Pasadena, CA — Fashion – especially the creation of fashion – has become a popular staple of cable reality TV programming. The Project Runway franchise has been around since 2004, now spawning mentor Tim Gunn’s Under the Gunn, which made its debut on January 16 on Lifetime. NBC’s Fashion Star even managed to invade primetime network TV for two seasons. Along the fashion way, a number of Latino designers have been thrust into the national spotlight, including Mondo Guerra, Marilinda Rivera, Katarina Munez, Emilio Sosa and others. Now, Ovation Channel’s The Fashion Fund is debuting January 22 (10ET/7PT) and it just might make a star out of Colombia-born Juan Carlos Obando.
The Fashion Fund might be new to television, but it has been around since 2003, only not on television. Addressing the winter gathering of the Television Critics Association (TCA) Langham Hotel in Pasadena, Steven Kolp – CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) – explains, “I think the thing that is very unique about this program is that it wasn’t created by TV executives. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund is an industry initiative that’s been going on for ten years. It’s picking designers who have been working for a few years – looking at their businesses and looking where we can help them. And we help these designers with business grants and mentors.”
For the final ten who make it to the televised finals, they readily admit it is a game‑changing competition for a group of designers who just might be on the brink of success. Judging this competition are Anna Wintour of Vogue, Diane von Furstenberg; J. Crews’ Jenna Lyons; Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus; Marcus Wainwright and David Neville of Rag & Bone. For designer Obando, it is a chance of a lifetime to further his career, which he readily admits is the opportunity to lavish attention on women and make money doing it.
Obando chuckles and then shrugs. “It’s women. Women are definitely an interest of mine. I had a previous career in advertising, but I was only working with conceptual things. I was unhappy. I felt fashion was something where I could communicate directly with somebody, and it was a craft that I could do with my hands. And I don’t know if it had to do with being Latin or that sense of totally enjoying being surrounded by women. I felt that I could connect with that. I am happy that I’ve been able to get this far and I’m delighted to be on TV.”
Kolp continues, “The reason we decided to work with Ovation to broadcast the competition is we feel it’s authentic. There’s a lot of TV about fashion that’s reality TV, and that’s not something we were interested in. We really wanted to show the business of fashion and the talent of the designers that have gone through this program. And so we’re really grateful for the support that they’ve given us and the opportunity to share these designers’ stories and our work with a broader audience.”
“I think it’s a different formula,” echoes Obando. “The show itself is not about the competition of one person over another. It’s everybody being able to showcase where we are at this moment in our careers. Are you going to become a business? Will you become one thing or another? And I think the nurturing of all of these ten people that come on board defines that rite of passage and what we’re going to become.”