Fashion Star: Another 'cheap Project Runway knockoff'?

In NBC's new reality series, Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and Elle MacPherson challenge designers to make clothes that real people will wear

In NBC's "Fashion Star," which debuts Tuesday night, Elle MacPherson hosts, while Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie mentor up-and-coming clothing designers.
(Image credit: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Ever since the fashion design competition Project Runway became an unmitigated success, a parade of reality TV shows attempting to replicate its formula — The Fashion Show, Launch My Line, Mad Fashion — have stumbled down the catwalk. Is NBC's newest reality series Fashion Star, which debuts Tuesday night, simply another "cheap Project Runway knockoff?" Hosted by Elle MacPherson, the reality competition puts its twist on the Runway format by asking the question, "Who besides a supermodel would ever wear this stuff?" Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and designer John Varvatos mentor contestants on how to make their designs more marketable before the designers show their creations to corporate buyers from Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and H&M. Designs that receive a bid from one of the retailers become available for purchase online immediately, and in stores the next day. Does Fashion Star's focus on creating marketable clothing set it apart?

This show is terrific: Fashion Star is instantly gratifying, although the fact that designs become available for purchase immediately might just confirm the "transformation of television into one giant commercial," says Neil Genzlinger at The New York Times. "But dang it, it's kind of fun." The runway shows boast entertaining bombast and theatrical spectacle, and Richie and Simpson are winning and surprisingly intelligent as mentors. Plus, the eclectic designers are "real stars." But the main reason to tune-in: You will really want to wear the clothes, too.

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