I am a sucker for reality TV, good or bad or unwatchable. I watch most of the Real Housewives franchise save for New Jersey and Atlanta. I've seen Bethenny pee in an ice bucket on her wedding day and her baby nurse in nothing but a towel. I've supported Tyra since Cycle 1 even if I can't stand how she makes everything about herself. I almost missed out on a life-changing moment because I wanted to see the first ever finale episode of Project Runway. And wouldn't it be fun to see the contestants of RuPaul's Drag Race in a Top Chef Quick Fire challenge? Are those feathers and sequins on your flambés, Marys?
But the one reality show I am currently obsessing about is Joe Zee's All On The Line on the Sundance Channel. Zee is the creative director of Elle magazine and his show, according to his opening blurb, aims "to use my experience to help struggling designers make their dreams come true. Each week I will pick one designer who has hit a roadblock on their way to success."
Zee focuses on a working designer who has had several seasons and retail presence but somehow the label still remains unknown and has yet to make it to the next level. Using his editorial and styling backgrounds, Zee works with the designers to make their collections more coherent and to have a unique point of view. Once this is established, Zee employs the help of his friends in high places in the hopes of them buying the designers' lines for their stores.
The first three episodes featured a husband and wife team with a contemporary women's label called Radenroro, Kara Janx, a Project Runway alum, and a lingerie line called Between The Sheets. Like most reality TV shows, there are tears, bickering, frustrations and triumph. Zee, in his role as mentor and critic, is at once Mr. Schue and Coach Sylvester. He is a tiger mom in a sharp suit, rallying the designers to succeed or breaking down their aesthetics in a smart bitchy way that only seasoned and respected fashion editors can get away with. "Kara came up with the name Wrappt. The first thing that came to my head was a falafel sandwich," Zee snarked upon hearing Janx's chosen name for her kimono-inspired collection.
All On The Line is also a test of Zee's patience -- especially in the third episode, when the lingerie designer was resistant to Zee's professional advice. "You do it the way you want to do it and you figure it out," he said in frustration to the designer as he walked away from the set. In the end, the lingerie designer blew her chances of having a presence at Cusp because of her refusal to take input from Zee and the Cusp buyers.
What All On The Line does is give another dimension to the fashion industry. Zee lifts the veil of glamor often associated with fashion designers -- especially in an age when many kids aspire to be fashion designers because they often equate it to big runway shows or photo ops or red carpet treatments. He shows the business side of things. That fashion is as much about creativity as it is about commerce. This is a hard lesson to chew, especially for those who don't want to compromise their visions. After all, how many creative designers remain unknown because of their refusal to pay attention to the numbers? How many contracts in big name fashion houses have not been renewed because the designers failed to bring in the sales? And would there be Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino empires without the business savoir-faire of Pierre Berge and Giancarlo Giammetti?