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Fashion Star Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Jessica Simpson

This is an interview with Celebrity Mentor Jessica Simpson and Executive Producer Ben Silverman on February 22, 2012 about the show Fashion Star.

Question:
Elle looks amazing lately and what she's said is that she keeps herself positive and happy, so what was it like working with her?

Jessica Simpson:
Elle was amazing to work with. I mean she's such a beauty icon, so she was definitely stunning to watch, but she has just a great presence about her and she's a very professional person. I enjoyed getting her opinions on all of the clothes and on the business because she's launched a really successful line of her own and she's been in the business for so long. So I created a great relationship with Elle and I think people are going to love her fashion, love everything that she wears and of course her body's rocking.

Ben Silverman:
Rocking.

Jessica Simpson:
That's all Ben will say.

Ben Silverman:
No she's fantastic and she's also super creative. And to Jessica's point, she knows the business in a manner that Jessica does as well and grew up as one of the first icons and obviously part of that super model movement and she brought a lot of creativity and insight as we were building the show and creating the show.

Question:
You are trying to find America's Next Design Icon, which is something normally which develops over the course of a career, so really you're trying to find the next Calvin Klein over the course of a season. How difficult is that when you're also catering to the immediate needs of a now, now, now sort of audience?

Jessica Simpson:
I think any designer that can understand what people need to be wearing right now is the biggest and best step that you can take. Instead of putting your ego first you put the buyer first and I think that that's a really important thing just to know what the consumer is wanting to wear. I mean that's the hardest part and it's the hardest part, but it's also the easiest part. It makes for the best business. So I think we definitely found that in a lot of the designers that are on the show, but there are a couple that are standout that I think will be around for a very long time.

Ben Silverman:
And they also were not only recent design school graduates, but there was also a lot of them who are people who had been - have their own boutiques, had been working for a while, and just needed the opportunity. And one of the points that Jessica made that's so different about this process is having the access to the actual buyers and decision makers while you develop your line is such a way to accelerate your career process that almost has had that opportunity before.

Question:
What do you make of comparisons between the show and Project Runway?

Ben Silverman:
It's really so unique, so distinct and like no show that's ever been on the air before in this immediate accessible ability to not only buy the fashion, but the fashions are being designed with a consumer in mind, not just in a vacuum. We are absolutely trying to build and create a real Fashion Icon and one that will have impact in the stores immediately and on people who will be wearing those clothes.

And so that connection between consumer and audience and designer is so profound and is really unique and part of the broad accessibility of this show that makes it a lot more of a kind of broadcast primetime vehicle. And the devices within the show, there's actual game play. These retailers are competing in a kind of game show environment to bid against each other to buy these fashions in real-time. So this show is like no other show you've ever seen and certainly nothing like Project Runway.

Question:
How did you get involved in this show and do you truly have a passion for fashion?

Jessica Simpson:
Ben actually approached me to do this project and apparently I was on their radar because of being involved with fashion and developing the Jessica Simpson Collection from ground up and now it's got amazing legs to run on and I've had such a great time just diving in and seeing what I can do and what I can make of it.

And I really have created more and more of a passion for fashion over the years just being involved with the business and all of the small details and all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a shoe. There's so much that goes into each item of clothing and so many people that are involved and it's great to see that unfold and have a successful business.

So I think that me teaming up with this show was a perfect fit. I couldn't turn it down because I felt like it was great for my collection, but it was also important for me to talk to these up and coming designers and mentor them and kind of show them the ropes and really try and lead them in the right direction.

Ben Silverman:
We wanted her to be involved in the show right as we were beginning to develop it and get it ready because she is so successful as a fashion design and with her own label. And she also is so fun and smart and has a great relatable quality that from Arlington has not left the girl. So if was just fantastic and as a mentor she got so invested with the contestants, but also as a designer was able to bring a lot to the mentoring process and really, I think, gave some of the best advice to the contestants.

Question:
Jessica, there are two Seattle competitors on this season's show, Lisa and Lizzie, and I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about their particular fashion sense and what they bring to Fashion Star?

Jessica Simpson:
Lisa and Lizzie, well they both do a really great job. I'm proud of both of them and I got to spend a lot of time with each of them. And what was really great about Lisa and Lizzie, both, is that they understood the every day woman and you'll definitely see that on the episodes. I think a lot of women will be able to relate to them and their designs. And they both got really lucky on this show too, so I think that they were given opportunities that they never even dreamt could happen. So yes they both do a great job and I'm really proud of them and a lot of their designs hopefully people will be wearing.

Ben Silverman:
And also the fact I love that their both mom's and their personal stories are so impressive. The idea of somebody quitting work at Microsoft to go pursue their fashion dream in their in their basement, literally, or in their garage, I mean it's just such a great story about perseverance. And to Jessica's point, they also have a real unique sense and I think that they each bring a lot to the show, and who they are as people, and they recognize as a little bit further along they're not - that they are - this is such an opportunity.

And obviously one of them having their own boutique it's really fun for both of them to participate, but it's even more, this is what their whole lives have been about and the fact that they can balance it with being mothers I think is a great story.

Question:
Jessica, in addition to mentoring will you also be performing musical performances during the fashion show part?

Jessica Simpson:
No I'm not performing, but I do get to have my very first Jessica Simpson Collection runway show, so that is a huge dream come true and that is the finale, that was part of the finale, so that was a big moment for me and definitely you'll see me very overjoyed.

Ben Silverman:
But by the way, there were many moments I was thinking, ???Why don't we have Jess sing???? That's what I say as a producer. But her show that gets put on showing her own fashion and stuff, I think, the impact of that is really big because you realize how much she's already done and how many retail outlets she's selling in and also how diverse a collection Jessica's already created.

Question:
Since the pieces need to be wearable and relatable to the everyday woman how do you keep the challenges exciting for the viewers' week-after-week?

Jessica Simpson:
Most of the challenges are pretty simple. And I think that simplicity is one of the hardest things to do as a designer, but the simple pieces are always the pieces that sell the most and they're your everyday wear in your closet. We really wanted everybody to create closets, more than anything, for America and pay attention to the details, like make sure you have a great pair of pants and make sure you can do an ad campaign. I mean just everything that goes into being to building an empire these all of these designers needed to be capable of everything that was going to come their way.

But I think that when it comes to clothing there's no way that, sorry, someone's at my door and my dog is going crazy, but I think that as far as clothing there's no way that you're going to be disappointed. And you'll definitely see with all of the designers the challenge that it is to actually do something simple.

Ben Silverman:
And to that point, we also really grounded the challenges in real world. There is a high, high impact entertainment value in this. It's like the biggest Victoria Secrets runway shows you've ever seen, each episode, but the challenges are truly grounded in the seasonality of fashion, i.e., one of the episodes is a summer theme and one of the episode so they play in the seasonality fashion.

But also to Jessica's point, we brought in outside people to give them further guidance on, ???Okay now that you've designed the look and the piece of clothing how are you going to present it???? And so that becomes another element. And then further from that we also said, ???Alright now not only how are you going to represent it, what's the billboard? How does it look in the magazine? What's the brand you're building, not just the clothes you're designing???? And it's all very real world and more and more I believe the American audience likes to see things that are grounded in truth and reality and I think they love to see the way modern and real business operates. And I think it's something that is so extraordinary in the show.

Jessica Simpson:
Yes everybody's vision is key.

Question:
Jessica I was wondering what did you think was important to bring to the show as a mentor and did you look at anybody else on shows similar to this for like clues or queues on maybe what to do?

Jessica Simpson:
No I really didn't watch any other shows in going into this because I feel like this is my life, this part of fashion and the behind the scenes of fashion has been my life for the past six, seven years. So I really just wanted to be there and to hang out and talk with the designers and make sure that they did have a vision that they listen to the buyers and what the buyers want. I mean that's really, really important to be able to give to Macy's the colors that they're wanting or the styles they're selling best for them on their floors, you know.

So I wanted to be there to help because, I mean, they all got there because they're great designers. You're not going to see anybody on the show that's not a good designer. And I think that's one of the great things about the show because we don't have to go through the terrible designers to get to the great ones. We have 14 great designers and it's about picking the designer that really has a vision and can be around for the next 20 years or 30 years. So for me it was really making sure that they knew what they were getting into that it wasn't just about being creative, it's about being business savvy as well.

Question:
Jessica, can you talk about the biggest lesson you learned when starting your own collections and how that translates to the show and those looking to make a name for themselves?

Jessica Simpson:
I thought everything that I wanted to create was right and that that's what everybody should be wearing. But look I don't wear flats and I'm very, very pregnant and it's my biggest selling shoe in the Jessica Simpson Collection, so I had to give in and be like, ???Okay well 90% of America wears flats.??? I really had to like teach myself that it wasn't about everything that just I would wear. It's about looking at a person and giving them an overall look. Like everybody is different and everybody has a different sense of style, so really understanding everybody's sense of style and making it cohesive in my brand.

Question:
Jessica, to what do you attribute that success and are you sort of surprised at the level of success that you've gained and sort of what does it mean to sort of have the high standing in the fashion world that you do now?

Jessica Simpson:
I never expected to do what I've done in the fashion world, but I feel very blessed to be here and everything that we have accomplished. And I think that just keeping the mentality, I mean, we started off with accessories and so I originally thought I was just going to do shoes and handbags.

And with the success of that it just gives you more and more opportunities, so the sky's the limit. I mean even with music, and acting, and being a mom and anything that I want to do I know that I can do and life is definitely always about expanding and that's how we grow. And so I'm just really happy to be where I'm at and I'm proud to say that I get to do everything that I love to do.

Question:
I wanted to ask you, what kind of inspiration are you getting from the young designers you're working with? And plus that, speaking of inspiration, is your pregnancy inspired you maybe to do a line of maternity clothes?

Jessica Simpson:
Yes I definitely want to do a line of maternity clothes eventually. I mean I've started to try and come up with some designs and stuff and I haven't really loved anything. I was going to launch a maternity line, but it seems like everything that's being made is what's already out there and the point of launching a maternity line, for me, was to do something different, like I'm not buying any maternity clothes. I'm wearing all clothes that just in bigger sizes, so I really want to make a maternity line that's comfortable, but really stylish for people because I believe that we all deserve to feel good and look good. So it's a little bit harder because people don't want to spend a lot of money on maternity clothes because you're only pregnant for almost 10 months. It's a harder business, but I feel like it's something that we will do eventually.

I think just seeing their drive and their excitement it definitely reignites a fire within me and makes me want to go back to those beginning stages of excitement and fresh creativity. So but I definitely was inspired by all of these designers to be even more involved in our collection and more tear our more inspiration. And with a lot of them I learned how to fabric shop and I've never really done that before. I can just find inspiration, but to actually like go in and fabric shop I got to do that with some of these designers and that inspired me as well.

Question:
Jessica, you make these awesome shoes that represent all of the big trends, but they're still totally affordable and accessible for a lot of people and I think that's also the goal for the contestants of Fashion Star. So what's your advice for shopping for shoes on a budget and what kind of details make a great affordable shoe?

Jessica Simpson:
I definitely think that color trends are fun. Of course it's always important to have a great black shoe, a great nude shoe, but right now I'm loving neon's and all of the color blocking. If you want to be that person that walks down the street and gets compliments on your shoes I would definitely go for color block, neon. But the great thing about our collection is that we can do all of the wild and fun things, but make it comfortable. So I mean there's things to me that drive me crazy about certain shoes. It's like if I see a shoe and the stitching isn't tonal I like have a panic attack. And everybody in the company knows like don't show Jessica a black shoe with white stitching on it.

There's tons of little tricks that go into making the perfect shoe, but I think color, comfort is really important and different sizes of heels. Even though I prefer 6 inches a lot of people like a 4 inch heel, or a 2 inch heel so there's all different kinds of tricks, making your legs look longer.

Question:
For somebody who isn't behind the scenes like you are what are the tricks that they should be looking out for?

Jessica Simpson:
I have these shoes right now in the collection that are a nude wedge with the fluorescent orange on the bottom and around the ankle and you can wear them with any color. You don't have to wear them with something fluorescent or something black, you know? I think it's great to mix all of the colors together, but there's something so sexy about a nude heel on light skin. It really elongates the leg, but then if you throw the pop of color in it makes it different than what you're seeing. Than other trends.

Question:
Is the show live or is any part of it live throughout the season?

Ben Silverman:
It's live to tape. So it has the live feeling, but we actually had to preshoot in order for us to be able to manufacture the clothes.

Jessica Simpson:
I wasn't pregnant when we shot it. It will be amazing to see myself with a waistline. I'll be like a big blob sitting on the couch watching myself thin.

Ben Silverman:
Yes, so we pretaped it in order to literally design all of the, or not design, literally manufacture the clothes. And that was an incredible education for all of the producers. We all became experts in both retail and how merchandise is put together. And it was really a dynamic and fun part of the show and we just got to look at all of the clothes recently and they were incredible.

It was one of the most rewarding experiences as a television producer/creator and it was super fun, but logistically it was also a huge part of how we had to build our production schedule and then in turn back it into our air dates based on when the clothes would be ready and when the retail outlets would be able to also have the space in their stores and what time period was good for them. And I think one of the things that was cool for Jessica, John Varvatos and Nicole was also to see these designers going through their spring collection process and hear from the buyers who were thinking about spring as we were making the program.

Question:
We'll actually see the clothes go in stores right after the show airs?

Ben Silverman:
Night of they will be available for sale online and then next day in store. The final winner who wins a capsule collection in all three stores will be in a ton of retail outlets, hundred and hundreds across all three stores. The initial episodic winners will be in certain retail outlets, but available to everybody around the world online.

Question:
Their eliminations are not based on sales?

Ben Silverman:
Correct. So it's not tracking based on sales. What it is have the buyers from Saks, Macy's or H&M bid to have the exclusive right to sell your clothes that night. Because during the episodes many people do not even get bid on, so if you are not bought during the episode you're up for elimination, but the mentors who are living daily and breathing with the designers are actually able to save one of those contestants who may have not sold, but who the mentors believe in. And that's a big dramatic part of the show that's really cool and unique.

Question:
Jessica, you've been an inspiration to so many people throughout the years. What's the one piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to be on Fashion Star?

Jessica Simpson:
The funny thing is that like in working with my collection now I'll go into work and be like talk to some of the designers that are on our team and be like, ???You should totally be on Fashion Star. It's such a great opportunity.??? So I don't know. I think that you really just have to be a very creative person that wants to sell more than just to your local town which there are some designers that like to play it safe. And those designers really aren't meant for Fashion Star. We like the daring designers and also the designers that will really listen, will really listen to the mentors, and listen to the buyers, and really understand the business. So I think that it's definitely just a mix of someone that's really creative and someone that really understands the business. And if you don't know the business yet you can definitely learn because Lord knows I came into this business not knowing anything about it.

Question:
Jessica, how much of a part have you found that your mentoring has had in the end result of the design and the designers. You know, you see them while they're creating and then you see the final pieces of the show, but you guys did mention about the presentation aspect. So have you been surprised in what you've seen come out or do you generally find that it's what you've expected to see?

Jessica Simpson:
There are definite moments of surprise, there are moments of shock, there are moments of what the heck did you do and there are moments of I would have never thought of that. I'm so glad you listened to your gut. But yes there is a lot of pressure as a mentor because you don't want to tell somebody to do the wrong thing because then all of the sudden - I mean for me I feel like it's on my shoulders if they took my idea and the buyers were like, ???No you're eliminated.???

So I really encourage people to listen to their own inner dialogue that's really important and I'm there just to help kind of tweak things along the way, but I don't really give too big of an idea because I don't want any blame. But I do trust my instincts and I think that you'll see that they really are receptive to what the mentors have to say to them.

Question:Ben Silverman:
I personally think the fashion will speak for itself. You know, the clothes have gone through a major vetting process. You know, one of the amazing things that all three retailers were incredibly excited that we were going to be doing for them is we did a talent search. We had over 2,000 people, maybe even more 3,000 - 4,000 people who came to try and be on our show.

And we actually brought the buyers into the process when we had our final 50 top choices out of that multiple thousand process of audition and we brought them into that process as we were deciding who would make it onto the show and be one of the 14 designers to be lucky enough to be competing to become the next Fashion Star. So there was a lot of vetting that already took place before these 14 designers appear on camera.

And then second, all of the kind of advice, and input, and tools that we give them the outcomes are pretty profound and there were many times, because this is a unique show in that it's not just women's fashion there's also men's fashion, where I personally was like, ???Oh my gosh I hope he wins because I want to buy that.??? And that was happening throughout the time we were watching the show. Our producing partners, including Jane Lipsitz, was constantly going, ???Oh my gosh I need that. I need to wear that now.??? And she's a bit of a fashionista herself.

And the other piece of that is, I think, the power of these personalities and this presentation through this television platform should be an amazing way to accelerate or launch a career. And I think that's the reason we got thousands and thousands of people, many of whom were accomplished in and of their own right already, to come on the show. This isn't just kind of strange kids at a small school, this is like people who are already working towards a career.

Jessica Simpson:
Watching the show you're going to have your favorites and you're going to see these designers and their backgrounds and you're going to fall in love with them as people too, so it doesn't really matter if their famous or not. You're really going to, I think, you're really going to like who they are, so you're going to want to root for them and you're going to want to wear their stuff. And you don't really compare people together, designers, you find yourself rooting for more than one person.

Question:
Will you be influencing the contestants on the show to be making you personal baby wear going, ???That's great, but it would look great as a T2????

Jessica Simpson:
I didn't know I was pregnant when we shot the show, so you definitely won't be seeing that. But I do walk around everywhere wanting to shrink things baby size nowadays.

Question:
Can you tell me a little bit about the pricing of the clothes that you'll be selling through the retailers? I'm wondering if there will be a mix of affordable items and splurges. And also Jessica I was wondering if you could speak to how women can dress well on a budget?

Ben Silverman:
I can talk in terms of the price range. I think that everyone in America will find something they like, but also something that works for them on whatever budget works for them. We have very elaborate presentations of elaborate clothing that has a lot of different kinds of materials that are more expensive than others, but in one of our episodes we actually did a high-low challenge where you had to present a, both, a very kind of splurge oriented outfit and one that had a more accessible price point for it's entry.

So even in our episodes we acknowledge the diversity of American consumer and it's not just about being the most expensive, it's also about being the most detailed. And we all learned a lot about what informs pricing. It's not just oh because it comes from a certain person therefore it is expensive, but also what are the materials involved; how does the stitching work; is it cashmere or is it cotton and that's something that was very interesting; and also how many items you maybe weave into a piece really can change the amount that piece costs. But for the audience there will be something for them no matter what their budget.

Question:
Jessica can you speak to how women can dress well on a budget?

Jessica Simpson:
I should probably budget myself more. In the Jessica Simpson Collection we do focus on making our budgets affordable for people and really focusing on putting together an amazing closet for the buyer, the consumer. So with me I think that the most important thing is what I see myself spending more money on - like I feel like there should be one piece that you kind of splurge on and for me I always splurge on shoes because I feel like you can put together a really simple outfit for cheap whether it's right now - I mean the big trends are all of the colored jeans, all of the printed jeans, there are definitely those that you can find for in the $40 to $60 range, which I know we have with our collection. So I think using buying fun colors and being able to mix and match things is really important, but there's definitely one splurge item and then you build around that.

Question:
So when they came to you and asked you to do Fashion Star you have so much going else in your life how did you know to how to prioritize? How do you manage it all?

Jessica Simpson:
Well for me fashion has been pretty much the number one, it's been first place as far as anything in my life and my career. And I just thought it was a great way to be able to wear the Jessica Simpson Collection and have the world see it and really give people an insight to how a business is run and I mean a lot of people think of the Jessica Simpson Collection they only think of shoes. So I think that Fashion Star definitely helps me show to everybody how broad the collection is and how many different licensees we have and it was just a great way for me to really put the collection on a pedestal and have people really see how far it's come and what it's become.

Question:
Is motherhood going to change that for you?

Jessica Simpson:
No because I feel like in the fashion that since we have had so much success that going to approval meetings and being inspired is not hard at all. So it's a really relaxing career for me. I mean I travel to New York and made it to Paris for Fashion Week and stuff but other than that it's really it's just a career that all I need to do is just stayed inspired and I don't see that leaving any time soon.

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