NBC’s new reality competition Fashion Star got off to a slow start last Tuesday, but producers say they’re still heartened by the fact that the show’s winning designs have been selling well online. The retailers involved — including Macy’s, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue — say they’re selling out of many of the show’s winning designs. “Sales of Fashion Star merchandise exceeded expectations,” says Macy’s spokesperson Holly Thomas.
Fashion Star centers on a group of aspiring designers who are mentored by Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and famed designer John Varvatos; supermodel Elle Macpherson is host. Buyers from Macy’s, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue serve as judges and decide whether to buy and market any of the contestants’ clothes. Because the show was pre-taped, the winning clothing items immediately go on sale at the retailers’ websites after the show.

NBC's new show "Fashion Star"
"Fashion Star".

So it wasn’t a runaway hit with viewers (or critics). NBC’s latest reality show Fashion Star did spark the kind of buying frenzy that its creators James Deutch and E.J. Johnston were hoping when they sold the concept to retail chains H&M, Macy’s and Saks.”Sales of Fashion Star merchandise exceeded expectations,” says Macy’s spokesperson Holly Thomas.
Though Fashion Star boasts many of the same elements as Project Runway and other sartorial competitions (think celebrity “judges,” crying contestants, dramatic pacing, etc.), the strength of the show was that it would deliver a dose of reality about the business of fashion to viewers. Buyers from the chains were the real judges and a purchase from them guaranteed the contestant’s spot in the game. Eager viewers could purchase the clothes the next day –voting with their wallets, rather than text messages.
Ushering in a new chapter in e-commerce, the retailers each ponied up an impressive investment of about $3 million a piece to orders that exceed the average buy and the number of outlets that carry it – a seal of approval unknown designers only dream of.
The gamble appears to have paid off for the chains, even if ratings were low. Running from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Fashion Star lured 4.55 million total viewers, while scoring a 1.6 demo rating among adults 18-49.
That was enough for Macy’s to sell out of an $89 eyelet maxi dress designed by Nikki Poulos in less than 12 hours, while other grabby fashionistas gobbled up H&M’s $19.95 Sarah Parrott frock and cleaned Saks out of $350 zipper mini-skirts from contestant Orly Shani.
Each piece featured simple lines, on-trend silhouettes, and obviously irresistible details which may set the tone for winning designs to come.
Though the retailers are staying mum on the number of items each purchased, TVGuide.com reports that the show’s executive producer Ben Silverman confirmed that the click-through rate on purchase was “hundreds of percentage points higher than normal.”
Fashion Star moves to its regular slot at 10pm tomorrow, when it will be preceded by a results show for American Idol competitor, The Voice. With the spillover audience, the retailers may find themselves selling out even faster.

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