Behind The Scenes at NBC's Fashion Star

James Deutch and E.J. Johnston, the creators of NBC's newest show dish on what it's like to work with Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, John Vavartos, what's it like to create a TV s
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fashion star cast

BC: The show starts off with 14 contestants. How many people originally auditioned for it?

JD and EJ: Thousands from all over the country.

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BC: How will the show stand out from all the other previous design shows that have come before it?

JD and EJ: You can wear the winner immediately. You have this incredible confection of great clothes, commerce, amazing shows, and“dream come true” moments. There’s social media, inside access to the minds of a professional fashion buyer’s mind, passion and huge stakes.

Unlike other shows where the winner gets to have a fashion show, Fashion Star has designers not only having their (fashion) shows, but having real buys being made and therefore dreams coming true every episode, several times per episode and America gets to buy it that night online or get to the store the next day! In fact, a designer might sell many times, but not win the grand finale prize and could consider that a tremendous success. Of course the grand prize takes that success to a whole other level.

BC: All of the designers you’ve picked are moderately and/or regionally successful. Was that the plan, to pick designers like Barbara Bates (a contestant) who’ve been working steadily in Chicago as opposed to design students or designers who all ready had a national audience?

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JD and EJ: We wanted to pick people who had the talent and desire, but lacked a platform. Fashion Star is the biggest platform we could dream up and we wanted to give these talents an opportunity and see where they took it.

BC: You’ve got competing stores: Macy’s H&M and Saks. They have different target audiences and definitely different price points. When a designer wins a competition, do the stores pick the designer after they’ve won or before?

JD and EJ: The stores are the judges and just like the real world, if they like what they see come down the runway, they make an offer to the designer. On the show, designers present their collections on the runway and the stores bid on the pieces in real time, but only one store can get that specific piece. So Saks, Macy’s and H&M must outbid one another for the right to carry that piece exclusively in their stores. The highest bid wins. That is how it works for Episode 1 through 9, but in the finale, the winning designer must create three capsule collections. One collection for each store. The three stores must determine which designer satisfied all three of their needs. The capsule collections of the winning designer will be unique to each store, but at the same time have a consistent “handwriting” across all of them.

BC: Does the challenge let the designer know ahead of time whose store is or will be taking the line?

JD and EJ: No. The challenges were all authentic to the real fashion industry, i.e. had to incorporate seasonality, a type of buying experience, etc., All the designers must present their pieces based on that and then the stores determined who interpreted the challenge with the best clothing that is most appropriate for their particular store’s need (or their respective customer’s need) and they make a bid (or not) on the designers’ pieces they want in their stores.

BC: If items do really well, will they be reproduced, or are they limited edition items?

JD and EJ: That will be totally up to the stores, but ideally, yes–the clothes sell really quickly and the stores determine if they want to expand their relationships with the designers.

BC: Since you’ve both been in fashion, who are your fashion inspirations?

EJ: I personally enjoy Carlos Miele, Salvatore Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez.

Jim: Marc Jacobs, Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford

BC: If you could do a fantasy “All Star” version of the show and use established designers, who’d you pick to compete and why?

JD and EJ: We would stay with the unknowns just as we are. Seeing someone’s dreams unfold before your eyes is incredible to watch and very satisfying to know we had something to do with that. It is why we watch the Olympics or March Madness. When you see that happen in real time and it transports us all to a place of possibility. It is very powerful and is why we loved creating Fashion Star.

BC: How long did it take to get the show off the ground?

JD and EJ: We started the process in late 2008.

BC: If you could spin this off, what would your second series be?

JD and EJ: We have several more projects in the pipeline and will be announcing them soon.

BC: What advice would you give to anyone who has an idea for a TV show?

JD and EJ: Create something that you would want to watch.

BC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a designer?

JD and EJ: Find your voice and perspective and pursue your definition of success with every fiber of your being.

Fashion Star premieres this Tuesday, March 13 at 9:30 pm ET on NBC.

PJ Gach is Senior Editor: Style + Beauty at BettyConfidential.


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