresses who they are as designers. At the end of the season, the lucky finalists will return to the park—along with bold-face designers, models, and fashionistas—to show their collections under the white tents of Fashion Week. The catwalks may be closed to the public, but we'd suggest avoiding the scene (and the jacked-up hotel rates) anyway. Instead, swing by in winter for holiday markets and free ice-skating, or pack a picnic and a blanket for Monday night summer movie screenings. Between 40th and 42nd Sts. and Fifth and Sixth Aves., 212/768-4242, bryantpark.org.
An offshoot of the original Buddha Bar in Paris, this flamboyant restaurant/lounge/sushi bar in the Meatpacking District played host to the third season's premiere party. A giant black lacquer Buddha looked on while contestants and glitterati threw back cocktails such as the Komodo Dragon: Level vodka, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, Kahlua, Frangelico, and espresso ($15). Later in the season, Laura, Kayne, Jeffery, Uli, and Michael met at another hotspot, Pink Elephant, where they were less than thrilled to learn that two auf'ed designers (Angela and Vincent) would be returning to compete at crafting a black and white cocktail dress. Buddha Bar, 25 Little W. 12th St., 212/647-7314, buddha-bar.com; Pink Elephant, 527 W. 27th St., 212/463-0000, pinkelephant.com, closed Sunday to Tuesday.
Emmett McCarthy EMc2
Cut from season two, McCarthy went on to open this boutique in Nolita, one of the city's hippest shopping destinations. His sophisticated women's clothes come with a hefty price tag: A cashmere Empire-waist coat is $885, and a festive little black dress with silver metallic pinstripes and a belt goes for $575. McCarthy has brought Project Runway alums to the store for trunk shows, and he stocks designs by season two's Kara Janx and Chloe Dao. A talking Tim Gunn bobblehead doll makes a cheeky, affordable accessory ($25). 240 Elizabeth St., 212/431-4134, emmettmccarthy.com.
Mood Designer Fabrics
Budding and seasoned designers alike rely on Mood's selection of fabrics (from alpaca wool to velvet) as well as leathers, fringes, and trimmings. Even the mannequins are for sale. The 40,000-square-foot mega-store purchases its inventory from the leftovers of Roberto Cavalli, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, and other fashion luminaries. Project Runway contestants drop in regularly to pick up materials, and, during a season three challenge, teammates Vincent and Angela bickered over earth-toned fabrics for a Miss Universe gown. Silks run anywhere from $6 to $70 per yard. 225 W. 37th St., 3rd Fl., 212/730-5003, moodfabrics.com, closed Saturday.
Tavern on the Green
An al fresco champagne brunch at this classic Central Park restaurant reunited season three's designers with their mothers and sisters. (Even judge Michael Kors's look-alike mother, Joan, showed up.) They were enlisted as models for a challenge in which the designers had to style a look for the everyday woman. Laura let slip over brunch that she was pregnant for the sixth time, and the women swapped photos and stories of the designers as kids. Central Park at W. 67th St., 212/873-3200, tavernonthegreen.com.