Finally, Netflix is releasing its very own reality fashion design competition, and to make things even better, it will be hosted by Queer Eye's Tan France and British fashion and TV personality, Alexa Chung!
Netflix's Next In Fashion gathers 18 of the most talented designers in the world, to compete to be the next big thing in fashion. Through a series of challenges with different themes (red carpet, denim, military, and more!), the contestants will be filtered out through eliminations and the last remaining designer will win the $250,000 grand prize, plus an opportunity to debut their collection with luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter!
But things won't be easy for them, because joining Tan and Alexa as judges are other big names in fashion like Eva Chen, Elizabeth Stewart, Monique Lhuillier, Elizabeth Van Der Goltz, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Jason Bolden, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Adriana Lima, Christopher Kane, Beth Ditto, Josefine Aberg, "Dao"- Yi Chow, Maxwell Osborne, and Tommy Hilfiger.
But setting all that pressure aside, the show promises to be a very fun and lighthearted offering to its viewers. In a phone interview, the local media got to ask Tan France some questions, and here he explains how positivity– a tone resemblant to Queer Eye– works in Next In Fashion. He also tells us about his chemistry with Alexa, his personal take on what's next in fashion, and so much more! Check it out below:
How important would you say diversity and representation is in the creative industry, especially in the fashion industry?
For me, massively important. I am a person of color myself, I want to make sure that we are [represented] with as many people of color as possible and that it's a true representation of our society.
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But what I will say is that, one of the other reasons we have such a diverse group of contestants is because Netflix is a global platform. And so we wanted to offer a show that would really cater to our audience. And quite honestly, I mean, I think it makes for a very interesting competition show when it's not just domestic designers competing against each other. I love that it's a show that encompasses the entire world, so countries could really back their designers.
What do you think sets Next In Fashion apart from other kinds of fashion reality shows or reality TV in general?
The reason why I love our show and the reason why I want to be part of [this show was that] it was going to be, in my opinion, the anti-fashion-reality-show. Because it's not about the drama of a reality show, it’s not about producing dramatic scenes. It's about the craft.
We liken it to the Great British Bake Off, but for fashion, because we're not trying to be a reality [show] here that's cutting people down. That's not something I will ever be involved with. I am on a show called Queer Eye which is about positivity and inclusivity and kindness. And so when I look at Next In Fashion, it feels like an extension of that.
In one episode, you were visibly emotional. How emotional was it working on the show?
Very emotional. I cried almost every episode, I just didn’t keep it in. I’m actually not a very emotional person. [If you know] Queer Eye, you’ve only ever seen me cry once in Queer Eye.
I’m not an emotional person in general. However, this plays real close to my heart because I'm a designer, I know how hard it is to achieve success. I struggled for so many years to garner success in my industry. And so every time I had to give them the bad news of letting them go or when we’re struggling with the decision, I would break down and cry because it was so difficult to dash somebody's hopes and dreams, because it took me right back to those feelings that I had when I was in a similar situation.
And quite honestly, I didn't shy away from sharing my emotions. I wanted them to know that I cared. I wanted them to know that these people mattered to me. And their experience matters to me. I wasn't trying to be a regular host of a competition show that you are often quite emotionally removed. I wanted them to know that "I'm in the trenches with you, I get it."
So what are some things that you've learned from the competing designers about what it means to be a fashion designer in this day and age?
Let me tell you this, I learned one thing: I could never do what they do. When I was designing, I definitely wasn't making that incredible couture creation within a day and a half, and I definitely wasn't making a full collection within two and a half days. They are so highly skilled.
I think the greatest thing that they taught me was that creativity and stamina [should go hand-in-hand]. It doesn’t matter how creative you are. When somebody else can continue on when you’re feeling exhausted and feel like you’ve had enough, you’re never going to achieve success on the show. So I think that stamina is the greatest thing I’ve learned on the show.
Also, one other thing is that I was very impressed that they were all considering sustainability throughout the competition. Pretty much every designer had mentioned that they want to really push to create more sustainable brands. And I do love that that's the way fashion is moving forward. And one of our designers, Tommy Hilfiger, who was a guest on the show said something along the lines of: “If sustainability isn’t at the forefront of your design, you are not the future of fashion,” and I thought that that was really poignant.
For you personally, what qualifies one to be the Next In Fashion?
That's a difficult question because fashion is so subjective. It depends on what your personal preferences are, and my idea of what is fashion might be different from Alexa. Thankfully, we all agreed on who should win our show, and who we thought was the best representation of what is next. But for me personally, I wanted to see something that was fresh, that was original, but inspires me in a way that current brands can inspire me.
You said that fashion is personal. How do you then separate your personal preference when judging the artists' creation?
I would like to believe that anyone who works in the fashion industry, should be able to set their personal preferences aside to focus on what is appropriate for their client. For example, when you see a designer at the end of a show walk out, it's so rare that they're wearing the aesthetic of their brand. Usually, they just keep it simple, whereas their craziest, most elaborate design is because they cater to the needs of a client.
So I would focus on what was appropriate for that challenge. If we knew it was red carpet or for example, street wear, I would focus on that as opposed to "would I wear this myself? Maybe not," but could I see the hottest stars on the planet wearing it? Yes. So I would just think of who that design was for, what it was appropriate for, and do they meet the requirements for that episode.
As somebody who loves fashion, can you tell us about the first piece of clothing that you got obsessed with?
Yes, the first piece of clothing– it wasn't actually a piece of clothing, it was a pair of shoes. I was 17 and incredibly stupid. It [was during] my second job, and my mom used to like to take my money that I earned. She was like, "I [know how] irresponsible you are with money so let me save it for you. Just in case you need it later on 'cause you are terrible at saving." I was like, "Okay, yeah, whatevs" so I would hide a little bit, and then as I got to 17 I would hide more and more. And then I saw this pair of shoes. It was a brand called Nicole Farhi, and it was, I think about 350 pounds, which is about $500, which is a stupid amount of money to pay when you're 17. It was every penny I had. I purchased them and I wore them only once, and I would never wear them again. I have no idea where they are now. So my mom was always right, I was a complete moron.
How was it working with Alexa? Is it true that you just met her at a party before you guys started working on the show?
Yes, it's true that I met her at a party in January or February last year. And we liked each other straight away. And then we started working together a few weeks or a couple of months later.
What was it like to work with her? A dream. I have been, for 15 years, the ultimate Alexa Chung fan. I think she's truly the best host on TV in the US or the UK. I think she's a formidable, formidable host because she's smart, she's funny, and just highly entertaining, and so I had one of the best experiences of my life working with her, and I’m very grateful that we became actual friends. I love her so much. And I think it shows, I don’t think you can fake that kind of chemistry and I’m blessed to be in two shows where I’ve had wonderful castmates. That makes my life easier because they’re so easy to work with.
And what have you discovered about her?
Easy. That she is frighteningly attractive even at five o’clock in the morning. She would go into her hair and make-up at 5:30 and sometimes I would be there at the same time, [Alexa] does not need make-up to look the way she does.
Was there ever a time when Alexa asked you for fashion tips?
If you think about Alexa, you will know that she is a style icon across the world, and so she doesn’t ask or need tips. However, she'd come into my room sometimes and say “I feel like wearing this,” and I’d do the same with her. And I would like to believe that [it is because] we both respect each other's aesthetic. And so we both were wanting to make sure that our outfits were going to complement each other and that we both liked each other's looks. So I love that she was willing to ask me what I thought of what she was wearing.
If you could dress up any famous personality, who would it be?
That's a tough one. Okay, actually [I got my answer].
It's not because this person needs help in any way, it's just because I'm obsessed to the point that I might get a restraining order. Uhm, Adele, I love her so much, I just want to be in the same room with her, I want her to be my best friend, and I guess the route I would use is "Oh, I style for living," then really, I would hug her so hard that she passes out and I'll [put] her in my house and never let her leave.
How different was it working on Next In Fashion compared to your other shows like Queer Eye?
Funnily enough, Next In Fashion is nowhere near as dramatic as Queer Eye. Those boys are a nightmare [laughs]. The difference is, I got a lot more work done with Alexa because even though we have so much fun, she's not as distracting. The Queer Eye boys, I love them so much but because we know each other so well, because we've been together for almost three years. It's so chaotic on set. Imagine if you will, you're in primary school, you have four of your best friends, and the teacher is trying to tell you to concentrate but you're having that time of your life. That's what it's like, trying to get me and my boys to focus on doing our jobs. We just want to play and have fun.
That’s the major difference between the experience of Next In Fashion and Queer Eye. I love both. I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to be on these two shows because [they both] are positive, they both are light-hearted, and it will govern my career for the rest of my life. I will– and I hope I will not eat my words in 10 years– but I can't imagine I will ever be on a show going forward.
How do you think this culture of healthy competition within the show came about?
I would like to believe that we helped cultivate that atmosphere, that tone of the show. Alexa and I were very kind and loving with our contestants, and we didn't play into any drama. It's a competition show, and people want to desperately win. They are all successful designers. We want to make sure that their brands are achieving that next level of success, so there's definitely competition, but it never got nasty and I love that [what] the producers of the show, Old School TV, [did was that] if there was any further drama between our contestants, they weren’t adding and highlighting that into the show because there’s no reason to.
We made it very clear from the very first day when we had our pre-production meeting that we wanted it to be positive and show a positive side of the high fashion industry, and I think that that shows in our show.
What was your favorite challenge to shoot?
My favorite challenge was actually the first one– Red Carpet. The first episode of any competition show, it's basically the setup episode to explain the rules a lot. So you don't see as much fashion as in the other episodes. So what I will say is get to Episode Two and I promise the rest of it is incredibly incredible. But that's just the nature of any competition show, the first episode always tends to be the [setup] episode.
But I love the first episode for this reason: I did not know the designers before and neither did Alexa Chung. In Episode One, we actually got to see who they were, what they could achieve within such a short space of time, to set us up for the rest of the season and I was blown away. Some of these red carpet looks at Episode One are world class, and they achieved it within a day and a half. And so it got me really excited for the job. And it was the first moment I really sat there and thought, "I am part of something revolutionary."
Next In Fashion starts streaming on Netflix this January 29. For more information, visit its official page on the streaming website now.
All photos courtesy of Netflix. Homestream image taken by Adam Rose.