Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Fashion Show

So, is anybody else watching Bravo's spite-knockoff of Project Runway, "The Fashion Show"? I am guessing that a lot of the aesthetic look of Project Runway is owned by Bravo, such as the time lapse shots of New York, the "_ Hours Until Runway Show" graphics, and the music. This makes me very curious to see what Project Runway will look like in its new home. I'm guessing if the look and feel, if not the actual content and stars, of Project Runway are the intellectual property of Bravo they're going to have to tweak, if not the format, at least the superficial look of the show. The parties have shown themselves extremely willing to engage in litigation so Weinstein shouldn't take any risks.

/lawyer geek.

So, I don't have cable. In a way this is good because to watch Project Runway I have to bum off a friend and invite myself over. Which means that I don't watch it alone. I didn't realize how much having a friend to gossip with increased the enjoyment of watching the show, but watching The Fashion Show online (I won't link because it's probably not legal but you can find it easily enough) by myself is not quite the same.

Nor is the show.

Kelly Rowland: Wha? I mean, I loved Destiny's Child back in the day, but seriously, what is this woman's cultural relevance? And she doesn't overcome it with her wooden presence and complete lack of understanding that the definition of "fashion" is not "stuff I would wear."

Isaac Mizrahi: A funny, genuine person. But he's not warm enough to be Tim Gunn or bitchy enough to be Duchess Michael Kors. Also, he appears comfortable on film, but not remotely natural. He keeps doing the Michael Scott thing where his eyes cut over to the camera.

Fern Mallis: Why don't they use her more? She really could give Tim Gunn a run for his money. She is sweet and encouraging and knows everything about fashion, especially its marketability. An internship with Fern Mallis should be every aspiring designer's dream. I think that should be the prize, and that she should replace Kelly Rowland in the workroom visits. But she's probably too busy with her real job. Of which Kelly doesn't have one.

There is the usual mix of silly, unwarranted divas and a few people who keep their heads down and let their talent shine through. Actually, I'm not sure there are any of those, but there is some genuine talent.

As in Project Runway, there's a lot of harping on the finishing of garments.

One of the contestants got very pissy about being called out for poor sewing, saying repeatedly, "I didn't know this was a contest for America's Best Home Sewer" (a line, might I add, that he ripped off from Tim Gunn, who said it about all the people who came to Project Runway auditions with portfolios of garments sewn from commercial patterns although I can't find the source for this).

Isaac--who has publicly emphasized the importance of sewing to designing in the past--said, "You can't write recipes without knowing how to cook."

I totally agree. I am not a designer, as I am continually telling people who say, when they find out I sew, "You should go on Project Runway!" I have drafted a few simple projects, but in the end I have neither the skills nor the vision to be a designer. So I am not saying this from a place of thinking that I'm better than anyone.

But to me there are two components to fashion design. The first is artistic. But the second is engineering. If you can conceive of a garment but cannot carry it out into wearable execution (and production sewing is yet another ball of wax), your work is art but it is not fashion design. And that was the issue with this designer. He created a bodice that would not stay up without duct tape. If he doesn't know enough about sewing and construction to understand that two jersey triangles without straps, boning, or structure will not stay up over a woman's breasts, he is not a designer. He is an artist, perhaps. But not a designer.

I would quibble with the judges on finishing techniques. You don't have to know finishing techniques to be a designer. That is something you can leave to skilled workers once you're successful enough to hire them. I think I'm even ok with safety pins, assuming they're standing in for viable seams. But garments that do not function as garments? That is not successful fashion design. Unless you're Viktor & Rolf, as demonstrated at right.

Overall, the show is going well, but hasn't quite decided what it is. I love the emphasis on saleability, and that the weekly prize is production and sale of the winning garment (with well-executed details and surprisingly affordable price points) and the final prize is an entire line sold on However, the judges seem conflicted about this. At one point, when the guest judge likes the losing design because it's something his clients would buy "without even thinking about it" (because it is flattering, innocuous, and easy to wear), Isaac says, "This isn't the salesman show." actually *is* the salesman show. Notwithstanding that mandate, the judges often choose the garment that will be the most difficult and expensive to produce, with the most fashionified silhouette suitable only for fashion insiders with model figures. I'm not sure how--if ever--this tension will be resolved. It doesn't necessarily have to be for the show to be enjoyable, but the home sewist/armchair dreaming designer would love to know which it is.

The Fashion Show airs on Thursdays on Bravo.


BConky said...

I've been watching it. The contestants aren't as talented as the contestants on Project runway but I still enjoy it.

mjb said...

Thanks for posting that link to the Isaac video. I like where he talks about sewing jacket and says that "every piece of tweed is different from every other piece of tweed" - I think that gets to the heart of why sewing is so fun and such a challenge.

McVal said...

My daughter and I saw our first episode last week. One line I thought was funny was one of the "salemen" judges told one of the designers that "this dress looks like you just brought home your first Vogue pattern." SLAM!
I remember when I bought my first Vogue pattern and he's right... It looked just like my first attempt. Very amateurish. I think she was trying to put some funky ruching on the front of it. But didn't get it done in time.
We don't get Bravo either, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of these somehow.

lsaspacey said...

For the longest time I looked for the show online so I could watch it like I used to watch PR but for the longest time the Bravo site only had the first episode up there. But I was just able to watch the "Real Women" episode on their site so maybe they will post all of them from now on.

I would love if someone like you or Cidell or any of the other sewist blogs would recap the shows. I participate in the comments at Tom & Lorenzo (aka Project RunGay) but most of the people there obviously don't sew so many of the things they say about the workmanship or materials have no real merit.

Myra said...

Well, I haven't seen them as we don't get Bravo. I did check out the website and photo galleries; some of their things are just sloppy or rehashes. To me, there really is very little "fashion design" anymore, since so much is rehashing and just changing collars, necks a bit. Kind of like movies and shows today, rehashing and redoing. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not necessarily innovative. The other side of today's "designing" is how extremely unwearably (ugly, unusual, etc.) can we make it. And sewing should be emphasized as you pointed out, jersey triangles will never stay up without help.

Elaray said...

I've seen one episode of The Fashion Show and I am only a mild - moderate fan of Project Runway. The Fashion Show seems like a second rate knock-off to me. I really only liked the sniping and bitching on Project Runway and The Fashion Show doesn't even do that well enough for me! ;)

MarilynB said...

For the time being, the Fashion show is filling a void created by the absence of Project Runway. I find the designs on TFS are more wearable than on PR, but that's purely my opinion. I really do like Issac Mizrahi, I always did and I always will.

Nancy K said...

I agree that it is filling a void left by Project Runway, but Kelly Roland is useless and where is Tim Gunn? You realize what a great asset he is even more when he isn't there. The mini contest at the beginning tends to be rather irritating and irrelevant for the most part.

Adelaide B said...

I find that I really am upset by the poor quality of sewing on the show. I get distracted by the safety pins, crooked seams, and horrible hems. I know time is short, but have these people never heard of fusible hem tape? This show has ended up as a placeholder for me until PR is back.

Anonymous said...

I watch it. Most of the show annoys me, but I tend to Tivo it and watch it as I sew myself so I don't pay too much attention to the small things to be turned off by it.

As to the construction of the desingers, when I did attend classes for design, I was the only one in class that could actually make a wearable garment. Construction was not high on the list of things we needed to do, and we had a list of local seamstresses that would make the garments for our assignments. Even the sewing class was how to make a mock up and simple sewing skills not construction techniques: it was just enough to not make it fall off a dress dummy.

Because of that, I think I judge them less harshly because so many colleges aren't giving it the importance it really needs.

Meg said...

I can't watch it... I hate it, it makes me mad. I just can't stand all the attitude, and the lack of ability. I watch shows like project runway to be impressed, and inspired and to wonder continuously how these amazing designers can pull out beautiful outfits in such a short amount of time... I don't watch to see people who sew worse than I do!

I watched the first 2 episodes and then gave up...

Seriously, how can you say you're a designer if you can't even sew properly? I totally agree with you that there are 2 components to being a designer... If all you can do is sketch you aren't a designer, you're an artist.

Oh dear, this has turned into such a rant!!! I must sound like a crazy person!! LOL!

gwensews said...

I do not like the show. At all. I enjoyed Project Runway, but this other deal is not interesting, entertaining or educational.

Dana said...

I agree with everything you said. I think if the stiffness and seriousness are just lack of experience in this venue. I recently read an article about how the first season of PR didn't catch on right away either - until they showed it everyday for like two months!

geek sewing said...

Lawyer geek is impressive. I would like to see her come out more often.

As for The FS, it's entertainment. As if there's countless shows like this... can't be too picky. I'll take what I can get!

"If I knew how to sew, I'd conquer the world." LOL!

Faye Lewis said...

What are you making from the red/white or pink/white seersucker?

ClaireOKC said...

There is a belief that a piece of art isn't complete until it has become reality. The painting in the head of a painter isn't really art, till the painting is on the canvas. I find the idea that a designer creating a design as an art form, just a little lacking. The idea and concept has to be made real for it to be art. For an artist to just think and design a painting in his/her head is not enough. The creation must be painted. The painter has to learn how to mix colors, handle different media, develop a style, know how to apply the paint to the canvas to become an artist.

That's what sewing is all about - it's learning how to paint so that the design can be completed by becoming reality. The painter who either doesn't know how to paint or paints poorly creates a sub-standard piece of art because the artist can not effective translate the design into reality.

It makes you wonder at the shoddiness of RTW because the designer doesn't know good construction, therefore garments are made to last for 2 or 3 wearings. There's not anything to compare to good construction since the poor quality is so pervasive in RTW.

At least The Fashion Show is talking about it in the open.

Marji said...

I finally caught up on my recorded episodes of The Fashion Show, so was able to come back and read your commentary. I really think you've got quite an astute take on it, and that they would benefit from reading your post.
And I too wish that Fern M had a large role in the show. Isaac M may be a good businessman and a competent designer, but he sure is lacking in the Television Host arena. And Kelly whatever-her-name-is has nothing to add whatever.
Just curious, who do you see going all the way?