When reality TV shows first arrived on the scene, audiences were drawn in by the feeling that what they were seeing was somehow true to life. Many of the shows have gone a step further by involving audiences either during the show (through voting) or after the show (through creating a new star or icon). Fashion Star is a new show on NBC that blurs the lines even more.
Structure of the show
If anyone is a fashion reality-show fan, the obvious comparison to make is Fashion Star vs. Project Runway, and there are a few similarities. In both Project Runway and Fashion Star, up-and-coming designers from all walks of life try to avoid being eliminated to move on to the next round. They work with fashion mentors, and both shows are hosted by supermodels.
Despite a few superficial similarities, there are a few key differences that set Fashion Star apart. One way to generalize all the differences is by summing up the show's intention: Fashion Stars focuses on producing a marketable product. In fact, the whole idea of the show is that the fans watching at night can buy the things they see the very next day.
Instead of answering to a panel of judges, contestants on Fashion Star are vying for the approval of actual corporate buyers for Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M. If the buyers like what they see, the designers might make a sale right on the show -- and if a designer does sell something to a buyer, they're automatically safe from elimination. At the end of the show, it's the buyers who decide which designer to cut. The designer who makes it to the end will see his or her looks sold in each of the three stores.
This bottom line focus comes through in many aspects of the show. First of all, designers focus on only one item of clothing each week, and show that same item (whether a pair of pants, a jacket, a blouse or something else) in different colors, just like you might see in a department store. Because the show highlights looks that will appeal commercially, not as much screen time is given to the designers' creative process. This show is about designing clothes that real people want to wear, not about seeing who can create a ball gown out of used car parts.
It's easy to see how a fan of reality fashion shows might be attracted to something that puts the reality of fashion at its forefront. But there are also times that the show rings a little bit insincere.
From encouragements at the bottom of the screen to tweet about your favorite looks of the night to the constant reminders that the fashions are available for purchase in stores and online, it can begin to feel like watching a one-hour commercial. In other similar reality shows, there is at least the illusion of the contestants growing as artists, but Fashion Star boils its concept down to one very simple question: What will you buy?