Published: Wednesday September 24, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday September 24, 2014 MYT 1:25:27 PM

For the love of (Tim) Gunn

Rihanna (centre) and Styled To Rock judges Erin Wasson and Pharrell Williams.

Rihanna (centre) and Styled To Rock judges Erin Wasson and Pharrell Williams.

Those who tried to emulate Project Runway’s success have failed. Our columnist looks at the latest casualty.

There can only be one Tim Gunn, in the world of fashion design shows. As the adviser of Project Runway, Gunn is wise, witty and warm, responsible for coining catchphrases “Carry on” and “Make it work”.

Gunn, who co-hosts the reality competition series with German supermodel Heidi Klum, received a Primetime Emmy Award last year. Presently in its 13th season and going strong, Project Runway made its debut all the way back in 2004.

Others have tried to emulate Gunn, or Project Runway’s success, but flopped. Fashion Star lasted all of two seasons, while the Alexa Chung-helmed 24 Hour Catwalk fared even worse. The one pivotal ingredient they lacked, me thinks, was they didn’t have a Tim Gunn.

Along comes Styled To Rock (Starworld, Astro Ch 711, 9.40pm, Wednesdays). The series, which premiered last year on American TV, has one big name behind it: Rihanna.

But even with the pop star and fashion icon as host and executive producer, Styled To Rock – which had a British version in 2012 – lacks pizzazz and urgency. And for a show supposedly centred around showbiz and rock star glamour, it is shockingly dull.

The concept is simple: 12 designers compete for a grand prize which includes US$100,000 (RM324,150), a fashion spread in Glamour magazine and the chance to be a part of Rihanna’s design team. Each week, they have to design an outfit for a certain star, who makes an appearance in the show. Celebrities range from Kylie Minogue (yay!) to Miley Cyrus (hmm ...) and Khloe Kardashian (yikes!).

During the designers’ creative process, the judges decide who will be able to showcase their work to the guest celebrity, and who will be up for elimination. Where the judges are concerned, they include singer Pharrell Williams, supermodel Erin Wasson and Mel Ottenberg (Rihanna’s stylist).

While Project Runway benefitted from having a couturier on board (i.e. Michael Kors, Zac Posen), there is no bona fide designer here. Among the trio, Williams comes across as the most likable, which is not saying a lot. He is emphatic and weary, but seems not too Happy to be associated with the show (and who can blame him?).

Ottenberg, who also takes on the mentor role, is no Tim Gunn; not even close. While Gunn inspires contestants with his advice and words of wisdom, Ottenberg comes across as condescending. In Episode 2 (the Kylie ep), he gets angry with the designers and repeatedly uses the four letter word. Tsk, tsk, Gunn is far too classy and would never reprimand people on TV in that manner.

When he’s not losing his temper, Ottenberg’s line delivery is so monotonous, he can put insomniacs to sleep. As the “face” of Styled To Rock, Rihanna is equally wooden. This is unexpected, considering how charismatic the Barbados-born songstress is on stage and in her music videos.

In the pilot episode, she proudly declared that she picked out the designers personally. If the dozen is the best she could find, then she must not have been looking hard enough. Perhaps she picked them based on their over-the-top appearances and drama potential.

The contestants’ designs are so blah, you wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy. They would have probably fared better as stylists to the stars, not as fashion designers.

Thus far, we’ve been subjected to scarily bad fits, unforgiving construction and cheap choice of fabrics. While Project Runway makes sure that the designers’ creative process is at the forefront of every episode, the same cannot be said about Styled To Rock. It is packed full of celebrities, yes, but low on high fashion looks and entertainment value. For the love of Gunn, please sashay away.

William wishes that Hollywood would stop copying Project Runway. Designer counterfeits are so uncool. Send feedback to

Tags / Keywords: Styled To Rock, Rihanna, fashion, columnist, reality series

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