If you’ve ever watched Project Runway and longed for a regional version to showcase the incredible talent emerging from the Middle East, your wish has been granted. Fashion Star, a new reality TV show set to air on Dubai One, will feature 12 talented, but unknown, designers from the region. International fashion designer Reem Acra, whose name you might recognize as being behind the fairytale princess gowns favored by stars the likes of Taylor Swift, Eva Longoria, and Cara Delevingne, was announced as the judge of the show and will be accompanied by two mentors, model Hanaa Ben Abdesslem and Al Ostoura Creative Director Ramzi Tabiat.
Ahead of the show’s first air date, Savoir Flair sat down with Acra, who had just stepped off a long flight from Los Angeles. In this interview, Acra divulges insider information about what to expect from Fashion Star, her mentoring style, and more.
How do you spot talent?
You can never say, “He’s the next big thing,” because you can’t tell. I think you can spot a great designer or someone who has the potential if he has a great energy – it’s not just about the talent.
What makes a good fashion designer?
Someone who really understands fashion and knows proportions and color. He’s also a thinker and not someone who just knows how to make a beautiful dress.
How does it feel to be the only judge on Fashion Star?
After the mentoring process is done by Hanaa and Ramzi, that’s where I come in. The judging has put a lot of pressure on me.
What’s your judging style? Would you describe yourself as harsh?
Not really. I feel like I have to play the role of a mother for this new generation of designers. I wanted to make sure that I gave them good advice, but at the same time I wanted to make sure they knew the important stuff. This is a business – it isn’t like we’re playing here.
This is a business – it isn’t like we’re playing here.
Speaking of business, you’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years. Is there a formula for success?
It’s not an easy industry at all – it can suck you in quickly. Again, it’s not just about designing dresses; you have to know the ins and outs of it all.
The model of Fashion Star is centered on dealing with pressure, and industry pressure has been a really hot topic this year with so many designers leaving their positions. How do you deal with it all?
It’s very difficult. I have so many other things happening at the same time between private clients, bridal, and producing six ready-to-wear collections a year, which means every two months you have to create something. Plus, you have to manage the business part. I really don’t know how I do it. It’s mind boggling, but I just do it. I think I have a personality that detoxifies itself. At the end of the day, even when I’ve had a really long one, when I go home it’s all gone. I completely detach myself. I don’t think about the pressure until the next morning.