Has there ever been a better time to relive Kelly Cutrone’s PR wrath, Michael Kors’ most savage Project Runway critiques, or the time Lauren Conrad didn’t go to Paris?
Unless you’re one of the amazing key workers keeping the world turning during these increasingly bizarre times, or otherwise one of the hundreds of people snapped getting flowers at Columbia Road Market (seriously: put the peonies down), chances are you’re inside right now.
Like many, I used the beginning of my isolation to consider what might be the most productive use of my time. Maybe I’ll catch up on some reading, I thought, or perhaps I’ll finally use all my back issues of Dazed to write those poison pen letters I’ve been meaning to send to the guys who’ve ghosted me over the years. Instead, I landed somewhere in the middle: fashion reality TV.
If ever there was an escape route from the cloying hands of today’s abysmal news, it’s fashion reality TV. We’ve all seen it – from America’s Next Top Model and What Not To Wear, to that cursed episode of 10 Years Younger and XO Betsy Johnson (just me?) – and we all love to hate it. And the reason we love to hate it is because it’s the definition of stupid; a barren cultural wasteland where people scream at each other because Kelly Osborne had to queue for the runway show, because Cassandra had her hair cut too short, or because Austin’s corn husk dress was a little too runway ready.
The stakes are at once so low, on a global, geopolitical, socioeconomic, and emotional scale, yet so intensely high within the microcosm of the show. We love to hate it because we love to hate ourselves for caring about it. But of course, after a week of binge-watching, I’ve realised that hating yourself for a whole week isn’t necessarily the best way to maintain #goodvibesonly in self-isolation. And so, with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list through which to plough, that will allow you to skip right to the juiciest parts.
“NOT EVEN TO DINNER WITH THE KUSHNERS?” – (NEW) PROJECT RUNWAY
We’ve all seen this, but it deserves a mention for its true iconicity (which, FYI, is actually a word). When asked by the Project Runway task team to create a look for Karlie Kloss to wear in Paris from items thrifted from Goodwill, contestant Tyler Neasloney came up with something that judge Brandon Maxwell couldn’t see her wearing at all. In response, Neasonley snapped back “not even to dinner with the Kushners?” – in reference to Kloss’s pretty problematic in-laws. While we have suspicions that the model secretly loved it, Neasonley was eliminated: though not before he’d created one of the first (and best) memes of the new decade.
EVERY MICHAEL KORS MOMENT – (OLD) PROJECT RUNWAY
There’s this mega-mix of Michael Kors’ most bitchy quips on all ten seasons of Project Runway and honestly, it’s genius. From “Rigatoni Mad Max” and “MC Hammer meets vampire pregnant witch”, to “bridesmaids under the sea”, “a disco soccer ball”, “a Flintstone’s Disco Pouch”, and “a sad chicken”, it’s five hilarious minutes that sum Kors up to a tee.
JADE COLE’S COVERGIRL AD – AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL
Jade. The girl who kissed a cockroach. The girl who was both famously mean and truly all of us. Her Covergirl ad, in the finale of the season, is perhaps the most important cultural reset since the Pussycat Dolls’ comeback. In it, she wafts through a pool party in a blue sateen dress, inhaling sharply with gasps of delight as if greeting invisible guests before getting to the end of the walkway and totally forgetting her lines. But who cares – what matters is that Jade is the kind of girl you want to party with, the one who will get wasted and tell you you’re an asshole before doing a swift 180 and trying to get with you. And really, if that’s not all of our energy post self-isolation I don’t know what is.
THE GIRL WHO DIDN’T GO TO PARIS – THE HILLS
Lauren Conrad, at the end of season one of The Hills, has two choices. One is the premise of heading off on the fashion intern trip of a lifetime, as Teen Vogue editor Lisa Love tells her she’s been selected to go to Paris for work. The other is hanging out with semi-deadbeat boyfriend Jason, who’s rented a condo for them for the summer. Lauren is between a rock and a hard place: will she choose work (aka Love), or will she choose… well, love? In the finale, Lisa is seemingly waiting for Lauren at the airport, but Whitney Port shows up instead (scream) because Lauren has inexplicably chosen love. Lol then, when it’s revealed that Lauren broke up with Jason after two weeks, as Love tells her she’ll “always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris”. Literally tattoo it on my lower back!
THE WHOLE DAMN THING – KELL ON EARTH
“The fashion industry is a war, which is why we have a take no prisoners kind of attitude” is the quote that opens Kelly Cutrone’s single-season reality show. It follows her as she helms the truly mood PR agency People’s Revolution. It’s terrifying capitalism – she is a sales person, getting clothes from the runway and into the magazines so that everybody “wants to buy them”. The show pulls back the curtain on the brutal, outrageous, and judgemental side of fashion that those who don’t work in it rarely get to see, revealing the intense capitalism that drives it and one last look at the wild behaviour that might have flown in 2010, but in the year of our lord 2020, most certainly does not. A fascinating cultural study: five stars.
THE SEASON ONE FINALE – FIT FOR FASHION
Honest to god you’ve never seen anything like Fit For Fashion. It’s literally the definition of a rotting trash heap and I still can’t quite believe I watched 10 40-minute episodes of this deeply problematic show. The concept is that a bunch of *almost hot* hopefuls go to a retreat and battle it out against each other to get fitter and take some truly glamorous photos, with the winner taking away $100,000 and the chance to walk at Jakarta Fashion week. We have no choice but to what? You’ve got it: stan. With questionable scenes coming thick and fast from all angles, I implore you not to watch it. Don’t. Really do not. (But also do and DM me).
THE THREE EPISODES SHE APPEARED IN – STYLED TO ROCK WITH RIHANNA
“We’re hoping to find the next superstar designer to dress.. superstars,” is Rihanna’s tagline at the top of her show. Theoretically this is a brilliant, addictive concept, as a group of hopeful British designers get to design for the most eclectic of celebrities including Scissor Sisters, Katy Perry, Cheryl Cole, and Pixie Lott (?!) while being judged every week by Henry Holland, Nicola Roberts (omfg), and Rihanna’s then-stylist Lisa Cooper. It lasted a season, and created the iconic deeply low-energy exchange between Nicola and Cheryl, who tells her fellow Girl Aloud that she “actually really loves a hood”, and describes a truly grim pair of low-slung pants with ‘LAME’ emblazoned across the crotch as “sexy”. Considering this was Rihanna’s show, the singer gave it an (unsurprisingly) wide berth, featuring in only three episodes. Get those $ girl.
KELLY CUTRONE TAKES DOWN OLIVIA PALERMO – THE CITY
From the off we always knew Whitney Port was a career girl: after all, she did go to Paris. In this Hills spin off, Port moves from LA to New York, to take on the big city and after a hot second working for queen of the wrap-dress Ms. Di Von Furstenberg, Whit decides to launch her own line, Whitney Eve (and when I tell you I wanted every piece I’m not shitting you). When arch-nemesis Olivia Palermo describes the label as crap, however, the most impactful cultural crossover of the time occurs, as Kelly Cutrone, who is taking care of Whitney Eve’s PR, loses it. “Who gives a fuck about her fucking opinion. Who gives a fuck? No, she’s dead. She is fucking dead! I’m gonna fucking come up like a shark underneath a glass-bottomed boat and fucking whip the shit out of her.” J’adore, je déteste, j’would not mess with.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR – THE OG
Saving the best until last, and what a last it is. What Not To Wear, which existed in a time when, honestly, anything went. A kind of last cry of third wave feminism, where posh women went in on the style of hard-working people from across the UK, the show did have some positives of course, as women revealed that post-makeover, they really did feel better about themselves despite having been savaged by the show’s shearling gilet and ankle-length denim skirt-wearing presenters. Crazy to think that, back then, if Trinny and Susannah told you a truly heinous dress was both seasonal but would also work for any season, as well as being ideal for both the club and a job interview, we would lap it up greedily and head out to drop our hard-earned money. As a side note: it’s so good to see Trinny thriving these days, a true obsession. Get her on the Dazed 100 stat.