This month, Tyra Banks announced that long-running reality competition “America’s Next Top Model” will come to an end after its current 22nd cycle. Its final episode airs Dec. 4, and while this news upsets many, it is unsurprising as ratings struggled in recent cycles. Sadly, multiple other fashion television shows have ended in recent years for similar reasons.
In 2012, Alexa Chung created a new reality competition “24 Hour Catwalk.” Despite aiming to draw viewers using fresh contestants each week and qualified judges, the show received poor ratings, ending after just one season. “The Carrie Diaries,” fashion-internship prequel to “Sex and the City,” couldn’t survive past two seasons even with famous stars and the popularity of the original show. Even Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” and multiple other fashion credentials tried and failed twice to start their own show. When programs with such strong foundations falter, many wonder how to, as Gunn would say, “make it work.”
Perhaps a reason for fashion’s decline in popularity on television is changing tastes. Social media has gained popularity, so powerful style figures are focusing on related aspects. Models and designers constantly post photos on Instagram, and fashion blogging has become influential and profitable. In today’s busy world, people would rather check social media accounts than sit through an hour-long show. Even the acclaimed “Project Runway” now has declining ratings, as much of its audience has simply lost interest in dedicating time to it.
Although both reality and fictional fashion shows struggle, programs about other subjects, like performing arts or cooking, thrive, possibly because a majority of people enjoy watching these activities live. It is necessary to sit through a performance, which makes watching a related TV show worthwhile for many. Fans of cooking shows may have an interest in learning recipes, but people tend to desire the finished product of fashion-related topics. Blogs often include full outfits and describe what key pieces completed them, a format many enjoy and struggle to find on television.
Despite TV fashion’s seemingly grim fate, some shows have survived most likely due to their pre-social media fan base. “What Not To Wear” succeeded, ending only because TLC felt the 10th season was a good stopping point. Its spinoff, starring former co-host Stacy London, “Love, Lust, or Run,” is also successful, currently in its second season.
While a bit different than reality fashion television, fictional programs such as “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City” nevertheless appealed to fans of the sartorial world as they effortlessly integrated the industry into their soap opera style plotlines. The shows became hugely popular among style-enthusiasts alike and, similarly to “What Not To Wear,” ended only when the time seemed right.
Those looking to save fashion’s TV presence can take from elements of successful shows. While young people often prefer Instagram to program, they like watching shows combining consistency with novelty. “Love, Lust, or Run” uses the makeover concept and co-host from “What Not To Wear,” but also adds polling and focuses on women’s desire to self-express while looking professional. “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City” became classics with their idealized-yet-flawed characters’ exciting, varying journeys through life in Manhattan.
Using these television elements, including the makeover or the sartorial-centered fiction, and adding social media promotion, like hashtags and live-tweeting, would be a way to create more promising fashion-related programs. This industry is not hopeless in this media format, but like a trend from the past, it needs placement in a new light for this generation to gain interest.
Email Alexandra Webb at [email protected]