Left to right: Chris Grant, CEO, Electus; Elle Macpherson, executive producer and host; Ben Silverman, founder and chairman, Electus; Peter White, deputy editor, TBI Magazine (moderating).
Fashion Star, the fruit of a collaboration between Electus and model/lingerie designer Elle Macpherson, is a reality show that puts would-be fashion designers in front of major buyers from Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and H&M. They design clothes and hold a fashion show, during which buyers bid for designs they want. As a masterful cross-media final touch, audience members can immediately order the winning designs online after the show.
“The show really is about giving these designers the opportunity of a lifetime to have a caereer made,” said Ben Silverman. “Buyers are using real money” and taking real risks, he added, which differentiate the show from others: the people you’re trying to impress are also taking risks on you.
“To have three independent fashion buyers come together and actually sit, and spend money and buy clothes and compete,” is amazing, Elle Macpherson added.
“I haven’t seen a programme that has so many layers, from the mentors to the retailers to the models to the fashion shows.”
She also extolled the virtues of working in executive production. This isn’t her first time, but it is her first time doing it for an American show. “The executive production part has been really interesting for me… coming to America, to work with such powerhouses… to be really producing has been a big challenge and a lot of fun. And we had so much support!” She added that co-stars Jessica Simpson, John Barbados and Nicole Ritchie are pleasant to work with and very funny.
“I love the combination of fashion and business and heart. I worked for 30 years in the fashion industry, I don’t think I can afford to associate myself with something that I don’t think is going to be successful. [Fashion Star] is a global product,” Macpherson emphasised.
“Everybody shops,” said Chris Grant. “And it’s a totally unique idea and the format is so different from anything else before it, and that is a tremendous selling point. The finished episodes have sold in more than 75 countries… we’re announcing today that we’ve added some additional territories too.”
“There was conversation about also wanting to encourage America to go back and be consumers again,” said Silverman. As a result, the priority became getting the involvement of Main Street brands, “brands you can touch, you can see … on the streets.” He also hastened to add that the brands involved “didn’t pay any money to be in this show, there’s no advertising piece here. They are the props.”
“What’s exciting to me, to us, is everybody loves the show,” said Grant. And given what we’ve done in the US, it makes it easier in terms of lining up those pieces overseas, because you have such a high bar in America and Elle is such a fantastic partner.”
“People understand when they see the calibre of work that we’ve done,” Macpherson stated simply. “They know what they need to do and they’re stepping up to the mark!” Macpherson will be directly involved in creating across-the-board for formats overseas.
“I think that is where the power of the show, the ability that it has to work everywhere,” said Grant. “It is an ambitious project, and we’ve done a tremendous job thus far selling it, but we’re gonna need to see the process true. As we have this dream team together, we’ll make that happen.”
Countries to whom the show’s been sold include “Germany, France, Turkey, Australia, and other territories that I can’t tell you about, all of them are strategically placed with the exact group that we believe can deliver for us,” Grant went on. “Because that’s the major.”
“People really care about what’s behind the curtain and want to be inside real business dynamics,” but they also want the emotional, dreamy element of living your ambition, Silverman said.
Thankfully though, the show isn’t floating solely on clouds of dreams. “I don’t think business has to be so serious, although this is incredibly serious because there’s real money exchanging,” Macpherson said. “The other thing we haven’t mentioned is that all the clothes are being sold out within a few hours. So the concept is working, the model is working. People are buying into it.”
For this reason, production must be quick, making China the ideal choice for churning that inventory out as quickly as possible. “When the clothes first arrived for us to inspect, that was incredible,” Silverman enthused. “I will say everything is made in China. That was something else we discovered! And the pace with which people can turn around – can create fast fashion like Zara, companies that can condense production to meet trends,” is both impressive and crucial to both entertainment and fashion today.
“This is a show born of its time,” he continued. “It doesn’t live or breathe in without the ability to turn around and make high-end fashion quickly. My wife, after the first episode fell in love with a skirt…”
“…the skirt she wore last night? she looked so good in it!” Macpherson exclaimed.
“Yes!” said Silverman. “She bought the skirt and when it came she was like ‘Oh my God, it’s just like on the show!'”
And that’s what Fashion Star sells: a wildly accessible dream, “as seen on TV.”