NBC’s Fashion Star premieres tonight, giving us what could be the Idol of fashion, or perhaps a big, glitzy commercial disguised as a reality TV competition series. Having viewed the first couple of episodes, I think the show falls somewhere in the middle. There’s a lot going on in the series, some of which works and some feels like the kind of packaged flare we see in so many other network TV competition these days.
Hosted by Elle Macpherson, with Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos as mentors, Fashion Star has 14 aspiring designers competing against one another to win favor with buyers from Saks Fifth Avenue, H&M, and Macy’s. A representative from each store is present as the designers present their fashion on the runway, after which the buyers decide whether or not to place a bid on their designs. The designers who make a sale are immune from elimination that week, and one of the rest is chosen to go home.
With an hour-long format and fourteen designers, I think the biggest thing holding Fashion Star back is how quickly things move. We get a little bit of info on the designer, some footage of them working on their designs (with appearances by the mentors offering their two cents), and then the runway presentation and bidding decision. The structure works well for talent competition series like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, but with fashion on display, it feels a bit rushed and I found it a little difficult to really absorb what was happening enough to get to know the contestants. This is something that I think can and will correct itself as more contestants are eliminated, leaving more time to dedicate to those who remain.
The mentors are fine, with Simpson seeming to get a bit more camera attention than Richie or Varvatos. If I had to pick a celebrity to add to that panel, Kelly Osbourne would be on the list. Not only does she have experience with fashion, but she also has interesting insights and knows how to articulate her opinions well in E!’s Fashion Police.
Fashion Star could use a little tightening up, perhaps with a bit more emphasis on the creative process and the buyers’ decisions. The concept of actually selling the designs then and there (and making the designs available in stores right away) is an interesting one, and I’ll be curious to see how that works out for the show, both in the ratings and clothing sales. But with the rushed format, which may actually be an attempt to dazzle audiences with lots of quick looks but no real focus on any one thing, it’s hard to feel all that invested in the designers or their clothes just yet.
Fashion Star premieres Tuesday, March 13 at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC.