With the debut of NBC’s new primetime show Fashion Star airing tomorrow night (Tuesday March 13th, 9:30EST), I can’t help but wonder whether this will become a pivotal new phenomenon for retail or a very fashionable flop. The concept (if you haven’t seen one of the many ads NBC has been running) is a reality competition series which will search for the next big brand in fashion. Featuring host and executive producer Elle Macpherson along with celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos, the series will give 14 unknown designers the chance to win a multi-million dollar prize to launch their collections in three of America’s largest retailers: Macy’s, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue. The fate of the designers will rest in the hands of a featured buyer from each retailer – Caprice Willard for Macy’s, Nicole Christie for H&M and Terron Schaefer for Saks Fifth Avenue. The worlds of fashion, retail and entertainment have long been intertwined, but what’s unique about this show is that it marks the first time fashions seen on the runway will appear in stores the very next day. A very interesting concept and one that I personally believe could leverage the power of reality TV to drive consumers into retail stores.

What’s working for this concept: following the wild success of shows like Project Runway and American Idol, each designer’s personal background will tap into the general public’s love of a good personal interest story; the modern day American Dream, if you will.  Also, the show is launching hot on the coat tails of Target’s incredibly successful designer collaborations – who can forget the record-setting Missoni sales? And more recently, Jason Woo’s sold-out line. Target has proven that their “Design for All” mantra and formula of exclusive, limited-run products at affordable prices is one that resonates with consumers. And last but certainly not least, the show itself will serve as arguably the most compelling form of advertising (showing rather than telling) for lines that will be available in stores the very next day.

Potential challenges: The most successful reality talent shows (for lack of a better term) have been the ones that allow for audience contribution and votes. Fashion Star does not have that luxury.  In order for the winning looks to appear in stores the next day, the series has to rely on its panel of buyers to make decisions during pre-recorded shows. It will be interesting to see if consumers still feel vested enough to tune in, and more importantly head to the stores following the broadcasts.

I applaud all three of the retailers involved for taking a risk in the name of innovation – embracing change is the only way to stay relevant! What are your predictions for the success of this show?