Mad Fashion/Fashion Hunters

Mad Fashion/Fashion Hunters

It’s been a long, painful stretch for those Bravo viewers who’ve had to sort themselves out after the painful departure of Heidi Klum’s hit Project Runway, in 2009. The show helped usher in the modern era of Bravo’s career-specific shows (see: Top Chef, Work of Art, Shear Genius), and the squabble between its owners, the Weinsteins, and Bravo was well documented. Now, with a pair of overtly fashion-focused shows on deck, Bravo returns to its roots by wisely not straying far from the brand’s formula. 

Speaking of Project Runway, the first up in tonight’s twofer is a show following season four contestant Chris March. Those who’ve watched the Real Housewives Of New York might’ve noticed him popping up in recent episodes to design outfits for the housewives' various functions, designing wild costume-like garb for the women. And that’s essentially March’s bag: concocting wildly over the top costumes that look more at home on a Broadway stage than at an Upper East Side function.

Having said that, March has clearly carved out a decent niche for himself with his awesomely imaginative designs. His massive and airy office space is a sight to behold, let alone his five-person staff on hand to stitch, hammer, mold, and sequin whatever his brain comes up with. March himself has continually been a fan favorite and natural fit for his own show, especially thanks to his hooting laugh and penchant for wearing flowing bowling shirts. While he struggled to shoehorn his style into the purported higher end taste of the Project Runway judges, it looks like the experience helped him embraced his campy aesthetic more.

Chris meets with his newest client, shoe designer Ruthie Davis in the premiere episode. For those who haven’t been keeping tabs on what has been on Beyoncé’s feet of late, it’s been a lot of Davis originals. In fact, her punky, spike-heeled look became a monster hit this past year and can be found knocked-off in just about any shoe store at the moment.

Here, Davis needs a look to wear to a major event, the preview of her new fall 2011 collection. Her request is something evocative of a Bond girl, to which March gets excited and begins dreaming of her wearing leather while inside bondage-inspired cages that hold shoes. She’s unenthused, and that means it’s time for some good, old-fashioned reality show conflict.

March marches right back to his studio to begin laying out his vision with his team, including hair/wig guru Izzy, construction department head Matt, sewing wizard Alex, seamstress Christine, and his personal assistant Jake. There are just three days until the event and the natural hiccups occur: peroxide-blonde Izzy gets off-track designing the right wig and worries she might be the “weak link” of the lot. Meanwhile, Davis had sent over a crate of her wildly expensive shoes (they range from $700 to $1300), most likely for inspiration, only to have them drilled, sawed, and bolted to a metal skirt-cage.

It’s the kind of stuff usually reserved for a solid hour-long process show, allowing for more drama and kinks to raise the stakes higher and higher. In a half hour, it feels a bit rushed and uneventful. Yet, March’s designs are so magnificently eye-popping and marvelous that the reveal of the end costume is impressive enough on its own. For tonight’s episodes, it showed the diminutive Davis strolling into her party in a dress with glittery-spiked-heels-as-shoulder-pads and the aforementioned shoe cage. And without all the stuffy elitism of fashion types to stifle March, it’ll be a treat to see his visions come to life onscreen.

While we’re on the topic of snooty fashion types, there’s Bravo’s second offering of the night, Fashion Hunters. The show features a popular upscale consignment store in New York City, where a staff of label obsessed retailers resell high-end wares at reduced prices. Second Time Around, or STA, has grown in recent years to 25 stores nationwide but here we peek in on the four employees working inside just one. There’s manager Tara, sales associates Karina and Ambria, and new addition for the growing men’s section Wilson.

Much like The Rachel Zoe Project, the purpose of Hunters is a pretty clear one: Show pretty clothes. There’s also a dash of tension and drama set-up for good measure, as when a prospective consigner isn’t happy with the price given to her pricy garment or when dandy Wilson strolls into the shop on his first day and insults the puny men’s section. Really, though, it’s just about seeing clothing that’s usually only peeking out of racks belonging Zoe’s celebrity clientele and Upper East Side rich gals.

The show cleverly taps into the thrill that bargain hunters can feel when scoring a find, espeically on coveted high-end brands like the now ubiquitous Christian Louboutin red-heeled shoes. The premiere manages to pack a good deal into its little half hour, too. Outside of a squabble over a purported Carolina Herrera dress brought in with no label (which required fashion celebrity Simon Doonan to come in for brand authentication), there was even a trip up to a socialite’s fancy pants apartment. There, the girls drank champagne and tore through her closet full of luxury clothes to select a few to eventually consign. Ah, riches.

It’s too early to tell if the cast will bring much to the table other than slender frames to try on clothes they’re thinking of consigning, but those with a taste for Bravo’s brand of reality can be sure they’ll draw out some drama. Even combined with Mad Fashion, the network’s two new fashion offerings still don’t equal the thrill of the beloved Project Runway (which now lives over on Lifetime), but, for now, it’s a nice dose of nostalgia to see the Bravo cameras inside Mood fabrics, yet again.

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