Many reality TV shows portray immature adults competing in unattractive ways while arguing unintelligibly about unimportant things. The new reality series Project Runway: Junior is a beautiful exception.

One of several spinoffs from the original Project Runway, which still airs and is cohosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway: Junior is cohosted by Hannah Davis and Tim Gunn, with Gunn as executive producer and mentor to the contestants.

Season one of Project Runway: Junior, which concluded in February, begins with twelve budding designers ranging in age from thirteen to seventeen years. Each week, these ambitious teens are presented with a new challenge in which they are to create innovative yet wearable fashions, within the parameters of the specific challenge, and expressive of their own individual style. And each week, they face a panel of judges—and possible elimination from the competition.

Cameras follow the competitors throughout the creative process, from inspiration, conceptualization, and sketching; to the selection of fabrics and textiles; to the construction of their garments; to the fitting of their models. Along the way, the designers are mentored by Tim Gunn, whose benevolence and frankness set the tone for the entire show.

Gunn’s feedback is generally Socratic and always supportive. When he detects something he regards as a problem with a competitor’s design or construction, he typically asks questions that help the designer to consider the matter from his or her own context. He also reminds the designer that he or she has the ability to “make it work”—a phrase Gunn uses liberally when encouraging his charges to push through a difficulty and focus on finding a solution. Gunn conveys immense respect for these young designers, and they clearly are in awe of him. As one competitor says, “I could not imagine life without Tim. I wish he was in my family—like he was my uncle or something—because I want to see him all the time.”

Ready or not, when the time is up for a given challenge, these teens send their garments down the runway on professional models for viewing and critique by the judges, including Hannah Davis, supermodel and cohost; Christian Siriano, fashion designer and winner of Project Runway Season 4; Kelly Osbourne, fashion critic and designer; and Aya Kanai, executive fashion editor at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines. . . .

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