Fashion and television have always had a symbiotic relationship. Offer the average person a chance to see inside a very exclusive, aspirational world, and 9 out of 10 times they are going to take it and retake it (no other explanations for reruns of competition shows like Project Runway after the season’s winner has been selected). The proliferation of fashion reality shows premiering on the tube this Fall (there are approximately 20 new options so warm up the DVR) proves there is no end in sight to our hunger for living vicariously through fashionistas, stylists, designers, models, etc. However, among the many options, there are a few that reflect the reality of the schmatta industry better than others. Here are our recommendations for this Fall’s lineup:
1. “Fashion Star”, NBC
Looking to replicate cable’s fashion success on network television, NBC has put together a Shark Tank- like fashion reality show pitting fifteen emerging designers against one another all competing to win multi-million dollar contract to launch their collections with mass market retailers. Flying high off her incredible success with Jessica Simpson Collection (close to $1billion in sales in five years), Jessica Simpson was hired on as the first mentor (plus she is a personality who people LOVE to watch). Nicole Richie, who had moderate success as a reality star with ex BFF Paris Hilton, has since found a loyal fashion following with her Winter Kate and House of Harlow fashion and accessory collections, was also brought on to guide the contenders and celeb favorite and King of Cool, John Varvatos (shout out to Detroit!) rounds out the industry leadership (cue the comparisons to Christina, Cee Lo and Blake on The Voice).
Contestants will have to face the buyers of mass market guru H&M, Macy’s (partially responsible for the success of Jessica) and upscale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. Having personally been through sales calls with buyers before, viewers should get ready for cutthroat observations, judgments and opinions (no one will ever equal Michael Kors on Project Runway, but then again, he is on cable), and very realistic portrayals of how competitive and challenging the retail landscape currently is. So, if you are thinking about a career in fashion, watch Fashion Star first to get in inside glimpse into the many different roles within the industry. DVR alert worthiness: 10/10, if only to see if Jessica has finally figured out if “Chicken of the Sea” is actually chicken or not.
2. “How to Make it in America”, HBO
The plot is simple. Two friends from downtown NYC combine their skills (one is a sub-par employee at Barneys New York) and experience, to live their entrepreneurial dream of starting a denim company called Crisp NYC. With a multi-episode story arc involving designer John Varvatos (a classic example of why one good turn earns another) sharing the ups and downs of his 25 year career in fashion, and a very authentic representation of how difficult sourcing (finding the raw materials to create a product) and production (yes, charging hundreds of dollars for one sample jean is normal when there is no guarantee of an order or an actual pattern already made) can be, I found myself saying “they should have shown this show to the students at Parsons!”. It’s so real it’s scary. Only unbridled enthusiasm and the assumption that success is only one pair of Japanese raw denim jeans away, keeps these friends and would-be designers going. Not unlike real life, where total dedication and drive is non-negotiable for success. DVR alert worthiness: 8/10, but only because you can see it whenever you wish On Demand. Which you should do, and often.
3. “All on the Line”, Sundance Channel
Looking to give Lifetime and its rating juggernaut, Project Runway, a run for its money, Sundance has extracted the best (and saving grace) of The City and hired Elle’s creative director, Joe Zee to star in a designer rehab reality show, All on the Line. Working with struggling fashion designers, Joe gives a very honest, and constructive analysis of why the designer’s creations are not selling. This show provides more insight than most others into the key factors that determine why some brands never quite make it and others elicit admiration and envy. (yes Suno, we are talking about you!). Want to find out what they are? Tune into All on the Line and prepare to say ” ahh, I get it” a lot. On a side note, you will also get a much more real portrayal of what a stylist’s role is in fashion (sorry Rachel Zoe, most stylists don’t look perfect while swigging Starbucks and reviewing red carpet gowns simultaneously to strategically planning their promotional appearance on QVC). DVR alert worthiness: 9/10
Other New Shows:
“Its a Brad, Brad World”, Bravo. Starring Rachel Zoe’s ex protege Brad Goreski, get ready to see an edgier, more raw version of the Zoe Project. DVR alert worthiness: 6/10, hopefully Brad will bring us the new “it” catch phrase. “Make it Work” and “Major” are so last season.
“Project Accessory”, Bravo. Naturally, a spin-off of Project Runway was in the works after eight years of Heidi, Tim and Michael. Given accessories current leading role in the fashion world, expect to see big personalities bedazzling anything they can get their hands on. DVR alert worthiness: 5/10, who needs another Project Runway? The franchise is as stale as adult rompers.
“Amsale Girls”, WE TV. If you saw 27 Dresses, you remember the scene where Katherine Heigl berates her sister for being “the bitch who cut up her mother’s wedding dress”. Well, supposedly that scene was filmed at Amsale, the upscale bridal boutique in NYC (it actually was a set built to replicate the store). Marketed as a combination of Sex and the City and Say Yes to the Dress, the show seems ill fated. After all, weddings were not exactly successful for Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. DVR alert worthiness: 2/10, welcome to your “lazy Sunday on the couch marathon go to”.