Alex Chung and Doncaster-born Tan France have joined forces for a new TV series looking for the next big name in the fashion industry. Gemma Dunn finds out more.
It is a union that owes thanks to a swanky London fashion party. Fashion designer Alexa Chung and TV personality Tan France are coming together to host a new competition series Next in Fashion, a show featuring some of the world’s best and quietly innovative designers who compete for a chance to become the next big industry name.
“It came about in December 2018,” begins Doncaster-born France, fashion expert on Netflix’s emotionally-charged makeover series Queer Eye. “I was asked to do the show and I said yes - I love the idea of a fashion competition. And Alexa?”
“I bumped into Tan at a party,” she says with a big grin. “I was really letting loose because it was my fashion show the day before, so I’d completed this runway show and I guess I was elated.
“When Tan walked in I just screamed - I love him and I’d literally just been watching Queer Eye,” explains the 36-year-old, who is returning to her presenting roots.
“He heard me and so I ducked under the DJ booth and said to my friend, ‘Oh my God, how embarrassing!’. And then he came over and that’s how we met.
“He mentioned something about a show, but I haven’t done TV for years and years and years, so I don’t remember being told that [part],” she quips. “I think she was too drunk to realise I was saying it,” France, 36, interrupts.
Just over a year later and all is well, as the British hosting duo welcome 18 designers, each set to face challenges that centre on a different trend or design style that’s influenced the way the entire world dresses.
Far from amateurs, these talented contestants - who’ve worked for major brands and dressed A-listers - will go head to head to see who has the skill, originality and determination to win the grand prize of 250,000 dollars (£191,000) and an opportunity to debut their collection with luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter.
Hailing from all over the world, viewers can expect to see work from the likes of, among others, Adolfo Sanchez, a Mexican-American designer specialising in evening wear and bridal; UK-based Claire Davis, who is exploring eco-friendly fashion; and Korean designer Minju Kim, who works on contemporary womenswear.
“Netflix is a global platform and it made sense to make sure that this was a global competition show,” comments France on its international appeal. “It makes for a much more interesting show if it’s not just American contestants.”
“But also, definitely in my office, there’s people from all over the world,” adds Chung. “It’s typical of fashion and a true reflection of the industry as well.”
Energy is essential to great design, she says. “They’re obviously very fatigued as the finishing line gets closer, but you have to still attack it with the same amount of energy as you start the project with. If you lose focus, you lose it.”
“What’s also important,” adds France, “and we mention to our designers pretty much every episode when we’re critiquing their work, is we’re saying, ‘Yes, it could be a lovely garment, yes, it’s a beautiful black dress, but this is a competition show. We’re not asking them to make regular clothes, we need something that’s going to really impact on the runway.”
As with any contest, it’s an emotional ride for all, he says. “I used to be a designer, and a struggling designer, and Alexa is a designer also, so we know the pressure of this game - it’s not like we’re coming from a position where we don’t get it,” France says.
“It was hard letting people go knowing that they’re so dedicated to what they do. This really does affect their life, it’s not just a competition, it’s not just a show..”
Next in Fashion launches on Netflix on Wednesday, January 29.