Last week, the E! Network debuted a highly anticipated reality show, House of DVF, featuring a group of young women vying to be the next "Brand Ambassador" for Diane von Furstenberg. The hook here was supposed to be a fashion based reality show set in an actual, successful designer firm with the added bonus of appearances from one of the industry's most widely admired designers and businesswomen. The presence of the beloved and sage DVF herself would have to elevate the show out of the usual morass of reality show clichés, right?
Oh, well, better luck next time.
It turns out that you need a lot more than a venerable eminence grise on hand to bring some dignity to the proceedings.
First of all, what is a "Brand Ambassador" anyway? So far it looks like it is a glorified intern, and the girls in competition for the supposedly plum job are still more like reality show contestants than serious, aspiring businesswomen. While DVF makes her appearances and eliminations much like Tyra Banks still does in the not terribly dissimilar Americas Next Top Model (yes, apparently somebody is still watching this) running the competition seems to be relegated to the company's Creative Brand Director Stefani Greenfield, also known as the founder of Scoop NYC and a fairly accomplished person in her own right. Here, however she seems to be reduced to directing a group of clueless ninnies who are encouraged to bitch about each other in the petty ways that reality stars will. By the end of the first hour, the whole enterprise of the show is swiftly revealed to be nothing more than the same old reality competition schtick as the most vacuous of the girls is sent packing, and good riddance.
What a waste of an hour, but then there is already a much better fashion reality fashion show that started its second season only a few days after The House of DVF made its regrettable premiere. You still have a few opportunities to catch this season's first episode of The Fashion Fund on Ovation before the second installment is broadcast in its usual time slot on Wednesday at 10 PM. This show follows the actual young designers vying for the annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize as they proceed through a series of challenges and meetings with the fund board lead by Anna Wintour herself and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb and including prominent industry figures like Theory's Andrew Rosen, Neiman Marcus's Ken Downing, Nordstrom and Jeffrey's Jeffrey Kalinsky, J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Reed Krakoff, Rag & Bone's Marcus Wainwright and David Neville and, of course, Diane von Furstenberg, the CFDA President. The main difference between the shows is that the contestants here are real hardworking people (pictured above left) with going, though in many cases tiny, businesses spanning the industry including men's and women's fashion, shoes, accessories and even hats. Some of them are operating on a shoestring, and some of them are competing for the second time, but the stakes are real, and they haven't been cast for their looks, personalities or propensitiy to stir up drama and conflict. They have been chosen for their creative skills and talents. They aren't competing for a contrived job but for funds and mentorships from the CFDA to help them develop their real brands. There is no scolding contestants for bad behavior, just watching them work earnestly to solve the challenges they have been handed. The judges are as much cheerleaders as they are arbiters, and another of the show's pleasures is getting to see how real, influential fashion designers, executives and editors make their decisions, and what they are looking for in new talent. Here you will find the inspiring DVF who seems to be missing from her own show, funny, smart and insightful. The only drawback to the show is that the finale gets spoiled before the first episode has aired, robbing it of some essential suspense.
But then, this show is more about the journey than the destination.
Take that hour you might have wasted on House of DVF and give it to The Fashion Fund instead. Your brain will thank you for it.