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Eleven Minutes Reviews

Eleven minutes, explains Jay McCarroll, is roughly how long it takes to show a collection during New York's star-studded Olympus Fashion Week. The catch is that each second of those 11 minutes represents at least a year's worth of the blood, sweat, and tears shed not just by the designer responsible for the collection, but those of the shoemakers, clothing manufacturers, agents, publicists, jewelry providers, friends, neighbors, models, salespeople, industry heavies, the boss, the boss's boss, and countless Personalities with a capital P. Personality is the blessing and curse of Project Runway's season one winner, Jay McCarroll. Even the highest-profile designers in the fashion world have a relatively small following outside of the industry and the people who can afford to buy their clothing. After the success of Runway, however, fashion personalities became a mini-industry of their own; potential financial backers are interested in the product because of the buzz surrounding the designer, and buyers are interested in the product because buzz sells to the far and varied fans of Runway alumni like Jay, Santino, Christian, and even Elisa -- otherwise known as the one who spits on fabric in hopes of infusing her own positive energy into the design. Than again, there's a palpable disdain toward Runway alumni; it's clear that there are some who believe real designers don't come out of reality television, a medium itself that is, arguably, so five years ago. Like 1995's Unzipped, Eleven Minutes works because McCarroll is a quirky physical manifestation of fashion and its inherent joys and pitfalls. While he has the ambition and ego to survive (says McCarroll to his overworked publicist, "I don't need to be treated like I don't know what I'm doing, even though I don't know what I'm doing"), it's tempered by enough insecurity and occasional bouts of intense self-loathing to bring his career to a crashing halt. Project Runway is the eye of the storm in a sense; he loves it because it brought him the opportunity he has, but frets about being perceived as a popularity contest winner instead of the designer he wants to be. It's the motivating and disheartening force behind all of his decisions and hard work in producing, as he says, "a fashion show, the silliest thing ever." Unlike Unzipped, Eleven Minutes is told from the perspective of a start-up designer rather than an established one, with the result being a film supplemented not by fabulous models and scenesters, but harried "normal" people (McCarroll lamented not having enough "weirdos" around him for inspiration) who believe in his designs, though they aren't quite sure how to sell a collection inspired, according to the designer, by zeppelins, retro architectural constructs, and vaginal waste (they settle on "Transport" as the primary descriptive theme). There are, of course, flaws: McCarroll can whine with the best of them, directors Michael Selditch and Rob Tate have a tendency to fall back on artsy shots of hot-air balloons, and moments when the state of New York appears to be entirely populated by people who take their art and themselves much too seriously. It's also inadvisable to watch this documentary without at least some knowledge of Project Runway, since it's referred to so much and explained so little. Overall, however, it's not difficult to root for McCarroll and his designs -- sure, he has his quirks, but he's colorful and unpretentious in a snooty world where little black dresses and dark sunglasses rule. What's not to like?