Baby, You’re a Fashion Star
by Jay S. Jacobs
When you hear the term supermodel, chances are good that the name that pops in your head is Elle Macpherson. Macpherson is arguably the most iconic model of the last three decades. The world has seen her on magazine covers, calendars, in movies and TV shows, in workout videos and on the series America’s Top Model. She has also created her own fashion line of lingerie called Elle Macpherson Intimates.
Now, Macpherson is producing and hosting a new reality series called Fashion Star. In the show, twelve unknown clothing designers must create new fashions weekly. There designs are judged by a group of mentors who also have their own fashion lines – singer Jessica Simpson, TV personality Nicole Richie and designer John Varvatos. Then the designs have an opportunity to be bought by representatives from Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M. If the designs are bought, they will be available at those stores the day after the show airs. If they do not make a sale, the designers are in danger of being sent home.
We were recently invited to take part with several other outlets in an intimate conference call with Macpherson about her new show.
How did your executive producer, Ben Silverman, convince you to do the show? And what did you initially think of the idea behind it, especially given the unique shopping angle?
Well, first of all, I’m thrilled to be working with Ben Silverman and all my producers, Five by Five, Electus and Magical Elves. It’s been a real team effort as far as getting the show up and running. I was very interested in the concept because I had seen something a few years ago. I saw a fashion show streamed live from Japan about three years ago. I noticed that you could move your mouse across the model and click onto the garments and buy them immediately. I knew that this was revolutionary as far as fashion and shopping was concerned. So, when I spoke to Ben about it and the format came up for Fashion Star it really felt right for me and felt modern for where we are today as far as technology and shopping is concerned. That coupled with wonderful heartfelt stories of these 14 unknown designers and a big stage show felt fresh.
The collections we’ve seen are not haute couture, these are mainstream off-rack purchases that people are making. Theoretically, what kind of designer do you think could most benefit from Fashion Star?
I love the fact that it is clothing that we can wear every day. I think we’re more relaxed as a society in the kind of clothes we want to wear. Fashion Star promotes people that can create an evening dress but also a jeans and t-shirt. These are modern designers creating everyday wear for everyday people.
As a model and having worked with different designers and wearing different designers do you ever wish that you could offer your own opinion on the fashions to the designers during the show?
Well, we have fantastic mentors – between Jessica [Simpson], John [Varvatos] and Nicole [Richie] and of course the retailers – so there’s plenty of people giving really experienced feedback to our designers. I feel that my role is more to orchestrate the proceedings rather than to give my opinion on these very talented designers. They’ve got great people that are really supporting them through this process.
Being the host. what do you think is scarier for the designers to face: the mentors or the buyers when they’re showing the runway afterwards?
Obviously, the stakes are very high because there are immediate buys and sells from the buyers on the day. I love the fact with this show that there is a winner every week, so it’s not like we’re all holding out for the grand prize at the end. Every week a designer has an opportunity to be a winner. Even if they don’t win the whole competition, they can make a sale to Macy’s, Saks or H&M. That’s what’s really interesting in this program. People can tune in having not watched the beginning of the series. They can tune in halfway through and still have excitement watching a single episode. It’s not like you have to follow the designers all the way through to get the thrill as an audience, because there is this buying and selling on stage immediately every night. The designers really want to get positive feedback from their mentors because they are iconic and are stars themselves. But of course, making a sale is paramount because as long as they make a sale each week, they’re safe. If they don’t make a sale, they risk elimination and risk being sent home. So, it’s obviously important that they do get a sale. I would like to add that the retailers are choosing very well, because the clothes that they are buying are being sold out week after week after week. So, the shopping aspect is working for the designers, for the retailers and for the viewers at home.
Do you have a favorite design on the show so far?
(laughs) There have been a few. I’m a little bit ahead, because I’m editing [episodes] 7, 8 and 9 at the moment, so I have to be very careful about what I say. (laughs harder) This week the challenge is working in a team and creating a store window. There are some great concepts coming through. So, I would urge everybody to tune in this week and see the concepts for the store windows; it’s quite fun.
You look so amazing on this show. What is the secret?
Oh, it’s the lighting. (laughs) I’m old school. It’s all about good hair and makeup and lighting. And great wardrobe. I had Alex White from W do my styling. For me, it’s professional stuff more than anything else.
You have a young designer from Chicago [Barbara Bates] on the show, right?
Yes, we do.
What do you think of her and her designs?
She has been doing very well. She’s got a fantastic personality, too. She’s been doing very, very well. And she stands for something. She’s a woman who really stands for something. I would urge everybody in Chicago to tune into the show and watch her progress.
Your own personal style, how do you think it’s evolved over the years? Are you more casual now? Do you still love dressing up?
Well, I have two styles; I have my working outfits, my wardrobes that is – it’s like my game face or my show face. Then I have my at home, running around, taking my kids on the school run type of thing. I do know that as I’ve matured and I’m more confident in who I am on the inside, I worry less about making mistakes on the outside. I think fashion is really interesting because we can really express ourselves through fashion. Today, I can be frivolous, I can be fun, I can experiment and it’s all okay. As long as it reflects what I’m feeling and it’s true to me, then I feel confident. That wasn’t always the case. When I was younger, I wanted to get it right, or I wanted to be on trend, or I wanted to look like a model, or look like what people expected from me. Today, I use fashion the way I think fashion is meant to be; it’s supposed to be fun. And I certainly have fun on the show. There’re some serious get-ups. (laughs) When I look back, I laugh at them. I think what was I thinking when I wore those black tight leather pants?
You looked awesome in them, that’s the difference. The rest of us are really like what were we thinking?
Oooh… I don’t know. There was a bit of cringe-factor going on there for me but, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
What is it like being on stage with a designer who hasn’t got any buyers; is it quite tough?
It’s interesting, because I feel very connected to all the designers. We do quite a bit of work with them backstage. I see their journey throughout the week. As a producer, I get to see their packages. I know where they’ve come from. I know the hard work; the anxiety and their stories really touch me. Obviously, on stage I have more of a poker face and I need to do that. But from a personal level, I follow the designers very closely. I have their triumphs and tribulations with them.
Is it hard to stay impartial and not have favorites?
I feel it’s important as host that I’m balanced and nonjudgmental. I hope that my performance reflects that. I think it’s quite important to be fair and balanced in my presentation of each designer.
What one piece of advice would you give aspiring designers?
Watch Fashion Star because it’s a good show. (laughs) It’s a cool show. It gives a different aspect from designing. A lot of shows talk about how to create clothes and this is really the other part, which is equally important. It’s not only to how to create clothes but how to sell and to market fashion. This is a different perspective on the fashion industry. It is just as much about shopping as it is about creating fashion. Also, it’s about heartfelt stories. These people’s lives and what it takes from a personal aspect to be where they are – which is on this huge stage creating clothes that are being bought and sold on the day so that the viewers at home can also have access to them immediately, which is phenomenal.
How do you think the show has impacted the various designers in terms of their own brand awareness – even the ones who aren’t on the show anymore?
It’s phenomenal to have the kind of exposure that these designers have had. Also, the mentoring from these iconic designers between Jessica, John and Nicole. And actually, all the designers have made sales in one capacity or another. Having that validation from huge retailers like Macy’s, Saks and H&M is sure to make a difference to them, both as far as confidence building, exposure to the general public and exposure to the kind of advice that they’ve had. I feel that it’s a fantastic opportunity for these young designers. And a great opportunity for us, for the viewers at home to be able to tap into these designers and be able to participate by buying immediately and wearing immediately anybody who wins.
Since you’ve built such a great brand yourself how do you see the future of fashion as more and more designers become big brands?
Fashion is becoming more and more accessible. The fact that we have a fashion show on network television in itself speaks wonders. To date, fashion has been niche; it’s been kept in cable and it is has been a niche business. It is now a business that is global, and it is a business that affects the music industry, it affects the film industry, the beauty industry. It is a big business and people are interested in it. There are whole television stations that are dedicated to fashion. I think it’s a fantastic testament to the growth of society’s desire to express ourselves though the clothes that we wear.
You’ve always been known as a supermodel and while some of your contemporaries from that time have kind of faded into the background, but you have always stayed very much in the forefront. You kept going and doing things like this and going behind the scenes even. Was that part of the plan or just the way it happened?
I started this industry when I was going to law school, wanting to go to Brown University. Thinking, “Oh, I think I’ll be a model for 30 years” – it didn’t cross my mind. As I started to work and get more involved and really loved some of the opportunities that I had been exposed to and having the courage to try new things, I’ve been inspired by stepping out of my comfort zone consistently and having courage to try new things. I love what I do, I do what I love. I follow my heart. There’s no end game plan other than to make sure that every choice I make is a choice that I believe in. And I really believed in this project. I believe that it’s a fun, new, creative, modern way to shop. I feel that it gives great opportunity to these young designers. The show itself is really cool to watch. Nicole Richie is hysterical.
Very cool to watch, very, very cool. I have guys who watch it, I mean, they’re a big bunch of guys who watch it every week, friends of mine who watch it religiously.
That’s great to hear. I do want to reiterate that it’s not a show that you have to start from the beginning and watch it all the way through. I mean, there are some people that are tuning in third and fourth week and are saying wow, we’re really loving this show whether they’ve seen the beginning episodes or not. Thank goodness they’re tuning in because as a host I feel like I get better as the series goes on. (laughs)
How are you enjoying this producing part of it though? Are you really getting into it and seeing it as a new possibility doing other things producing?
I’ve always produced, from the early days. I left my modeling agency in the 80s and started my own business, Elle Macpherson, Inc. Most of what I’ve done has had production elements in it. I’ve produced my own calendars. I’ve produced the workout videos. I’ve produced the making of the calendars. In my lingerie business I’m creative director of my lingerie business, which means I’m often producing photo shoots and producing the Website material, the…
So, you’ve always been very hands-on.
I’ve always been hands-on but simply because I love working in a team. And I love seeing projects that I start all the way through. I like the beginning, the middle and the end and the sell-through. For example, I was in Cannes last week, selling the show. We’ve sold the show into 75 countries. That was just as exciting for me as speaking with Ben Silverman about the concept of the show. So, I feel very invigorated by this whole process and particularly by this show.
You’ve been working in the fashion industry for decades obviously, but do you feel even as the host that you’re picking up and learning certain things from the judges and the buyers that you might not have thought of – stuff that you might even use for your line?
That’s a really good question. I wish that I had had the mentoring from such powerhouses as Jessica, John and Nicole when I was starting out. And I certainly wish that my lingerie, Elle Macpherson Intimates, was available at Macy’s, Saks and H&M, which it’s not. So, these designers are getting certainly a springboard – a positioning that I have never had and still don’t have. So, to some extent, I’m envious and excited for these young designers because it’s a truly phenomenal opportunity.
Have you ever wanted to pull the buyers aside and say. “Hey, while you’re here do you want to look at my stuff?”
Oh, don’t think that hasn’t passed through my mind. (laughs hard)
Although the judges and you have all worked in fashion; you also come from different areas. Jessica started in music, Nicole in television and John from fashion and you’re from the modeling side. How do you feel the differing backgrounds of the judges and yourself help to give the show a more diverse and entertaining feel?
I think the most important thing is that because everybody comes from different backgrounds they’re quite able to speak from experience about a journey. In the sense that, I’ve started doing one thing and I finished doing something else, because I had a passion. I was committed. I was dedicated. I believed in myself. I had courage and tenacity and discipline. These judges or the mentors are in a fantastic position to be able to communicate that message to these young designers, some of whom have started off working in offices and are now on the Fashion Star stage. They can really speak from experience. I also empathize with these young designers because I wasn’t a designer. I was a girl that wanted to go to law school. Then I became a model and then I started designing lingerie and now I’m producing a television show. So, I have my own journey. I can talk to these contestants backstage and say I understand how scary it is to try something new. But with courage and commitment, dedication and passion we can do it. We’re all living examples of that.
Right. Now a tiny bit off the subject you’ve also done some good acting over the years. Would you like to get back into that side of the industry or are you just enjoying the hosting and the television and production and your fashion work?
I’m really excited by Fashion Star. I feel that it’s a fun and a cool new entry into television programming and shopping. So, it’s captured my attention for now. I’m putting all my energies into this. And in the future hopefully, we’ll see where this goes.
You’re a pretty stellar example of how creativity and talent has to be backed up with solid business sense. So, what is that it factor that you are looking for in some of these designers?
The mentors are looking to inspire these designers to create outside their comfort zones at times, but true to themselves. The retailers are looking at how well they execute the challenges that have been set for them each week and still create garments that America wants to wear. It’s quite a challenge for the designers, I have to say. You know, they’re not easy tasks. And it really requires discipline, commitment, passion, love for what they’re doing, courage to try new things. I love this show because it really shows the stories behind these people, the heartfelt stories behind these people and what it takes for them to realize their dreams.
Is there a fashion trend right now that kind of makes you cringe – like if you’re walking down the street and you see somebody rocking a particular style and you really can’t wait until that’s on its way out?
Well, no, I love to see people express themselves through their clothes whatever that is. Anything worn with confidence works by me. It’s when people try to follow trends that don’t really work for them or that they don’t believe in or don’t understand or they’re just doing it because that seems like the cool thing to do, that’s when it doesn’t come off as well. But what I love about Fashion Star is it’s really about promoting individuality. The viewers at home can really tune in each week and wear the winner of every episode and they choose those winners – to wear those winners. We know that they are choosing them because all the clothes are sold out because they love the stories behind the clothes. They love the trends, they love the fashions, but they also love the stories behind the clothes. I think that’s really important.
I spent quite a bit of time on your Website last night which frankly is really impressive. I was kind of blown away with how much editorial content you did on your own.
Is it okay with you if I ask you some questions based on what I learned from that?
Okay. When you left Ford Modeling Agency and started Elle Macpherson, Inc., that seemed pretty gutsy. So what piece of advice would you have for people who are considering leaving the safety of their present situation to launch out on their own?
I would say leap and watch the net appear.
That’s great. Just take a big leap of faith.
Take a leap of faith and watch the net appear. It always does.
Oh, that’s awesome. Okay this is a little quirky; you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to. But millions of women turn 40 and wake up one morning to find a gut that wasn’t there the morning before even though they haven’t changed their eating or exercise routines. So has your body done anything bizarre since you’ve turned 40 and what have you done about it?
Yes, I have this fantastic phenomenon that happened and it’s truly a gift from God. My eyesight went about the same time as the elasticity in my skin. So actually, when I see myself, I look quite good, but I’m a bit on the blurry side. It’s when I put my glasses on that I get a bit of a wakeup call. So, I just feel I’ve been totally blessed with having the two go at the same time because I don’t see it so much.
Oh, that’s hilarious. Mother Nature was good to you that way.
Mother Nature was good to me.
Your oldest son is a teenager. Is he taking it easy on you? Are you experiencing any challenges sometimes associated with having a teenager?
My son is a healthy, feisty, opinionated, courageous, stubborn, rebellious, beautiful, smelly teenager and I love him for it all.
Oh, that’s fantastic. This is for my own curiosity. If you don’t want to answer you certainly don’t have to. But in a couple years you’ll be 50 so I’m just curious have you considered celebrating with another photo shoot for Playboy?
That’s not high on my agenda; let me put it that way. Not sure it’s appropriate at this time.
I love Fashion Star.
I’m so glad you love Fashion Star. I love Fashion Star, too.
Oh, it shows. You always look so beautiful on the show and you’ve mentioned that you weren’t interested in changing how you look so much as building the right environment to present yourself. I was wondering what are the best ways for an everyday woman to translate that advice to her daily life if she doesn’t have the whole team?
Oh, that’s a really good question. I feel that finding styles that work for you and sticking to them is a really healthy way of looking your best at all times. What’s wonderful about Fashion Star is if you look at these designers every week and you watch the girls walk down the runway you get a hint on how to wear the clothes; not only what to wear but how to wear them. So, what kind of hair and makeup are they teaming with that dress? What kind of shoe are they teaming with that dress? By watching others and trying new things on yourself, we can get a total look. When you get a total look that works you can apply it to different outfits.
How far in advance do you have to film to make sure that all the fashions will be available and, on the racks, right away?
Good question, Jay. Fashion Star was shot in August so that it was ready for the consumer to buy in March. It can take anywhere from four to six months for some of these clothes to be manufactured and fed in line. It was incredibly important for us as a team. The concept behind Fashion Star was this idea of immediate gratification, that the viewers at home could go online, could buy the clothes immediately. It took some organization from these wonderful retailers, Macy’s, Saks and H&M to manufacture and to buy and to present them in-store in a way that we felt was appropriate for Fashion Star. This program is so cool because every week you can tune in, you can wear the winner. Clearly, it’s working because the clothes are sold out. And you guys at home are loving it. So, thanks to everybody who’s supporting the show. Keep tuned, keep watching. It just gets better – the show gets better. And even if you missed the first couple of episodes you can still tune in and watch some great, fun bidding and buying and some great mentoring.
You were talking about jumping off when you were a model and starting your own thing. Did you always have that courage to do things and take those leaps of faith or where did you get that from? Was it something you were born with?
Well, it’s interesting, sometimes. It has been said, why do small businesses do well? It’s because they don’t know any better. It’s like why do children ski really well? It’s because they don’t know what could happen to them if they fall. I feel that a lot of the choices that have been made I’ve made instinctively at the time. Had I known what they entailed, perhaps I wouldn’t have done it. But just as well because they’ve been the biggest steps forward in my life. Being Australian and having a warrior spirit, as Americans do, I feel has been a big help. That’s something that we have in common, this adventurous spirit. [That’s] one of the reasons why I love America so much. I love the people. I love the can-do adventure willingness to try new things and the enthusiasm that Americans have. I feel very close to the people in America.
One last thing, do you see Fashion Star going on for 10 seasons, 12 seasons? Would you like to?
I love Fashion Star. I just hope that people tune in and love it as much as I do. I know it’s a new concept; it’s a new way of doing things. It’s fresh. And sometimes that takes a little while for people to understand that it is such a great show. I’ve had a lot of fun making it. And I’m having a lot of fun watching it. And I believe people are loving the show because our ratings are very good. The clothes have sold out. And, you know, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a success.
Would you like to see it go that long, though?
Well, of course I would. And, you know, it’s wonderful to see it being so well received overseas. As I said we’ve sold it in 75 countries and counting before we’re even finished the [first season of the] series. So, it’s wonderful to see people enjoying this program and loving these fantastic designers, the stories behind them, the heartfelt stories behind them, the funny mentors, the powerful retailers, the great stage production and this innovative way of shopping immediately.
|#1 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#2 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#3 © 2012 John Russo. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#4 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#5 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#6 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#7 © 2012 John Russo. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#8 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#9 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
|#10 © 2012 Tyler Golden. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.|
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 11, 2012.