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eleven minutes

Eleven Minutes
Michael Selditch
Cast: Jay McCarroll, Kelly Cutrone, Nancy Kane, Carson Kressley, Jason Low, Omahyra, Michael Rucker, Eve Salvail

Joanne Ross

March 10, 2009


In December 2004, Bravo TV launched Project Runway, a fashion design competition series billed as “the search for the next great fashion designer.” 

Following a series of elimination challenges, three contestants showed their collections at the Bryant Park tents during the Spring 2005 Olympus Fashion Week. Project Runway’s first season winner was Pennsylvania resident Jay McCarroll, a fan favorite loved not only for his imaginative designs but for his droll humor and witty one-liners. However, after his win there was no follow-up which lead to speculation about McCarroll’s absence:  “Is McCarroll a genuine fashion designer or merely a reality television star?”

Two years later in 2007, McCarroll presented his first post-Project Runway collection, sponsored by The Humane Society US, which directors Michael Selditch and Rob Tate chronicle in their documentary, Eleven Minutes (the approximate length of a fashion show). The film looks behind-the-scenes in the fashion industry at what the general public doesn’t see – the blood, sweat, and tears involved putting together a line from conception to the catwalk.

On his journey to Bryant Park, McCarroll is aided by many people, among them Nancy Kane, his publicist; Kelly Kutrone, owner/publicist of People’s Revolution; hair/wig designer Jason Low; shoemaker Anthony Cady; jewelry designer Lola Brooks; his assistants; and others.

The song title, My Way, could be McCarroll’s motto. Fiercely uncompromising about his vision, the recalcitrant McCarroll often made his own decisions despite advice to the contrary from seasoned professionals and advisors, decisions that didn’t always serve him well. Their inability to rein him in has Kane and Kutrone pulling out their respective hair and hurling verbal abuse at each other.


Though McCarroll’s show was an artistic success, it didn’t translate into significant sales with Urban Outfitters, the only buyers he approached. While they did place a small order, problems with overseas manufacturing lead to delays and their subsequent cancellation of the order.

Eleven Minutes is reminiscent of Unzipped (the story of Isaac Mizrahi’s 1994 collection) and just as addicting.  Equal parts amusing, compelling, and mind-boggling, it should be required viewing for aspiring designers.  This documentary captures in painstaking detail the struggles and hurdles designers must negotiate to establish themselves in the fashion industry, and making clear the sometimes volatile relationship between, and divergent aims of, design and commerce.

Like Mizrahi, McCarroll possesses a bold personality and devilish humor that was made for television and film. Design talent aside, his personality alone would garner him appearances and interviews on the talk or radio-show circuit; he is that entertaining. But whereas Mizrahi exhibits great charm and panache, McCarroll is edgy and can at times come across as difficult and even mean-spirited. No matter, Eleven Minutes is his show, and his personality is as much a draw for his fans (like me) as his designs and his Fall 2007 show are.

From the moment McCarroll secures the sponsorship of The Humane Society US to produce his show, the clock starts ticking – seven months to Fashion Week. Directors Selditch and Tate construct the narrative to steadily build the tension as the designer and his cohorts race against time to bring his collection to the catwalk on time.

Will McCarroll become the next great American fashion designer? It remains to be seen. Eleven Minutes demonstrates that unfortunately -- given the cold realities of the industry -- the odds are stacked against him, indeed, against any up-and-coming young designer. Talent is necessary, of course. But talent can die on the vine without the necessary dollars to nurture it.


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