Lifetime's new child-centric fashion reality TV spinoff-competition, Project Runway: Threads, is the absolute worst

‘Project Runway: Threads’ is the worst, and not even in a good way

October 28, 2014 / by / 543 Comments

Project Runway: Threads has sold me a bill of goods.

I thought about trying a little harder and making that first sentence some sort of fashion related idiom—perhaps something about an emperor with new clothes—but that would require more effort than any one behind Project Runway: Threads put in to making this show worth watching. Threads is the new child-competitor offshoot of the long-running reality competition Project Runway and premiered on Lifetime last Thursday. Despite a high level of anticipation (based off an informal poll I conducted in my apartment), this show resulted in a besmirching of both the Project Runway brand AND the storied genre of child reality shows.

Admittedly, Threads had some lofty predecessors to live up to. What I wanted out of this show was Project Runway: Kid Nation. Throw 15 kids, ages 9-14, in a hotel room in New York City for three months and have them compete in weekly design challenges, where we can watch them throw out ridiculous comments that only the darndest kids would say and have meltdowns about puckering fabrics and uneven hemlines. I wanted cutthroat. I wanted social politics. I wanted to be inspired by the next generation of designers. I wanted someone to cut off the head of a chicken.

Perhaps Kid Nation is a lot for a reality show to aspire to, and creating Kid Nation scenarios in the textile industry would probably violate a lot of child labor laws. So I can understand why Threads didn’t go that route. But AT LEAST give me the Project Runway version of MasterChef Junior! MasterChef Junior set the bar high for child-centric reality competitions by being simultaneously entertaining, dramatic, a genuine display of impressive talent, and frequently heartwarming. Too high, it turns out.

Based on the trailer for Threads, I was not delusional to believe that I might be getting the MasterChef Junior level of competition out of Threads. 

BUT NO! NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Rather than an ongoing competition with an ultimate winner, this show refreshes itself each week, with three new children competing against each other, and then never heard from again once a winner is named. Oh and it’s not just the kids who are competing, IT’S THEIR PARENTS TOO. Which might have been the most egregious part of this whole mess, because the parents clearly have no talent or interest in fashion besides an obnoxious belief that their child is the best fashion designer in the world.

So let’s meet this week’s collection of muppets and their parental “assistants.” First we have Bradford, a 13-year-old boy from Birmingham, AL who, besides his experience making clothes for Miss Teen Alabama, is largely uninteresting. He is redeemed by his mother, who casually makes comments that might suggest the need for a visit from CPS, such as “Bradford knows that he cannot depend on me” and a lovingly chuckled, “I could knock you out in one punch.” Next we have Kenzie, whose first words to the judges are “I travel, like, at least twice a year, and we go to a lot of exotic places…I love luxury and private jets and mansions” and instantly became the villain because the rich person never wins. Kenzie’s main storyline is that her mother has no confidence and is really dragging her down. Seriously, get it together, Mom. Finally, there’s Cambria, who is named after a font and that is all that needs to be said about Cambria.

The show starts with a confusing bit where the kids have apparently already made an outfit at home that is supposed to represent their personal “style.” Unsurprisingly, all of their “styles” involve looks that only children would wear. Which would be fine EXCEPT THEY MADE GROWN WOMEN PUT THESE CLOTHES ON AND CALLED IT FASHION. It’s a huge mistake that these kids are supposed to be designing clothes for adults, because A) their level of talent does NOT justify this kind of challenge, and B) IT’S WEIRD! The models look like they’re giant children and it gives the whole show a creepy Lolita feeling. The clothes would look better on kids, the competitors would be more adept at creating looks if they weren’t twice the size of their own bodies, and the whole thing would be way cuter than this awkward affair. Plus, you just feel bad for these models that this is where their career has brought them.

But of all the things that should have been adjusted for child competitors, the challenge was so tone-deaf to the rest of the show that you have to wonder if there was any kind of production oversight involved. The host, Vanessa Simmons, who announces that her qualification for being the host of Threads is that she “is the host of Threads,” tells the kids that they must design a gown for the red carpet. As she gleefully explains in her terrible baby voice, it could be any red carpet they wanted! The Oscars! The Emmys! The Grammys! And apparently by the time Simmons finished telling them the challenge, the children could only remember the last two words she said, because at the runway show, when asked what kind of red carpet they imagined their outfit on, every kid uncomfortably answered “maybe the Emmys or the Grammys?” BECAUSE THEY DEFINITELY KNOW WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE. And understand the nuances of red carpet award shows enough to know the difference. At least throw in the Teen Choice Awards or VMAs—something anyone under the age of 18 might have had a cursory knowledge of.

Regardless, it was ultimately unimportant what the challenge was because all of these dresses were SO BAD. At some point along the way, the children were also told to make a “street style” look, which were all equally atrocious. I don’t even want to talk about the clothes because there’s no point. Nothing looked good because this was not a challenge for children, and even if it were a challenge on Project Runway OG, it still wouldn’t be worth talking about because it’s a boring challenge.

The mediocre rise to the top

The mediocre rise to the top

I take that back. Let’s talk about the winner of this episode, Bradford. The number of times the word ‘sexy’ was used to describe the black dress 13-year-old Bradford made should be cause for concern. I blame the adults for this one. The host and judges all made references to the sexiness of his dress before this kid reluctantly described his look as sexy. I’m sure the idea of sexy red carpet dresses is not shocking or novel to this boy, but why would you want anyone under the age of 13 to be designing you a sexy dress? How gross would you feel wearing that?! Instead of talking about how sexy this dress was, maybe we could talk about how poorly constructed it is, or how Bradford’s mom is a little too proud of the fact that she has no talents.

This whole show is unfair. To the audience. To me. I don’t particularly care about these kids, but I guess it’s not great for them. But I’m mostly concerned about me. The best part about a reality show—especially one based on fashion—is critiquing (read: mercilessly mocking) everything about it. If the show displays real talent, perhaps you’ll come away with an appreciation for what the competitors’ did. When you have an especially bad reality show, the ONLY enjoyment one can get out of it is to make quippy remarks at the television. And this is a HORRENDOUS show. But instead of making fun of it like any other reality competition, I have to feel bad that I’m tearing down a bunch of 12-year-olds. Granted, that didn’t stop me from mocking everything about Threads, but I did feel pangs of guilt about it, extinguishing any spark of enjoyment that could have come out of this train wreck.

As they have been taught to do by every reality show ever, the pint-size contestants all left with their sound bite about this not being the last we would hear from them. Whether or not that’s true, it will certainly be the last I hear from this show. Auf wiedersehen, Threads.