Tonight, quirky newcomer "Launch My Line" premieres with a cast of real characters and a twist. Most of the aspiring designers competing for the chance to launch their own fashion brand have no formal training. Since they cannot sew buttons, they must rely on an assigned design mentor to execute their vision.
StyleList got a sneak peek at the first two episodes and predicts the designers' egos will be clashing along with their wardrobes.
To make things even more complicated; a panel of judges led by hosts Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2 fame will be looking for more than the next great runway designer. Each contestant is producing a fashion "line" and the looks will be evaluated on how they fit into a bigger picture. (Read: Will it sell?)
We will leave it up to viewers to decide if "Launch My Line" can make it work, but Lady Gaga fans stay tuned. She makes an appearance later this season, as does another "major, major music superstar" according to a network spokeswoman.
Since DSquared2 has a celebrity client list that includes Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears we tossed a few of those names out for comment, but got a polite, "stay tuned."
StyleList did get a chance to catch up with insightful judge Stefani Greenfield, co-founder of the trendy Scoop NYC chain of boutiques and the popular "Curations" line on HSN, before tonight's 10 pm premiere.
StyleList: This show is inevitably going to be compared to "Project Runway." How is it different?
Stefani Greenfield: Well, it's Bravo and I like to say it's Bravo fabulous. I know people will compare it to Runway, but they are different. I think it stands on its own. This show is not about finding designs' next shining star, but what it's like to build a brand. It's more about finding someone who has the sum of all parts; a vision, talent, the ability to work with people and really good instincts.
The other thing that is interesting about the show is the judges. Dean and Dan [Caten of DSquared2], Lisa Kline [of the Los Angeles boutiques] and I all live in this world. We get it. And we will be there with a very critical eye about what works in retail and what does not. At the end of the day, that is going to be very important to us.
SL: So are you the mean judge or the nice judge?
SG: I am constructive, not destructive. I think there is a lot of credibility behind everything we say to the contestants. When Lisa Kline tells you, "I can't sell that in my stores," she means it.
When Dean and Dan tell you something is lousy design, I think they have the talent to stand behind that. If Stefani Greenfield says, "I don't like this color and it won't work." Well, I know what I'm talking about.
SL: Watching the first two episodes, I got the sense that when you evaluate the designers you are really not just looking at a dress, but also at how it fits into what the designer claims is his/her brand's vision.
SG: I really hope that shows because it was so important to us. You can't claim to be a pant line and be bringing in dresses. Or if you do, you better be able to tell me how that ties in with your pant line. I kind of compare it to another Bravo show, "Top Chef," in that you've got to be able to explain all the ingredients. And they better work together.
SL: Bravo cast some serious characters for this show.
SG: You know, it's true. And I have to tell you they kept my attention. I am a really busy woman right now. I have started a new company, I have a two-year-old [daughter Theodora] and I was traveling non-stop while we did this. When I would get to LA we were in this bubble, we worked all the time and it was exhausting, but I was completely enthralled. The entire cast was in this to win this and things got very interesting. As they say on Bravo, "Expect the Unexpected." In reality television things happen that you can't control. We really can't say anything about the outcome, but that certainly happened from my perspective
SL: In this economy, how easy would it be for these contestants to launch a line without the boost of primetime exposure?
SG: There is always an opportunity for great products. What is true about retail is for a while there was just too much stuff out there. Anybody could throw a T-shirt in a sink, dye it and call it a brand. It has gotten harder to compete and that means only good products survive. I find that the consumer is just spending smarter, so if you are doing something well, that is a good value, you can make it.
SL: Since you are a branding and retail queen, I am curious about lines you have your eye on right now. What's the next hot thing?
SG: I would say Alexander Wang. He's a designer who has been around for a while, so while not new, I see him going very big. Rag & Bone is big already, but I think they are going to get huge. I also love the Olsens' line. I think that is going to be very successful as well.
SL: I am always curious about lines that do little or no marketing, but become huge.
SG: Word of mouth really does count for something. Street style is also important.. But a lot of it is fueled by celebrity culture. You see stars walking down the street in a magazine in a certain kind of jeans, or you get on Oprah and your brand can be huge overnight.. Bottom line, though: The consumer isn't stupid. The product has to be good or the peak will be short-lived.
SL: Speaking of success. Your launch of a new line [Curations] for the Home Shopping Network [HSN] was huge.
SG: It was unbelievable. It was the biggest lifestyle program launch in their history. I am very proud of that. Our motto is "Luxury has no tiers, and cheap is no bargain." The idea is to be able to walk out of your house feeling stylish and sexy and fabulous in a very accessible way. The HSN line is a perfect example of how we're trying to get the contestants to think for, "Launch My Line." It is a concept that works.
Tune into the premiere episode of "Launch My Line" tonight at 11/10c on Bravo.
For another reality TV interview, check out our chat with Tabitha of "Tabitha's Salon Takeover"