Mr. Gay draws ‘A-List’ judges to Philly

Mr. Gay draws ‘A-List’ judges to Philly

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Bravo has given “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection,” the reality competition hosted by out fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, some eyebrow-raising upgrades for its new season, starting with the addition of international model icon Iman as a judge.

The competition has raised the stakes as well. This season, the 12 professional designers competing for cash and glory in the fashion industry will be split into two fashion houses that must create a collection and produce a live fashion show each week.

Mizrahi said this new twist definitely sets “The Fashion Show” apart from the other fashion-oriented reality programs.

“This idea of dueling fashion shows is the right evolution,” the designer said. “There’s a lot of reality-TV competition out there. It’s amazing you have Bravo who is innovating this. In the end, we go through these sensational eye-candy shows one after the other. The first day of shooting, I was very nervous. What finally happened on the third day was the fashion show took place. We were all holding our breath and wondering what we were going to see and the minute the show started, I thought, Oh my God. This is the best show I’ve ever seen. There’s something about the art of it that makes much more sense now. They’re working on these clothes individually but they’re also part of a collective, and that is the way a design company functions.”

Iman added that both she and Mizrahi wanted to take the show to the next level when Bravo approached her about it.

“When I was asked to join, Isaac and I had a meeting, since I’ve known Isaac over 20 years. Both of us wanted to talk to each other. One of the concerns I had is about what the show should look like. Our main thing was the show is called ‘The Fashion Show,’ so we really should create a fashion show. Bravo has supported us very, very well. We needed to change to the whole game of reality shows when it comes to fashion. Where is the next level to go to? We really wanted to create something that had the high drama of a reality show but really was based more on the talent. And we wanted to give the viewer something they’re never seen before on TV. That was very important to us.

“Now what was really surprising is the long hours,” the model added. “I have never worked this hard in my life. It was hard, long, long, long hours.”

Mizrahi is happy to have Iman on the show, citing her unique perspective on the fashion industry as an asset.

“I’ve known Iman for a long time and there is a whole culture that takes place backstage in fashion. It tries so hard to translate to the front of the runway. ‘Unzipped’ is a very good movie where you see the kind of personality backstage. Somehow, Iman’s voice has always been a very strong voice backstage. She had a very strong physical presence in front of the lights. She’s become more and more of a spokesperson. You would not believe the kind of authority that this woman brings to it. When she enters a room and she says something — I don’t think she speaks that much — but what she does say is choice.”

He added that Iman brings a level of star power and authority that was lacking in the show’s first season.

“It’s a different kind of expertise,” he said. “It’s a kind of fashion temperament. She is looking at it like the greatest creator of fashion. She’s a great designer in her own right, but even more than that, a consumer of it and an arbiter of it. She’s been through a good deal and she knows how to spot things. She knows how to put things together in terms of the visual of something and then what she hears and the vibe of the room. Iman is a great barometer of what is happening in the room. She’s extremely objective and she looks at the guest judges. She looks at the girl across the runway whom she never met before and the expression. She looks at the model wearing the thing and a lot of time you can tell how someone feels about something they are wearing, even though they don’t think they are betraying something. But Iman has extra sensitivity about that situation and about cultural phenomenon. Season two is a must-watch simply because you have her — just to figure out exactly what she’s saying because half the time you can’t understand it. Just that alone is fabulous. And just seeing what she wears is an education in itself.

Ignoring Mizrahi’s playful jabs at her thick accent, Iman was quick to praise Mizrahi’s talents as well, saying that the contestants are lucky to be able to benefit from his knowledge of the industry.

“They really should kiss his feet because the nuggets of information he imparts to them on a weekly basis and guiding them is priceless,” she said. “I’ve been in fashion as a model and a businesswoman, but I’m also a consumer. I’m a woman who wears these clothes. I think what we’re looking for is things that will really excite women and elevate and challenge them. When you look at these things, you want something like, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen this before. I would love to have it. I would love to wear it.’ We work well together because we come from a different place on the judging. But we had a couple of times where we couldn’t make a decision because I had my point of view and he had his point of view. That’s all a discussion you will see, and you’ll see how we make a decision about who is going home that night and who is supposed to be winning.”

“The Fashion Show” may be throwing a lot more at the contestants this season compared to the first, but Mizrahi said the talent of the contestants has “really risen exponentially.”

“I think that one good thing is that they are temperamental and interesting in their interaction because they are more passionate about clothes,” he said. “Season one felt more about the personalities of the kids and now it’s about the making of clothes and the passion about making clothes. That’s the drama that you’re going to be watching this time. To me, the level of the talent of the contestants is a game changer.”

Iman, who admitted she didn’t see a lot of the first season [and really, could you picture her and hubby David Bowie kicking back and watching reality TV?], said she was more than happy to not be a party to the drama the contestants might bring once the cameras started rolling.

“For me, what makes a great show is taking the equations out of characters,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the talent. So to be able to not know what is happening — the dramas and the bitchiness — backstage, not to know anything about that as a host, that takes the burden off of me of not taking the baggage of not liking somebody because of their character. At the end of the day, I really want to judge them for the talent that they have brought on the runway.”

She added that the challenges the contestants face this season will give them and the viewers a more realistic representation of what it takes to make it in the world of fashion, both on the runway and behind the scenes. “When you have individual designers creating individual looks for a challenge, you really don’t see a fashion show,” she said. “So the element of creating something that is unique and different than what has even been put on TV when it comes to fashion was very important for Isaac and me. That’s one of the reasons we insisted on being executive producers on the show, because we have so much information — Isaac as a designer and me having been around designers for almost 30 years. It was very important for us to bring something new and creative to the arena of TV that has not been seen.”

“The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection,” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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