Style guru Joe Zee helps struggling designers refocus and build up viable businesses in the new reality fashion series.
ALL On The Line (AOTL) is the Kitchen Nightmares of fashion. Much like the latter, in which celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay spends every week trying to revive failing restaurant businesses, AOTL host Joe Zee guides struggling designers to refocus their creativity into career-making hits.
But expect none of Ramsay’s showy brutality from Zee, who is a noted fashion guru and the creative director for Elle magazine. In place of frying (and flying) pans, Kitchen’s fashion counterpart features the immaculate and articulate Zee in a crisp, fitted suit on almost every occasion.
And unlike Ramsay’s fiery tendency to whip up a storm, Zee radiates finesse and sensibility while attempting to add some styling pizzazz into fashion flip-flops.
The comely 42-year-old, who has appeared in reality TV shows like The City and Stylista, takes audi- ences through the intricacies of the fashion business, from the designing process to making smart business decisions.
In the pilot, he helps a husbandand-wife team make an impression with their flailing collection in an already saturated market.
The New York Times calls Zee “fashion’s approachable ambassador”. Indeed, Zee is known for his affable demeanour. Here, he assumes the role of a supportive mentor rather than the quintessential fashion slave-driver.
His unconventionally mild approach stems from his struggles in the industry, he says. “When I first started interning in this industry, I worked with people that were horrible, absolutely terrible,” he tells The New York Times.
“I thought, when I become a boss, I’m never going to be that person where people are going to work for me out of fear.
“I’ll roll up my sleeves and pick up a trunk, and I’ll roll it down the hall with my assistant.”
That said, Zee reduces an aspiring Indonesian designer to tears when he demands that she speak up about her brand despite her limited command of the English language.
Even a more experienced designer like Kara Janx, who appeared on the second season of Project Runway, isn’t spared from the brunt of Zee’s blatancy when her line faces a moment of crisis. Juggling the roles of business consultant-cum-shrink, he helps Janx revamp her stalled collections so they may be picked up by departmental store buyers.
It’s not a drama-free spree, but Zee does get his points across, even if they get in the way of the designers’ egos. It’s a feat that the charming host manages to pull off by striking a rare, delicate balance between churning constructive criticism and empathising with his subjects while he attempts to rescue their careers.
I particularly like how Zee takes the time and trouble to talk to the everyday man and woman in the street, or at the gym to find out about the kind of outfits they want to wear. Not all of us can pull off that bizarre, barely-there look that runway models can, after all.
The Hong Kong-born designer, who first stepped into the industry at age 22, also speaks fluent sarcasm. “This looks like cocktail on a budget – when you’re on a budget, you don’t go for cocktail,” he says as he addresses a rather shabby-looking party dress in one episode.
Most notably, AOTL encourages aspiring designers to push the boundaries of fashion and to dare attempt greater things. Even for someone who has never been particularly geared towards reality shows of this nature, I’ve not been bored thus far.
Sure enough, AOTL has already been picked up for a second season in the United States after the season’s finale in May. The second cycle will debut in November.
After all, what’s not to like about a good underdog story with laugh-