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Fashion Diary: Simon Fuller plotting fashion domination

Gossip, first impressions, trends in the making, celebrities and style setters. A regular feature by fashion critic Booth Moore.

Fuller_rage "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller is partnering with Net-a-porter vet Sojin Lee on a new online fashion venture called Fashionair launching in September. And if anyone can take the fashion experience to the next level on the Web, it's these two.

"I want to be a pioneer in the way content and retail can co-exist on the internet," Fuller wrote to me in an e-mail. "Television will no doubt have a part to play in Fashionair’s expansion, but for now we are focused on the web."

The site will be a hybrid of entertainment and e-commerce, featuring video programming taped around the world and edited at Fuller's 19 Entertainment Ltd. studios in London. Like "American Idol" -- and unlike most glossy magazines -- the site aims to be inclusive. "We are going at this from a consumer perspective," Lee said by phone from London. "We want to tell stories and have solutions for fashion dilemmas."

Don't expect an intimidating, perfectly coiffed editor-in-chief dictating trends and annointing new designers. At Fashionair, the users will be the voice. "We are living in the YouTube generation," Lee said. "Every individual has been given a means of expression, and you get inspiration from your neighbor, from someone living in Hong Kong, from so many places."

Fashionair is more about discovering style than discovering fashion.

There will be eight regular shows. For "Seven Days of Chic," 50 women worldwide were given video cameras and asked to keep a style diary of their outfits. Users will also be asked to submit their own style diaries as well.

"Style Council" is a shopping show featuring personalities such as L.A. retailer Tracey Ross and celebrity stylist Annabel Tollman presenting the best blazers of the season, telling users how to dress for a wedding, or what to wear with an oversized clutch. Fashionair's product merchandising team selects the items sold in conjunction with the show, with links to retailer affiliates -- both high- and low-end.

"If Barneys is sold out of an item, we have a system so that Saks.com will appear," Lee explains. "Or if one style is sold out, a similar style will appear. It's providing a solution for a consumer so she doesn't feel like she's hitting a brick wall."

(Because honestly, how many times do you feel that way when you're reading a fashion magazine? Don't even get me started on the whole "price upon request" scam.)

"Fashion Insider" will document stylish personalities including photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, makeup artist Val Garland and set designer Stefan Beckman. "We meet with the person, spend a few days with them, capture them in action and create a five- to six-minute movie," Lee explained. 

"Chic Fix" will be a source for fashion news, cultural and shopping tips, which Lee hopes eventually to localize for different cities. Fashionair will also feature interactive shopping guides from contributing editors such as fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul.

Interestingly, runway coverage is not part of the plan. "We don’t compete with magazines," Lee said. "If I broke this down very simplistically, we are the biggest, most interactive blog in the world, pulling in lots of different sources. It's about celebrating the diversity and breadth of style."

The site will not be subsidized by traditional banner advertising. Instead, Fuller and Lee are looking at affiliate deals and sponsorship opportunities. And of course, there are lots of possibilities for synergy with Fuller's entertainment properties and fashion clients, including Galaxy dress designer Roland Mouret, pop singer-turned-designer Victoria Beckham and model Claudia Schiffer. 

And if you think fashion is merely a diversion for the "Idol" creator, think again. "I believe there are some exciting new ventures ahead and these will almost certainly include looking at more designers, as well as developing more fashion brands for my existing clients," he said. "Everything I do will naturally cross over with entertainment. My intention is always to look to innovate, and fashion is at the center of my focus right now."

"Fashion Idol" -- bring it on!

Photo: Simon Fuller. Credit: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times

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