Fashion Week: Elle Reality Show ‘Sounds Like a Competition to be in the Seventh Ring of Hell’

From left: Project Runway alums Elisa Jimenez, Victorya Hong and Christian Siriano reunite for the cameras
Photos by: Jesse Wright

Friday night’s Na*Be by Victorya Hong show was an exercise in under-the-radar riches: the recently-ousted Project Runway contestant apparently dipped heavily into “personal savings” to fund the endeavor — or at least that was the line the publicist said she could share when we inquired how in the hell Hong ponied up the thousands it takes to stage a show during Fashion Week. Hidden treasure came to mind, too, when we found Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan solo, cooling her heels pre-show in the front row. Itching for some lower tones ourselves after the hustle backstage (fellow Runway-ers Christian Siriano and Elisa Jimenez had photogs working overtime), we sidled up to Givhan to see how her first full day of this Fashion Week was shaping up.

Givhan considered Rag and Bone a standout, and said Hong’s was “somewhere around the No. 5 show” she’d seen that day. Menswear and military looks were early themes, Givhan informed us. That was good and well (note to self: don’t chuck jacket with epaulets into pile of babydoll dresses the fashion gods have mandated we burn at their altar negative-now) but we were more into her take on the value of fashion-centered reality shows. The fire next time happens when would-be fashion assistants go to Elle

Though she herself watches Project Runway (“it’s part of my job”), Givhan doesn’t consider it much of a barometer of runway (or runaway) success. “I can’t say it’s a predictor of any kind,” she said. “There’s yet to be a breakout star designer from the show. It kind of still needs its Kelly Clarkson to make people believe it’s truly a launching pad. As fashion designers, the best talents often don’t ever succeed.”

Front row at Victorya Hong, inaugural Project Runway winner Jay McCaroll — no Kelly Clarkson, evidently

Even so, when asked who she thought might win, Givhan offered, “That little guy [Siriano] has shown a lot of talent.” What about when the reality cameras turn to the upcoming competition for a would-be fashion mag staffer to assist Elle creative director Joe Zee? “Before I knew the show was in any way related to Elle, I told someone it sounds like a competition to be in the seventh ring of hell, given what fashion assistants do all day.”

Givhan’s own tips for nascent fashion journalists probably won’t grab the spotlight hounds queuing up at Elle soon: “Be focused on journalism first and fashion second. It’s important to have an interest in fashion and to be curious about it, provided you come at it from a position of being as objective as possible.”

Speaking of objective, go forth and schlep those samples, Zee-flunkies — we’ll be watching. It’s our job.