With the weight of celebrity and big business behind it, "Fashion Star" is poised for success. The new fashion reality show, which premiered Tuesday night on NBC, hopes to break the mold of fashion TV competitions before it (let's just say it aloud -- "Project Runway") with a new concept: real buyers not only pick the weekly winner but also purchase the best looks to sell at their retail outlets.
Of course there are also celebrities involved, with Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos spinning in their chairs and giving their most clever critiques as "mentors."
But the main idea is to up the level of interactivity and real-time impact by bringing the fashion created on TV straight to Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's and H&M's websites soon after the closing credits roll.
So after the much-hyped premiere, is "Fashion Star" a success? The reviews are mixed. David Hinckley of the New York Daily News took issue with the show's complicated logistics, with the two separate sets of judges making things a bit "murky" for viewers. Added Hank Stuever of the Washington Post, "It can also be difficult to understand the logistics behind what the contestants are winning from the store buyers — a licensing fee? A cut of sales?"
Other reviewers found the emphasis on wearability -- the designers are attempting to clothes suited for the average mall-goer, not a high-fashion runway -- a bit stultifying. "The contestants are not attempting couture, so most of the advice is about responding to the realities of the marketplace," writes the Los Angeles Times. "This is certainly a truth of design, but as a television viewing experience it's a dud."
"'Fashion Star' clearly isn’t going to reward any outside-of-the-box talent like that other show," admitted April Daley of Entertainment Weekly, making the inevitable "Project Runway" comparison. "But once you accept that fact and embrace the thrill of the shopping/runway combo, it’s worth tuning in occasionally."
Which is what the show's producers, as well as H&M, Macy's and Saks, are banking on. So the real question is: are people buying the clothes?
But with just one episode down and more to go, time will tell if the viewers will also be shoppers. Check out the designs on H&M.com and Macys.com for yourself and tell us: will you be shopping "Fashion Star" looks?
UPDATE II: The blue and black H&M dresses may have sold out online, but H&M just tweeted, "Get @Sarahgparrott's #NBCFashionStar dress in select stores now!" with a pic of the dress display. So if you're determined, we recommend hunting around in your local H&M...