NBC’s ‘Fashion Star’ Review: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

 @cavanshays on March 14 2012 8:56 AM

NBC's Fashion Star premiered last night with supermodel host Elle Macpherson guiding hopeful designers to fight for the attention of Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue. Mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos sat in the mentors' seats to offer their erudite feedback.

Here is how the newest reality design competition works. Fourteen unknown designers will present three designs in front of the buyers each night based on a particular branding challenge. For the premiere episode, designers created one look in three different variations that displayed their unique style. The mentors give their critiques and then the buyers choose whether they want to make a bid for the pieces or not. If a designer does not make a sale, he or she is on the chopping block. The mentors can choose to save a designer at risk. At the end, someone (of course) gets sent home.

Fashion Star is one of the biggest and most-commercially backed reality competitions yet. The ultimate Fashion Star designer will take home a $6 million collection to be launched in Macy's, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue. That is surely a prize worth fighting for. No doubt, the claws will come out. 

Here is a review of the premiere episode of Fashion Star - the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The Good

Fashion Star is different from other reality competitions for multiple reasons, making it stand out from an over-crowded sector of reality television.

Firstly, Fashion Star has some big celebrity names to back it up. Jessica Simpson, who is headline fodder these days because of her pregnancy and her naked Elle cover, is at the helm of the show. The fashion mogul and billion-dollar businesswoman knows what it takes to make it in the biz. Do not let her blonde hair deceive you. Nicole Richie is another well-known name in fashion, with her successful House of Harlow 1960 line and her QVC collection. Not to mention, her personal style is coveted by many. John Varvatos is an award-winning menswear designer with an eye for tailoring. Those three join host and supermodel Elle Macpherson, who can still claim her nickname The Body even at 47-years-old, for a star-studded show.

Secondly, Fashion Star knows how to target a real-time, instant-gratification-loving generation. The winning look of the night is shipped to Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's or H&M and available for purchase the day after the show. What more could you ask for? The buzz generated from the show is translated immediately into revenue. Three of the pieces from Tuesday night's show can currently be purchased online at Macy's and two online at H&M. The slogan is not Watch it today and wear it tomorrow for nothing.

The Bad

Although there is a lot of excitement surrounding the concept of Fashion Star, the show received mixed reviews. Some critics felt like it is all a grandiose marketing ploy. Host Elle McPherson saunters down the runway flanked by two lingerie-clad models. I'm sure she said something really riveting at the end of that commotion but all I heard was, 'America, this is a commercial for the lingerie collection that made me a multimillionaire on a show that isn't about me - but here, look now. Be amazed,' wrote Entertainment Weekly's April Daley.

Twitter commentators agreed with this observation. Who's watching #fashionstar? There's kind of a lot going on. It reminds me of the Super Bowl halftime show, tweeted Fashionista.com. Or @VictoriasSecret fashion show on steroids, replied user Allison Sickert.

Others griped over the fact that the Fashion Star contestants do not really display any remarkable talents. The contestants are not attempting couture, so most of the advice is about responding to the realities of the marketplace. This is certainly a truth of design, but as a television viewing experience it's a dud, wrote Los Angeles Times reporter Mary McNamara.

The Ugly

One of the most scathing reviews came from the blog Free Reality TV, which called Fashion Star 'Project Runway' Gone Very Wrong. The blogger calls it a Project Runway rip-off, listing multiple reasons why Fashion Star just does not stack up, citing weak collections, trite storytelling, ostentatious flashiness and a lack of creativity.

The designers don't actually construct or sew their own clothes (at this point, anyway), making their skillset that much less impressive. Simply put, Fashion Star spoon-feeds stupidity. Instead of allowing designers to think for themselves and come up with unique and often-risk-taking designs, contestants are challenge to create clothes that can be marketed to the masses - and as viewers, we're supposed to love this, said Free Reality TV.

There was even some cattiness on Tuesday night's show that came in the form of sexism. Contestant Nicholas, a former model, presented a collection centered on the James Dean jacket. When the judges critiqued his design, Nicholas responded with, It's very hard to understand the girls giving advice about men's fashion. Simpson snapped at this rude, sexist comment, saying that she wanted to smack him across the head.

What did you think of the premiere of NBC's Fashion Star? Leave your feedback in the comments section below.   

Join the Discussion