"Fashion is a rich kid's sport."
I'm not sure anyone ever expected a second season of Netflix's 2020 reality venture Next in Fashion. The show, then hosted by Queer Eye's Tan France and actress Alexa Chung, ran for ten episodes. It then disappeared from everyone's minds thanks to the unexpected chaos surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and eventual lockdown. By June of that year, it had been officially canceled.
Then, without so much as a hint, almost three years after its original release, Netflix shocked fans with a second season trailer and premiere date, offering up another chance for the dominant streamer to enter the space and claim a piece of the elusive textile pie.
While Chung is out, replaced by global superstar, model, and style icon Gigi Hadid, the show returns for another cycle with twelve newly minted designers as they attempt to cut, sew, and drape their way to $200,000. Part Project Runway part Making the Cut, Next in Fashion yearns to be included in the conversation. That said, despite the ungraded offering, it still fails to transcend, struggling to differentiate itself and refusing to adapt.
Elevated by the inclusion of Hadid, as well as a handful of high-caliber guest judges, season two is unquestionably better than the show's original outing. The designers are more polished, the judges share more robust chemistry, and the production feels more thought out and complete. Nonetheless, compared to similar offerings within the genre, Next in Fashion still falls flat.
The premier episode, titled "Royalty," features Donatella Versace as a guest judge as the designers work to create a royalty-inspired look that will wow the high-end fashion icon. Some of the contestants succeed. More falter. But the takeaway from the episode is its lackluster, almost gimmicky approach to the industry as the producers fail to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise sitting in the front row of their makeshift runway.
The rest of the season follows suit as Next in Fashion cannot grasp its focus, working tirelessly to promote inclusive design and reverse gender roles but never diving into the details. Resident judge Jason Bolden offers an occasional insightful critique, giving designers something to go off of as they return to the workroom, but we are rarely gifted anything of substance. Even recurring judge Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, global contributing editor at Vogue, struggles to make a lasting impact on viewers as she briefly comments about pieces as they navigate the runway.
And that is the primary issue with Next in Fashion. Despite its lack of size and scope, the show is, quite honestly, fine—even moderately entertaining. But it never transcends into the memorable category, its contestants a distant memory mere moments following elimination.
The pacing is partly to blame. Even with limited restrictions on time and scope, the show cannot find its footing. As a result, the underlying narratives stay basic and broad, keeping us from being able to fully invest in any contestant as they maneuver their way through the challenges. In addition, backstories are one-and-done, providing mere glimpses of their upbringing and never allowing viewers to understand their experiences, many of which inspire their looks.
From the onset, the leading designers are apparent. The finale, boasting three impressive collections that range in style and wearability, is visually interesting. But compared to the over-the-top runways of Making the Cut and the drama of Project Runway, there is just something missing here. Maybe it's the lack of financial investment; the camera never seems to leave the workroom. Or perhaps it's the systematic approach to the editing. Regardless, the excitement is muted, the demeanor painfully casual. As a result, the show simply misses the mark. And while Hadid's involvement will undoubtedly increase viewership, I'm doubtful many will yearn for another round. And without a complete overhaul, the likely forthcoming cancellation should stick.
*This series is streaming globally on Netflix. All ten episodes were reviewed.