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Fashion Star Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Barbara Bates

This is an interview with Barbara Bates on April 18, 2012 about the show Fashion Star.

Question:
What, if anything, would you have done differently from the beginning?

Barbara Bates:
I probably would have researched what they sell in H&M. I've never been there before, and so I really didn't know what they had. I probably would have just wanted to do a little bit of research. Actually, probably what Macy's carries as well.

Question:
Did you feel that during the designer portion of the episode you got enough feedback from the mentors in order to create a really good runway?

Barbara Bates:
Personally I didn't. I think that the feedback came a little too late. You had already purchased your fabrics, and you were on your way to doing something. So, if you did get some feedback that you thought was just incredible you were kind of like stuck because you can't go back and change your fabric. In the beginning while I was there the mentor feedback came a little bit late.

Question:
What's next for you?

Barbara Bates:
I actually had a business to come back to. I mean, I do the same thing here that I did on the show. I'm just deep in the heels of this. The extra exposure that I got just breathes extra life into what I'm already doing, so I mean this is what I do every day or at least on the show, it's just that I get paid for it and it's mine, and so to the tune of it it's a different beat.

Question:
How hard was it to design for young people but also deal with the mainstream and high end aspects of what the buyers were looking for?

Barbara Bates:
It was difficult for me, because actually I didn't know I was designing for young people. I didn't know that until I would look around and see things that were being bought and I just thought, ???Wow, those things that they're buying, I'm in trouble,??? because, you know a lot of the things that I didn't have any understanding of them. They were - I was just like, ???That's, you know not what my interpretation of fashion is.??? And then, when I finally caught on that this is a young people's thing then by that time it was too late. I had already like got my foot in the door and it was hard to like dummy down or ward it down what I know.

Question:
Looking back now, do you think Bohemian was too outside the box for you, in terms of something that was more wearable for women?

Barbara Bates:
No, I don't think it was too out of the box. At the end of the day you've got three people and you have millions of viewers, so it could go either way. I'm a business person, so I definitely say that three people and millions of viewers, I'd have to go with viewers, and so I've gotten responses on the dress. I don't plan on making it, but I have gotten response.

Question:
How will use the feedback from the buyers for your own brand?

Barbara Bates:
I'm not a mainstream designer, so unfortunately their feedback doesn't work for me. I do high end, I do lots of bells and whistles, and I've been doing it for 25 years and it works, so I won't change anything. If I decide to branch off and do moderate clothing or low end clothing, then that would be something, it would probably be something that I would pay attention t, but that's not my interest today.

Question:
Understanding that the challenge was to step outside of you comfort zone, why did you decide to choose Bohemian, which seemed like a style that you really didn't know anything about?

Barbara Bates:
Because as you just said, to step out. They wanted you to do something that you weren't comfortable with, so I wasn't comfortable it. I could have picked something that I was used to, but that wasn't what the assignment was. I had to go out, I had to research it, and so that was something I knew nothing about. Had never even heard the word before, so that was just where I decided to go.

Question:
In retrospect, do you agree that the blocking didn't really work with the print?

Barbara Bates:
You know what I didn't really care for it that much myself. I was kind of hoping that the first dress, the one that had the print all over it is the one that they would take notice of, and not go to pick apart the one that they liked least.

Question:
You mentioned the mentors feedback coming a bit too late, but looking back do you wish you'd listened to Nicole when she asked you to tone it down a little bit?

Barbara Bates:
Oh, most definitely about toning it down for what they wanted, because the show was definitely about doing toned down versions of whatever it is that you do, so yeah I do wish that I had have. You know maybe not on the last dress though, no. I don't think that I should have toned the last dress down. As a matter of fact, Nicole's feedback to me before I went on is that, ???You're definitely going to get a buy on this dress.??? So, I definitely don't think I should have toned down the Bohemian dress, the one that was alone color. But, on some things I understand what she means about toning down for mainstream, because you have to think about production, like how are they going to product it if it's got a lot of stuff going on with it.

Question:
Do you think this was the wrong show for you or are you glad that you went on the show?

Barbara Bates:
I'm extremely happy that I did go onto the show. If I have to be remorseful about anything it's just that I didn't do more research on the other stores. High end fashion and low end fashion are two totally different worlds, and on high end fashion I sell to girls that are 25. They're buying Gucci and Prada and they're buying high end, so they buy what I make.

But, when you talk about a dress that's $100 in the style, you know there's not a whole bunch. You know, there's not a whole lot there for me to work with. I definitely still say I design for mature women, but I definitely have younger women but they're buying, you know high end clothing.

Question:
When you left the show was there anyone that you were hoping would win?

Barbara Bates:
I was hoping that either Kara or Ronnie would win. I love the fact that they both have a lot of design background from school and they were just like really passionate about it. And they were doing other jobs, but I thought that fashion is where they should have been.

Question:
Do you think that there could be in the future a spin-off show that features designers on your scale with mature women in mind. Do you think a show like that would work?

Barbara Bates:
Most definitely. We're talking about baby boomers. That's the largest group of men and women that are sitting in the world right now today, and they have the most money and they are the largest spenders. And it's a niche that people aren't really falling into, not to mention the curvy woman, the full figured woman, so you know there's possibly going to be a spin-off. It's hard to say. I won't be doing the spin-off. I won't be a contestant on the spin-off. I may be the creator of the spin-off.

Question:
In what way do you consider yourself to be an inspiration to other designers, and also to America?

Barbara Bates:
I think by the fact that I have no formal training. It was just something that I was passionate about doing, and so I went out and I did it. The fact that I do things that are wearable, designers need to know that you don't have to create something that's so whimsical or so wild that it brings you attention, but moreso that it brings you somebody credit card. You want to sell what you design. You want to, you know be able to make a living from it.

And when I just think about the inspiration I am to other people it's just that when adversity comes your way that you don't sit in a corner and pull your hair out. You just try to like make well out of it or make good out of it, and that's how I've tried to live my life and that's what my transparent story is about. Adversity is going to come your way, as sure as you are to get old, and you just have to tackle it with maybe not a smile, but maybe with just gritted teeth and keep moving on.

Question:
What three things do you think women should have in their wardrobe at all times?

Barbara Bates:
Of course, you've got that little black dress, and for me it's the little black dress that's all grown up. You've got to have a wonderful 1950s, 60s full skirt. You know the big skirt with a wonderful print on it. Something that comes like mid-calf, and a great Barbara Bates leather jacket.

Question:
The mentors seem more focusing on letting you be yourselves in your designs. From your point of view did this help you during the competition or would you have wished they had offered some more specific advice into what the buyers were looking for from every designer?

Barbara Bates:
That's exactly what I was thinking that they should have offered more specific advice to what these people were actually looking for because it was a guessing game. It was a guessing game from the beginning through the middle to the end. If you figured out what it was, then that was good, but I think that we all kind of felt the same way.

I'm just going to say I did that I was not really sure what they were looking for. I thought that if I had a little bit more that I could give them what they were looking for; when I look back I see that what they're looking for it did take me totally out of my comfort zone. But, I still could have worked with it if had more specifics.

Question:
This week that was the main challenge and your attempt kind of didn't have the desired results you wanted. Are you more comfortable in trying new things now that some time has passed, or are you going to stick to the designs that you know for the future of your brand?

Barbara Bates:
Actually, everything that I do is out of my comfort zone. I'm a custom designer. So, you know when people come here they give me an idea, so I'm constantly doing brand new things. That's an easy one for me, but on a competition show, where you have like certain resources that you can work with then you're limited. And sometimes even being limited could be just working with people that can't execute your ideas to the fullest or the time that you have to work with. So, I'm not remorseful that I did the design that I did, but I'm always working outside of my comfort zone pretty much.

Question:
Did you learn any new skills or fashion advice from any of the other contestants during the competition?

Barbara Bates:
I really didn't learn skills from any of the other designers, but being on Fashion Star just being in a place with people who have done mass production I learned about, or had conversation about producing things on really large scales, and that when you mass produce that it doesn't have to have as many pattern pieces. They're very conscience about saving fabric, but each person has a specific thing that they do. That was a learning experience for me.

Question:
Did you have a favorite look out of all of the clothes that you designed, and did you have a favorite look from one of the other designers over the course of the competition?

Barbara Bates:Question:
How was your overall experience being on Fashion Star?

Barbara Bates:
It was quite different from what I've ever to do because I'm a control freak and I'm used to doing things my way. I had to follow rules and regulations for all of the time periods that I was out there. It was different in that respect, but I loved to, like every day, I was excited about getting up in the morning and going to the studio and just working on the new projects that were going on. So, there was exhilaration and then there was exhaustion. You know it was both.

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