'The Dukes of Melrose' and 'L.A. Frock Stars': TV Review

Dukes of Melrose L.A. Frock Stars Split - H 2013
Bravo; Smithsonian Channel

Dukes of Melrose L.A. Frock Stars Split - H 2013

Two consignment-shop series cover similar ground but remain distinct -- and fun.

The two series take different, but successful, approaches to chronicling the operations of high-end Los Angeles vintage and consignment boutiques.

Where do fancy clothes go to retire? Two new series, Bravo's The Dukes of Melrose and the Smithsonian Channel's L.A. Frock Stars, help answer that question by showing us the inner workings of high-end consignment shops. Don't expect to find bargains here, though. The Dukes and Stars may get their pieces from the rich and famous, but they also re-sell to them, particularly during the madness of the lucrative Hollywood awards season.

The Dukes of Melrose is the more high-energy of the two, focusing on Cameron "The King of Vintage" Silver and his business partner (but not romantic partner, as they make clear) Christos "The Robin Hood of Fashion" Garkinos. The two men merged their businesses last year into the new store Decades, and while their mix of styles may work well as far as stock goes, they do not see eye-to-eye on finances: Silver flippantly spends without caution, whereas Garkinos always has his eye on the bottom line. The two get into (mostly) good-natured spats about their financial differences, but a constant frustration with one another is palpable. It's reminiscent of another Bravo fashion series, Gallery Girls, which featured the same struggle between the fabulous opulence that attracts customers, versus the reminder that in the end it has to be that AND profitable.

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Profits don't seem to be an issue for Doris Raymond, owner of the Los Angeles vintage boutique The Way We Wore. She mentions on L.A. Frock Stars that she has about $20 million in clothing stock and sells about $1 million a year. While the Dukes often get their clothes from celebrities and famous L.A. stylists, Raymond will set out on her own missions across the country (or buy from other dealers who have) to collect special pieces from estate sales, auctions and clothing shows. She has a serious passion for clothing, and what sets her show apart from the Dukes of Melrose is its reflection of the Smithsonian Channel's interest in historical and cultural exploration. The show has a more educational take, giving context to the fashions with break-out panels about the designers and time periods discussed.

The stars of both series have engaging personalities, though the Dukes tend to be more quippy and dramatic (as is, of course, the Bravo way -- at one point, the often over-the-top Silver says, "If you stare at someone for more than five seconds without blinking, you either want to kill them or have sex with them," turning his glare on Garkinos -- while Raymond's operation is more low-key (employees dress up in the store's clothes themselves for mini-fashion shows and sit in awe watching celebrities twirl in their gowns). Budgets are a big part of the shows, and thematically both series marry the current buy-low-sell-high pawn shop show craze with beloved fashion series like Project Runway. Celebrities also feature on both series in most episodes (Rachel Harrison appears early on Dukes, while Dita Von Teese is shown as a favored client on Frock Stars).

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Those more casual about the nuances of style may prefer Dukes for its bubbly drama, whereas the fashion obsessed (or those wanting to learn) may be better off with the more in-depth Frock Stars. Ultimately, both are good fun and actually work well as a viewing pair. They are little sartorial havens where, as Raymond's store manager says, "being a shopaholic is not a secret shame, but a public blessing."