Consumption of ‘Fashion’

NBC’s newest show is the love child of “American Idol” and “Project Runway.” Instead of Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, we have Jessica Simpson, John Varvatos and Nicole Richie as mentors who critique aspiring designers and their pieces. In place of Ryan Seacrest, former-model-turned-lingerie designer Elle Macpherson hosts, causing male viewers to count their stars.

With scores of reality shows centered on finding the next great designer, it was only a matter of time that a new one would burst onto the scene. Spin-offs of “Project Runway” have been attempted, but found no lasting success. So what’s new about NBC’s “Fashion Star”? Here’s the breakdown.

Each week, designers present a showcase of three to four pieces to representatives from Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and H&M. The buyers, if they like what they see, make a monetary “offer,” and if they don’t, the dreaded “No Offer” flashes on their screen in front of heartbroken designers. From there, it’s pretty simple: those who get a bid move on, and those who don’t are at risk for elimination. The three celebrity mentors choose one designer to save, and the three buyers choose one to send home.

However, the big gimmick of “Fashion Star” is that viewers are able to buy the clothes that get an offer the very next day. Say H&M makes a bid on a super sleek dress that would be perfect for Vegas. Well, lucky you! You’ll be able to find one in stores and online the very next day.

Aside from this exciting twist, “Fashion Star” puts less focus on the behind-the-scenes drama of “Project Runway” in exchange for high-energy runway shows complete with dance numbers and elaborate props like motorcycles and revolving doors.

Fans of “Project Runway” are privy to the backgrounds of designers, but with “Fashion Star,” only snippets of their past are introduced to viewers.  But as the season unfolds, this writer suspects that the backgrounds of each of the remaining contestants will be unveiled slowly but surely.

Some notable contestants that we’ve seen so far have been: Sarah Parrott, the stay-at-home mom who has had two consecutive offers from H&M in the first two weeks; Nicholas Bowes, the leather jacket designer to whom Jessica Simpson told, “I really kind of want to hit you across the face right now”; and the tiny but highly emotional El Salvadorian, Oscar Fierro, who was (very) tearfully eliminated in the second week.

“Fashion Star,” now in its third week, has had mediocre ratings but impressive sales, with almost all of the designs selling out within a day or so. Not so surprising, thanks to the insight provided by the mentors. Differing greatly from their previous television appearances, Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson really seem to know what they’re doing and even have some insightful things to say when in their element.

Although “Fashion Star” is essentially a walking advertisement for the stores featured, it’s also an entertaining yet mind-numbing reality fashion competition that urges consumers to do what they do best: consume. Let the shopping begin!

Rating: 3 out of 5