“Making the Cut” finalists Andrea Pitter, Andrea Salazar and Gary Graham were tasked with creating a concept store — an element that combines artistry and storytelling with business.
“In order to be a success in the fashion industry, you have to have the art and the commerce,” “Making the Cut” creator Sara Rae told TheWrap. “The concept store really lets you physically get into the world of what that designer’s brand is all about,” down to the signage and the vibes felt when entering the store.
Hosted by “Project Runway” alum Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Making the Cut” brings together established designers to compete for a $1 million prize. Even more than its predecessor, the series facilitates the designers’ brands growth by asking contestants to consider the business side of fashion along their journey.
Pitter, a native New Yorker and bridal designer who missed connecting with people on the subway, chose to create an interactive subway experience, complete with a golden handrail and a skateboard embossed with her brand’s name, “Pantora.”
“It was supposed to be a creative store pop up, and it was supposed to be entertaining,” Pitter told TheWrap, “So I didn’t want to do what I would typically do in perhaps, my bridal store. But I wanted to really create an interactive experience, one that people would want to take their phones out and take pictures. And I just wanted it to look and feel like community.”
Using her past bridal clients as inspiration for her ready-to-wear collections, Pitter has woven the community into her brand throughout her time on the show, creating a video ad campaign where women bond over their shared love of fashion.
Salazar, who created the edgy and sophisticated brand “Seta,” maintained similar aesthetic to her other stores, while also prioritizing an interactive customer experience by incorporating QR codes, a website and Instagram-friendly photo-ops.
“My concept store was inspired in a fashion museum,” Salazar said. “I tried to to follow a same style by having this concept of a museum that you can scan the code, and then you’re gonna have a beautiful experience….I also created a website, so you can have an online experience as well.”
Graham, a conceptual artist who takes inspiration from history, was inspired by a circular barn in Hancock Shaker Village in Western Massachusetts to create a circular boutique. Using 250 square feet to complete his vision, Graham planned to create a cyclorama — where images would be projected onto the space. While Graham settled for still images instead of projections, his vision to incorporate customers into his brand lives on.
“All the projections would be content that the Gary Graham 422 brand would create,” Graham said. “So whether it was historical content, or one of the print resources, the customer walks in, they see how everything comes into play. And now, I feel like an exciting element from working with Amazon is now we have real people continuing the story.”
While creating a concept store prompted the designers to thoughtfully produce a consumer-facing store, it also challenged them to balance their creativity with a budget.
“That was something that they were evaluating too, how you manage budgets,” Salazar said. “You have to balance all the resources that you have. So, of course, I had to be very careful on my selections.”
Graham, however, had to let go of some of his conceptual ideas to accommodate his budget. “In life and in design, you have to kind of negotiate your conceits and what you let go of,” he said.
While this budget could be limiting to some designers, the security of having a larger budget enabled Pitter to think bigger than she ever would have.
“You don’t always get to go with your wildest thoughts,” Pitter said, “You have to go with the thing that’s consistent, and you can that can be sustainable for you. So this was the opportunity to just kind of do whatever I wanted to do. And I ran with it.”
The full season of “Making the Cut” is now available on Amazon Prime Video.