Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

The bright future of reality TV? Netflix's 'Next in Fashion' is setting a trend for pure, heart-warming competition

Forget 'Love Island' and its ilk, there are real lessons to be learnt in this cutting-edge series

'Next in Fashion' tasks competitors with designing trend-setting looks in just two days. Courtesy Netflix
'Next in Fashion' tasks competitors with designing trend-setting looks in just two days. Courtesy Netflix

As the saying goes “I’d rather watch paint dry”: viewing the slow progress of a simple act can result in mind-numbing mundanity. But watching 18 people sew for an hour is quite the opposite, as I discovered this weekend.

While friends ran half-marathons or ventured to the beach, I shut myself away in an apartment, binge-watching as I haven’t binge-watched in some time.

This hermit-like behaviour, which I normally save for sweltering summers, was brought about by Next in Fashion, a Netflix original that landed on the streaming platform last month.

The lighthearted series hardly reinvents the (colour) wheel, whittling down contestants to one winner over 10 episodes. But encased within each 50-minute segment is proof that this is the kind of reality TV show we need.

The premise is simple: 18 established fashion designers battle it out for $250,000 (Dh918,125) and the chance to sell their collection on luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter. Each episode, they’re asked to create trendsetting looks to win over a judging panel of industry experts. It’s fronted by two affable hosts, namely Queer Eye star Tan France and writer and style maven Alexa Chung.

It’s a premise that has been around since the Noughties, but something about this feels hearteningly fresh. For a start, in a small-screen world dominated by TV producers playing Cupid (Love Island, Married at First Sight, First Dates), Next in Fashion extends an invite only to those with talent. It’s less inane than Gogglebox (in which you literally watch people watch TV), less trivial than Taskmaster and less cut-throat than your Survivors, X-Factors and co. Competitors have more experience than the sweet but amateur Great British Bake Off contestants and there is, most refreshingly, none of the back-stabbing synonymous with the TV genre.

While on paper, it sounds like a knock-off of US hit Project Runway, it celebrates, in my humble opinion, a more cutting-edge diversity of designs. Competitors come from across the world – fan favourite Charles Lu even worked in Dubai for some years. They’ve paid their dues at the likes of Stella McCartney and Alexander Wang, and already dressed stars including Beyonce and Lady Gaga. Yet, they are not household names in their own right.

Tan France and Alexa Chung host Netflix's reality show 'Next in Fashion'. Courtesy Netflix
Tan France and Alexa Chung host Netflix's reality show 'Next in Fashion'. Courtesy Netflix

Next in Fashion gives a platform to the often-ignored background artists of fashion, acknowledges sustainability concerns and brings together titans of the industry, with appearances from Tommy Hilfiger and Monique Lhuillier (quite a seal of approval for a first-season run). But, above all, it’s about mostly nice people who want to get ahead in an industry to which they’ve already given blood, sweat and tears. No sabotage, no sense that the outcome has been predetermined – just people with a good work ethic, lifting each other up.

In an age where TV gives everyone and anyone their 15 minutes of fame, please, Netflix, let this show be renewed (and leave Love is Blind as a failed experiment).

Updated: February 27, 2020 09:26 AM

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