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Making the Cut Season 1, Episode 3: “Collaboration”

The judges prepare to evaluate contestants' designs on the set of Making the Cut, during Episode 3. From left: Heidi Klum, Joseph Altuzarra, Carine Roitfeld, Nicole Richie, and Naomi Campbell. Photo courtesy of Amazon Corporate.

In this episode, the designer contestants remained in Paris. After nearly three weeks spent barely leaving my house, I was incredibly envious of them. Standing on a bridge above the River Seine seemed like paradise. It turns out, the Seine was the backdrop for the next installment of this Amazon Original series Making the Cut; the venue for the runway show was along the riverbank.

The challenge

This week’s theme was collaboration, drawing on the recent trend of design houses collaborating to blend aesthetics. The designers worked in teams of two to create a three-look mini “collab” collection. One look needed to be accessible, and this look will be manufactured and sold on Amazon for the winning team. There were no random assignments. Judge Heidi and host Tim Gunn purposefully set up design teams with different aesthetics. The teams were:

Jonny Cota and Megan Smith

Sabato Russo and Sander Bos

Will Riddle and Esther Perbandt

Troy Hul Arnold and Josh Hupper

Rinat Brodach and Ji Won Choi

Right out of the gate, I was impressed with the level of communication between partners. Jonny and Megan, Sabato and Sander, and Rinat and Ji had cohesive ideas and easily made changes to their designs to better work with both aesthetics. It was refreshing to see that level of flexibility after so many similar shows that have focused on meltdowns and personality clashes. These designers are established and have plenty of experience in their industry. They know what it takes to survive and how to put their egos to one side.

The judging

The weather was sunny and beautiful on the banks of the River Seine, perfect for a fashion show.

The results of this challenge were mixed. The judges liked Megan and Jonny’s collection, which was a successful blending of their two styles.

Megan Smith and Jonny Cota’s collab collection successfully blended their styles. Photo courtesy of Amazon Corporate.

The winning pair’s accessible look will be manufactured and sold in the Amazon Making the Cut store.

The judges called up each pair to talk about their collection and advocate for why they should win or stay in the competition. As Judge Heidi Klum explained, the judges have made a decision, but the conversations could still change things, for better or for worse.

First up were Jonny and Megan. Jonny had been given a thorough dressing down in the previous episode for staying in his comfort zone with a leather jacket. This episode, the judges were impressed by the efforts he made to push himself and commented on how the two worked well together. They were both judged safe.

Sabato and Sander were brought up next. Their collection, which the judges loved, was in shades of black and brown. The judges complimented the makeup and the drama of the looks. For me, the makeup distracted from the looks and I had trouble seeing the clothes separate from the styling. However, the judges didn’t ask for my opinion. Sabato and Sander were the winners of this week’s challenge and their jacket-dress will be sold on Amazon.

The jacket-dress designed by Sander Bos and Sabato Russo won them accolades from the judges. Photo courtesy of Amazon Corporate.

Next, Will and Esther defended their collection. The judges found their collection lacked cohesiveness and refinement and scolded them for relying too much on fabric mixing to attempt to pull the looks together. Nevertheless, both designers made the cut.

Josh and Troy were the last to stand before the judges. They began their designing with extravagant textiles and ended up with three disparate looks. The judges criticized their lack of vision and ability to blend prints successfully. In a shocking turn of events, Josh volunteered to go in the hopes that Troy would stay in the competition. I respected him for taking the blame for the prints, but the judges were not impressed. Fashion is a competitive business and stepping back is not always the best move.

The judges’ decision about the pair turned the episode into a cliffhanger: They don’t tell us whether Troy is safe.

Interviews with the winners

The publicity team for the show has given me access to the winning designer (in this case, winning designers) from each episode, for a short interview.

I spoke with Sabato and Sander separately. Sabato’s calm, measured voice came across, just like on the show. I didn’t have to say much to get him chatting.


“To be on the show was great, I’m in the end glad that I did it,” he told me right away. “[Someone] asked me, ‘At your age, why did you do it?’ … Why not? Age is a number … I like to challenge myself and, in the end, I decided to do it.”

In the end, being on such a show is difficult no matter what the designers’ ages are. “You know, when you are in those situations [meaning, on a show], you are living in another world, in another planet because you are not in real life, you know, you are kept from the world.”

When asked about the team challenge, he said, “[The other designers and I] love and respect each other. We became, a lot of us became, very close friends. To me, it’s a lovely change from the in-fighting that happens on other shows when contestants have to collaborate. Here, there were no bruised egos or passive-aggressive insults. I could’ve had as a partner any of them, to be honest,” he admitted, “because I think the energy was super good, you know? It wasn’t this negativity, ‘I want to win,’ ‘I have to do this thing for you.’ No, it was very civilized.”

He was happy with his partner for the challenge. “They paired me with Sander. When we heard that, we just looked at each other and we smiled,” he said. “So I knew it was going to be great … We have two very different voices but then, at one point after a few hours, it became one voice.”

He had thoughts about the location as well. “Paris is one of, if not my favorite place on the planet, so to be enclosed and doing fashion, it really brought me on another level.” he said. “Paris really brought out in me this elegance that I didn’t see before in myself.”


When I spoke with Sander, I was struck by the difference between the two of them. Sabato is calm and measured; Sander is energetic and passionate. His words came out rapid-fire as I asked questions.

“To work with Sabato was definitely a fun time, it was an experience. I think we, as a good married couple, had our bumps in the road but I think we made it work,” Sander said with a laugh. “We both have our things that we really shine in. In the large field fashion encompasses, there are a lot of things you can have. For me it’s more, it’s my technical skills that made me stand out more. For him it’s more his ability to stand back from the work and really consider all of our choices and really think out what we’re going to do.”

The little drama between them occurred because of the difference in sewing experience. Despite that, they worked with what they had. “From the beginning we knew we had different skill sets, so we kind of worked with it and worked around it to … achieve the best results,” he said.

I was curious how Sander balanced his over-the-top aesthetic with commercial appeal. “I definitely have an aesthetic that goes beyond, beyond. The land that’s after the beyond, that’s where you can find me. Seven rainbows to the left, that’s where I live.” He laughed, enjoying himself. “I think it’s a very hard thing as a designer, especially because … my age, and not my lack of experience but being much younger. I feel like I have so much to say still, and maybe I lack some of that sophistication, that less can be more.”

Like Sabato, Sander loved the episode’s location. “Paris is amazing when it comes to fabric … the variety of fabric they had there was just enormous … it’s easy to get lost there,” he said. “I always tried to stick as much as I could to what I originally planned. Otherwise, I’ll just drift off in a sea of twenty fabrics mixed together and totally lose my focus. You’ll find me there three years later.”

The venue on the banks of the Seine was also a favorite of his, owing to the beautiful weather. “Me and Sabato have a lot of our win to thank to the wind that day, the wind really did everything for that look,” Sander said “That wind, it was like a kiss from God, like mwah, there you go, both of you, enjoy this moment.”

Of course, I had to ask him about his age. As the youngest designer in the competition, Sander could be considered to be at a disadvantage. “It’s become like this almost gimmick of me that I really couldn’t care less if somebody brings up my age because at the end of the day it’s really just a number. It’s really about experience and how much time and love and work you’ve put into it,” he said. It’s true. He’s young, but overflowing with passion and creativity, which is something that doesn’t necessarily come with age.


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