Sundance’s Joe Zee puts it all on the lineEntertainment News, Top Highlights Thursday, December 8th, 2011
Joe Zee returns to the fashion-forward fold for Season Two of All On The Line With Joe Zee, and this time out the creative director of Elle Magazine will be helping to amend the, ahem, patterns that some designers have cut out for themselves in their business models.
Zee is something of a Superman-type of hero, swooping in to help those who have become mired in their own self-made quicksand and in great jeopardy of sinking beneath its murky surface, training his version of X-ray vision onto their collections, in the name of truth, justice and the American Way.
The Sundance Channel’s sophomore season show will be cut from the same cloth as its inaugural predecessor. Albeit with a slight alteration in the fact that Zee will also rely on fashionable friends – from Mark Badgley and James Mischka of Badgley Mischka to glam rocker Adam Lambert – to help him assess the designers and their works, in an effort to return said creative types to their fullest capacity.
We spoke with Zee about his love of all-things fashion, and what he brings to the table with his show for designers and viewers alike.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: How did you become interested in fashion?
Joe Zee: I remember being in my teens in high school and an older hairdresser friend of mine said that I should be a stylist. My immediate reaction was that I was not interested in doing hair, but instead he explained to me that being a stylist wasn’t about hair, but about clothes.
That I could – as a career – go out shopping for clothes, put clothes together and show people how to wear something, in my mind, I couldn’t believe that was a job, or that I would get paid for doing that. But after that day, I made it my mission to become a stylist.
And how and where did you get your foot in the industry door initially?
I was obsessed with fashion magazines very early on, reading all of them cover to cover, in between classes at school. So after I graduated from high school in Toronto, and I had saved a little bit of money, I packed everything up and moved to New York City knowing if I wanted to work in magazines, I could only do it here.
[My] second day in NYC, I was pounding on doors for an internship and going to the Fashion Institute of Technology full time. Eventually my first job was working for the legendary fashion editor, Polly Mellen, at Allure. She taught me everything about fashion.
Which elements attract you to certain styles – is it reflective of what is a current or emerging trend? Or is it based on a more subjective level that you hone in on?
I have always said that I edit and style by instinct. I can’t really explain why I like a certain collection, or am drawn to a certain photo shoot. There’s no mathematical equation to why something works. It’s just the way I respond to what I see on a gut reaction. Certainly lots of things come into play, such as: Is this relevant? Is it new? Is it different? But ultimately, there’s no right or wrong with any creative outing. It is always purely subjective.
What do you feel sets your show apart from other ones that deal with fashion?
I have always felt strongly that All On The Line comes from a very genuine, authentic place. From the very beginning, we’ve always said that this show isn’t a game show, there’s no grand prize at the end.
It’s about real lives and real businesses. And to see the hard work, drive and determination is inspiring and motivating.
The struggles of these dedicated designers in trying to make their businesses work can be very eye-opening in a completely different way than seeing them work on something with no real-life application. Their grand prize, ultimately, is whether their business – and their dream – can survive or not and that is bigger than anything they can ever be awarded.
And what would you say is the mission statement of what you want to bring to television?
I would love to show all aspects of the fashion industry. I’ve always loved my industry so much, but in a way where I’ve wanted to share and include people in it. I’ve never wanted to be a part of an exclusive industry, but instead one where people can love it and appreciate it as much as I do.
With technology and definitely television, fashion has moved to the forefront becoming a more democratic sport and I love that. On some level, if I can provide access to people who are interested in the world of fashion – but may be cautious of it – then I’ve done my job. Making it accessible, especially on TV takes the fear out. I strongly believe fashion is more than red carpets and The Devil Wears Prada.
How rewarding has it been to help the group of designers realize what they are capable of?
It can be extremely rewarding to help these designers take their ideas to the next level. I don’t have any personal gain with their businesses, but I am very satisfied when I see how much they can accomplish. Most of the time I can see what they’re capable of, yet they don’t see it. They just needed an objective third party person to come in and shake their foundations. Only when you rattle the tree will the leaves fall.
And what has been the most stressful scenario in that given situation?
Usually the most stressful situation for me is whether we can finally conceive, produce and deliver that collection. Even if I see something in my mind, I’m not entirely sure the designer will. But when it’s an actual created garment and it’s incredible, that is the best feeling.
How were you approached about doing your own reality show? Was it a difficult decision to make, seeing as you already have a busy work schedule?
Sundance and Authentic Entertainment (the production company) both approached me about this show and from the onset I was extremely excited about it.
I knew I wanted that level of authenticity to it, since it hasn’t existed on television yet. And I think we’ve delivered on that front. I’m a multitasker by nature. If I only had one thing to do, it would never get done, so layering on the show wasn’t a difficult decision. And in my eyes, I felt it really was just an extension of what I did day-to-day anyways.
What is the best piece of advice that you could give a young designer with dreams of making it big, who may be watching the show?
Have a point of view. This may seem obvious but I’ve seen so many young designers “inspired” by what they’re seeing on the runways. That almost never works. We already have so much access to “runway ideas” at great prices, so [it’s] better to have an idea, or point of view, that is uniquely your own. Good or bad, if it’s organically who you are, people will notice.
You can catch All On The Line With Joe Zee on the Sundance Channel Fridays at 9:30 p.m.
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