Work­ing her magic

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By WIL­LIAM K.C. KEE star2@thes­

a de­signer turns old duds into fash­ion-for­ward frocks, and charms view­ers in the process.

SHA­REEN Mitchell is called the fairy god­mother of cost-con­scious fash­ion­istas, and when you watch Dress­cue Me, you’ll un­der­stand why.

A self-taught de­signer and vin­tage guru, Mitchell owns Sha­reen Vin­tage bou­tiques in Los An­ge­les and New York, and she is the star of Li’s new re­al­ity se­ries.

Hav­ing an im­pec­ca­ble eye for trends, Mitchell un­earths trea­sures from trash. She works her magic to breathe new life into old, over­looked out­casts and trans­forms them into fash­ion-fash­ion frocks. Yes, ladies and gents, retro fash­ion is alive and kick­ing in Dress­cue Me.

At the Sha­reen Vin­tage stores, it’s high fash­ion style with­out haute cou­ture cost, as each price­less piece from the past is kept at un­der US$200 (RM638).

Armed with in­valu­able in­sider ex­pe­ri­ence from her years at Made­moi­selle and Vogue magazines, the former ac­tress has a deep un­der­stand­ing of what works – and what doesn’t – for women of all shapes and sizes. Her phi­los­o­phy is to never let a cus­tomer leave her shop look­ing any­thing less than lovely.

Mitchell wel­comes exclusively fe­male clients into her bou­tiques, touted as the fash­ion world’s best-kept se­cret. Her “no-boysal­lowed” pol­icy – clearly stated on a sign at the store en­trance – makes me sad, as that means I will never get to set foot into Sha­reen Vin­tage.

As the cen­tral char­ac­ter, Mitchell – who looks a lit­tle like Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas – cuts a com­mand­ing fig­ure. She is stern but fair with her em­ploy­ees, and you can’t help but ad­mire her abil­ity to trans­form junk into wear­able pieces of art. But as Mitchell’s char­ac­ter is so strong, the show’s sup­port­ing play­ers – who are meek in her pres­ence – sort of fade into the back­ground.

Her re­la­tion­ship with hus­band JD also plays into the se­ries, as he pro­vides much-needed sup­port and bal­ance to her artis­tic tem­per­a­ment. At times, his char­ac­ter is al­most too good to be true. Does such a pa­tient and good-na­tured man re­ally ex­ist?

I en­joy the seg­ments in which cus­tomers sashay into Mitchell’s shop for re­tail ther­apy. The cam­era zooms in as Mitchell lis­tens to her cus­tomers’ sto­ries and ul­ti­mately gives them the makeover to help them look and feel their best.

It’s also fun to fol­low Mitchell on her hec­tic buy­ing trips that in­clude sift­ing through heaps of old clothes. These scenes make you want to go through your neigh­bour­hood’s scrap area, hop­ing for the same dis­cov­er­ies.

View­ers also get a be­hind-the-scenes glimpse of her ef­forts to launch a new fash­ion line and es­tab­lish a pres­ence in the fast and fu­ri­ous New York scene.

Apart from re­ces­sion­istas and fash­ion­istas, Mitchell is adored by A-listers in­clud­ing Scar­lett Jo­hann­son and An­dre Leon Tal­ley of Vogue, and cos­tumers for 1960s-themed TV se­ries Mad Men. All of them – in­clud­ing the view­ers, I’m sure – find their imag­i­na­tions fired up by Mitchell’s care­fully cu­rated dis­cov­er­ies of re­stored and re­con­structed vin­tage de­signs.

If you’re a bud­ding fash­ion­ista, you can­not watch an episode with­out gush­ing to your­self: “Gosh, I want that out­fit!”

In the sec­ond episode, I was thrilled to see the ap­pear­ance of evanes­cent TV host Cat Dee­ley. As a long-time Mitchell client, Dee­ley stops by to look for a dress she can wear to an awards show.

The duo have a blast catch­ing up, and Dee­ley walks out with not one, or two, but three gar­ments – an 80s cock­tail dress, a high-waisted 80s skirt and a bat-wing top. In my opinion, Dee­ley an­chors So You Think You Can Dance? with much wit and flair, and now you know where she gets her fab­u­lous out­fits from.

In the same episode, Mitchell in­vites her em­ploy­ees to a launch party at an­other bou­tique called Madewell, and even throws in a li­mou­sine ride to the store.

How­ever, one staff mem­ber Marie al­most jeop­ar­dises the night by ar­riv­ing late, and Mitchell (nearly) loses her tem­per. But the suc­cess of the event over­shad­ows the mishap.

The hap­pen­ings in this show are not over­the-top, com­pared to say Keep­ing Up With The Kar­dashi­ans, but you don’t tune into Dress­cue Me for the drama. You watch the se­ries for its fo­cus on women from all walks of life, and their quest to up­grade their wardrobes with­out break­ing the bank.

And yes, its cel­e­bra­tion of vin­tage cou­ture is awe­some. n Dress­cueMe pre­mieres at 11pm on Li (Astro Ch 706) to­mor­row.

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