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Elle Macpherson – Baby, You’re a Fashion Star

FASHION STAR — Episode 102 — Pictured: Elle Macpherson — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Elle Macpherson

Baby, You’re a Fashion Star

by Jay S. Jacobs

When you hear the term supermodel, chances are good that the name that pops in your head is Elle Macpherson.  Macpherson is arguably the most iconic model of the last three decades.  The world has seen her on magazine covers, calendars, in movies and TV shows, in workout videos and on the series America’s Top Model.  She has also created her own fashion line of lingerie called Elle Macpherson Intimates.

Now, Macpherson is producing and hosting a new reality series called Fashion Star.  In the show, twelve unknown clothing designers must create new fashions weekly.  There designs are judged by a group of mentors who also have their own fashion lines – singer Jessica Simpson, TV personality Nicole Richie and designer John Varvatos.  Then the designs have an opportunity to be bought by representatives from Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M.  If the designs are bought, they will be available at those stores the day after the show airs.  If they do not make a sale, the designers are in danger of being sent home.

We were recently invited to take part with several other outlets in an intimate conference call with Macpherson about her new show.

How did your executive producer, Ben Silverman, convince you to do the show? And what did you initially think of the idea behind it, especially given the unique shopping angle?

Well, first of all, I’m thrilled to be working with Ben Silverman and all my producers, Five by Five, Electus and Magical Elves. It’s been a real team effort as far as getting the show up and running. I was very interested in the concept because I had seen something a few years ago. I saw a fashion show streamed live from Japan about three years ago. I noticed that you could move your mouse across the model and click onto the garments and buy them immediately. I knew that this was revolutionary as far as fashion and shopping was concerned. So, when I spoke to Ben about it and the format came up for Fashion Star it really felt right for me and felt modern for where we are today as far as technology and shopping is concerned. That coupled with wonderful heartfelt stories of these 14 unknown designers and a big stage show felt fresh.

FASHION STAR — “What’s Your Story” Episode 101 — Pictured: Elle Macpherson — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

The collections we’ve seen are not haute couture, these are mainstream off-rack purchases that people are making. Theoretically, what kind of designer do you think could most benefit from Fashion Star?

I love the fact that it is clothing that we can wear every day. I think we’re more relaxed as a society in the kind of clothes we want to wear. Fashion Star promotes people that can create an evening dress but also a jeans and t-shirt. These are modern designers creating everyday wear for everyday people.

As a model and having worked with different designers and wearing different designers do you ever wish that you could offer your own opinion on the fashions to the designers during the show?

Well, we have fantastic mentors – between Jessica [Simpson], John [Varvatos] and Nicole [Richie] and of course the retailers – so there’s plenty of people giving really experienced feedback to our designers. I feel that my role is more to orchestrate the proceedings rather than to give my opinion on these very talented designers. They’ve got great people that are really supporting them through this process.

Being the host. what do you think is scarier for the designers to face: the mentors or the buyers when they’re showing the runway afterwards?

Obviously, the stakes are very high because there are immediate buys and sells from the buyers on the day. I love the fact with this show that there is a winner every week, so it’s not like we’re all holding out for the grand prize at the end. Every week a designer has an opportunity to be a winner. Even if they don’t win the whole competition, they can make a sale to Macy’s, Saks or H&M. That’s what’s really interesting in this program. People can tune in having not watched the beginning of the series. They can tune in halfway through and still have excitement watching a single episode. It’s not like you have to follow the designers all the way through to get the thrill as an audience, because there is this buying and selling on stage immediately every night. The designers really want to get positive feedback from their mentors because they are iconic and are stars themselves. But of course, making a sale is paramount because as long as they make a sale each week, they’re safe. If they don’t make a sale, they risk elimination and risk being sent home. So, it’s obviously important that they do get a sale. I would like to add that the retailers are choosing very well, because the clothes that they are buying are being sold out week after week after week. So, the shopping aspect is working for the designers, for the retailers and for the viewers at home.

FASHION STAR — Season: 1 — Pictured: Elle Macpherson — Photo by: John Russo/NBC

Do you have a favorite design on the show so far?

(laughs) There have been a few. I’m a little bit ahead, because I’m editing [episodes] 7, 8 and 9 at the moment, so I have to be very careful about what I say. (laughs harder) This week the challenge is working in a team and creating a store window. There are some great concepts coming through. So, I would urge everybody to tune in this week and see the concepts for the store windows; it’s quite fun.

You look so amazing on this show. What is the secret?

Oh, it’s the lighting. (laughs) I’m old school. It’s all about good hair and makeup and lighting. And great wardrobe. I had Alex White from W do my styling. For me, it’s professional stuff more than anything else.

You have a young designer from Chicago [Barbara Bates] on the show, right?

Yes, we do.

What do you think of her and her designs?

She has been doing very well. She’s got a fantastic personality, too. She’s been doing very, very well. And she stands for something. She’s a woman who really stands for something. I would urge everybody in Chicago to tune into the show and watch her progress.

Your own personal style, how do you think it’s evolved over the years? Are you more casual now? Do you still love dressing up?

Well, I have two styles; I have my working outfits, my wardrobes that is – it’s like my game face or my show face. Then I have my at home, running around, taking my kids on the school run type of thing. I do know that as I’ve matured and I’m more confident in who I am on the inside, I worry less about making mistakes on the outside. I think fashion is really interesting because we can really express ourselves through fashion. Today, I can be frivolous, I can be fun, I can experiment and it’s all okay. As long as it reflects what I’m feeling and it’s true to me, then I feel confident. That wasn’t always the case. When I was younger, I wanted to get it right, or I wanted to be on trend, or I wanted to look like a model, or look like what people expected from me. Today, I use fashion the way I think fashion is meant to be; it’s supposed to be fun. And I certainly have fun on the show. There’re some serious get-ups. (laughs) When I look back, I laugh at them. I think what was I thinking when I wore those black tight leather pants?

You looked awesome in them, that’s the difference. The rest of us are really like what were we thinking?

Oooh… I don’t know. There was a bit of cringe-factor going on there for me but, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

FASHION STAR — “High-End Appeal/Mass Market Appeal” Episode 104 — Pictured: (l-r) Sarah Parrott, Orly Shani, Elle Macpherson — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

What is it like being on stage with a designer who hasn’t got any buyers; is it quite tough?

It’s interesting, because I feel very connected to all the designers. We do quite a bit of work with them backstage. I see their journey throughout the week. As a producer, I get to see their packages. I know where they’ve come from. I know the hard work; the anxiety and their stories really touch me. Obviously, on stage I have more of a poker face and I need to do that. But from a personal level, I follow the designers very closely. I have their triumphs and tribulations with them.

Is it hard to stay impartial and not have favorites?

I feel it’s important as host that I’m balanced and nonjudgmental. I hope that my performance reflects that. I think it’s quite important to be fair and balanced in my presentation of each designer.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring designers?

Watch Fashion Star because it’s a good show. (laughs) It’s a cool show. It gives a different aspect from designing. A lot of shows talk about how to create clothes and this is really the other part, which is equally important. It’s not only to how to create clothes but how to sell and to market fashion. This is a different perspective on the fashion industry. It is just as much about shopping as it is about creating fashion. Also, it’s about heartfelt stories. These people’s lives and what it takes from a personal aspect to be where they are – which is on this huge stage creating clothes that are being bought and sold on the day so that the viewers at home can also have access to them immediately, which is phenomenal.

How do you think the show has impacted the various designers in terms of their own brand awareness – even the ones who aren’t on the show anymore?

It’s phenomenal to have the kind of exposure that these designers have had. Also, the mentoring from these iconic designers between Jessica, John and Nicole. And actually, all the designers have made sales in one capacity or another. Having that validation from huge retailers like Macy’s, Saks and H&M is sure to make a difference to them, both as far as confidence building, exposure to the general public and exposure to the kind of advice that they’ve had. I feel that it’s a fantastic opportunity for these young designers. And a great opportunity for us, for the viewers at home to be able to tap into these designers and be able to participate by buying immediately and wearing immediately anybody who wins.

FASHION STAR — “Living Department Store Window” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Elle Macpherson, Orly Shani, Sarah Parrott, Ross Bennett — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Since you’ve built such a great brand yourself how do you see the future of fashion as more and more designers become big brands?

Fashion is becoming more and more accessible. The fact that we have a fashion show on network television in itself speaks wonders. To date, fashion has been niche; it’s been kept in cable and it is has been a niche business. It is now a business that is global, and it is a business that affects the music industry, it affects the film industry, the beauty industry. It is a big business and people are interested in it. There are whole television stations that are dedicated to fashion. I think it’s a fantastic testament to the growth of society’s desire to express ourselves though the clothes that we wear.

You’ve always been known as a supermodel and while some of your contemporaries from that time have kind of faded into the background, but you have always stayed very much in the forefront. You kept going and doing things like this and going behind the scenes even. Was that part of the plan or just the way it happened?

I started this industry when I was going to law school, wanting to go to Brown University. Thinking, “Oh, I think I’ll be a model for 30 years” – it didn’t cross my mind. As I started to work and get more involved and really loved some of the opportunities that I had been exposed to and having the courage to try new things, I’ve been inspired by stepping out of my comfort zone consistently and having courage to try new things. I love what I do, I do what I love. I follow my heart. There’s no end game plan other than to make sure that every choice I make is a choice that I believe in. And I really believed in this project. I believe that it’s a fun, new, creative, modern way to shop. I feel that it gives great opportunity to these young designers. The show itself is really cool to watch. Nicole Richie is hysterical.

Very cool to watch, very, very cool. I have guys who watch it, I mean, they’re a big bunch of guys who watch it every week, friends of mine who watch it religiously.

That’s great to hear. I do want to reiterate that it’s not a show that you have to start from the beginning and watch it all the way through. I mean, there are some people that are tuning in third and fourth week and are saying wow, we’re really loving this show whether they’ve seen the beginning episodes or not. Thank goodness they’re tuning in because as a host I feel like I get better as the series goes on. (laughs)

FASHION STAR — “Living Department Store Window” Episode 105 — Pictured: (l-r) Nzimiro Oputa, Kara Laricks, Edmond Newton, Elle Macpherson — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

How are you enjoying this producing part of it though? Are you really getting into it and seeing it as a new possibility doing other things producing?

I’ve always produced, from the early days. I left my modeling agency in the 80s and started my own business, Elle Macpherson, Inc. Most of what I’ve done has had production elements in it. I’ve produced my own calendars. I’ve produced the workout videos. I’ve produced the making of the calendars. In my lingerie business I’m creative director of my lingerie business, which means I’m often producing photo shoots and producing the Website material, the…

So, you’ve always been very hands-on.

I’ve always been hands-on but simply because I love working in a team. And I love seeing projects that I start all the way through. I like the beginning, the middle and the end and the sell-through. For example, I was in Cannes last week, selling the show. We’ve sold the show into 75 countries. That was just as exciting for me as speaking with Ben Silverman about the concept of the show. So, I feel very invigorated by this whole process and particularly by this show.

You’ve been working in the fashion industry for decades obviously, but do you feel even as the host that you’re picking up and learning certain things from the judges and the buyers that you might not have thought of – stuff that you might even use for your line?

That’s a really good question. I wish that I had had the mentoring from such powerhouses as Jessica, John and Nicole when I was starting out. And I certainly wish that my lingerie, Elle Macpherson Intimates, was available at Macy’s, Saks and H&M, which it’s not. So, these designers are getting certainly a springboard – a positioning that I have never had and still don’t have. So, to some extent, I’m envious and excited for these young designers because it’s a truly phenomenal opportunity.

Have you ever wanted to pull the buyers aside and say. “Hey, while you’re here do you want to look at my stuff?”

Oh, don’t think that hasn’t passed through my mind. (laughs hard)