Andy Cohen is adding one more gig to his Bravo repertoire: Project Runway judge.
In the fashion-design competition series’ January 6 episode, the remaining seven designers are challenged with designing for different Real Housewives icons—specifically, to conceptualize and execute a future reunion-special dress for different Bravolebrity clients. Walking the runway as patrons are The Real Housewives of Orange County’s Shannon Beador and Gina Kirschenheiter; The Real Housewives of Potomac’s Gizelle Bryant, Karen Huger, and Wendy Osefo; and The Real Housewives of New York City’s Luann de Lesseps and Leah McSweeney. Cohen, naturally, will help determine who aced the assignment.
This Housewives and Project Runway crossover sounds like something Cohen himself—an executive producer of Project Runway’s first seasons—would have dreamed up years ago. But in fact, the Radio Andy host tells Vanity Fair, this type of collaboration means more now than it would have in the early 2000s. Nearly two decades and more than 10 Housewives franchises and spin-offs later, the reunion dress has become a powerful pop-culture symbol.
When The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered in 2006, Cohen never thought the Housewives’ style would be a major draw.
“In the early days of Orange County, the fashion was just terrible,” he says. “If you look at the first few years of reunions, Orange County, Atlanta, and New York, they were basically wearing—I don’t even think what they would wear to a cocktail party. I think it was more what they might wear to a PTA meeting. But as it’s gone on, the [reunion fashion] has really amped up, and I think people have loved seeing what they wear now. They were meant to be aspirational, and that’s what they are.”
Now that the franchise has become a behemoth, “a reunion-show dress at this point actually means something,” he continues. “For the Housewives, getting ready for a reunion—this is like their prom dress. So in that same way, I think it makes for a logical challenge. I love the dynamics that play out when you have a Housewife as a client to a designer, and seeing the interaction between the Housewives and the designer who wants to win the challenge.”