It all made a little more sense if you considered it from a Mean Girls perspective. By the beginning of Season 4 of Runway, it was clear that Elle’s relationship with the show was about to change. The show was up for contract negotiation after Season 5, just as it was reaping its best ratings yet—so Harvey Weinstein was playing hardball with Bravo. As it became increasingly clear that anyone Weinstein didn’t deem an irreplaceable part of the show would probably be forced to pay up or get aufed, it also became increasingly clear that Weinstein, like many advertisers, simply found Elle to be a greedy middleman to the services of the talent, Nina Garcia.
So Robbie Myers and Joe Zee swung into action, unearthing Holzman’s reality-show idea—against the wishes of Kliger and Smith, who recently told Ad Age she was skeptical about Stylista “at first,” worried that the show had too much of a Devil Wears Prada–meets–Apprentice vibe. They also set about redesigning the magazine with the help of a mostly new staff. Frustrated by her increasingly ersatz role at Elle, Garcia started balking at her public-relations duties, reportedly refusing to wear Anne Klein clothes to her Anne Klein in-store appearances on the basis that it was a conflict of interest. The day that Garcia’s assistants finally cleaned out her office, a young male accessories editor, a Project Runway fan no one had previously known to be a Garcia loyalist, burst into tears and spent the afternoon bawling. It was the end of an era.
Garcia’s main profession now is to be a celebrity, spokeswoman, tastemaker, socialite, “personal brand,” and long-term Project Runway judge. But she also landed another day job: fashion director of Marie Claire, as part of a package that includes the magazine’s sponsorship of the show. Season Six of Runway begins in November, just a few weeks after Anne Slowey—who is “trying not to think about it”—makes her debut on Stylista. There’s also talk of a Runway spinoff, featuring Garcia and the staff of Marie Claire. Says a Marie Claire staffer, “We’ve had TV training.”