Friday, September 10, 2010

What They're Doing Now

I learned a great deal from Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, the originators of What Not to Wear, which aired a few years back on BBC. Through their show and in their books, I came to understand the importance of fit, proportion, and color. Although they presented concepts that I didn’t necessarily agree with (come on, we can wear black occasionally), and their technique with clients was a bit more aggressive than I thought necessary (must they grab every woman’s breasts whom they encounter?), they were usually dead-on in their assessments.

Naturally, I became intrigued when I heard about their new endeavor, What They Did Next, an Internet series ( that captures their comings and goings following their What Not to Wear triumphs. Confusion is the only way I can sum up how I felt upon viewing the first episode: Is this a documentary? Are they trying to be funny? Are they presenting caricatures of themselves? Baffled, I clicked on to watch episode two. The confusion morphed into sheer and utter disappointment. The two women who forged the way for fashion awareness come across as nothing more than two completely unaware, selfish, and ungrateful brats.

I understand now that they’re not portraying themselves. What I don’t understand is why they’re portraying such sad, desperate, and distasteful versions of the Trinny and Susannah I came to admire years ago. They’ve obviously stolen concepts from the absolutely fabulous Absolutely Fabulous, and the results are disastrous. (Let’s remember, Absolutely Fabulous is a work of fiction, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could top the comic genius of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley).

Trinny, with her newly inflated lips and not-so-subtle hair extensions, presents herself as an incredibly vain, overly pampered potty –mouth. Susannah’s constant drinking and chain-smoking have me longing to call an intervention. Where’s the fashion? Where’s the chic- factor? Where are their children while this nonsense is taking place? Both are mothers, but the setting of this show would lead us to believe that they’ve no one but each other and a small group of hangers-on (who, incidentally, don’t hang on too long).

Granted, I only watched two episodes, but one thing I do know about marketing and presentation is this: you’ve got to hook them early in order to win them over.

With that being said, I realize there is a great deal of what passes for entertainment these days that appeals to the lowest common denominator: mindless, negative fluff that does nothing to uplift or enlighten. I suppose Trinny and Susannah recognize this, and have jumped on the ‘do anything to get your face out there’ bandwagon.


But then I happened upon this excerpt from Tim Gunn’s new book, Gunn’s Golden Rules, and realized that there are those who work in the fashion industry who still have heart, character, and class. Trinny, Susannah, and the rest of us should take a cue from Mr. Gunn’s advice:

1. Take the high road – Tim recalls how he’s sometimes mistaken for Clinton Kelly from the American version of What Not To Wear. Rather than take offense at this faux pas, Tim graciously and kindly lets them know that he’s not Clinton. (I can’t imagine him cursing or throwing a fit the way Trinny and Susannah have done when they’re not recognized on What They Did Next.)

2.Be Nice – Tim tells how Fern Mallis, the genius behind New York Fashion Week, offered this bit of advice to designers during season two of Project Runway. Tim goes on to say, “There is absolutely never any reason to be a fire-breathing dragon”. (Trust me, a great deal of fire-breathing exists on What They Did Next. Heck, it existed when Trinny and Susannah hosted What Not to Wear)

3.Never Underestimate Karma – Tim describes how he feels as if casual politeness has become extinct (I’m with you, Mr. Gunn). Bad behavior will always be punished in some form. (Hmmm…perhaps that’s why Trinny and Susannah are no longer working with BBC…)

I can breathe a little easier knowing that individuals such as Tim Gunn are out there in the fashion industry, doing their best to mentor others without aggression and snobbery. It’s fantastic witnessing designers Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice make dreams come true for small town women in their show On the Road with Austin and Santino. The wonderful Clinton Kelly can point out a fashion mishap humorously without making a gal feel bad about herself. His counterpart, Stacey London, swings from brash to teary-eyed at the sight of a woman who finally gets a sense of herself, fashion-wise.

So, I suppose today’s lesson is this, boys and girls: class reigns supreme, if we allow it to. Self-loathing and over-the-top self-parody might result in undesired consequences. Gratitude for past success and hope for the future carries us into the realms of greater success.

And no one can out-fab Patsy Stone and Edina Monsoon, so why even bother?

Beth Newman
Image Consultant/Life Coach/Author
Newman Image

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