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Friday Fashion: Reality show highlights fashion’s stars

Courtesy of NBC

While I am not a big reality TV show fan, I have a new obsession with one: “Fashion Star.” The NBC design contest show is revolutionizing the marketing of retail brands.

“Fashion Star,” which airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday, features hosts John Varvatos, Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson, who put designers to the test with weekly design challenges. Serving as judges, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and H&M buyers then choose whether or not to make an offer on a garment. Winners of “a buy” have their piece mass produced and featured online and in stores the day after each episode airs.

This show is genius. Bringing a whole new layer to the shopping experience, the show pushes an e-commerce marketing tool into the American living room, and viewers love it.

Society has grown used to product placement marketing that really took off following the introduction of DVR, allowing viewers the chance to skip over expensive brand messaging. But this is new. “Fashion Star” really is one giant, hour-long commercial and viewers are excited about watching it and some are even more excited to buy its products the next day.

Each week, a designer is eliminated based on reviews from the hosts and judges and inability to secure a buy. The winner will launch their designs under the “Fashion Star” brand in all three retailers.

The best part about this show, which premiered on March 13, is its ability to move product quickly. Having only DVR’d last week’s episode after missing it live, I was disappointed to find the winning piece, a pair of white trousers with black banning around the waste and down the leg, had sold out on the H&M website. These pieces are selling fast.

And the combination of the brands is interesting too. Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and H&M, while not directly buying for the same target consumer, seem to play nicely together. This co-branding seems beneficial to all parties. Showing Saks in a new light with a reality TV show partnership with H&M seems perfect for exposing their messaging to a younger demographic, and vice versa. H&M paired next to department store retail giants elevates their branding as well, even borrowing some of the high-end branding from Saks.

“Fashion Star” has also hit it on the head with social media, claiming the #FashionStar hashtag that trended its way to the top five on Twitter during the show’s two-hour premiere.

Overall, I am fascinated by this NBC marvel. The show has successfully taken the annoyance of marketing and turned it into entertainment that feeds the bottom sales line. As I stay hooked to my TV screen while it airs, I am excited to the see the implications of this show down the road.

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