Why Tan France and Alexa Chung created a ‘diverse’ fashion TV show

Tan France and Alexa Chung

What happens when you take The Great British Bake Off, mix it with Project Runway and add Tan France and Alexa Chung?

If this analogy isn’t lost on you already, we’re referring to Next in Fashion – Netflix’s new competition series.

In the show, contestants compete for a prize of $250,000 (£191,500) and the chance to create a range for fashion website Net-a-Porter.

The pair say the show presents a new look at the fashion industry by showing the diverse range of people working behind the scenes.

The 18 competitors come from all across the world including the UK, China, Mexico and Italy.

Angel Chen and Minju KimImage copyrightNETFLIX
Image captionAngel Chen is a China-based designer and Minju Kim is from Korea – both are contestants on the show

Tan France, the fashion designer and Queer Eye host, has Pakistani heritage and wanted the show to have a global feel.

He thinks it reflects the fashion industry which he says is “diverse in most places”.

He says in the US recruitment is simply based on “the people who are the best at their craft”.

The fashion industry has faced criticism for cultural appropriation in recent years and last week fashion brand Comme Des Garçons apologised for putting cornrow wigs on white models.

“I understand why people were annoyed at Comme Des Garcons because I was too, but I also don’t think that’s reflective of what goes on behind the scenes,” Tan says.

The model and designer, Alexa Chung, agrees fashion houses can feature a diverse range of people behind the scenes, but says they’re just not well-known outside the industry.

“It’s quite typical that you can be one of the most talented people at a company but you’re not necessarily the name of the house,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“This show gives them a chance if they want to start their own brand and really drive their business forward.”

Next in Fashion workroomImage copyrightNETFLIX
Image captionContestants are given a huge workroom with fabric and sewing machines to create their designs

The idea behind the show is that contestants battle it out to create catwalk looks from scratch in a custom-made workshop.

Their designs are judged by Alexa, Tan and big-name guests like designer Tommy Hilfiger, model Adriana Lima and celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart, who’s worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair.

Tan says the show isn’t “pushing fast fashion” and wants to show audiences how much effort goes into creating designer clothes.

“One of the benefits of doing this show was being able to educate people about the process of creation and the idea that you’re paying for the fabric, you’re paying for production, ideas and people’s time,” Alexa says.

Tan agrees. “I think it’s the first time you really see how garments are constructed and how long of a process it is,” he says.

Celebrity guest judgesImage copyrightNETFLIX
Image captionEach episode features a runway show with contestant’s designs critiqued at the end

“So when people are considering why they are spending money on designer clothing, I hope it gives them a greater understanding of why they’re spending that bit extra. It’s to get a piece of art that somebody created.”

Fast fashion continues to be a big part of conversation in the industry because of its effect on climate change and contribution to landfill.

But while Next in Fashion gives viewers an insight into the world of high fashion, for many the clothes are unobtainable because of their cost.

But Tan says people should try to invest in designer items rather than buying cheaper, trendy options.

“Care less about what’s the trend and care more about what looks good on you,” he says.

“I’ve been guilty of buying many a fast fashion item but now I’m more informed I want to push the message that there’s a reason why you’re spending more money on a designer piece.”

But Alexa says it’s still possible to follow fashion trends without resorting to fast fashion options.

“Loads of fashion ideas or trends are regurgitated from the past so you could just buy vintage things,” she says.

“They’re readily available, easy and cheap – about three things I’m wearing now are vintage. “

Elizabeth Stewart and Adriana LimaImage copyrightNETFLIX
Image captionGuest judges like Elizabeth Stewart and Adriana Lima feature on the show

Alexa also has her own fashion line, which she has made available to hire or rent as a one off too.

“It’s something celebrities have the luxury of doing because they borrow from a fashion house and then they send it back and they’re just wearing it for one event,” she says.

“Sharing clothes is such a brilliant idea because it’s true that you might want something special for one occasion but you don’t want to keep it in your wardrobe.”


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