A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fashion Star is a reality show that highlights the branding and marketing aspect of being a clothing designer. Major buyers from H&M, Macy's, and Saks Fifth Avenue serve as judges, and brands are given major screen time, with the stores' logos emblazoned on raised judging platforms. Designers are asked to consider the ways their designs can be made more retail-ready, with a garment's ability to be sold privileged above all other factors. (And viewers can even buy the winning designs right after the show airs.) If you can get past Fashion Star's heavy consumerism, there's not much else here to worry about, save for occasional catty comments between designers.
What's the story?
In FASHION STAR, 14 designers compete in weekly challenges to sell their designs to three major fashion retailers. Designers who don't get an offer on their design are up for elimination each week, with one designer going home every time. A panel of mentors advises the designers on ways they can make their garments more retail ready in an effort to help them win the grand prize -- a contract that will sell the winning designer's collection in three retail stores, a prize supposedly worth $6 million.
Is it any good?
Fashion Star excels at presenting an exciting, polished look at ready-to-wear designs. There's a lot of surface in this show, but not necessarily much heart or emotional appeal. The majority of each episode is presented on a stage (with a live audience) that makes it look more like American Idol than Project Runway. Designers' back stories are used as segues between the presentations of each week's collections, along with minimal time spent in the workroom. This makes the overall effect very different from almost any other fashion reality show -- and helps to distinguish it from Project Runway-type spin-offs -- but not necessarily in a good way.
The pounding soundtrack (Lady Gaga shows up, along with other top 40 dance artists), strobe lights, and Hollywood glitz make Fashion Star fairly fun to watch, but they also make it more like a game show. Jessica Simpson's runway commentary is often awkward (she actually offers much better advice on the workroom floor than she does on stage), and overall the advice is so limited that there's just not much to this show. Add that with an emphasis on arguments between designers, and this isn't great stuff for tweens or young teens. Older teens with an interest in fashion might find something of minimal value here. Just make sure to pepper the after-show conversation with your opinion about fast fashion and consumerism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism. The designers sometimes change their designs -- be it through color, cut, or shape -- to make them more retail ready. Do you think that making something appealing to a mass market is more important than following your own artistic vision? What's the show's perspective on this question?
One of the designers dismisses the female mentors' feedback because he designs for men, and he doesn't think women can judge menswear. What do you think about this perspective? Do you think women can judge men's clothing? Can men judge women's clothing?
Do you think that a garment is better if a lot of people like it? Do you think a garment's design can be good, or even excellent, even if not many people like it? Why or why not?
Fashion Star uses a lot of lights, loud music, and glamorous touches when presenting the designers' collections. Do you think that the clothing would look as good if it was presented in a less flashy setting -- such as in your living room? Why or why not?