The Fashion Show: The Project Runway Knock-Off

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Last Thursday Bravo premiered The Fashion Show, an obvious re-engineering of their popular Project Runway which they lost to LifeTime late last year. Standing in the place of Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, this show offers fashion designer Izaak Mizrahi and former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland and  senior VP or IMG Fashion Fern Mallis. 

The retooling of the program created some interesting changes:

  • Project Runway(PR) emphasized couture fashion, The Fashion Show (TFS) is concerned with designs that have retail potential.
  • Like all of the "professional challenge reality shows" on Bravo since PR, TFS has a quick challenge to start the show.  The winner of this challenge gets immunity.
  • There is no contestant's "mentor" such as the role played by Tim Gunn.
  • The judged challenge at each show is produced as fashion show.  The audience is compromised of fashion writers and retail buyers whose comments are taken into consideration by the judges in making their final decisions. 
  • The contestants remain present throughout the final discussions/elimination.  While they are free to "leave the runway', they move to become part of the audience instead of disappearing behind a curtain.
  • The dismissal line: We just aren't buying your line. 

The bloggers who hate the show all seem to mourn the lack of a Tim Gunn character.  While I find Gunn adds the charm to PR, I also believe that had the producers chosen to add a mentor-character to the show, the critics would have found whomever filled that role lacking.  There is only one Tim Gunn. 

I was surprised that I missed the element of shopping at Mood. Hopefully in later programs we will see more of their fabric-decision process and get a clue how each makes their design decisions. It was a small point in PR, but it added a lot to understanding the design idea of each contestant.

Many also complained about the weak dismissal line; I agree.  So many of these seemed overworked and dull with an unappealling attempt to make them relavent to the idea of the show.  Where Trump's "You're Fired!" works, Mizrahi's line is a snooze.

One change which I did like: the fashion show atmosphere for the challenge each week.  While the finalists will not have a show at Fashion Week, they instead have a fashion show every week with exposure to the business people with whom they will eventually be working.

The reviews:

Alessandra Stanley at Sign on San Diego:  There is plenty to enjoy, but not much to applaud. At its best, fashion celebrates originality; “The Fashion Show” feeds on imitation.

Anne Bratskeri of Newsday (via justusboys): BOTTOM LINE: Overall, a meaner, harsher fashion competition, but compelling. When the judges hate something, they don't try to couch their disdain.

RachelL from SideReel:

At first, it seems like a brilliant new approach to the familiar format - audiences might be more invested if they actually see something wearable - but it's quickly apparent from the premiere episode that a good part of the appeal of "Runway" lies in the outrageous designs. Haute couture is not always accessible to Main Street America, but producing it is a very creative and entertaining process.

Televisionary's Jace:

And while it might sound in theory very similar to Project Runway, there's a lot to be said about Runway's own skin tight format, the wise and knowing presence of mentor Tim Gunn, and the troika of cutting judges Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, and Nina Garcia. In fact, watching The Fashion Show reminds you that there's more to a piece of clothing than just the cloth; it's how it's cut and shaped by the hands of a master craftsman.

PopWatch.EW.com Missy Schwartz:

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but boy can it make for some lousy television. Case in point: tonight's premiere of Bravo's The Fashion Show, a.k.a. Since We Lost 'Project Runway' to Lifetime (Argh!) We Came Up With This New Series That Is Totally Just As Awesome as the Original -- Really! Please Watch!

I'd like to give The Fashion Show the benefit of the doubt and allow that subsequent episodes might improve. But what we saw this evening wasn't pretty: an obvious -- and obviously inferior -- Runway copycat in which 15 aspiring designers compete for a $125,000 grand prize and for the chance...not to show their collection at Fashion Week, but to sell their line "in a retail market." (If that's not conveniently vague, I don't know what is.)

Tom and Lorenzo-Fabulous and Opinionated- thought:

Anyway, our point is, we don't quite get why some people are being so vehemently negative about this show. If you like Project Runway, then why on earth wouldn't you like this show? It has literally all the exact same elements. We find it hard to believe that THAT many people watch PR ONLY for the host/judges/mentor. Like we said, we love them too, but we didn't go into last night's show expecting to see them or even see a close approximation of them. We expected to see crazy designers bitching at each other while they try to complete impossible challenges and then end it with a runway show of hungry models parading the results around for judging. Done and done. Mission accomplished.

What about you?  Did you watch last week?  Will you continue to watch?  Did you love it or hate it? 
I haven't even touched upon the contesants or the designs!

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her journey to fitness at Weight for Deb.

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