TV Review: Unzipped

By Deborah Hill Cone

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Trelise Cooper on the catwalk during New Zealand Fashion Week 2010. Photo / Getty Images
Trelise Cooper on the catwalk during New Zealand Fashion Week 2010. Photo / Getty Images

Fashionistas have a bad reputation as being flaky and dumb. Ruthless and mean. Vain and pompous. Extravagant and decadent. But never, ever boring.

So you would think the fashion industry would provide fabulous material for a reality television programme. All those big personalities. All those egos. All those sharp stilettos and sharper tongues. Just think of The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue.

So, how can it possibly be that the first episode of TV One's new Friday series Unzipped is so dull, dull, dull?

How is it possible to make a whole programme about the local fashion biz and take all the bitchiness and va-va-voom out of it? Where is the dirt, the feuds, the intrigue?

Perhaps part of the problem is that the show, an eight-parter following New Zealand fashion designers preparing for last year's Fashion Week, was produced by Julie Christie, who is a close friend of featured designer Trelise Cooper.

Maybe that's why all the designers have been portrayed as being chummy pals and saint-like do-gooders who worry about their models having eating disorders and conceive their shows by having a group hug.

Stolen Girlfriends Club designer Marc Moore on Cooper: "I sat next to her at the castings. I thought, 'You're really cool. You're awesome'. I'm a fan."

That's just dandy, darl, but unfortunately a fashion love-in makes for deathly television. Even Cooper herself admits the pressure can create monsters. "Once it would have been about being the very nicest person, now I haven't got time [for that]." Maybe that's why Cooper is the most successful of the little cosy clique of local designers.

Good for her and I have no problem celebrating our success stories. But we could do without the breathless gushiness about the business side of Fashion Week itself - "Every year the Fashion Week gets bigger". Really? Some of the earlier Fashion Weeks attracted bigger names than the later ones. This unquestioning enthusiasm makes you wonder whether Unzipped was funded by Trade and Enterprise. Is this meant to be a television show or a promotional corporate video?

There doesn't even seem to be much passion for fashion from the designers themselves. "It's just clothes in the end, you're not changing the world," says one of the Stolen Girlfriends Club.

Steady on, possum. That's where you're wrong. You would never catch Vogue editor Anna Wintour or her offsider, Grace Coddington, saying that. Clothes are important. They are transformative, can change the way we feel about ourselves and express how we feel about the world. Not that you would know from Unzipped.

At least young designer Sera Lilly, who is shown casting girls off the street to model in her catwalk show, shows a touch of spunk as she prepares. "But I'm the designer!" she says when anyone tries to tell her what to do. The voice-over has to add: "For Sera, her strengths will be patience and compromise."

How very reasonable. And how very boring. Dirty, unprincipled obsessive passion would be much more fun. But perhaps the girl scout politeness will wear off as Fashion Week nears.

In the following episode, hairdresser Greg Murrell says, "My feeling about the hair is it's a bit boring and European generic for a fashion show." You said it, darl.

Unzipped debuts on TV One, Friday at 9.45pm.

- Herald on Sunday / View

- Herald on Sunday

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