As Jennifer pointed out earlier today, “Fashion Star” aired last night. She also rightly noted that it’s a reality show about fashion, with celebrity judges Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos, and host Elle McPherson. The basic premise of the program is that designers show a few looks, get evaluated by the judges (called “mentors”), and then here’s the twist: buyers from H&M, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s are there, and if they like a design, they can buy it on the spot to be sold at stores the following day.
But here’s how “Fashion Star” is different from “Project Runway”: it’s not really about fashion.
Instead of spending time watching contestants design clothes, we’re treated to short packages about the hardships in their lives, a few token seconds of them manipulating fabric, and then a couple more seconds watching aggressively meh clothing go down the runway. There’s very little by way of innovation, and the clothes are basically unoriginal and uninspired.
So what is the show about? Product placement! The buyers take care to get as much messaging in about their companies of employ as is humanly possible. Every time they make or do not make a purchase, they say things like, “This is good for a woman who’s well endowed, a woman with curves, and those are the things we like to take care of at Macy’s.” Or, alternately, “It wasn’t special enough for Saks.”
I mean, I get that every TV show is a vehicle for advertising and product placement in some way, but I feel like we are teetering on “Idiocracy” territory here.
Anyway, the final, and perhaps most distinctive, thing that separates “Fashion Star” from other reality shows is this: the contestants are given space to be complete assholes to the judges.
We already saw a male designer tell Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie that women shouldn’t weigh in on men’s fashion. Well, during the rest of the episode, another contestant told off the Saks buyer, and a third angrily disagreed with Varvatos’ negative critique of his clothing. So it looks like this show’s whole line is going to be “assholes=ratings!”
Which is fair. It’s just not something I think would be of particular interest to anybody who gives a shit about fashion.