Alexa Chung Returns to American Television with 24 Hour Catwalk
What began as some nobody’s chance at claiming their fifteen minutes of fame has quickly morphed into a wildly effective marketing strategy for creating a modern empire. By projecting themselves to audiences as a credible source on the fashion industry, reality stars can catch phrase their way into the hearts of potential customers. Alexa Chung, a former British model, who, through her numerous hosting gigs on fashion oriented reality television shows has artfully branded herself into a profitable powerhouse.
It has all been a bit disconcerting to Alexa Chung. Though her laugh is infectious and her fringe is adorable, Chung has had a difficult time trying to get Americans to warm up to her shockingly blunt observations. Poking fun at her own situation on a recent episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Chung jokingly remarked, “It’s on with Alexa Chung, it’s off with Alexa Chung, and now we’re back.” She is, of course, referring to her comeback to American reality television on Lifetime’s newest Project Runway spin-off, 24 Hour Catwalk which is slated to debut on January 10. After growing out of previous roles in her native London, where she appeared on the likes of 2006’s Popworld and Vanity Lair, Chung made her American debut on MTV’s It’s On With Alexa Chung in 2010. Though the show only aired for a year before getting axed, her quirky style, and self-depreciating humor gained her a cult following.
Chung’s newest venture, 24 Hour Catwalk, features a weekly contest pitting four designers against one another in an effort to create the best themed collection over the course of 24 hours. The feat appears to be as much a test of endurance as of actual design skills as the extended hours visibly took their toll on both the contestants and the judges. Round one of the episode eliminates two of the four designers, leading into the next segment where those finalists go head to head for the grand prize of $10,000, courtesy of CoverGirl and Herbal Essences.
Chung, who was left feeling “burnt” by the fate of her last show, said that she would only join 24 “if it was going to be a genuine search for designers and if I would be working along side people who are legitimately in the fashion industry.” It seems like she got her wish in terms of casting: esteemed designer Cynthia Rowley, sassy editor-at-large Derek Blasburg and potent publicist James LaForce will be filling the adjacent seats. Though the show is just another to addition to the endless list of fashion-based reality TV programs, it boasts the credibility others lack by casting judges as relevant to the fashion industry as they are to audiences.
Fashion comes with a built in audience, a league of young people “who want to feel connected,” explains PR-executive Kelly Cutrone of 2010’s Kell on Earth. Aspirations of becoming a fashion designer are today as commonplace in the mind of a six-year-old as are dreams of becoming a princess or an actress when they grow up. By tapping into that remaining spark of fashion fervor, 24 hopes to accumulate ratings similar to those of its successful predecessors like Scouted, It’s a Brad, Brad World, The City, All on the Line, the Fashion Show, and The Rachel Zoe Project.
Though the hour long show seems legitimate, Rowley admits that it’s meant to be slightly over the top. “Under these kinds of time constraints, limited resources, and sleep depravation, several contestants just lost it an things got a little out of control- screaming, crying, and one guy took off all of his clothes. I’m not sure how that one will be edited. But all of this makes the show very entertaining.”
Participation on a show with audiences as widespread as those of Project Runway or 24 can bring a budding designer’s work exposure, but it is the generally the judges who become household names. ‘Advertainment,’ as this form of marketing is mockingly referred to, can be a very effective way to drum up ad sales in a tough economy. By putting not only a face, but a personality, to their name that will register with people when they go shopping, or perhaps even prompt them to shop online while watching the show. “TV is really important.” clarifies Rowley, “Look what it’s done for Heidi, Tyra, Nina Garcia and Michael Kors. It’s incredible. You can’t get away from the fact that it is the best way to speak to your customer. It is a great way to connect if there is sort of an authentic and genuine premise that seems real and sends a good message out.”
Chung can celebrate the initial success with the show for now (Lifetime has picked up the next ten episodes), but she better not get too comfortable. You know what Heidi always says... “One day you’re in, and the next you’re out.”