Fern Mallis

Fern Mallis describes her judging style and dishes on the first episode of 'The Fashion Show."

on May 7, 2009

Bravotv.com: What kind of judge do you think you will be for the season?
Fair and honest. It is not my intent to be mean or difficult. I believe in positive, constructive criticism that will make some of the designers think a little more about what they are doing and how they can perhaps learn and grow. However, my nickname, at some points, did become “Firm Fern.”

Bravotv.com: What is your first impression of the designers? Were you disappointed or impressed?
My first impression was based on visually seeing all of them together as a group and one can’t help but make quick and sometimes unjustified judgments. As this program and industry are both about fashion — fashion being a great communicator — several of the designers on the show clearly used fashion as a their own personal weapon and message and it takes a little while to get underneath that and find out who “they” really are.

There were moments when I was both disappointed and equally impressed.

Bravotv.com: Which designs stood out the most to you (for better or for worse)?
I think the results of the first challenge very clearly demonstrated both the best and the worse. James-Paul’s black angular dress with the short blue bolero jacket and low slung chain belt was really spectacular. I would be happy to own and wear that dress!

Jonny, who was eliminated, made a skirt and sexy halter top that was completely unwearable and the poor model could barely step up the stairs to the stage and had to be cut out of the skirt to go to the bathroom. I do wish, however, he had another chance to show some other aspects of his range as a designer — but that’s not the way the competition works.

Bravotv.com: What do you think the key to winning this challenge was?
Creating a look that was memorable, wearable, chic, and rose to the challenge. James-Paul’s outfit incorporated the must have bolero jacket in a way that made a significant contribution to the look of his design.

Bravotv.com: There was a bit of a disagreement with the judges over who to send home, and you got your way. What were the arguments for both?
It was between Jonny and Kristin — initially Kelly and Isaac were much more negative about Kristin’s design but I did not have a real problem with it. I actually like the layering and said at one point it was a little Anna Sui-ish and while not perfect, it was not as bad as some of the criticisms that were leveled towards her. Jonny’s outfit on the other hand, was just completely unwearable and unflattering to the model but there was some discussion that it was a more sexy, saleable look that women would like.

And we all contined to discuss both looks and eventually we all, along with Elie, agreed that Jonny’s was much more unforgiving than Kristin’s.

Bravotv.com: What is the dynamic like between the judges at this point?
I wish we could bottle and sell the dynamic and make a fragrance out of it — because we truly did get along extremely well. We respected each other’s opinions and points of view. I have worked with Isaac in my professional life for many, many years and have always admired him and his many talents. I also had the privilege, as the director of the CFDA, to hire Destiny’s Child to perform at the awards at Lincoln Center when hardly anyone knew who they were.  I love how all these paths cross again in our lives!

Bravotv.com: What would you say you’re looking for?
I am looking for a talent and a personality and an original point of view that brings something new to our industry, that can sustain itself and also shows an ability to evolve and grow and succeed. It is a difficult business to navigate and it takes very special combination of qualities and talent to survive and flourish.