There’s fast fashion and now there’s even faster fashion courtesy of NBC’s reality show Fashion Star. If you’ve never seen it, here’s the gist: 14 designers of varying degrees of talent and taste present pieces each week to be judged by the three experts—Jessica Simpson, Nicole Ritchie, and John Varvatos—and then hopefully bid on by buyers from H&M, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The unique twist is that purchased designs are available to buy online immediately after the show. It’s a shoppable Project Runway with a little less innovation and a lot more fireworks—literally. The fashion shows are complete with musical performances, trapeze artists, and pyrotechnics.
It’s not highbrow, but it is popular, with the premiere pulling in 4.55 million total viewers, and one of Macy’s purchases: an eyelet dress retailing for $89 selling out in less than 12 hours. We caught up with Saks buyer and Fashion Star judge Terron E. Schafer to get his take:
What was your first reaction when you were asked to host?
Completely opposed to it. I just was absolutely a non-believer and I just didn’t think that Saks and reality shows were compatible. I do think that the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. What it has done for the online business is really phenomenal. It has attracted a whole new customer base: people who have not shopped at Saks.com before. So, as I say, you are now talking to a convert.
What do you think about the over-the-top spectacle on stage?
I was somewhat horrified to be honest. The first episode, I thought “Oh my God, this is really so over the top.”
Has it grown on you?
I have kind of grown to accept it.
Which celebrity judge do you agree with the most and which the least?
I think Nicole is very articulate in terms of what her likes and dislikes are and what her suggestions are. I think she comes across as very knowledgeable and very aware. John is great fun.
I think that Jessica Simpson and I have a different kind of perspective on things. But when I take a step back, I think, “I’m an employee and she’s a billionaire. She’s got 26 companies to her credit.” So she’s doing something right.
What do you think about the taste level of some of the designers?
I was involved in the casting of the talent. I met with thirty or forty people and gave my comments to the producers. And some of the people I thought were talented were indeed cast, and there were others who weren’t my call. I think there is a wide variety of experience and talent. Some of them have been picked for good television, not pretty dresses.
Did any stand out to you as one or the other?
I think it’s clear, there were some who made good television and some who made pretty dresses.
With Project Runway and Fashion Star, the public feels more plugged in to the fashion world. But do they have good taste? Or do they need people like you to steer them?
[laughs] We all need editing in some way, shape, or form. You know, I don’t know that the great American public is really in the position to start to design and edit fashion.
Is this model of moving runways into the living rooms of America the wave of the future?
For sure. I mean, I think with the success that we’ve experience in terms of the traffic to Saks.com, there is surely going to be more shows of a similar nature that provide instant gratification.
Did any of the purchases surprise you?
I think I’ve been pretty successful in getting what I thought was appropriate for Saks. You know, was I surprised? It’s that whole good, better, best. There’s something for everything in fashion.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We all look at things differently.
Fashion Star is on NBC Tuesday nights at 10/9c.