We grew to know and love Fern Mallis, the mastermind behind New York Fashion Week, after she regularly guest starred on Project Runway, advising the top finalists toward their very first (and usually last) fashion week show. But after Project Runway was caught in programming limbo, as the Weinsteins tried to move their hot reality property over to Lifetime, Bravo decided to step up to the plate and create their own show, The Fashion Show.
The casts are very similar. Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi hosts, while Fern Mallis plays a judge, replacing Tim Gunn and PR regular Michael Kors. And Kelly Rowland was tapped to play Heidi Klum, minus the German catchphrases.
We caught up with Mallis at the W New York Upfronts gifting suite, where the new TV star was enjoying some of the perks that come along with the job, like picking up freebies like bags by Radley London, Desert Essence coconut body wash, a dress from Yansi Fugel, and recycled speakers from Fashionation.
The Fashion Week director had a huge challenge this year in showcasing the Spring Fashion Week collections during a recession, but she managed to make the shows very time appropriate. Designers appealed to the recession blues by bringing bold uplifting colors to the runway, as well as revealing fantastically creative pieces. Moreover, an overwhelming amount of designers made sustainable collections, meaning they were created to last, and worth the investment. "I think trends are over," Mallis tells us. "No one wants something that you have to throw out in a year. Fashion is about making you excited about clothing. Nobody needs anything new. We're not in the business of selling underwear for the most part. People need something that will change their life or make them feel happy."
Fashion in a recession means buying only what you truly love, and being able to work with different items to create multiple looks. "I think this is going to be a huge season for accessories, because that's an easy way to change up looks," she said. And those accessories don't have to be expensive. Mallis was wearing silk-wrapped bangles from India that cost less than a dollar, as well as rocking TOMS shoes.
Her new show did not come about without controversy. The blogosphere was abuzz (much the same way that NBC's new Parks and Recreation was a little too similar to The Office) that The Fashion Show is a mere copy of the superior Project Runway.
To that, Mallis replies hogwash. "Bravo created Project Runway, so Bravo helped create that whole frenzy and interest in fashion reality. They've done that now in lots of categories and segments," she said. "I think they know how to do it better than anybody. And when it was clear that they weren't going to have a season because of the legal issues that were involved, they took that concept and took it to a new place."
The ways in which The Fashion Show differs from Project Runway are as follows: a live studio audience, a winner each week, the winning design is sold on Bravo.tv each week, and America votes on the finale for the grand prize winner. Whether or not there are enough differences, we shall soon see come the interest for a second season. "I mean how many medical and hospital shows are there on television? How many legal shows are there? How many police dramas are there? You know there's room for more than one of a particular genre of programming," Mallis said.
Unfortunately she won't be making any Project Runway cameos anytime soon. "The last season of Project Runway was filmed in Los Angeles," she said. "And that season is finished and won't start airing until our season on Bravo finishes in August. And then I think that they're casting now for the next season, by being on the show with Bravo, The Fashion Show, I think that my days of guest judging on Project Runway are probably over."