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Monday, April 2, 2012

Editorial: How the Reality Show "Fashion Star" Can Help License Art

The new reality TV series "Fashion Star" that is searching for the next great fashion brand illustrates many of the same aspects that are important in licensing art.  The designer needs to know what appeals to their customers (retail store buyers & ultimately consumers), know trends that appeal to customers, create a variety of designs and still maintaining an unique look, willing to listen to mentors and customers, willing to compromise, and able to connect with the customer to build an enjoyable working relationship.  The designer can have fabulous designs but if they ignore these points they will be eliminated from the competition as some of the designers found out.  This is also true in art licensing.  Artists need to embrace the same points as the fashion designers to have a successful licensing career.

"Fashion Star" is a competition among 14 unknown fashion designers that are vying to win a 6,000,000 dollar prize to launch her/his collections in three large retail chains: Saks Fifth Avenue (high-end), Macys (mid-end), H&M (mass market).  Each week the designers are mentored by three celebrity designers and challenged with a particular task to further develop and expand their brands. For the premier week it was to present three variations of their signature looks.  Week two was to know the retailers and design clothing that their consumers would purchase.  Week three was to design clothing for the summer season.  Week four will be the challenge in designing two variations of the designers look for the high-end and the mass market. Buyers from each of the stores judge the designers creativity, if it will sell at retail, how well it will display on store racks, and whether it can be produced at a profit.  If yes, they offer a bid for the design (starting at $50,000) which can end up in a bidding war among the retailers.  The highest bidder gets the item and the designer is safe for the week.  The designers whose look was not purchased face elimination.  And the designer that makes it through the competition and is judged by all three retailers with the best brand for multiple markets wins.

By listening closely to the comments made by the mentors and retailers, gems of important information can be learned and translated to the licensing industry to improve art. During the show, buyers inform selected designers why their creation was not purchased - not good construction, does not show well, not unique enough, wrong colors and fabric, etc. The mentors offered suggestions on how to improve the look to appeal to the retail market. The designers that ignore the suggestions quickly found out they made a mistake when their creations were not purchased.  Designers that tweaked their look to appeal to the different retailers and widened their range of designs paid off in being recognized by the buyers for their efforts and having their creations purchased.  Others that gave up or thought that staying true to their look is more important were sent home. And several designers found out that there is no room for ego in the fashion industry when they clashed with mentors and buyers resulting in being eliminated from the competition.

 "Fashion Star" has brilliant marketing of products by being on national TV and with a slogan "watch it today, wear it tomorrow."  Consumers like the products and are using  social media to pass the word.  Many articles about consumer reaction to the show can be found on the internet including "Reality Show Fashion Star Boosts Macy's Sales, Builds H&M Brand Image, Busts Saks Customer Satisfaction and Misses Its Own Potential for Shopper-Viewer Engagement (M, SKS)."  And if you wonder how the retailers can offer the products on sale immediately after the airing of the show and who manufactures the products, read "Retail told - That was fast, On TV last night, in stores today."

"Fashion Star" airs on NBC - Tuesday night.  At the time this article was written, there are six remaining episodes with the finale airing on May 15.  Videos of the aired episodes can be viewed on NBC "Fashion Star" until June 14, 2012.

Share your comments about "Fashion Star" and on what you have learned.


  1. I've watched the show and didn't put the two and two together with the art licensing world, but you're absolutely right. I know that the art that I prefer to create only appeals to a very small audience. If I want to license my art, I need to diversify and create what is marketable. Thank you for a very insightful blog post.

  2. I think we all can learn by taking comments made that can improve our work and designs and moving forward into better designing.

  3. Thanks Joan, Interesting...reason to watch the tube!