Do you eat, sleep and breathe fashion? Are you overly concerned with things like hemlines, fashion trends, and scoring the hottest new bags and shoes of the season? Is Vogue Magazine your personal bible and do you worship a favorite designer that is a perfect reflection of your personal fashion philosophy? Is your closet so crammed full of your fashion finds that you’re seriously considering knocking out a wall to warehouse your massive wardrobe collection?
If you answered yes to some (or all!) of these questions, you might be a “fashionista” (an urban slang term for a totally fashion obsessed person.)
SOAPnet has created the perfect show for fashionistas everywhere (or those who are just curious about the fashionista lifestyle.) Picking up where The Devil Wears Prada left off, The Fashionista Diaries is a reality show that follows the lives of six young people working as assistants in the fashion industry in New York City, known as the “Fashion Capital of the World.”
The first installment of the show introduces us to the young “twenty something” hopefuls, and sets the stage for the drama to come in future episodes. Bridget and Nicole are the assistants working for Seventh House, a firm that does public relations for the fashion industry. The two are polar opposites; Bridget is chic, self assured and obsessed with fashion, but Nicole from Queens is new to the industry and commits a serious “fashion faux pas” on her first day of work (she wears flip flops and announces to the group that her absolute favorite designer is Juicy Couture!)
That doesn’t sit too well with her boss Mandie, the Director of Seventh House PR, a woman who makes Miranda Priestly (the dragon lady boss played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada) look like a soft hearted slacker. “Every day when you dress up for work, you must think that you may end up at a black tie affair,” she tells her new assistants. “This isn’t college anymore, it’s the real world. Not everyone can make it. We’ve had plenty of people move back to Kansas, and maybe Kansas is right for you. Or maybe Queens, I guess, for you…” she informs Nicole (in a bit of foreshadowing.)
Over at Flirt! Cosmetics, new assistants Tina and Janjay are getting a gentler indoctrination into the world of beauty from their boss, the tough but mild mannered Kathleen (VP of Communications at Flirt! Cosmetics.) They are told they must “own the brand” with a consuming passion, and learn everything they can about the hundreds of Flirt! products, right down to the names of all the various makeup shades.
Andrew and Rachel, the new assistants at JANE Magazine, also have a similar experience. They are informed by their bosses that hundred of applicants would do anything to be in their position, therefore they must work harder than they ever have before (translation: they must eat, sleep, and breath JANE.) This won’t be a problem for Rachel, an aspiring fashion journalist who has devoured every back issue of the magazine, reading them from “cover to cover.” Andrew says that his favorite magazine is GQ, and his real ambition is to become a fashion designer and launch his own line (he also confesses “I just got into fashion to meet girls!”)
Seventh House, Flirt! and JANE collaborate on various projects, so the assistants start to form friendships and rivalries, working together during the day, and meeting for drinks and gossip during the evenings. Sparks fly when ladies man Andrew moves in with Bridget, and the two friends and roommates begin a flirtation that creates a “will they or won’t they get together?” sexual tension that permeates the episodes.
Compared to the usual reality show fare, the conflicts here are of a milder form than what’s viewed on reality programs such as Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model. There is no violence, foul language or destruction of personal property. Still, just as can happen in the real workplace, some of these reality show participants get along and form fast friendships, others take an instant dislike to each other.
It’s nice to see the friendship and working relationship that develops between Tina and Janjay. Though both are competitive and want that coveted full time position at Flirt!, they say they are “more competitive with themselves” and aren’t willing to knife each other in the back to get ahead at work.
Soon Nicole from Queens, who has no background in fashion and gave up a career in psychology to work at Seventh House, is at odds with Bridget, who she claims is too snobby and makes her feel “judged.” It’s hard to paint Bridget as a villainess–she’s smart, savvy, and focused, and her main argument with Nicole is not her lack of fashion, but her inability to show up for work and put in the effort necessary to do the job. (Bridget is perhaps the most “fashionista” of the bunch and therefore, the most fun to watch.)
As the story progresses, Nicole makes the decision that Seventh House is not for her, and she is replaced by a new girl, Laurie, who also doesn’t have a lot of experience in the fashion industry but looks like a hard worker who will blend in with the rest of the office (and not antagonize Bridget, an office favorite.)
Laurie, who says that she threw up on the morning of her interview, is told by Mandie that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, “so don’t blow it!” She’s informed that the hours will be insane, the pay will be low, she won’t really be able to have a real life, and on top of all that, she won’t be treated well by her boss or colleagues. She’s starting at the bottom. Does she still want the gig? Oh, yes. Laurie evens says she’s glad for the struggle, she doesn’t want it to be too easy and she likes the challenge.
The show offers plenty of high drama. During the course of filming, JANE Magazine unexpectedly folds and Andrew and Rachel must scramble for another position. The series builds toward the highly anticipated Fall Fashion Week in New York, when the assistants will be evaluated. Who will make the cut and be offered a full time position in their dream job in the fashion industry?
The Fashionista Diaries, like The Devil Wears Prada, asks the question, what is the personal price tag for a job in the fashion industry? At what point in chasing your dream–eating, sleeping and breathing fashion, beauty or PR–do you advance your career, but lose your soul? And is it all worth it, to get your foot in the door and gain that coveted spot: a desk at Seventh House or Flirt! or a byline in a famous fashion magazine?
This is something the young hopefuls profiled in The Fashionista Diaries will each have to answer for themselves. It’s fascinating to see the glitz, the glamour, the struggle and frustration, and most of all, the hard work and dedication it takes to make it in New York City, the mecca for the fashion industry.
If you think you might be a fashionista, or you’re just curious what the fashionista world is all about, check out SOAPnet’s The Fashionista Diaries, a surprisingly absorbing slice of life reality show.