"Project Runway" flipped the fashion world on its head when it debuted in 2004, showing the inner workings of the design process and making fashion seem a little more accessible to the average person.
Now Hilliard native Joshua Hupper is excited to be on the reality TV show's spiritual sequel, "Making the Cut," which premiered March 27 on Amazon Prime and is hosted by the same duo who originally were at the helm of "Project Runway" – supermodel Heidi Klum and contestant mentor Tim Gunn.
"Everyone is a fashion fan," said Hupper, a 1999 Village Academy graduate. "They have a relationship with it, whether they think they do or not. Everyone wears clothes, but every time they try to film fashion, it comes out looking like (the Ben Stiller comedy) 'Zoolander.' But the fashion we do is completely different."
"Project Runway" and now "Making the Cut" show a truer side of fashion, Hupper said.
The concept for the new show is similar to "Project Runway" in that its 12 contestants from around the globe complete design challenges. In "Making the Cut," designers are competing for a chance to win $1 million to invest in their brand and sell their line on Amazon.
However, the designers with "Making the Cut" are more established than those with its predecessor, and the new reality show will debut a novel concept as a "shoppable series," meaning winning looks were available to purchase on Amazon immediately following the episode's release.
Hupper, 38, said it's unlike anything he's done in his career that has spanned continents and nearly two decades.
"This has made a huge, huge difference for me. As a designer it changed everything," Hupper said during a phone interview from Shanghai, China, his home for the past three years as he's developed his women's clothing company, Babyghost. "Because designers are typically shy people, I've never hung out with so many designers at one time."
As a child growing up in Hilliard, the son of Kathleen and John Hupper said he knew nothing of fashion design. He wanted to be an illustrator. It wasn't until he toured Kent State University as a teenager that he was exposed to fashion design.
"We visited someone's dorms, and he had lots of drawings around," Hupper said. "I asked him, 'Oh, what do you do?' And he said he's a fashion-design major. In fashion, it seemed like I could draw a lot, and it wasn't as serious as say, architecture."
Coincidentally, Hupper is one of two Kent State alums and Ohio natives on "Making the Cut," which features designers from as far away as Berlin and Tokyo. Also on the show is Will Riddle, 31, who grew up in a trailer park in the small town of Paris in Stark County.
It wasn't until Hupper interned with renowned designer Diane von Furstenberg that he truly fell in love with the craft.
"When I started doing it, I was like, 'Oh, this is dope,' " he said.
After jumping around to several different design houses, including a Michelle Obama favorite, Thakoon, Hupper created Babyghost with his business partner, Qiaoran Huang, in 2010.
Bucking the trend at the time, the pair launched their first collection of youthful, feminine ready-to-wear fashions for the "mischievous girl" as an e-commerce brand. Despite being unconventional as an online-only label, Babyghost received its first of many reviews in Vogue in 2014.
"We wanted it to be more substantial than H&M – but for girls who wanted to be into fashion but couldn't afford it," Hupper said.
Initially, he thought the "Making the Cut" casting director contacting him on Instagram was spam. He had no idea that it would lead to Klum and Gunn.
He said he's looking forward to the show being a bright spot in a rough few months in China because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially because he is worried about his family in central Ohio.
"When I talked about self-quarantine a month ago, everyone thought I was crazy," he said.
Though he learned a lot being a part of "Making the Cut," and he is eager to take that knowledge back to his work, he said, the most important thing is that the experience inspired him again as a designer, unconcerned with demand or running a business.
"This gave me a chance to see a fabric and just design," Hupper said. "I haven't been able to do that in years."