Bravo is debuting "The Fashion Show" on Thursday (10 p.m. EDT) to fill the void left by "Project Runway," which bolted to rival Lifetime. Bravo recruited designer Isaac Mizrahi, singer Kelly Rowland and IMG Fashion Vice President Fern Mallis, the force behind much of New York Fashion Week, for its new reality show.
There are a few tweaks to "The Fashion Show": Each week a winning garment is to be manufactured and sold to the public via an online store; all the designers are professionals; and the winner at the end of the season will have his or her own line available at retail.
However, the similarities to the Heidi Klum-helmed show are striking, too. There are few fashion personalities who could rival the wit and openness of Michael Kors, but Mizrahi probably can. Rowland brings the celebrity element to the show, and Mallis probably has had her share of front-row catwalk seats next to Nina Garcia.
And there is, of course, the weekly challenge.
There's room for multiple fashion-themed reality shows because it's an industry that average Joes and Janes are mesmerized by and understand, says Mizrahi, who didn't name his obvious competitor. The sixth season of "Project Runway" - which has already been taped - will air this summer on Lifetime.
"As a judge, I am looking first for integrity. I can't tell yet about niches that people will fit into, but we have to train them to think properly and then think about the marketplace aspect. The difference with our show from other shows is that we have an audience that votes every week and they say some brutal things," Mizrahi says.
Rowland is looking for a spark - and an outfit she'd wear - among the 15 participants, while Mallis says she is eyeing both creativity and practicality. "You have to be able to walk in it, step up a step in it," Mallis says.
Rowland thinks it's the judges' collective perspective that will benefit the wannabe style stars the most.
"We're all very honest," she says. "Firm Fern and Honest Isaac, that's what I call them."
And her nickname? "Classy Kelly," says Mallis.
"We taught a lot of tough love," Mizrahi says. "It was hard for me. As a judge I couldn't tell them the polka dots were god awful."
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(This version CORRECTS day of debut to Thursday, sted Friday; ADD airtime; minor editing.)