Meet Fashion’s Real Stars: Retail Buyers Take The Stage In “Fashion Star” | Co.Create: Creativity \ Culture \ Commerce

Meet Fashion’s Real Stars: Retail Buyers Take The Stage In “Fashion Star” | Co.Create: Creativity \ Culture \ Commerce.

Called “dream makers” by Fashion Star‘s creators James Deutch and E.J. Johnston, buyers from Macy’s, H&M, and Saks will shine while contestants vie to get their designs sold in stores.

A lot of people have had a run at wresting the reins of fashion trends from the manicured hands of magazine editors. But a reality show concept from James Deutch and E.J. Johnston may upset that sartorial apple cart for good.

When Fashion Star premieres on March 13 on NBC, viewers will be treated to all the familiar drama that bubbles up when 14 contestants vie for a grand prize and their 15 minutes of fame in front of celebrity judges. There’s a supermodel host who speaks with accented English (Hello Elle McPherson) and a panel of celebrity/designer judges. But that’s where Fashion Star’s similarities to Project Runway and others end and Deutch’s and Johnston’s proposed disruption begins.

Nicole Richie, John Varvatos, Elle Macpherson, and Jessica Simpson

As veterans of the fashion and production industry–Deutch as VP at Hearst Entertainment in charge of developing and producing TV programming for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Seventeen and Johnston at IMG, producers of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week–the two observed that reality was missing from TV’s fashion competitions.

The spotlight often shines on Anna Wintour and the cadre of fashion cognoscenti in the front rows of designer runway shows, but there are other, equally important tastemakers in the adjacent seats, Deutch explains. “We really felt that the [retail] buyers were the stars behind the scenes figuring out what people wanted to wear.”

A designer’s career is sealed when a store actually places orders for their creations, Johnston maintains. “Getting anointed by Anna Wintour is a prelude to that moment to when a buyer says I am going to take a few pieces,” he adds. “It’s entertaining and educational.”

And it’s just the beginning for the contestants and the viewing and buying public. Fashion Star’s featured buyers hail from H&M, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Not only will they select a winning piece at each episode’s end, but those pieces will be available for sale in those stores, the next day.

Deutch and Johnston confess that there were no secret statistical analytics used to get competing retailers on board. Each committed about $3 million a piece to orders that exceed the average buy and the number of outlets that carry it for an unknown designer. “It is about passion,” Deutch says. “E.J. and I always believed what stores do is really interesting and that came through.” Fashion Star will illuminate how the business works “In a way that’s not a snooze,” he says. What’s more, it showcases how a potential designer relates to the buyers. “We look for that interesting real-world business synergy.”


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