Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fashion Show Ultimate Competition Returns

Photo by: Mike Ruiz/Bravo 

Bravo’s design series The Fashion Show returns tonight in a revamped, practically unrecognizable form. Host and judge Kelly Rowland has been replaced by supermodel Iman. There will be 12 designers competing instead of 15. And, most importantly the competitors will be split into two fashion houses and will stage a complete runway extravaganza each week.

The one anchoring factor is the return of Isaac Mizrahi.

In a recent conference call interview, Isaac and Iman talked about the new format, the latest cast of characters, and how their larger than life personalities will factor into the show.

The Fashion Show Ultimate Collection premieres tonight at 10:00 PM PST / 9:00 PM Central on Bravo.

Q: This is the first time a show has split the designers into two fashion houses. How does that change the dynamic of the show?

IMAN: I mean the show itself is called The Fashion Show. So ultimately, it’s very more important and becomes really pertinent to have a fashion show, okay?

And so when you have individual designers creating individual looks for a challenge, you really don’t see a fashion show. So the element of creating something that it’s unique, different than what has ever been put on TV when it comes to fashion was very important for both Isaac and I.

That’s one of the reasons that actually we insisted on also being executive producers on the show because we have so much information—Isaac as a designer, me having been around designers for like almost 30 years. It was very important for us to really bring something new and something creative to the arena of TV that has not been seen. Isaac?

ISAAC: Got it. Right. I mean, you know, this idea of doing fashion shows is something that I think is the right evolution, you know, because there’s a lot of reality competition in TV out there and I think this is just an evolution.

And it’s something really amazing that you have Bravo, who is kind of innovating this because, you know, they innovate a lot… Iman and I were producers. And this is something… we were kind of like going in this direction, going in this direction, and like we really managed to kind of pull it off. And, you know… it did not come easily.

We were very lucky to have Stefan Campbell, who is the fashion producer and actually one of the wonderful personalities on the show that you will see. And, you know, not only is he a wonderful personality, not only is he sort of cute actually, but he really does know how to produce fashion shows. So in the end, you know, like we got the sensational kind of eye candy shows one after another, you know.

And I’ll tell you what, you know, the first day of shooting this season, I was very trepidatious, very nervous. You know, what finally happened on the third day was the fashion show took place, you know. The competition, you know, was set up by Iman and then they had their moment with me and then they… and I think we were all kind of holding our breath and wondering, “Look, gosh, what are we going to see?”

And I think the minute the show started and the music started and the first model looked out, I thought, “Oh my God, this is the best show I ever saw.” I mean, in terms of TV. I thought, “Wow, this really means something. This is meaningful.”

And then to see it as a collection I think, that’s another kind of, like another, like fun thing for an audience to watch because, like there’s something about the art of it that makes much more sense now, you know. They’re working on these clothes passionately, individually, but they’re also part of the collective. And that is the way a design company functions, you know. It’s like I am the head designer, I have designers that I work with and they have to make it cohesive, you know.

And by the end of the taping, Iman and I were so sick of the word cohesive. But I think that it’s really, really an important part of fashion, the cohesion of it, how it fits on the runway, fits as a presentation, fits in the world.

IMAN: And… [the] audience is ready to move on to the next evolution as Isaac put it. And I think also the designers that are looking to be in this kind of a competition are in the works. So they were expecting the same old standards until they got on the set and we’ve given them these new sets of rules of engagement.

And it took them by surprise, obviously. But it was very interesting to see what happened from Episode 1 to the mid and end of the show, because you will be astounded of the change of what you’re seeing on the runway. You know, and really all of us... suddenly becomes really professional. Professional.

ISAAC: Yes. It really became something crazy. And like when we were… having to eliminate those last few ones, it was more and more difficult and more and more emotional. Because, again, Iman was so right about the fact that we didn’t know about what went on backstage, but we did get to know them because of the clothes they showed and their explanations. And we got to know who they were as artists, you know.

And I’ll tell you, from my part, that was all I really sort of cared about this time. I just wanted to connect with their artistries, you know what I mean? I wanted to maybe somehow impart some information to them this time, you know what I mean?

I felt like I didn’t care about the drama. I know that that’s why you watch a reality competition show because of the drama and the personalities. But to me, it was really about connecting with those artistic temperaments and really getting something smart out of them.

And by the end, it was like a lot of tears because, you know, we’ve really got to know them. We really felt almost like kin, you know. I know Iman did too.

IMAN: And… it’s kind of very difficult to really decide from somebody who is their strength is in one thing and another one which is their strength is in another thing, which will be apples and oranges and trying to compare them, and trying to really see which one is the chosen one. It makes it really difficult when the talent is good.

But, you know, if we’re just judging it by the characters, you know, and all that, you end up eliminating somebody who’s very talented because of their...


IMAN: ...lack of character or lack of bitchiness.

ISAAC: That’s right.

IMAN: So really, we didn’t want to go there.

ISAAC: Yes, the thing is that like from my perspective, like I kept saying this at the end of show like I was saying, “Listen, we have to eliminate you but not because you’re a bad designer, because you’re not good at design competition shows.” That’s a completely different other thing. Like some people are really good on their feet. In 24 hours they can produce something great, you know. It may take someone 36 or 48.

But I didn’t care about that like in the end, the people got hurt because they were eliminated and there’s drama around the eliminations of course. But for me, I was trying to buoy myself up constantly by thinking, “Hopefully they’re learning something; hopefully, they’re taking something beautiful away from this experience and they’ll be able to use it, you know.”

And of course, the ones that were eliminated in the beginning had less to take away. But I still thought like every single person on that show got dealt with really fairly, partially because… Iman is right, we did not see the backstage.

And, you know, it’s like, in a way, before we started doing these interviews today, I was a little insecure about not seeing the edited shows before talking. And now I think it’s great because if I had seen the edited shows, I might be thrown off. All you’re getting from me and Iman right now is the experience of having worked through it, you know.

And we don’t really know what the editing is. We don’t really know...

IMAN: We haven’t seen anything.

IMAN: But I haven’t even seen the promo.

ISAAC: You haven’t seen - it says, “We have a fashion emergency and we need an evacuation.” That is the whole...

IMAN: It sounds very German.

ISAAC: No, you know, well you come across, darling. You do come across a little sort of German...


ISAAC: ...in… the way you put things. But...

IMAN: Well that is my job. I mean that is my job.

ISAAC: That’s right, your job. Exactly. Exactly.

Q: So what can you tell us about the designers and the level of talent that we’ll see this time around?

ISAAC: I think that the level of talent for the contestants has really risen sort of exponentially, you know. And I think that one good thing is that they are, let’s say, temperamental and interesting in their interaction because they’re more passionate about clothes, you know what I mean?

Where Season 1, it felt slightly like, you know, more sort of, like about the personalities of the, you know, the kids. And now it’s really about the making of clothes and the passion about making clothes. And I think that’s the drama that you’re going to be watching this time, you know.

And for me, the level of the talent… it’s a whole other ballgame. It’s a game changer let’s say.

IMAN: As you know, that I was not on the first season. So... I have to say honestly, I didn’t watch that much of that first season. But what I’ve seen that… makes a great show… is that it’s taking the equation out of characters.

Because, you know, at the end of the day it’s about the talent. That’s what I think, it’s about the talent. So… not know what is happening, the dramas and the bitchiness that goes backstage, not to know as a host and a judge, not to know anything about that, that takes the burden off of me, of not criticizing or bringing the baggage of not liking somebody because of their character.

At the end of the day, I really want to judge them for the talent that they have brought on the runway. That’s it for me. For the audience, obviously, it is the drama and entertainment and all that. But for me, at the end of the day, it’s about the talent.

Q: Iman, why did you decide to join the show?

IMAN: Well… when I was asked to join… Isaac and I had a meeting since I know Isaac over 20 years. And… both of us wanted to talk to each other about the concerns I’ve had of what… the new show should look like. And our main thing was, you know, the show is called The Fashion Show. So we really should create a fashion show.

So, you know, Bravo has supported us, both of us very, very well in understanding. And really we need to change the whole game of reality show when it comes to fashion. Where is the next level to go to? And what we really wanted to create is something that has a high drama of a reality show but really was based more on the talents, and to see something that the viewers have never seen before on TV. That was very, very important to us.

Now what was really surprised me is the long hours. I have never worked this hard in my life. In my life. It was hard, long, long, long hours.

Q: Isaac, being a party to both seasons, what does Iman bring to the table that wasn’t there in the first season?

ISAAC: Well, you know, it’s hard with her being on the phone. Can you call me back on a private line? No, I’m just kidding.

But I was going to say you know what it is, it’s a different kind of expertise, you know. And frankly, it’s a kind of fashion temperament, you know, like it’s nothing but fashion temperament. That’s what it is, you know. It’s like she is looking at it like the greatest, greatest sort of creator of fashion, by the way. I mean she’s a great designer in her own right, but even more than that, a consumer of it and an arbiter of it, you know what I mean?

She’s been through a good deal, but… she knows how to spot things. She knows like how to put things together in terms of, you know, the visual of something and then what she hears and the vibe of the room. I mean she’s been through a few fashion shows, is what I’m saying, you know.

And what I love about our show is that it’s called The Fashion Show and it’s about a fashion show, you know. And I swear to you, like no matter what, the minute you have a runway and music and models walking, and there’s that kind of fourth wall that stood up, right, there is the audience sitting in the room vibing, you know what I mean? And… it’s so funny… Iman is a great barometer of that, you know what I mean? She’s a great barometer of what is happening in the room, you know.

And the thing that’s wonderful about her too is that she’s extremely objective and she kind of looks at the guest judges. She looks at the girl across the runway who she never met before and the expression… she looks at the model wearing this thing and a lot of times, you can tell how someone feels about something they’re wearing, you know. They don’t think they’re betraying something, you know.

But Iman has extra, extra, extra sensitivity about that situation, about cultural phenomenon, you know what I mean? So I think that’s what she brings.

You know, Season 2 is much-watched TV simply because you have her, you know. I mean just to figure out exactly what she’s saying because half of times you can’t understand it, and I’m sure there’re going to be subtitles, you know, right?

Because just that alone is like fabulous. And just seeing what she wears, you know, that’s an educational in itself. I mean you had to be at the High Fest, my dear. It was like, you know, oh my God, hair and makeup and clothes going in and out of that room. I never saw anything like it in my life. It was like, you know, the Queen of a country or something.

IMAN: It was High Fest.

ISAAC: No, it was. It was insane. I mean the number of stylists and people, you know, sort of sculpting out of the room with their tail between their legs. It really was something funny and entertaining, you know.

You’ll see. You’ll see. I mean, I wonder, have you seen the pilot because we haven’t?... Well, you know, I do think that there’s a kind of authority that is there with Iman, you know.

So the question was what else did we bring. I mean the whole show was retooled and that it’s two fashion shows, you know. Iman and I are now executive producers on the show and that kind of I think speaks to our passion for the idea of really having this original formula, you know.

And bless Bravo for really producing it to the absolute, absolute last word. And so now we have these two fashion shows at the end. It’s two fashion houses rather than just, you know, competitors. And it really works because it really portrays a modern design facility. It mocks sort of like this house versus that house, you know, which is really...

Q: You are two reputable strong personalities in this industry. How were you able to balance your personalities individually and your styles of judging the show?

IMAN: Yes. Well I think my word is the last word when it comes to judging. No, I’m kidding. We really… I think Isaac...

ISAAC: Oh my God. I [held] my breath there for a minute. It was like wait, she means that.


ISAAC: Sorry. Okay, okay.

IMAN: Isaac, they should really kiss his feet, these designers, because he is really the nugget of information that imparts to them on a weekly basis and goes to visit them in the studio while creating and guiding them. It is priceless I think.

And as you know, I’m like also… beside that I’ve been in fashion and, you know, as a model and, you know, as a business woman, I’m also a consumer, a woman who wears these clothes.

So as I said before that I think what we are looking for is things that will really, you know, excite women and be excited to want to wear that outfit and elevate them, challenge them, you know. And when you’re looking at these things, you want something, “Wow, I’ve never seen this before; I would love to have it; I would love to wear it.”

So that is the information that I was bringing to the table. You know, we really… get well together because we really come from a different place of the judging pyramid. But, you know, we had a couple of times that we couldn’t make a decision because I had my point of view, he had his point of view, and then… the guest judge had their point of view.

So that’s all a discussion that you will also see. And you’ll see… how then do we… make a decision of who [is] supposed to be going home that night or who’s supposed to be winning.

ISAAC: I do have to say, and just to add something to this, which is that, you know, I’ve known Iman for quite a long time, right? And there is a whole kind of culture that takes place backstage in fashion, you know.

And it somehow tries so hard to kind of translate to the sum of the runway, you know. It’s like—and honestly, Unzipped is something you know, that happened to be a very good movie where you see the kind of personality backstage, whether it was my personality or Lynda’s… personality in that case, you what I mean?

And somehow, Iman’s voice has always been a very strong voice backstage, you know. I mean she’s had a very strong sort of physical presence… And I know that more and more, she’s being called upon in this role. I know she does Project Runway Canada and I know that she speaks a lot. And she’s on HSN and she’s becoming more and more like a sort of a spokesperson. And she’s been very loud and clear all these years.

But I feel like you will not believe, you will not believe the kind of authority that this woman brings to it. You know, it’s like when she enters a room, when she says something… I mean like, you know, we kind of joke about how you can’t get a word and it’ll drive between the two of us, right?

I don’t think that Iman speaks that much. But what she does say is choice, you know. And like there are moments like there were moments when I was looking at something and going, “Oh, well here’s what I think, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then she would come out with something and I would like literally be almost like moved to tears because she got the kind of emotional crux of it in like five words, you know.

I like to talk about the one challenge about the wedding thing… it was a civil union thing where… they were challenged to do clothes for civil unions…. So at one point, I’m going, “Blah, blah, blah and add them to the linen and the thing, da, da, da, da.” And then Iman suddenly says, “Well, the thing you got about this collection is love. You got that [it's] is about love.” Okay, and I swear to you… I hope they kept this in the episode because… I swear, if you cut to me I was like sobbing because she’s right.

I mean, you know, the thing about wedding clothes other than beyond everything is it’s about love. I mean all of the rest of the judges were like, “I didn’t like the shoes; the hair wasn’t right, blah, blah.” And Iman goes, “It’s about love.” And, you know, okay, so now she’s right, you know.

And that kind of weight is what she brings to it. She brings this cultural observation, you know, having been to dinner a million times, having worn these clothes in context, having gotten married more than once. I think she’s very good at bringing… to the table about that, you know, every single solitary occasion she has dressed for, you know what I mean?

So there was a kind of amazing authority. And in the end, I swear, when you said that thing earlier, I think she was joking. She said I had the last word. But really, you know, I did listen to her because as a designer, you tend to listen to someone like that. You really do because that’s the opinion that really matters. It’s the opinion of almost like posterity. You know, Iman, equal sign, posterity. Okay?

IMAN: Oh, thank you.

ISAAC: Yes, that’s why she hired me because I say things like that. Just kidding. All right, so - but it’s really true. It’s really true.

IMAN: I mean I can’t wait for you guys to see the show of where it starts from and how where it goes. I mean I have to say that it surprised us...

ISAAC: It’s fabulous.

IMAN: ...and elated us and beyond the moon. I mean we could not have expected or planned it this way, you know.

ISAAC: It’s true.

IMAN: We wanted so much for it and it over exceeded our imagination of what’s...

ISAAC: The first episode was so… I thought it was really good because when we got to show, I mean there were flaws and we saw where it needs to go, but the shows were really good, the fashion shows, you know. And I was very relieved and I know Iman was very relieved because you don’t know what the talent is capable of until you actually see the first collection.

And then I think, I don’t know, into the show, the second and third collection, we lost it because they really disappointed us and we let them have it. I mean like I was almost afraid that we had gone too far, you know. But then the following when we came back, it really had changed the level of how they were thinking. And it was such a great show, you know what I mean?

So it’s like just the drama of it, just the week-to-week drama of unfolding of it. And then as Iman was saying, the last collections, oh my God. The few last episodes are simply dazzling.

IMAN: Yes.

ISAAC: They’re dazzling.

IMAN: Truly divine.

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