Monday, September 13, 2010

Ten Reasons to Love "On The Road with Austin and Santino"

Okay, so it doesn't have the gravitas of Mad Men. But nothing can else on TV can fill me with such unmitigated delight as On the Road with Austin and Santino. Here's why. 

1. It's not a traditional makeover show. Granted, it looks like one on the surface: two Project Runway alums travel around the country to make special occasion dresses for the "fashion-hungry" masses. But, surprisingly, this show is not about making small-town women feel like hicks and laughing smugly at their bad fashion sense. It's also not about changing their personal style; it's understood that these ladies will probably go back to their t-shirts and hunting gear after the show. Rather, it's about helping them celebrate a big moment in their lives in style. Also, there's a nice diversity of age and class on the show. (However, it must be noted that seven episodes in, there's only been one woman of color. Here's hoping they step it up!) 

 2. It has a huge heart. The show manages incredibly touching moments without overdoing it. Santino, who was a bit of a villain on the second season of PR (despite his epic and widely beloved Tim Gunn impression), is surprisingly sweet and gentle on this new show. He seems to genuinely love every woman they dress and they, in turn, respond immediately to his dashing charm.
    3. Meet the perfect odd couple. The two came up with the idea for the show after becoming friends, and their mutual affection shows. Far from being saccharine, their sweet friendship is the perfect antidote to the cattiness that abounds on fashion shows. There's something so delightfully warm and fuzzy about the smallest of moments, like Santino earnestly making Austin breakfast. Also, cutest soundbite ever:
    Santino: Do you think we’ll still be friends after this adventure?
    Austin: I certainly hope so…
    Santino: Because I wish I could quit you. 
    4. It showcases sewing across the heartland. While Project Runway features trips to the fabric mecca Mood, the fabrics in On the Road with Austin and Santino come from places like Cathy's Quiltin' Square and Doylene's Fabric Store (which is on a dirt road and strongly resembles a shack). It's definitely an interesting—and sobering—look into the state of garment sewing across the country; namely, that dressmaking resources are scarcer than ever, being replaced by quilting fabrics and novelty-print cottons. But the lack of luxury fabrics sets the stage for innovative solutions: our two designers fake expensive-looking fabric by layering teal tulle over a rich purple cotton and repurposing components of flea market dresses.

    5. One-liners galore. These dudes are funny. Some random choice quotes:
    • Santino, lounging about in a terry cloth robe and drinking wine: "Why is it that we have to suffer for fashion?" 
    • Austin, trying to repair a rocking chair: "Maybe some eyelash adhesive will work." 
    • Santino, as Austin tries to cut down a pair of antlers to make a purse handle (long story): "I'm not afraid of power tools, but I am afraid of Austin with power tools."

    6. Austin's hair. Austin's personal style is unmistakable, and the crowning glory is his locks, which are often curled and topped off with jaunty scarves or chapeaus. I loved seeing that he applies hairspray with the exuberance of someone performing modern dance.  Also, on being handed a hardhat to wear in a brick factory: "Not good for the hair! You don't have a bouffant size, do you?"

    7. It bridges political gulfs. An overly grand statement? Perhaps. But in a country where the right to marry is denied a major segment of the population, there's something heartwarming about someone as flamboyant as Austin getting Red State folks to double cheek-kiss like they were born wearing Marc Jacobs.

    8. An inspiring dedication to craft and couture. Even though the pair is working with the tight deadlines of Project Runway, their work is painstakingly meticulous. The dresses they make incorporate impressive draping skills, expert inner construction, and dedication to the handwork of couture. Austin's background is in high-end bridal gowns, and he whipped himself into a couture frenzy when the pair got their first wedding dress assignment: "I almost don't even want to use a sewing machine; I want it all to be like little petite main, little, like, mice handstitches." (Santino's reaction: "Ughhhhhh.")

    All images courtesy of Lifetime Television
     9. It's short and sweet. On the Road airs right after Project Runway, which has recently extended its length to an excruciating 90 minutes. Austin and Santino's show is 30 minutes, and by contrast to PR, feels like a tiny, but delicious, piece of candy. They leave me wanting more, which I would never, ever say for the current Project Runway.

    10. The opening credits. Watch Austin's delivery of the line, "Our designs grace runways around the world!" and try not to crack a smile. I dare you.

    Are you lovely readers watching this epically fabulous show? (Hint: there are full episodes online here.)


      1. I have been watching this online for the past few weeks and love it! Not only because both Santino and Austin are great hosts and fun to watch, but also because I appreciate that it lacks the snarkiness that a lot of shows in this genre take towards "average women". It's always heartwarming to watch the reactions of the dress recipients when they see their gown. :) I think, being a bit wrapped up in the whole fashion/sewing community, I forget that for a lot of people, dressing up is a special-occasion thing, not daily. It's neat to watch how these women are transformed--even if just for a few hours--by a simple dress and a little pampering time! ;) That's what every gal needs occasionally!

        Plus, who can resist the fantastic one-liners peppered throughout? I nearly die laughing in most episodes. lol.

        ♥ Casey
        blog |

      2. I wish I could see it here in Denmark, but unfortunately the website you pointed to has some sort of filter for non us people

      3. I told you it was the best show ever made! The wedding dress was my fav

      4. I absolutely love that show. Austin and Santino are fun, light-hearted and hoot to watch!

      5. Yeah, you are out of luck outside the US. Poo.

      6. i am so addicted to this show. i never watched runway when they were on it. i find them totally entertaining and so adorable! i like them making gowns for REAL women and not models, LOVE that. But I did cringe when Santino said that the winery lady "doesn't have a waist" which i thought really was stupid to say. what she doesn't have is a "tiny" waist. Bad Santino! but i....cant quit you. LOL

      7. Nooooo.... that is what I thought when I first saw the post title. How could they possibly get on? After watching them on the series they were initially on (Austin, lovely but rather precious, and Santino , well, egomaniac). But your review has made me really want to see this when it comes to TV in the Southern Hemisphere.

      8. OK, I'll certainly give it a try. I have to admit, I was not a Santino fan, and I thought he might run right over our dear little Austin. Plus, they just filmed at a fabric store in my state, so I'll have to check that episode out (Asheville, NC).

      9. I'm with you Gertie! I love this show, especially the sweet friendship between Austin and Santino, and their open hearts with their hostesses and clients, and their appreciation of the sights they are seeing in their travels!

      10. No online episodes for international folks? That's awful! To make it up to you guys, I'll do a giveaway when it comes out on DVD. Promise.

        Psycho Sue, you're totally right on that "no waist" line from Santino. I guess old fashion habits die hard? Maybe by the end of the season he'll have a healthier perspective on women's bodies. We can hope!

      11. You've sold me! I don't have cable tv, so thanks for the online link for shows.

      12. Oh how I wish wish wish we had this in Canada!

      13. Wow, I've had no desire to watch the current season of PR online this time, but I think I'll have to endure the slow streaming for this show. Thanks, Gertie! Maybe they'll show up in a city I know?

      14. So glad to know I am not the only one IN LOVE with this show!

        When Austin was playing dolls with the knick-knacks at the southern mansion-HILARIOUS!

      15. I LOVE this show! Thanks for posting about it to bring a great review of the show to blogger-land.

      16. I love this show! My favorite episode so far is the one where they stay in an old Southern house, just for the part when Austin walks up to a portrait of an old man and says "Oh Grandfather, why couldn't you accept me?" Ha!

      17. I think that Santino meant that she did not have a defined waist. Some women, like myself are more "H" shaped. See Inside Out Style. com

      18. patsijean, I totally agree that that's what he meant. I just think he should find a better way of saying it! Everyone has a waist, whether it's defined or not. A lot of women are apple-shaped; it's not like it's strange body type. But "fashion types" sometimes manage to make it sound a bit derogatory. Just my two cents.

      19. Oooh! I haven't been watching mostly because I am fed up with PR. Thanks for the heads up!

      20. Austin Scarlett is back on television? And no one TOLD ME?!?

        Thank you thank you thank you for the link!

        My favorite Austin moment from Project Runway (how many years ago was that?) was when he had to model a postal worker's uniform. He did it so well!


      21. As you know, I'm generally over my weekly fashion programming limit after the 90 minute PR. If not I would definitely watch this with you. I've been fascinated with Austin since his Season on PR. He's so unearthly, like some kind of high fashion alien.

        I would also like to repeat my call for an hour long series on a major network that would feature Austin and Santino as two private eyes roving the country solving fashion related crimes. I picture it as a more fabulous version of the A-Team.

      22. My daughter and I love this too. And we always repeat "Our designs grace runways - a-ROUND the world" with gusto and a sweep of the arm.

        p.s.: watching Project Runway on gets the show down to manageable 60 minutes!

      23. I LOVE this show! Totally in agreement on your #7, which as you say may be a bit of a stretch, but I've found that bit really touching! The only slightly depressing moment in that regard was when Austin walked into that general store and the shopkeeper (and son?) just stared at him with sour looks, with no offer of service that I recall. Maybe it was exaggerated for drama?

        I am perpetually amused by both Austin and Santino, and actually just briefly reminisced on the wonderment that was PR season 2 on my blog with that awesome musical montage put together for the reunion episode. I could watch only that and Santino's interpretation of 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails and be entertained forever!

      24. I LOVE them. If they get renewed I do hope they change up the formula just a pinch. But, their one-liners are worth every minute watching that show.

      25. emily.marie, I'm so glad you brought up that moment with the father and son in the store. Personally, I agree that maybe they heightened the supposed drama of that moment in editing. I think it's possible that since it was an earlier episode, they hadn't really gotten the hang of editing yet and were ill-advisedly going for an "OMG they're staring at him because he's so gay!" joke. It just rang a bit false for me. But who knows, right? Maybe I'm being optimistic!

      26. Love love love this show! You're right, it brings together so many funny, touching elements. I loved the scene with the antlers becoming a purse handle, I was holding my breath! It makes me want to do a similar challenge--what would you do if you had to make a gown and all you had available was camo quilting cotton? Brilliant!

      27. I love this show. It is really cute and quirky at times but they genuinely want to make a fabulous dress for a special occassion for each weeks participant. It is sad to note how difficult it is to get "nice" fashion fabric now locally.

        I am even disappointed with the offerings at our local Jo-Ann's store. 25 years ago when I got married the store was "packed" with all sorts of fabrics. Now you are lucky to find exactly what you are looking for because they have turned half the store into craft items, along with a quarter of the store being quilting fabric. I am hard pressed to find a fashion fabric that meets my needs so I've turned to online sources as well. Unfortunately those of us who live in more "rural" areas do no have the advantages of those that live closer to a major city.

        I was floored when watching the one episode with the fabric store on a secondary dirt road. Just goes to show that these two can make a gem of a garment with materials that are not first rate.

        You have got to watch this show...the only is on sooooo late on the Eastern Coast but you can catch it online once it has aired. Hope others take the opportunity to watch it for you will not be disappointed.

      28. It is a really great show. I wasn't much of a fan of Santino's in PR but I think I'm a fan now. They are quite the odd couple but it works. It makes me laugh and cry. :)

      29. Gertie, I couldn't agree more! It is so refreshing to see a show showcasing talents like Austin and Santino actually liking each other, collaborating in an adult and caring way. They are remarkably true to themselves and their personal aesthetic and yet appreciate the other's contributions. They also display such kind respect towards the women they design for. I love both of them!

      30. Karen L. in North TexasSeptember 13, 2010 at 6:48 PM

        I am a frequent reader of this blog and have enjoyed it immensely. I agree that the Austin and Santino show is delightful and fun to watch.

        However, I do not understand the following two quotes from this post:

        "it's understood that these ladies will probably go back to their t-shirts and hunting gear after the show"

        "getting Red State folks to double cheek-kiss like they were born wearing Marc Jacobs"

        Gertie, you may not realize that there are people who may take offense to these statements. I am surprised at the lack of respect, the prejudicial treatment, and the apparent contempt of those who do not live in New York City or in elite urban areas.

        I am one of those people. I am equally comfortable driving a luxury car on the German Autobahn or a piece-of-garbage manual shift pickup hauling trash.

        And yes, I live in a Red State and am conservative as the result of a lifetime of objective in-depth study of political issues. Yet I read fashion and sewing blogs and fashion-related periodicals obviously written by people who do not agree with me philosophically because I enjoy the content. I usually try to ignore any offensive rhetoric they may include, but this time I felt strongly about commenting.

        I hope this will be taken as a respectful complaint. As I said, I do enjoy your blog, and I wish you continued success with it.

        Karen in North Texas

      31. Karen, I'm afraid that just as you don't understand my statements, I don't understand your complaint!

        As for the first, several of the women featured do literally wear t-shirts and hunting gear on a daily basis. It's pointed out by the women themselves, and was not hyperbole on my part. And I hope you noticed my point: I was actually saying how great it is that these women are not being asked to change in the long-run.

        Secondly, I find the double cheek-kissing rather silly, so my amusement is with both parties. I'm sorry if that was not clear.

        A clear distinction between rural and urban types is part and parcel of the show, don't you think?

      32. Karen, one more thing: what I was saying is how great it is that the show transcends the pettiness of Red State-Blue State conflict. I hope this makes sense; I feel distressed that my post was misunderstood. :)

      33. Would it be possible and/or wise to line the Lady Grey coat with a cotton lawn or voile?

      34. Karen L. in North TexasSeptember 13, 2010 at 8:58 PM


        Thank you for your responses to my comment. I apparently totally misconstrued your text, and I apologize.

        Perhaps I am getting too touchy about what I perceive to be a deepening divide in this country, which greatly concerns me.

        I am very sorry to have distressed you -- it was my mistake.

        Thank you for your kindness.


      35. Karen: whew! Thank you for understanding. Look how we're bridging red and blue state differences ourselves! :)

      36. I think Point 7 - "It Bridges Political Gulfs" - reveals something very important about this show. In American culture, for different reasons and in different senses, gays and members of the rural working class are often dismissed or looked down upon. Furthermore, the stereotype is that small-town America is intolerant of gays and dislikes "coastal elites". And this show is a half-hour refutation of these national pathologies - when I watch it, I feel like maybe we can, in fact, all get along.

      37. Thanks for the recommendation - I had such a fun time watching the episodes online tonight!

      38. Hello Santino was the best project runaway winners. Thanks to all who are Rising up the taste of couture quality. And vintage!
        Europe is still a little behind this change of mindset.

        Thank you all.

      39. I went to the site and watched the most recent episodes (for some reason, I can't find the first 4 or 5). I loved this show and I love Santino and Austin. First - two more gracious people cannot be found - no matter what fabric store they went into, they found amazing stuff that they could use, no matter what they were making. They might have been a little bit lost getting there, though. The messages are all upbeat, 'you deserve this', 'we're here to help', and 'isn't this great'. It's not "oh, we can't do this because.." or " If we were in Manhattan, we could" or "You're not xxx enough". I love these guys. This is like "Queer Eye for the Sewing Room" - they don't care where you're from, how big your hips are, or who you voted for in the last election -- if you want a gorgeous dress and you want to look gorgeous in it, these guys are the "fairy" (sorry) Godmothers who are going to make it happen (even if they have to sleep on the floor!). The episodes I watched really made me tear up...

      40. I have learned to love and look forward to this show. It was a great idea of some smart network cookie and it makes PR look old and just plain mean!

      41. I KNOW! They totally crack me up. So funny and sweet. Love the show!

      42. btw it sounds like a cute show I will check ot

      43. Love love love this happy little show! Here's hoping it gets renewed, because I wish I could quit them... :-)

      44. Gertie, I hate it that you have made me want to watch TV again. I'm not a TV-viewer, but your review of "On the Road with Austin and Santino" is very persuasive. Thank you, I guess.


      Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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