The Fashion Show: Variety Review

"Talk about a cheap knockoff. Bravo's look-alike replacement for Project Runway is what Christian Siriano would call a hot mess. By raiding the production closets of shows like The Biggest Loser, The Fashion Show attempts to jazz up the old business model with the idea of real life, real people, real fashion. Problem is, making the fashion more accessible also makes it a lot less, well, fashionable and, inevitably, much less fierce. There's just not that same level of drama when designing a standard blue blazer.

At first, it seems like a brilliant new approach to the familiar format - audiences might be more invested if they actually see something wearable - but it's quickly apparent from the premiere episode that a good part of the appeal of "Runway" lies in the outrageous designs. Haute couture is not always accessible to Main Street America, but producing it is a very creative and entertaining process.

If the designs themselves seem less inspired, the contestants more than compensate. Many familiar attributes and quirks are seen among the 15 designers: Merlin is all about feathers and capes; James-Paul is Siriano-esque; Kristin is a control freak. Every episode includes a Harper's Bazaar Mini Challenge, judged by the magazine's special projects director Laura Brown, as well as a fashion show in front of a real audience of designers and buyers.

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