The 'Bachelor' Franchise's Surprising Fashion Impact
Stylist Cary Fetman and gown designer Randi Rahm dish on how 15 minutes of airtime can create a fashion frenzy.
The Bachelor franchise is known for many things, among them producing a slew of destined-for-divorce engagements (save for a handful of exceptions), introducing the world to several new "careers" (i.e., "Hipster," "Bachelor Super Fan" and "Chicken Enthusiast") and churning out plenty of contestants for fellow ABC competition series Dancing With the Stars.
High fashion? Not so much.
But though the looks on both the Bachelor and Bachelorette are more girl-next-door than fashion-blogger-next-door, the show's impact on the fashion industry is not to be overlooked. Especially with the rise of social media and screen grabs, the roughly 6.5 million weekly viewers that make up Bachelor Nation are more desperate than ever to know where exactly the stars' ensembles come from — be it the sweater worn on a hometown date or a glitzy "cocktail" dress.
Stylist Cary Fetman, who has been with the franchise since 2008, reports that within hours of the show's Monday-night programming, his Instagram messages are flooded with followers dying to know where specific pieces are from. With this in mind, he has recently been reaching for more accessible pieces from Zara, H&M and even Old Navy, in addition to brands like Alice + Olivia, Frame and Free People.
When a Bachelorette is especially beloved by Bachelor Nation, like season 12's Jojo, a single look can cause an online frenzy. Fetman recalls a BB Dakota sweater, which Jojo had been wearing in her downtime before she was ambushed by a suitor in what would become one of (*Chris Harrison voice*) the most dramatic moments of her season, that sent the brand into a panic.
"The designer of BB Dakota contacted me and said, 'We’re sold out right now,' " says Fetman, adding that because demand was so high for the particular sweater, the brand put the piece back into production to accommodate the requests. "BB Dakota said, 'Next time, tell us what you want and when it will air,' but a lot of the time, we don't know when [the Bachelorette] will wear a specific piece." He adds that the same issue has come up with jewelry, too.
The brand that has perhaps seen the biggest reward from its regular features on the show, however, is New York-based designer Randi Rahm, whose over-the-top gowns have been worn by countless Bachelorettes, as well as contestants who are lucky enough to make it to the final two on The Bachelor and are provided with dress options by Fetman for the engagement (or breakup) scenes.
Rahm, who first met Fetman 10 years ago when she was working in Los Angeles, tells The Hollywood Reporter that over the past few years, her business has taken off, thanks to exposure on the show (she does not advertise otherwise). The white dress worn by Raven on the most recent Bachelor finale, for example, sold out immediately at Saks Fifth Avenue following its on-air debut. The popularity has enabled Rahm to expand her repertoire from custom couture pieces, her bread and butter when she launched her atelier in 1998, to more affordable gowns.
"People couldn’t really afford the $25,000 dresses," she says of her original work. "Now I have dresses that are way more affordable: $2,000 to $6,000 instead of $10,000 to $100,000." She adds that she hopes to soon expand her manufacturing capabilities to roll out an even more affordable ready-to-wear collection.
Rahm's gowns don't exactly break new ground fashionwise, but they resonate with the diverse Bachelor Nation, as well as with the contestants who choose to wear them. This season especially, Bachelorette Rachel has taken to Rahm's designs. Notes Fetman, "In order for me to bring in, let’s say, 100 gowns, I have probably looked at 7,000-8,000, and then I bring in 100 for her to pick 10. That’s just gowns." Of those 10 or so selected, a healthy majority this season are by Rahm, including the red dress Rachel wears in the promotional material, which was custom-made for her by the designer.
As for what to expect from Rachel's season (at least on the fashion front — the rest is still very much under wraps), Fetman says that this season's star appreciates taking risks. "What I love abut her is, she's always willing to try on so many different things and different looks," he says.
He adds that jewelry stacking — which has been a red-carpet trend for a few years, but has yet to trickle down to the mainstream — was a particularly bold move. "It’ll be interesting to see if the number of rings I stacked on her fingers are going to make people love me or hate me," he notes. "And the numbers of necklaces, too. The jewelers are going to love me, but if I’m going to get in trouble with the public, I think it’ll be about the rings."