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"Fashion Star" Premieres Tonight, Putting Focus on Retail

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC
    The celebrity mentors and host of "Fashion Star": Nicole Richie, John Varvatos, Elle Macpherson, and Jessica Simpson.

    NBC's new competition show, "Fashion Star," certainly isn't the first to shine a spotlight on the fashion industry, it can be credited with adding a new spice to the mix: retail.

    "Project Runway" certainly kicked off the popularity around fashion competition shows with its sewing room drama and maddening deadlines, it arguably has done a better job of catapulting the popularity of its host and panelists than the actual designers of the show. "Project Runway" joins the ranks of other reality competition shows like "America's Top Model," which have done a better job of creating entertaining television than producing marketable talents -- with exceptions like Christian Siriano, of course.

    Enter "Fashion Star," which seeks to create real, marketable designers by putting them through a crash course in retail, courtesy of buyers from H&M, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy's who will offer bids to the designers on each collection they create as part of the competition. Designers with no bids (and/or designers with the lowest bids) are then at risk of being eliminated.

    Thankfully, the contestants on "Fashion Star" will have pretty good guidance in the form of celebrity mentors like Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and John Varvatos. Some may (rightly) complain that two-thirds of this panel are not trained designers, but rather celebrities who've managed to parlay their taste into retail empires. But therein lies the thesis of the show: It's a designer's ability to sell that ultimately makes him or her a success in the marketplace. That might be a tough pill to swallow for those that follow fashion from an artistic and cultural standpoint (case in point: the recently-dismissed designer of Jil Sander, Raf Simons, struggled in terms of sales but was no less beloved by editors and the fashion community), but it still may be a pretty fair assessment of the American fashion market. Whether it proves entertaining to TV audiences, however, is a separate question that will be answered in the coming weeks.