When you hear the term supermodel, chances are good
that the name that pops in your head is Elle Macpherson. Macpherson
is arguably the most iconic model of the last three decades. The
world has seen her on magazine covers, calendars, in movies and TV
shows, in workout videos and on the series America's Top Model.
She has also created her own fashion line of lingerie called Elle
Now, Macpherson is producing and hosting a new
reality series called Fashion Star. In the show, twelve
unknown clothing designers have to create new
fashions weekly. There designs are judged by a group of mentors who also
have their own fashion lines - singer Jessica Simpson, TV
personality Nicole Richie and designer John Varvatos. Then the
designs have an opportunity to be bought by representatives from
Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M. If the designs are bought, they
will be available at those stores the day after the show airs.
If they do not make a sale, the designers are in danger of being
We were recently invited to take part with several
other outlets in an intimate conference call with Macpherson about
her new show.
How did your
executive producer, Ben Silverman, convince you to do the show? And
what did you initially think of the idea behind it, especially given
the unique shopping angle?
Well, first of all, I'm thrilled to be working with
Ben Silverman and all my producers, Five by Five, Electus and
Magical Elves. It's been a really team effort as far as getting the
show up and running. I was very interested in the concept because I
had seen something a few years ago. I saw a fashion show streamed
live from Japan about three years ago. I noticed that you could move
your mouse across the model and click onto the garments and buy them
immediately. I knew that this was revolutionary as far as fashion
and shopping was concerned. So, when I spoke to Ben about it and the
format came up for Fashion Star it really felt right for me
and felt modern for where we are today as far as technology and
shopping is concerned. That coupled with wonderful heartfelt stories
of these 14 unknown designers and a big stage show felt fresh.
collections we've seen are not
these are mainstream off-rack purchases that people are making.
Theoretically, what kind of designer do you think could most benefit
from Fashion Star?
I love the fact that it is clothing that we can wear
everyday. I think we're more relaxed as a society in the kind of
clothes we want to wear. Fashion Star promotes people that
can create an evening dress but also a jeans and t-shirt. These are
modern designers creating everyday wear for everyday people.
As a model and
having worked with different designers and wearing different
designers do you ever wish that you could offer your own opinion on
the fashions to the designers during the show?
Well, we have fantastic mentors - between Jessica
[Simpson], John [Varvatos] and Nicole [Richie] and of course the
retailers - so there's plenty of people giving really experienced
feedback to our designers. I feel that my role is more to
orchestrate the proceedings rather than to give my opinion on these
very talented designers. They've got great people that are really
supporting them through this process.
Being the host.
what do you think is scarier for the designers to face: the mentors
or the buyers when they're showing the runway afterwards?
Obviously, the stakes are very high because there
are immediate buys and sells from the buyers on the day. I love the
fact with this show that there is a winner every week, so it's not
like we're all holding out for the grand prize at the end. Every
week a designer has an opportunity to be a winner. Even if they
don't win the whole competition they can make a sale to Macy's, Saks
or H&M. That's what's really interesting in this program. People can
tune in having not watched the beginning of the series. They can
tune in halfway through and still have excitement watching a single
episode. It's not like you have to follow the designers all the way
through to get the thrill as an audience, because there is this
buying and selling on stage immediately every night. The designers
really want to get positive feedback from their mentors because they
are iconic and are stars themselves. But of course, making a sale is
paramount because as long as they make a sale each week, they're
safe. If they don't make a sale, they risk elimination and risk
being sent home. So, it's obviously important that they do get a
sale. I would like to add that the retailers are choosing very well,
because the clothes that they are buying are being sold out week
after week after week. So, the shopping aspect is working for the
designers, for the retailers and for the viewers at home.
you have a favorite design on the show so far?
been a few. I'm a little bit ahead, because I'm editing [episodes]
7, 8 and 9 at the moment, so I have to be very careful about what I
say. (laughs harder) This week the challenge is working in a
team and creating a store window. There are some great concepts
coming through. So, I would urge everybody to tune in this week and
see the concepts for the store windows; it's quite fun.
You look so
amazing on this show. What is the secret?
Oh, it's the lighting. (laughs) I'm old
school. It's all about good hair and makeup and lighting. And great
wardrobe. I had Alex White from W do my styling. For me, it's
professional stuff more than anything else.
You have a young
designer from Chicago [Barbara Bates] on the show, right?
Yes we do.
What do you think
of her and her designs?
She has been doing very well. She's got a fantastic
personality, too. She's been doing very, very well. And she stands
for something. She's a woman who really stands for something. I
would urge everybody in Chicago to tune into the show and watch her
Your own personal
style, how do you think it's evolved over the years? Are you more
casual now? Do you still love dressing up?
Well, I have two styles; I have my working outfits,
my wardrobes that is - it's like my game face or my show face. Then
I have my at home, running around, taking my kids on the school run
type of thing. I do know that as I've matured and I'm more confident
in who I am on the inside, I worry less about making mistakes on the
outside. I think fashion is really interesting because we can really
express ourselves through fashion. Today, I can be frivolous, I can
be fun, I can experiment and it's all okay. As long as it reflects
what I'm feeling and it's true to me, then I feel confident. That
wasn't always the case. When I was younger I wanted to get it right,
or I wanted to be on trend, or I wanted to look like a model, or
look like what people expected from me. Today, I use fashion the way
I think fashion is meant to be; it's supposed to be fun. And I
certainly have fun on the show. There's some serious get-ups.
(laughs) When I look back I laugh at them. I think what was I
thinking when I wore those black tight leather pants?
awesome in them, that's the difference. The rest of us are really
like what were we thinking?
Oooh... I don't know. There was a bit of
cringe-factor going on there for me but, it seemed like a good idea
at the time.
is it like being on stage with a designer who hasn't got any buyers;
is it quite tough?
It's interesting, because I feel very connected to
all the designers. We do quite a bit of work with them backstage. I
see their journey throughout the week. As a producer, I get to see
their packages. I know where they've come from. I know the hard
work, the anxiety and their stories really touch me. Obviously, on
stage I have more of a poker face and I need to do that. But from a
personal level, I follow the designers very closely. I have their
triumphs and tribulations with them.
Is it hard to
stay impartial and not have favorites?
I feel it's important as host that I'm balanced and
nonjudgmental. I hope that my performance reflects that. I think
it's quite important to be fair and balanced in my presentation of
What one piece of
advice would you give aspiring designers?
Watch Fashion Star because it's a good show.
(laughs) It's a cool show. It gives a different aspect from
designing. A lot of shows talk about how to create clothes and this
is really the other part, which is equally important. It's not only
to how to create clothes but how to sell and to market fashion. This
is a different perspective on the fashion industry. It is just as
much about shopping as it is about creating fashion. Also, it's
about heartfelt stories. These people's lives and what it takes from
a personal aspect to be where they are - which is on this huge stage
creating clothes that are being bought and sold on the day so that
the viewers at home can also have access to them immediately, which
How do you think
the show has impacted the various designers in terms of their own
brand awareness - even the ones who aren't on the show anymore?
It's phenomenal to have the kind of exposure that
these designers have had. Also, the mentoring from these iconic
designers between Jessica, John and Nicole. And actually, all the
designers have made sales in one capacity or another. Having that
validation from huge retailers like Macy's, Saks and H&M is sure to
make a difference to them, both as far as confidence building,
exposure to the general public and exposure to the kind of advice
that they've had. I feel that it's a fantastic opportunity for these
young designers. And a great opportunity for us, for the viewers at
home to be able to tap into these designers and be able to
participate by buying immediately and wearing immediately anybody
you've built such a great brand yourself how do you see the future
of fashion as more and more designers become big brands?
Fashion is becoming more and more accessible. The
fact that we have a fashion show on network television in itself
speaks wonders. To date, fashion has been niche; it's been kept in
cable and it is has been a niche business. It is now a business that
is global and it is a business that affects the music industry, it
affects the film industry, the beauty industry. It is a big business
and people are interested in it. There are whole television stations
that are dedicated to fashion. I think it's a fantastic testament to
the growth of society's desire to express ourselves though the
clothes that we wear.
been known as a supermodel and while some of your contemporaries
from that time have kind of faded into the background, but you have
always stayed very much in the forefront. You kept going and doing
things like this and going behind the scenes even. Was that part of
the plan or just the way it happened?
I started this industry when I was going to law
school, wanting to go to Brown University. Thinking, "Oh, I think
I'll be a model for 30 years" - it didn't cross my mind. As I
started to work and get more involved and really loved some of the
opportunities that I had been exposed to and having the courage to
try new things, I've been inspired by stepping out of my comfort
zone consistently and having courage to try new things. I love what
I do, I do what I love. I follow my heart. There's no end game plan
other than to make sure that every choice I make is a choice that I
believe in. And I really believed in this project. I believe that
it's a fun, new, creative, modern way to shop. I feel that it gives
great opportunity to these young designers. The show itself is
really cool to watch. Nicole Richie is hysterical.
Very cool to
watch, very, very cool. I have guys who watch it, I mean, they're a
big bunch of guys who watch it every week, friends of mine who watch
That's great to hear. I do want to reiterate that
it's not a show that you have to start from the beginning and watch
it all the way through. I mean, there are some people that are
tuning in third and fourth week and are saying wow, we're really
loving this show whether they've seen the beginning episodes or not.
Thank goodness they're tuning in because as a host I feel like I get
better as the series goes on. (laughs)
are you enjoying this producing part of it though? Are you really
getting into it and seeing it as a new possibility doing other
I've always produced, from the early days. I left my
modeling agency in the 80s and started my own business, Elle
Macpherson, Inc. Most of what I've done has had production elements
in it. I've produced my own calendars. I've produced the workout
videos. I've produced the making of the calendars. In my lingerie
business I'm creative director of my lingerie business, which means
I'm often producing photo shoots and producing the Website material,
So you've always
been very hands-on.
I've always been hands-on but simply because I love
working in a team. And I love seeing projects that I start all the
way through. I like the beginning, the middle and the end and the
sell-through. For example I was in Cannes last week, selling the
show. We've sold the show into 75 countries. That was just as
exciting for me as speaking with Ben Silverman about the concept of
the show. So, I feel very invigorated by this whole process and
particularly by this show.
working in the fashion industry for decades obviously, but do you
feel even as the host that you're picking up and learning certain
things from the judges and the buyers that you might not have
thought of - stuff that you might even use for your line?
That's a really good question. I wish that I had had
the mentoring from such powerhouses as Jessica, John and Nicole when
I was starting out. And I certainly wish that my lingerie, Elle
Macpherson Intimates, was available at Macy's, Saks and H&M, which
it's not. So these designers are getting certainly a springboard - a
positioning that I have never had and still don't have. So to some
extent, I'm envious and excited for these young designers because
it's a truly phenomenal opportunity.
Have you ever
wanted to pull the buyers aside and say. "Hey, while you're here do
you want to look at my stuff?"
Oh, don't think that hasn't passed through my mind.
the judges and you have all worked in fashion; you also come from
different areas. Jessica started in music, Nicole in television and
John from fashion and you're from the modeling side. How do you feel
the differing backgrounds of the judges and yourself help to give
the show a more diverse and entertaining feel?
I think the most important thing is that because
everybody comes from different backgrounds they're quite able to
speak from experience about a journey. In the sense that, I've
started doing one thing and I finished doing something else, because
I had a passion. I was committed. I was dedicated. I believed in
myself. I had courage and tenacity and discipline. These judges or
the mentors are in a fantastic position to be able to communicate
that message to these young designers, some of whom have started off
working in offices and are now on the Fashion Star stage.
They can really speak from experience. I also empathize with these
young designers because I wasn't a designer. I was a girl that
wanted to go to law school. Then I became a model and then I started
designing lingerie and now I'm producing a television show. So I
have my own journey. I can talk to these contestants backstage and
say I understand how scary it is to try something new. But with
courage and commitment, dedication and passion we can do it. We're
all living examples of that.
Right. Now a tiny
bit off the subject you've also done some good acting over the
years. Would you like to get back into that side of the industry or
are you just enjoying the hosting and the television and production
and your fashion work?
I'm really excited by Fashion Star. I feel
that it's a fun and a cool new entry into television programming and
shopping. So it's captured my attention for now. I'm putting all my
energies into this. And in the future hopefully, we'll see where
You're a pretty
stellar example of how creativity and talent has to be backed up
with solid business sense. So what is that it factor that you are
looking for in some of these designers?
The mentors are looking to inspire these designers
to create outside their comfort zones at times, but true to
themselves. The retailers are looking at how well they execute the
challenges that have been set for them each week and still create
garments that America wants to wear. It's quite a challenge for the
designers, I have to say. You know, they're not easy tasks. And it
really requires discipline, commitment, passion, love for what
they're doing, courage to try new things. I love this show because
it really shows the stories behind these people, the heartfelt
stories behind these people and what it takes for them to realize
there a fashion trend right now that kind of makes you cringe - like
if you're walking down the street and you see somebody rocking a
particular style and you really can't wait until that's on its way
Well, no, I love to see people express themselves
through their clothes whatever that is. Anything worn with
confidence works by me. It's when people try to follow trends that
don't really work for them or that they don't believe in or don't
understand or they're just doing it because that seems like the cool
thing to do, that's when it doesn't come off as well. But what I
love about Fashion Star is it's really about promoting
individuality. The viewers at home can really tune in each week and
wear the winner of every episode and they choose those winners - to
wear those winners. We know that they are choosing them because all
the clothes are sold out because they love the stories behind the
clothes. They love the trends, they love the fashions but they also
love the stories behind the clothes. I think that's really
I spent quite a
bit of time on your Website last night which frankly is really
impressive. I was kind of blown away with how much editorial content
you did on your own.
Is it okay with
you if I ask you some questions based on what I learned from that?
Okay. When you
left Ford Modeling Agency and started Elle Macpherson, Inc., that
seemed pretty gutsy. So what piece of advice would you have for
people who are considering leaving the safety of their present
situation to launch out on their own?
I would say leap and watch the net appear.
Just take a big leap of faith.
Take a leap of faith and watch the net appear. It
that's awesome. Okay this is a little quirky; you don't have to
answer it if you don't want to. But millions of women turn 40 and
wake up one morning to find a gut that wasn't there the morning
before even though they haven't changed their eating or exercise
routines. So has your body done anything bizarre since you've turned
40 and what have you done about it?
Yes, I have this fantastic phenomenon that happened
and it's truly a gift from God. My eyesight went about the same time
as the elasticity in my skin. So actually when I see myself I look
quite good, but I'm a bit on the blurry side. It's when I put my
glasses on that I get a bit of a wakeup call. So I just feel I've
been totally blessed with having the two go at the same time because
I don't see it so much.
hilarious. Mother Nature was good to you that way.
Mother Nature was good to me.
Your oldest son
is a teenager. Is he taking it easy on you? Are you experiencing any
challenges sometimes associated with having a teenager?
My son is a healthy, feisty, opinionated,
courageous, stubborn, rebellious, beautiful, smelly teenager and I
love him for it all.
fantastic. This is for my own curiosity. If you don't want to answer
you certainly don't have to. But in a couple years you'll be 50 so
I'm just curious have you considered celebrating with another photo
That's not high on my agenda; let me put it that
way. Not sure it's appropriate at this time.
I'm so glad you love Fashion Star. I love
Fashion Star, too.
it shows. You always look so beautiful on the show and you've
mentioned that you weren't interested in changing how you look so
much as building the right environment to present yourself. I was
wondering what are the best ways for an everyday woman to translate
that advice to her daily life if she doesn't have the whole team?
Oh, that's a really good question. I feel that
finding styles that work for you and sticking to them is a really
healthy way of looking your best at all times. What's wonderful
about Fashion Star is if you look at these designers every
week and you watch the girls walk down the runway you get a hint on
how to wear the clothes; not only what to wear but how to wear them.
So, what kind of hair and makeup are they teaming with that dress?
What kind of shoe are they teaming with that dress? By watching
others and trying new things on yourself, we can get a total look.
When you get a total look that works you can apply it to different
How far in
advance do you have to film to make sure that all the fashions will
be available and on the racks right away?
Good question, Jay. Fashion Star was shot in
August so that it was ready for the consumer to buy in March. It can
take anywhere from four to six months for some of these clothes to
be manufactured and fed in line. It was incredibly important for us
as a team. The concept behind Fashion Star was this idea of
immediate gratification, that the viewers at home could go online,
could buy the clothes immediately. It took some organization from
these wonderful retailers, Macy's, Saks and H&M to manufacture and
to buy and to present them in-store in a way that we felt was
appropriate for Fashion Star. This program is so cool because
every week you can tune in, you can wear the winner. Clearly it's
working because the clothes are sold out. And you guys at home are
loving it. So, thanks to everybody who's supporting the show. Keep
tuned, keep watching. It just gets better - the show gets better.
And even if you missed the first couple of episodes you can still
tune in and watch some great, fun bidding and buying and some great
You were talking
about jumping off when you were a model and starting your own thing.
Did you always have that courage to do things and take those leaps
of faith or where did you get that from? Was it something you were
Well, it's interesting, sometimes. It has been said,
why do small businesses do well? It's because they don't know any
better. It's like why do children ski really well? It's because they
don't know what could happen to them if they fall. I feel that a lot
of the choices that have been made I've made instinctively at the
time. Had I known what they entailed, perhaps I wouldn't have done
it. But just as well because they've been the biggest steps forward
in my life. Being Australian and having a warrior spirit, as
Americans do, I feel has been a big help. That's something that we
have in common, this adventurous spirit. [That's] one of the reasons
why I love America so much. I love the people. I love the can-do
adventure willingness to try new things and the enthusiasm that
Americans have. I feel very close to the people in America.
One last thing,
do you see
Fashion Star going on for 10 seasons, 12 seasons? Would you like
I love Fashion Star. I just hope that people
tune in and love it as much as I do. I know it's a new concept; it's
a new way of doing things. It's fresh. And sometimes that takes a
little while for people to understand that it is such a great show.
I've had a lot of fun making it. And I'm having a lot of fun
watching it. And I believe people are loving the show because our
ratings are very good. The clothes have sold out. And, you know, as
far as I'm concerned it's a success.
Would you like to
see it go that long, though?
Well, of course I would. And, you know, it's
wonderful to see it being so well received overseas. As I said we've
sold it in 75 countries and counting before we're even finished the
[first season of the] series. So, it's wonderful to see people
enjoying this program and loving these fantastic designers, the
stories behind them, the heartfelt stories behind them, the funny
mentors, the powerful retailers, the great stage production and this
innovative way of shopping immediately.
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