Joe Zee On the Pitfalls of Young Designers, Second Season of “All On the Line”

Courtesy of Sundance Channel/Heather Waraska

Fashion doesn’t always have a fairytale ending -- a point being emphasized on the second season of Elle creative director Joe Zee’s All On The Line, premiering on the Sundance Channel November 25th. On each episode Zee works with one designer to help get their businesses back on track.

In the premiere episode, Zee is tasked with counseling Angelo Lambrou -- an East Village-based designer who has found success in the bridal market but has struggled to create a viable ready-to-wear business. While the episode is chock full of quips from Zee -- who pans to the camera with lines like “This guy is a mess!” -- along with a plethora of dramatic music and histrionic pauses, the show does offer a glimpse into the highly-competitive fashion industry.

Zee tells us, “I want people to realize how hard everybody has to work to make it. That’s what’s really exciting about this show.”

Through this season's first episode, Lambrou is given the task of designing his dream wedding dress to present to Mark Badgley and James Mischka. There is a focus group of women who assess his collection while he watches on a computer live feed. At the end of the episode, the designer presents a capsule collection to buyers from the boutique Edit to possibly purchase. Meanwhile, real life hasn’t stopped for Lambrou: During the episode, one of Lambrou’s assistants is out looking for a job because he can no longer afford to pay her. (In the closing credits, it’s revealed that she actually quits). You’ll have to wait until the premiere on November 25th to see what happens, but things don’t get tied up for Lambrou in a neat bow as so often happens on reality TV.

Zee hasn’t earned his nice guy reputation in fashion for no reason. Making each episode takes three weeks of filming, and Zee says, “I take all of this personally. I am in it.”

This season doesn’t just feature struggling designers, but will also include marquee names like Nicole Miller, who Zee is sent in to counsel on expansion. Zee said of filming with Miller, “She was so open and welcoming. The stakes are so much higher [when you have a business of her size]. She needed to tap into additional markets.” Zee added, “You are judged by each collection you put out there no matter who you are.”

Speaking to the pitfalls that young designers can fall into, Zee says, "They are not true to who they are. They are very much in a bubble, but at the same time they are always second-guessing themselves and what the marketplace wants. I don’t need to see designers do Marc Jacobs light or Prada light.” Another issue for designers according to Zee: “I look at a lot of designers who are just marketers, but you need to have some skill.”

As for what happens to the designers featured on the show when the cameras stop rolling, Zee says, “Certainly the television cameras help, but no one’s going to write a check without talent. The talent has got to be there.”

Some of the designers featured on All On The Line’s first season have been picked up by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, but not everyone has been so lucky.

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