Lessons from Joe Zee

I have never been so mystified by a reality television show like All on the Line aired on the Sundance Channel. Last November, Joe Zee (Host of All on the Line and ELLE Magazine Creative Director) announced via Facebook and thru his Twitter account, the show has been renewed for a third season. This announcement made me glee with happiness, but also it is an opportunity to chat about it. I find it useful for any future designer to pay close attention to a show like this one including similar concepts that are not fashion related like Tabatha Takeover aired in Bravo.

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to see a special preview of the Sundance Channel for free on Direct TV. I was curious because I’ve heard of the Sundance Festival, but not its channel. Then, I recognized Elle’s creative director from the short-lived reality television show, The City. Once the commercial featuring the premier of Zee’s show, I knew this was going to be smart television.

I tuned in and I was obsessed with it. This is not like Project Runway, (don’t take it wrong I do like PR) I realized this was fashion business 101 or beyond actually. Before I write any further about All on the Line, I think I should explain the show.

All on the Line:  Joe Zee selects week by week a designer struggling with their business and guide them back into the correct route; however, in this travesty the audience sees the process from the struggle to the success or the failure. This show is not so different of the student – teacher relationship in school. If the student pays attention, then most likely the student succeeds. So far,  Zee has met designers with various personalities; however, stubbornness and not listening to Zee will damage the designer.

As season 1 begins, Zee meets the designer of Radenroro. She’s young and married to her business partner. She’s very shy and not sure she had a definition for the Radenroro customer. Zee helped her find the definition for her designs and define her brand. The brand was accepted into Nordstrom.  It sounds short from the real story behind cameras, but the designer listened.

Another brand that didn’t have Radenroro’s success was Between the Sheets. The designer of Between the Sheets, Leila L’boti was stubborn. Not to exaggerate, but at one point, I felt why she called for Joe’s help? To get media exposure only? I felt Leila had no intention to change the direction of the brand at all. She maintained the philosophy the same and refused to transform the brand that can function as a ready to wear collection.  The meeting with CUSP was futile; L’boti kept all of her designs amateurish by keeping all the designs with the same fabric, cheap cuts, and not accessorizing. Joe had a last-minute idea to show L’boti’s vintage collection, but she refused.

In my opinion, there are three episodes of All on the Line that defines why this show is an excellent one. On season 1, he helped a very talented and popular designer back in the 90s, Gemma Kahng. Her success was very sudden back in the early 90s, but short-lived. She remained in the shadows of the fashion world for a decade, but Joe Zee oriented her to the right direction. Kahng developed a capsule collection for the exclusive boutique, Kirna Zabete. The episode is an emotional rollercoaster of excitement because Zee knew Kahng was not going to waste this second chance. Besides, she’s really talented, I saw her work on the show and her website. Her taste is amazing!

Another episode that is golden to me is the one that features Qristyl Fraizer.  The designer was going through dire financial struggles. At one point, she confessed she was homeless. Qristyl is a plus size designer, but Zee challenged her to design a dress in a size 0. The outfit she created for Zee’s friend was ideal for women of all sizes. Although she almost lost her direction, she managed to display a unique collection that is currently on Lane Bryant.

Lastly, the season finale for season 2 was dynamite! Nicole Miller asked for Zee’s intervention to launch her Sports line. The major struggle Miller had to face is that the majority of the population only knew her for her bridal line. Then Joe had a daring idea for Nicole, to create a “Rewind” collection. This episode was majestic in every aspect because Zee shows that a fashion designer must always be current and maintain relevant designs. Don’t miss the new season of All on the Line with Joe Zee on the Sundance Channel. You can also buy seasons 1 and 2 on iTunes, it’s worth it!

Follow Joe Zee!

Twitter – @mrjoezee



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