Eleven Minutes chronicles fashion designer Jay McCarroll’s path in creating Transport, his 2006 fashion show following his win on Project Runway’s first season. McCarroll’s place in the fashion industry can be directly tied into his participation in Project Runway, a fact that he struggles with throughout the documentary. The link between McCarroll as reality television personality and serious fashion designer is at the core of the documentary’s focus and co-directors and producers Michael Seiditch and Rob Tate make every effort to highlight this.
The year-long process in preparing for this fashion show involved everything from designing to producing to working with shoe, jewelry, and hair assistants to managing publicity for the show. McCarroll’s exuberant personality is at the heart of his popularity. He is refreshingly honest about his advantages in the fashion world due to his time on Project Runway, as well as in his dealings with his assistants and especially his publicist, Nancy Kane. However, he frequently makes it a point to stress that despite his good fortune, there is still an immense amount of work to be done.
Much of the conflict in the documentary comes from his working relationship with those on his team. Kelly Cutrone of People’s Revolution is a particularly vocal member of this team and her experience in the field often manifests itself in her no holds barred opinions and advice. Cutrone and McCarroll are frequently shown to be at odds in terms of the direction of the collection, its promotion, and even in such details as the fashion show’s invitations. Despite their sometimes contentious relationship, McCarroll does an admirable job of trying to understand and take into account Cutrone’s advice, even if he doesn’t always follow it. Usually this leads to humorous cell phone conversation asides to his friends and assistants.
McCarroll’s relationship with Kane is another of the more antagonistic ones depicted in the documentary. Alternately critical and fawning, Kane has big plans for McCarroll and at times her frustration with his wholly independent streak brings them to harsh confrontations. At one point, there is a huge blowout between Cutrone and Kane that devolves into personal attacks, only to be swept under the rug the following day. Clearly, these are big personalities accustomed to voicing any and all opinions they have and McCarroll is often caught in the middle.
McCarroll often seems to be in over his head, creating an almost underdog quality to his show – a somewhat contradictory idea considering the level of his success as a young, struggling designer. However, the sheer time, energy, and monetary investment necessary to launch a line and a show at New York’s Bryant Park is no small thing. McCarroll’s humor and unflinching honesty make the process more than a dry business plan come to life.
His popularity on Project Runway was certainly aided by his engaging personality. McCarroll shifts from flippant to harried to emotional throughout the documentary and again, it is easy to understand his appeal outside of his skills as a fashion designer – even surrounded by people with an obvious stake in his success, he never seems to take himself too seriously.
One of the more interesting aspects of this production focuses on the work that goes into launching an actual sellable line after the show. McCarroll repeatedly refers to all the requests he gets over email from his fans for information on when his clothes will be available in stores. Watching the pitches to different buyers, it is clear just how much of a gamble the entire the really is. There are no guarantees that the amount of work spent on them will assure his clothes a place in the market.
While the subject of this documentary has all the elements to make it a fascinating glimpse into this highly competitive world, there are moments throughout the production that drag on and offer little insight into the work. For instance, some of the time spent with his jewelry and shoe designers could have better been spent on Mccarroll’s working process. Perhaps because this was such an integral part of his time on Project Runway it was decided that it was less important to focus on, but the documentary suffers for it.
Bonus features include deleted scenes, interviews with Seiditch and Tate, and a slideshow of McCarroll’s sketches. None of these are essential or even especially illuminating, but they may be of interest to more serious fashion fans.