The second season of Fashion Star, NBC's version of Project Runway–with-a-twist is here. The coolest part of the show? It's been shot well in advance, and the winning looks are available in stores and online now.
We start the season with a dozen wanna-be fashionistas. The three mentors—Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos—each has four "hand-picked" designers they work with and advise (a new twist for this season). Another change is that perky Brit Louise Roe (editor/designer/"personality") hosts.
Nicole Richie's team is comprised of Daniel, Johana, Priscilla, and Bret. Jessica Simpson has: Hunter, David, Tori, as well as designing duo Jesseray & Garret. Finally, John Varvatos has Amber, Brandon, Cassandra, Silvia.
We wish there had been more time for catty asides, but since there are 12 designers to showcase, this episode was pretty much all about getting the clothes down the runway.
We see a bit of the design studio, but the first part of the show is quick soundbites from most of the designers telling us who they are and why they ought to prevail.
"Each of us have hand-picked the designers we're working with," says Nicole Richie.
A collection of designers' self-assessments follow. Daniel tells us, "I graduated from FIT and was tutoring by the age of 18." Priscilla pipes up with, "As vintage inspired as my look is, it's all mine." Amber's look gets summarized by Daniel: "It's like sexy good girl," and she concurs. JesseRay & Garret: "We've been working together for 7 years…we are collaborators and besties!"
Hunter shares a bit of her pain—she had been selling at Saks a few years ago but the dumped her due to low sales—she says, "This is my first challenge, and I want to come out with a bang." (She mixed her metaphor a bit, but we get where she's coming from.)
Bret says he's "an extremely talented menswear designer—not so sure how he'll do" in this show that's dominated by womenswear. Tori tells us, "I worked at Kmart for five years on their fashion lines, though my aesthetic is more high-end." David proclaims, "It's all about the wow factor to me." Brandon says with assurance, "I am the designer to beat." Silvia, who has worked at Ungaro says, "I started my career at a fashion house in Paris, so my aesthetic is very detail-oriented." Cassandra rounds out the self-promotion and fronting with the line: "I quit my job at Tahari to do this, so I'd better succeed."
As far as the mechanics of getting the garments made, there is little (though we imagine future episodes will have more); we just get a bit of generalized fretting and fabrics not "draping properly."
To add to the viewers' sense of urgency during this, the first episode: There is a clock on the lower right hand of the screen counting down time till you can buy your ownFashion Star looks.
Pre-runway, the models get a once-over by hair and makeup artists from Maybelline and Suave—logos for each prominently displayed—who say pretty-making people clichés like, "We need dewy, sexy skin" and "We want a sexy, just-bitten lip."
Next, we're off to the runway, where each designer shows two looks each. John Varvatos's team goes first and each look has its own capitalized name that flashes on the screen.
Amber Perry starts the show with her "Mod Flare Dress"; it's color-blocked, with orange fitted bodice, sleeveless, and a white, flowing skirt that hits mid-thigh. Her second look is a babydoll dress, in tangerine orange with piping on the top, belted very high on the waist with a full skirt with a lacy hem.
Cassandra lets loose with her "Crop Moto Jacket," a floaty, unconstructed piece in deep blue jacket. She pairs it with grey jersey Bieber-eque harem pants and a slouchy grey T-shirt. John Varvatos and N Richie wisper that it's "not really a showstopper look," and we must agree. Cassandra's look two is a similar jacket in tangerine with huge lapels, worn with a half-tucked white tan and drawstring brown-linen pants.
Next up is Brandon's "Hoodie Jacket Combo," a military-inspired menswear jacket with lapels and a hood, buttons down the center. The model then takes off the jacket to reveal a "twofer" (as Jessica Simpson screams as its revealed): It’s a dark grey hoodie with black accents—including a black leather arm band that encircles the model's left bicep—sexy! Second look not so exciting: A grey hoodie worn with a blue-denim vest over it—this reveal is way less exciting as the model pulls off the vest to reveal…a hoodie!
Silvia goes simple and dubs her look "Coatdress": It's a black oversized coat with big, loose lapels that hits just above the knee. Elaborate silver accents run along the lapels and the open edges of the coat; on the interior of the coat is silver-metallic fabric. All worn over a very cute, sleeves LBD. Silvia's second look a bit more conservative and constructed: A white cotton dress with a very fitted top with long sleeves and a pouf-y skirt that hits a few inches above the knee.
Now we really get to see what the buyers can do. Caprice Willard reps Macy's; Terron E. Schaefer is from Saks; and Erika De Salvatore is here from Express. Each designer is called into the spotlight by Louise and the buyers' bids are displayed on huge TV screens.
Team John Varvatos does quite well in the bidding. Amber gets a whopping $175,000 from Express. (Available now at express.com/fashionstar, naturally.) Silvia gets $75,000 from Saks for her design (saks.com/fashionstar). Then, sadness! Cassandra gets no offers, thus she is up for elimination at the end of the show. Brandon redeems the team with a hefty $120,000 bid from Macy's (now macys.com/fashionstar).
Up next on the catwalk is Team Nicole Richie. Daniel, the menswear pro sends his "Cocktail Dress" down the runway. His first look has a red bodice with black netting over it and up to the neckline; the see-through fabric is embellished with a black felted swirly designs up the front and onto the shoulders. The dress has a knee-length black skirt. Daniel's second look was similar: A cream-colored sleeveless dress with similar embellishment in the same color as the dress, cinched with a wide black belt.
Johana delivered what she calls the "Tulip Dress," a very body-conscious, clean-lined sleeveless number, reminiscent of 1990s Calvin Klein. The black jersey dress had cute leopard-print piping along the neck and arms, and was accessorized with a metallic purple belt. The hemline was floaty and loose, and was a few inches shorter in front (which seemed to be a solid trend among the F.S. designers). Her second look was a version of the same dress in white, with a bit more of a ruffled edge. (Nicole Richie was wowed by how "wearable" Johana's looks were.)
Next up was Priscilla's "Moonlight Romper" minidress: White top with an oval cutaway right below the Peter Pan collar. Bottom was a fluid skirt in an orange floral pattern. Look two was essentially the exact same dress with a grey top (with a contrasting white collar) and grey-yellow skirt.
Bret offered up "Skinny Pants." The first pair, in a shiny black brushed cotton, were quite simple, but cut was awesome and flattering. Second came a look he'd been fretting over in the studio: Two-toned cream and greenish-grey pants (the darker color ran on the outer side of the pants, with seam running down the center of each leg). As John Varvatos said, "The cut is just not flattering, not fitting right."
The buyers then had their way with Team Nicole Richie: Daniel got $150,000 from Saks (buyer Terron says, "We have a long history of discovering great talents from Carolina Herrera to Jimmy Choo, welcome to a prestigious line of designers"; so humble). Johana got $55,000 from Macy's. Another Macy's girl, Priscilla got $80,000 for her romper design. Bret, sadly, got no offers—and is up for elimination.
Last but very much not least was Team Jessica Simpson (who, personally, is the highest-selling celeb-cum-designer ever…or at least that's what the voiceover tells us).
Hunter presented her "Midi Dress," which was very loose-and-floaty-but-sophisticated. It was made of an ocean-blue print fabric with black inlays at the top with a racer back. Again, the hem here was shorter in the front. Hunter's second look was a version of the first, this time fashioned out of a pure-red fabric with balck accents.
Next up was David's "Utilitarian Jacket": It initially looks pretty understated, a grey, military vest with multiple pockets worn over a black, long-sleeved shirt. But then—hey! Wow!—the model pulls off the black sleeves to reveal the convertible nature of the piece. It can be a vest! David's second style is very similar, though he's added epaulets—and has similar removable-sleeve action.
Dynamic duo Jesseray & Garret sent their "Shift Dress" down the runway. Fairly simple, the design is more of a shirt-dress; it's made in silky pink fabric, belted with a gold cord. Dress two is similar in cut, but more body-hugging; fabric is grey print with cream-colored panels down the side. (John Varvatos says, "This feels a little dated to me"; Jessica Simpson agrees.)
Finally, finally, came Tori's "Trench Coat." It was a very oversized coatdress with a cape overlay. The look was not eminently wearable. Made in a shiny silk pearl-grey fabric, it featured wide short sleeves, with a black leopard-print pointed collar, was cinched at the waist with a black fabric bow, and shown with black tights. Look two was a pink-print version of the coatdress, very kimono-inspired, worn with a white fabric belt over skinny jeans.
We're not sure if the buyers were out of money, but they were super-harsh on Team Simpson. JesseRay & Garret, Tori, and David received no offers. Hunter, lucky girl, got offers from all three, and started a bidding war. The bids max out at $200,000 on Fashion Star, so she needs to decide between Express and Saks, both of which want her design to the tune of $200K, so it was up to Hunter to decide. (The buyers aren't super-good at pitching themselves, but the Express rep Erika tells Hunter that if she goes with them, they'll get her dress out to the most women at "a great price point"; Judge Terence gets a little sassy realness as he says, punctuating each line with a finger wave: "I need to says is: Saks Fifth Avenue New York." She chooses Saks.)
Finally, we reach the blood-sport portion of the show—one designer must go home.
It is up to the mentors to decide the two designers that go to the chopping block. Jessica, Nicole, and John decide that the time has come for Garret and team Bret & JesseRay.
In the end, buyer-we-can-see-hanging-out-with Caprice must say, "I am so sorry, Bret, you are not our Fashion Star."
Brett says, "It's really depressing to be going home."
We end with Louise Roe getting almost manically perky. She tells us that next episode is all about "sex selling!"