Now that "Project Runway" is firmly ensconced over at Lifetime, Bravo has filled the fashion design reality competition gap on its programming schedule with "Launch My Line." In this series, which bowed last week, designers from various walks of life are paired with professional designers and work on a clothing line in the hopes that their line can be launched into the hugely competitive fashion industry. During a recent press call, one of the hosts, DSquared2's Dan Caten (who co-hosts with his twin brother Dean) and fashion experts/judges Lisa Kline and Stefani Greenfield took questions from our Jim Halterman.
To address the elephant in the room, so to speak, what about the inevitable comparisons of "Launch My Line" to "Project Runway," which moved over to Lifetime earlier this year? "I don't think you [can] compare the two shows. Yes, they're both fashion [and] someone who's going to watch it is going to be interested in fashion," said Kline. "So you can't really compare it to 'Project Runway.' It was just a different take on fashion, a different take on helping these people with their challenges to create these lines to win."
One thing that both shows have is a group of hungry contestants who want a piece of the fashion industry pie. As for the "Launch My Line" contestants, Caten explained, "we have a lot of people that are professionals in their business and they have this passion for fashion; they want to become designers. So each week they get a challenge and we're going to critique them and then we're going to kill someone every week."
While some of the contestants have more experience than others, they all seem to have an idea of what to expect in the design business, according to Caten. "They're coming into the designer world knowing what it really means to be a designer and what you have to do to build a brand and to make a collection... but at the end they do the whole full fashion show of everything they've done."
"Launch My Line" is definitely starting off strong in terms of getting big names to be associated with the competitions including music superstar Lady Gaga, whose less-than-conservative image is incorporated into the first season of the show. "That's one of [the designers'] challenges to instantly be inspired by someone who is a really creative person and kind of wild," explained Kline. "And so immediately they have to be on the spot, figure out what they're going to do and what kind of fabric they need to incorporate in the line and keep the brand cohesive which is always really hard to do. Because they don't know what to expect... she's a character so that was a fun one for them."
Caten added that the challenge incorporating the star power of Lady Gaga added a nice element to the competition for the designers. "When you get somebody like that into this show, it's exciting for them because you're doing your line but then someone throws you a curve ball and says 'I want you to do something with this in your line' and that's an actual thing that happens to designers, especially when you're designing for famous people or people that have a point of view, or that you know end up having an opinion. And then you have to adapt your style to accommodate their want but then still become you at the end. So that was a very like trick and a challenge for them that could be difficult."
With some of the big personalities of not only the designers but also their mentors, there are enough opinions and attitudes to go around on the show without adding celebrities. In fact, as Caten stressed, the various personalities add to the fun of the show. "I think everybody's kind of different and I think that the mixing of the people is kind of cool because somehow in the beginning they seem like they might get along and then I think as people start to work with each other, I mean naturally characters come out."
Greenfield wanted to make sure to stress that personality clashes are definitely not a bad thing for the show. "You have to understand," she said, "people look at conflict as a negative, but there's also a positive spin on agreeing to disagree and how negative could become positive. I think whenever you pair two people randomly you get greatness whether it's good or bad because you'll see a lot of good from conflict too."
In terms of the experience from her duties as judge, Greenfield also said that she was surprised at how exhausting the experience was. She stated that the competition "was more real than I could ever have dreamed of. It was emotional... and what's excellent about 'Launch My Line' is that Dean and Dan are behind the scenes, they're judging, they are on the journey with the contestant. They never leave them, they are in back of house, they're in front of house and that's how a design business works, correct?"
Kline also said that working as a judge and directing the contestants was compelling for all of them "because all of us came from the perspective that we have experience which all leads back to the same thing, which is building your brand, guiding them through. They all needed guidance of how to get through to the end to be a winner and that's kind of what we did whether we said it was good or bad or however we judged them all of us came with our own views. And we worked even as a team as the judges to really help them get the line. We promoted them to be winners."
One thing the show doesn't have, according to Caten, is the sore loser. "The people that didn't go ahead in the show were all very gracefully going out. And that's what was difficult... people were crying and stuff and no one was really angry. There wasn't a hater. The people understood their position and I think the thing that I can't stand is when people get all bitchy about not going forward. And I think our contestants were really good on that point of view as far as professional and spelling out when they knew they were - when their time was up.
Fans not only become invested in these reality competition shows because of the hosts of contestants but also for the challenges. How do those stack up on "Launch My Line?" Greenfield said, "They were all difficult [but] it's not about being difficult, you know? You start with your base - you start with everything you can use, okay? So there are a lot of arduous things like your fabrics and trims are running out. You're stressed; you have to keep consistent with your line. I think every challenge was challenging for different reasons."
Caten chimed in that the challenges were also tough from the get-go. "From a design point of view, I think the first challenge when they had to identify themselves and keep that identity throughout the show was the most difficult from a design point of view. And if somebody failed on that first challenge, it was hard to pick it up after."
"Launch My Line" continues tonight at 11:00/10:00c on Bravo.