Why Fashion Reality TV Needs to Be More Like The September Issue

I’m not much of one for watching television, but I’m always a sucker for anything that is related to fashion.  Project Runway is still on my list, at least until I get so frustrated by the obvious manipulations in production.  I’m still hoping that a US version of Great British Sewing Bee will appear here.

Last year designer Betsey Johnson and her daughter Lulu did eight episodes of a show called XOX Betsey Johnson.  I did not get the channel it was on so I did not see it.  According to the interviews I’ve read with the two Johnsons, the show was unscripted and they were just “living their lives.”  Somehow I don’t completely buy it, especially since the show included an “inspiration” trip to Tokyo, mother-daughter mammograms, and a retrospective fashion show complete with performance by Cyndi Lauper.

Betsey was recently on another reality show of a sort, Dancing with the Stars.  Did you recognize her in the very poor photo of my television screen, above?

Recently, two new fashion “reality programs” have hit the airways.  First up is The Fashion Fund, with is actually a showing of the proceedings behind choosing the winner of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America)/Vogue Fashion Fund.  It might be interesting except for one thing: the winner was announced before the program started.  Why would anyone care about watching a competition where the winner is already known?  It’s a mystery to me.

The other show is House of DVF, in which eight young women compete for a job as Diane von Furstenberg’s style ambassador, whatever that is.  It seems so contrived, with fake situations and anything for an excuse for Diane to walk up and down the stairway to her office.  The contestants are not likable, and they seem to be entirely clueless about what actually happens in a fashion house.

On the episode I watched the contestants were instructed to make style inspiration boards with the theme of the Côte d’Azur.  There seemed to be no instructions on what an inspiration board actually is, and several of the contestants did not even know where the Côte d’Azur is located.  I’m betting none of them gets the job.

What I really hate about this nonsense is that there is a real opportunity lost here.  Much in the way The September Issue film showed the inner workings of Vogue magazine, House of DVF should be about how a fashion house operates.  The September Issue worked because the producers saw the actual story in the day to day workings in which interesting people interact when putting together the most important issue of the fashion year.  Scenarios were not created nor were the events manipulated.  How much more interesting House of DVF would be if we were treated to how the business actually functions instead of a fabricated for TV mess.

19 Comments

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19 responses to “Why Fashion Reality TV Needs to Be More Like The September Issue

  1. DvF probably wouldn’t want to open the doors to the workroom completely to the public (unfortunately) – there may be things that they wouldn’t want the public to see, such as unpaid interns designing an outfit or two that has eventually ended up on the runway. I know of this happening to someone I know.
    Anyhow, reality TV shows can be so frustrating AND infuriating, yet tempting to watch if they’re (supposed) to be about fashion. I’m guess I’m lucky that I don’t have pay TV at the moment.
    Great post!

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  2. Funnily enough I have one friend who was on Project Runway a few seasons ago and one friend who was on last year’s Fashion Fund. The two experiences couldn’t have been more different. PR friend did not recognize anything that he said on the show, so edited, spliced and removed from context it was. We didnt really recognize him either! FF friend is still reaping the rewards of his time on the show. Very realistic and about the hard work and striving of becoming a new label and gaining recognition. As for DVF, I’m glad I don’t have TV anymore. It looks like an episode of The Bachelorette!

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  3. Thank YOU Lizzie for as always ! The inner – workings of a fashion magazine have nothing what so ever / nor to compare with the daily routine of a fashion house….then i dare say it has been my unfortunate experience to have been at the mercy of a few interns from both industries – so happy i jumped ship when the fashion industry was not the 3 ring circus it has become! Too bad/sad someone can’t get it right-a reality show for either fashion house or publication “could ” be really funny…i/we had a wonderful -funny-crazy-fabulous career in both areas!

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  4. Lizzie, I worked in TV and just can’t watch reality shows, because it’s obvious how fake and manipulated they are. The only one I enjoyed was watching the French version of sewing bee online, because it was a straightforward sewing competition about pulling off a certain project in a short amount of time, and the people knew how to sew. Apparently someone did a U.S. sewing bee pilot in a different format last spring that didn’t go anywhere.
    On a different note, I saw that Pendleton has re-released a nice new version of the ’49er jacket. I’m tempted!

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  5. Well said, Lizzie! Give me reruns of Mad Men anytime (so I can eye those ’60’s-inspired fashions) over any reality show.

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  6. I watched Project Runway for about four years. These days I only tune in for the last episodes, if that. Not only is it too fake, but the judges’ decisions are often too stupid for words.

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    • Every season I start watching it, and most of the time I give it up midway through. I do enjoy Zac Posen’s critiques, as he actually goes up and examines the garment and makes construction comments. I hate the non-fashion celebrity judges.

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  7. Television has nearly always been about selling a product, and I think these latest fashion “reality” shows are purely promotional/marketing tools for the designers. It’s too bad, but I think it’s the nature of the beast. (Sheesh, this latest iteration of Project Runway with the bad corporate-sponsored challenges–just painful!)

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  8. Absolutely. Why else would DVF embarrass herself like that if not for the publicity. And look what being on Project Runway did for Michael Kors’ bottom line.

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