Despite what some people might say, Project Runway isn't just about the clothes. It's about the models, makeup, and hair, too. Jeanie Syfu, lead stylist for the TRÉSemme team, has to whip up runway-ready styles in a tiny sliver of time. In between writing her ProjRun blog  and styling models for future episodes, she made time to dish on what it's like at the behind-the-scenes "salon."
How do you work with the contestants to devise the looks for their runway challenges?
They come down with a sketch, a swatch of fabric, or a reference, depending on what the challenge was. Because we only have 30 minutes to get everything done, we try to make the consultation as quick as possible. We just start having a conversation about ideas what we can do with the model’s hair — if the model’s hair would be able to do the style and if the time allows it. It’s really fun.
You should see how quickly they’re able to make these garments, because so much drama goes on upstairs that we have no idea what’s going on. So, sometimes [the designers] come down, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes we just try to do the guessing game and figure out what it’s actually going to look like. We just do what we can in the time that we have.
To find out which hairstyles are the go-to choices when time's running out, .
So there are some contestants who just go up into the last minute and don’t have the model’s hair done at all?
We’ve come very close to that. It is so crazy back there — sometimes they are counting the seconds getting the last zipper done, or something comes apart and they need that extra 10 minutes to finish. Sometimes they never make it down and the models just put it in a ponytail or a bun. It always seems to work out in the end.
What is it like for you and your team to create those hairstyles so quickly, knowing that they’re going to be seen by millions of people?
It’s always fun. I have such a great team! We’ve all done plenty of shows during Fashion Week, and we’re all very familiar with how things run back there and how quick you have to be. On a normal day at a photo shoot, we would have plenty of time to prepare. Given that we only have 30 minutes — sometimes less —to get something done, it’s a challenge even for us to get the hair looking perfect in the short amount of time that we have. So, it’s really hard but we always end up making it beautiful. I love it. It’s exciting.
The designer and the model often come in with their own ideas. Do you ever have to say, “That sounds great, but in a half hour there’s no way it’s going to happen”?
Yes, it’s happened to me many times. Many times. We have a lot of ethnic models this season, so we had one girl with this huge afro. Sometimes [the designers] would want a straight blow-out, and we would just be like, “That is so impossible.”
Yeah, and I think that afros are so beautiful anyway.
Totally! I’m all about like making the afro bigger, but sometimes the design didn’t really call for that.
For more Project Runway talk with Jeanie, come back tomorrow!