On a Saturday afternoon at Mood Designer Fabrics, spirits are hardly as light as the L.A. store's yellow silk and baby blue taffeta when talk turns to " Project Runway," which was supposed to have started its sixth season Jan. 20. It feels more like black muslin here -- dark and unyielding.
"I'm sad. My husband watched it. My card group watched it," says Melanie Murphy of Thousand Oaks, as she squints suspiciously at some green tulle that may become part of the five bridesmaids dresses she's making for her older daughter's wedding. She leans in and whispers, "And I don't think I can get my husband to watch a new fashion show."
Her younger daughter, Emma, 18, nods and glumly adds: "We all used to fight about the personalities and the challenges. It was fun."
Ah, those were the days, er, Wednesday nights. "Project Runway" made its entrance on Dec. 1, 2004, and went on to become a TV mainstay for the most eclectic of masses, with an audience exceeding 5 million for some episodes. Burgeoning fashion designers and logo addicts loved it, natch. But so did schoolteachers and accountants and burly firemen, who, reports had it, quickly took to Season 4 winner Christian Siriano's signature snide quip, "hot, tranny mess."
Now, with the show entangled in a heated legal imbroglio, die-hard fans are scrambling to darn the hole left in their ritual of tuning in to see Tim Gunn grimace at slowpoke contestants. And it doesn't help matters to know that the sixth season was shot right here in Los Angeles -- a first -- which makes the anticipation all the more acute.
But in true "Project Runway" spirit, some fanatics are designing creative ways to make it work without new episodes.
Take Kevin Jones, costume historian for the museum at downtown's Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. He plans to throw a "Project Runway" party this weekend by rerunning Season 3 or 4 (his favorites) on Saturday. "We're going to play games and make sketches during the commercials and between episodes," he says, and even lists the supplies -- crayons and markers and construction paper -- he will have on hand. Oh, and there will be pizza and sushi too.
Jones sounds aggressively upbeat, like someone who's just been dumped and refuses to admit he misses his ex. But then he gets wistful for the good times he had with past seasons. "I used to eat a bowl of Neapolitan ice cream while I watched every week," he says with a sigh. "I would miss work to get home in time."
Over at Blogging Project Runway (bloggingprojectrunway.blogspot.com/), which received more than a million hits a month during Season 3, founder Laura Kluvo has a Plan B too. "We have five seasons' worth of designers' careers to follow," she chirps, brightly. (Kluvo recently posted about actress Katrina Bowden wearing a Siriano frock to the Screen Actors Guild Awards.) But don't try to persuade this "hobby seamstress" and mother of five to nibble on the other fashion TV fare out there. "I tried ' Stylista' and those model shows. No way. Nothing compares."
Still, the woefully addicted are resourceful. Kluvo watches "Project Runway Canada," hosted by glamazon Iman, and "Project Runway Philippines." "It's a way to get your fill," she says. "But you have to watch them on YouTube." Episodes of "Project Runway Australia" average anywhere from 8,000 to 22,000 hits, while its Filipino counterpart gets about 8,200 hits per show.
When it first leaked in May that "Project Runway" was heading west, local devotees rejoiced. The exposure would highlight L.A. as a veritable fashion vortex and hey, wouldn't it be fierce to see contestants make a frock out of Pink's hot dogs? At this point, the challenges are only the stuff of rumor.
But we do know where contestants lived and shuddered awake each morning with the dread of being eliminated: a modern penthouse atop the Title Guarantee Building Lofts at the corner of 5th and Hill streets downtown. Close your eyes and you can just imagine them tumbling out of their beds to gulp coffee and dash over to the nearby FIDM annex, where they had the entire third floor to cut, sew, drape, weep and, hopefully, snipe at each other when the cameras were rolling.
Back at Mood, fabric cutter Misha Millsap says she encounters anxious "Project Runway" fans every day. "Nine out of 10 people who come in want to know if the show was shot here," she says, as she unrolls a bolt of gray lightweight wool. The Season 6 contestants did shop here, back in October, and she swears that they got an allotted time to collect materials, shop, just like you see on the show. "When they say 'Stop,' there's no more cutting. That's it. It's real."
But Millsap has no inside scoop on when Season 6 will air, and says she's "dying" until it comes back. The Murphy family watches "House" together now, but, as Emma says, "It's just not the same."
Jones says he will serve Neapolitan ice cream at his "Project Runway" party, and Kluvo, ever the optimist, believes the blog must go on -- with or without a new season to follow.
"We will be here until the very end," she says. "I am concerned and I am worried. But as long as there is hope for the new season, we will write about it."