The Fashion Show -- TV Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

It's the fashion statement of the year: Bravo's new reality series "The Fashion Show" is not -- repeat, not -- a knockoff of the recently decamped Bravo show (now at Lifetime) "Project Runway."

But sometimes, it's hard to tell. First, look at the facts: "Fashion" has two hosts, designer Isaac Mizrahi and musician Kelly Rowland (formerly of Destiny's Child). They both harangue a gaggle of designers racing through challenges small (design a "little black dress" from a black T-shirt in an hour) to big (pick a "must-have" and design five outfits around it while working in a group). At show's end, those outfits are judged, and a contestant must leave.

That probably sounds familiar, but it's amid the fine stitching that subtle differences emerge. "Fashion" takes itself far more seriously than did "Runway," and a certain je ne sais quois is lost in the translation. The show, the contestants and even the judges (who have almost no chemistry) are almost entirely without flair. "Fashion" plods through the paces but never seems to gather a real momentum, and there's little spontaneity or a true clash of creative wills: the contestants just seem to get on one another's nerves.

On the other hand, examining fashion with a more serious attitude leads to informative, interesting discussions. The runway segment of "Fashion" puts outfitted models on display before a room full of industry leaders, and producers seek out feedback from top names. During the runway examination, contestants provide a play-by-play on their fashions; later, when called on the carpet, they're articulate and insightful as to their design motivations and theories. In those moments, "Fashion" raises the bar for fashion reality.

"Fashion" is no "Runway," though they're cut from the same cloth. Denying that they're not is like pretending Pepsi is different from Coke. Sure, there are variations in the piquant aroma and fizz, but ultimately, you're still getting a soda. And for "Runway" fans thirsty for fashion fights and fits, "Fashion" is certainly worth a taste.

Airdate: 10:00-11:00 p.m., Thursday, May 7 (Bravo)
Production: 3 Ball Prods
Cast: Isaac Mizrahi, Kelly Rowland, Fern Mallis
Executive producers: J.D. Roth, Todd A. Nelson, Adam Greener, Andrew
Cohen, Shari Levine, Lara Spotts
Co-executive producer: Rachel Tung
Consulting producers: Rich Kim
Supervising producers: Natalie Baxter, Julie Singer
Story Producers: Steve Youel, Sarah Pavia, Elyssa Williams, Paul Hardy
Director of photography: Guido Frenzel
Production designer: Chuck Aubrey
Costume designer: Darshan Gress
Casting: Allison Kaz