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'Fashion Star': Instant gratification and a lot of gaffes

March 14, 2012 |  9:23 am

The fashion competition series concept hit prime-time network TV on Tuesday night with the premiere of NBC's "Fashion Star." What the show has going for it is instant gratification -- the winning designs featured on the runway were available instantly at and

But putting that novelty aside, the rest of it was kind of a mess, starting with the intro voice-over mispronouncing Ralph Lauren's name. For once and for all, it's Lauren as in Lauren Hutton, not Sophia Loren.

What the creators seem to want to do with "Fashion Star," which features retail buyers from Macy's, Saks and H&M bidding on designers' creations, is to show viewers a little bit about the business of fashion. But the rules were never explained, so confusion set in early. (And did we really need to see that cheesy lingerie parade of Elle MacPherson Intimates first thing out of the gate? Presumably, this is a show for women, right?)

The designers were given the challenge to create a signature piece. They staged mini-shows on the runway. They were competing for money -- and not to be voted off fashion island. But it's not clear what the buyers' offers of $50,000 or $80,000 represented. Did those figures reflect the number of units manufactured and sold? Or was it more of an overall investment in the designer's brand?

I'm hoping all will be revealed next week.

As a host, Elle MacPherson is suitably model-icy. And all of the buyers are interesting to watch and listen to, particularly Terron Schaefer of Saks, who adds some gravitas to the proceedings. But the cast of "mentors" -- designers John Varvatos and celebrity-designers Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson -- don't mentor as much as they add comic relief.

(Watching Simpson is like watching Daisy Duke trying to give an opinion on fashion. "That's what my mom and I call a twofer," she says of Orly Shani's convertible skirts with layers that zip off, which Saks picked up for $80,000.)

It's too early to cast a verdict on "Fashion Star." The show has plenty of "American Idol"-style bells and whistles, including dry ice that shoots up from the stage like a geyser every five minutes, hard luck stories and catty comments. And there do seem to be some entertaining personalities emerging, including Oscar Fierro, a "pint-sized" designer from El Salvador with a penchant for top hats, who is clearly the weeper in the house, and Texas tailor in a bow tie Ross Bennett (though he needs a tutorial on the difference between culottes and palazzo pants).

Now, we'll see if any of these fashion stars make clothes that sell.

-- Booth Moore


'Fashion Star' is designed with retail in mind

Ambitious Nicole Richie has designs on a star brand