Nicole Richie Brings Signature Style to NBC's "Fashion Star"

By Karen Moul

Nicole RichieRenaissance woman Nicole Ritchie has a new job!

The fashion designer-actress-author-singer is a celebrity mentor on NBC’s new reality series Fashion Star. Each week, Nicole offers advice to 14 unknown designers as they pursue a serious prize: $6 million in orders from H&M, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.

“Being a mentor is something that's new for me,” says Nicole, “but a role that I take very seriously. It was a wonderful experience doing it.”

“I find this show to be very inspirational. It's always such a great feeling to watch people's dreams come true. And if I can help them be a part of that then that's something that I was right away on board for.”

Nicole’s own mentor, she tells Scifi Vision, “Has been my father. Actually both of my parents have always been ones to encourage me to be myself and stay true to myself and not fall into what other people want me to do.”

“And it is important not to copy other people's careers,” she adds, “but set the tone of who you want to be. And my father's always encouraged me to do that.”

Nicole launched her two fashion lines, Winter Kate and House of Harlow 1960, in 2009. What is the biggest lesson she’s learned? Be open to change.

“You have to be able to learn from your mistakes and grow and be open to criticism. And that is something that I talked to the designers about all through the season.”

Last week, Nicole spoke with us about Fashion Star, looking great on a budget, and her own fashion regrets.

Fashion Star airs at 10:00 pm on Tuesdays on NBC.

NBC Conference call with Fashion Star’s Nicole Ritchie
March 23, 2012

QUESTION:
What has [working with the designers]taught you about yourself? And the fact that you're now a mom, does that make you want to be kinder to them because you worry about how people would treat your kids?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well, my position is a mentor so right off the bat I am just trying to help them get to the best versions of themselves. I had a wonderful relationship with all of the designers. We have that kind of friendship relationship, which was very important to me. And I was constantly reminding these designers that as they were finishing up their spring collections John, Jessica, and myself were doing the exact same. And so we were all going through this journey together and you’re really only as successful as your last collection. So we are all kind of walking into our spring collections with a little bit of a question mark. And I was letting them know that they're not alone during this process but also fun at the same time.

QUESTION:
And do you find this show to be inspirational for you?

Nicole RichieNICOLE RICHIE:
I find this show to be very inspirational. I believe that it's always such a great feeling to watch people's dreams come true. And if I can help them be a part of that then that's something that I was right away on board for.

QUESTION:
When you offer advice to a designer - for example, in the most recent episode you offered advice to Ross Bennett about changing the fabric (TeraFlex) to spring weather. When they don't choose to go with that how does that factor into your decision to save them afterwards, like you did with Ross?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well, you know, it's a very fine line. And it's interesting because on one hand I am encouraging these artists to go with their gut and to truly listen to who they are so that they do have their own signature. On the other hand, it is important to listen to buyers and not even necessarily listen to me. I mean, I'm just giving them advice. I'm not telling them what to do. I’m giving them my personal advice. But on a certain level if you are going to last in this industry it is important to understand your customer and also understand your retailer if you're going to have a long relationship with the retailer. So I encouraged him to listen to what I have to say but at the end of the day he has to make that decision for himself and that's what makes him him. So if he chose to stick with his decision or if he chooses to go with me, both are fine and that just makes him him.

QUESTION: Has there been a design on the show that wasn't sold to buyers that you wish would have been so you could buy one?

NICOLE RICHIE:
There have been many, actually, and you'll see that more in the upcoming episodes. And that's what's so interesting about Fashion Star, I think that at a certain point all of America will see something walk down the runway that they think is actually fantastic and then to hear the buyer’s feedback of why they're not putting it in their stores is something that's very informative and really interesting to see why it doesn't.

QUESTION:
Tour dress this week was absolutely breathtaking. How do you come up with your outfit and hair and makeup choices for each show?

NICOLE RICHIE:
It all depends on my mood for the day that I'm filming. I don't have my outfits planned out at all. It really just depends on my mood and where I’m at during that day. I was a huge fan of that dress. It was a vintage dress that was actually borrowed from a friend. And I tailored it to fit me and I tailored it on purpose hoping that she'll let me keep it.

QUESTION: Awesome. Now, one of the biggest trends right now [is] printed pants. How do you feel about trends being portrayed on the fashion show runway and what is the best way to portray those trends?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well, it's important to keep your signature during each collection. So if you're not someone that does printed pants I wouldn't necessarily say put something in your collection just because that's on trend. Winter Kate has printed pants in the collection right now. I actually just wore a pair of my printed pants in Miami a few days ago. I personally love it.

I think as a creative director and as a designer it is important to stay on trend but not really go out of who you are as a person, who you are as a design house. Something does have to make sense. I wouldn’t say that every designer in America needs to make a printed pant.

QUESTION:
How has the show exceeded your expectations in terms of the quality of designers and designs and what we'll see going forward?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I believe that these designers are so different and there's not a bad designer within these 14 designers. They are very different and they appeal to a different customer. And I believe that everybody is going to have their favorites and be rooting for different people. And that's okay. There is room enough for everyone. As a mentor I left my personal aesthetic out of it. And I was more encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves and really keep their signature and just stand out as actual designers.

QUESTION:
And in that regard, what's been the biggest challenge for you in helping the designers translate their own inspiration into their style?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I don't know that there necessarily has been a challenge. The biggest challenge for me obviously is my frustration with the buyers, only because we work so closely with these designers and they do work very hard under very small time constraints. And it's always sad to see someone go home, of course. And it's also sad to see the clothes not get bought because as a designer I can relate to working so hard and really believing in a piece and then having it not be bought. But that is the fashion business for you. You know, that's just that.

QUESTION:
The fashion show is always such an exciting part of the show when the designers bring their work to the stage and it’s such a huge event for them. Can you talk about what it feels like to be there in person, sitting there watching these people you’re mentoring potentially seeing their dreams come true?

NICOLE RICHIE:
It’s something that I can't even really put into words because…I have grown so close with these designers and consider them friends. And to watch them have this opportunity is just something that is mind blowing. It's an opportunity that John, Jessica, and myself don't even have. I'm constantly telling these designers, “Do you know how lucky you are to have these buyers focusing on your collections each week?” Because personally I have buyers look at my collection once a season and they pretty much like it or they don't. But to get that feedback and to get that kind of runway show is just something that people can only dream of. It is so exciting for them and to watch their dreams come true is just mind blowing.

QUESTION:
When it comes to buying clothes I'm wondering if you have any tips for people who are trying to look great on a budget? And I'm wondering if you ever used coupons or do you try to shop sales? I noticed you had mentioned you had borrowed a dress, a vintage dress, from a friend.

NICOLE RICHIE:
I am always one to never really focus on the actual label. I dress for myself and I encourage women to do the same. You have to know yourself, know your body and know who you are as a person in general. I'm 5’1”. I don't buy something because it looks good on a hanger and has a $50,000 hangtag on it. I shop at thrift stores all the time. And every time I go to an event I'm not buying a new dress. I’m always encouraging people to borrow things from their girlfriends. And that's just who I am.

QUESTION:
Now that we’re entering bikini and bathing suit season, what's your perfect bikini for the summer season and your fashion advice for how women should dress for the summer?

NICOLE RICHIE:
How we women should dress for the summer? Well, I always encourage women to dress for themselves. And, like I just said before, not buy something because it looks great on the hanger. You have to know yourself and know your personality and know your body, whatever you're comfortable with.

QUESTION:
And any bikini trends the summer, colors or styles or your ideal bikini?

NICOLE RICHIE:
You know, I don't know. I guess I'm not mentally there yet. I have to wait and see.

QUESTION:
Nicole your [style] has evolved a lot through the years and I was wondering if you could share maybe some fashion moments that you regret?

NICOLE RICHIE:
What I regret? Well, I was a huge Punky Brewster fan and I used to wear a green sock and a red sock and then wear a white shoe and a black shoe because I wanted to be just like Punky Brewster. My mom wouldn’t take me anywhere. She was mortified. I did not understand it at all. She told me, “Don't take pictures in that outfit because you’re going to look back and you’re going to look nuts.”

And I never want to give my mom too much credit about being right but she was right in this particular situation.

QUESTION:
[Could you] review from a human standpoint how hard was it for you to not pick out favorites in your head while you were going through this competition?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well, of course aesthetically everybody is going to have their favorites. I don't necessarily have to pick a favorite because I'm not a judge. I’m a mentor. I have the utmost respect for all of these designers. They wouldn't even be on the show unless they were capable of carrying the weight of having collections in all three of these retailers. All 14 of them are very capable. And it was all about helping each one of them get to the best versions of themselves.

QUESTION:
How would you compare doing this reality show and this reality TV experience to some of what you've done in the past?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Like in what respect?

QUESTION:
Well, in the respect of being able to go into this show and know you're a mentor and you’re able to help somebody else versus being a star having the cameras constantly following you in your life?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Being a mentor is something that's new for me but a role that I take very seriously. It was a wonderful experience doing it. And I wanted to be their friend as well. When we were in the design studio, I always was pretending like I was in a closet asking my friend before I step out into the world, “What do I look like?” And everybody wants that honest friend before they go and go to dinner or go to an event. And so I took that role as being their friend and giving them the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not in a mean and judgy way, just actually trying to be their friend. And we all had that relationship and it was totally fine. So I was able to be honest and give my personal opinion. And sometimes they would take it and sometimes they wouldn't. But we were all having fun during the process and that's the most important thing.

QUESTION:
You work alongside Jessica Simpson and you look amazing after you had both your babies. Do you have any post-pregnancy style tips for women out there or workout tips?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I don't. I don't, no.

QUESTION:
And we know your dad is doing Duets and that's a big reality show. That should be awesome to watch this summer. Do you have any advice for him or have you talked to him about being a mentor on a reality show?

NICOLE RICHIE:
You know, my dad is the ultimate entertainer. He is entertaining Tuesday mornings at 9:00 am. That's just who he is. So if anything, I more need his help. He doesn't really need mine.

QUESTION:
You seem to get on really well with Oscar so were you sad to see him go this week?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I was very sad to see him go. Oscar has a very strong personality. But he's an artist, and it's important that we remember that. I loved being around him. I loved his energy. But listen, at the same time this is a business. And it wasn't my choice to see him to see him go but there are many other great designers in the show. And now it's about them and helping them get to the best versions of themselves.

Nicole RichieQUESTION:
And do you and Jessica and John never have any disagreements about who to save?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Yes, and you'll see that a lot on the show. We do have disagreements and sometimes we’re there for hours, discussing who we believe deserves a second chance. And it's really hard because we don't want to see any of them go home. But you are going to see a lot of that in the show. There are some tears and it's definitely a hard decision to make.

SCIFI VISION:
When you started out in the fashion business did you have a mentor and could you tell us who that was and the things that that person helped you with?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I would say my biggest mentor has been my father because he always has been - actually both of my parents have always been ones to encourage me to be myself and stay true to myself and not fall into what other people want me to do. And it is important not to copy other people's careers but set the tone of who you want to be. And my father's always encouraged me to do that.

SCIFI VISION:
If you had a moment where you thought, “Oh, if I only knew then what I know now,” is there one big piece of advice that you wish you had when you started?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Every season, you learn more and more every day. You know, the business is constantly changing. As a designer I'm constantly changing. As a person I'm constantly, you know, just as I'm growing I'm evolving. And you have to be able to learn from your mistakes and grow and be open to criticism. And that is something that I talked to the designers about all through the season.

QUESTION:
Since the pieces need to be wearable and relatable to the everyday woman, how do you keep the challenges exciting for the viewers week after week?

NICOLE RICHIE:
First of all we’re talking about the business in general. You know, there are so many different levels to Fashion Star. We’re talking about the drama of the process, of the challenge in general. You know, not everybody is great at doing summer wear. And they’re under such strong time constraints, so you get the drama there. You get the drama of the designers within each other, which is something that is new for even me to watch as I'm watching the show along with the rest of America, because they weren’t really like that in front of us. When we were working we were just straight working. So it's actually interesting to now watch the show and see all the drama that was going on behind the scenes. But I think the most exciting part for America is that the clothes are relatable. And I think the most exciting part is that they're able to have it in their hands less than 24 hours later.

QUESTION:
And what did you think was the most important thing for you to bring to your role as the mentor on the show?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I more took a role of holding their hands during this process and letting them know that we’re all going through this journey together.

QUESTION:
What was something about the mentoring process that you were surprised to learn, something you weren't expecting to find out about during the process?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I think nothing can really prepare you for getting so close to these designers who have worked their entire lives to get to where they're at, to get that close to them and to watch a lot of them go home. And I don't think that there’s anything that can prepare you for that. You know, I'm a fan of reality TV. I watch American Idol, I watch The Voice. And nothing can really prepare you for that kind of feeling.

QUESTION:
A lot of people enjoy your beautiful designs and all of the projects that you’ve been working on, as well as your music. What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I would just love to say thank you so much. Thank you for supporting my dreams and supporting me. QUESTION: Did you learn anything new about fashion, business, or the industry, or just something like a new clothing combination? Did you learn anything new?

NICOLE RICHIE:
This is the first time that I’ve spent so much time with buyers. And it was really interesting to hear their detailed feedback. As I said before, as a creative director and a designer sometimes when meeting with buyers you meet with them once a season, they've got back-to-back appointments and you do run into a situation where they’re just giving you minimal feedback. And to spend time with all three of these designers and to really understand their brain and pick their brain and know where they're coming from is something that was very informative for me.

QUESTION:
Out of all three [buyers,] who was your favorite working with, that you had the best experience working with?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well I mean we didn't necessarily work with them. And they...

QUESTION:
Okay. Well, what was the best thing you can take back, the best experience out of the entire working with the show?

NICOLE RICHIE:
You know, I am just honored to be able to help these very incredible designers’ dreams come true.

QUESTION:
Could you share some brands that you've been shopping lately? Obviously you wear your own line but where are some other places that you enjoy shopping?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I shop all over. I shop at boutique stores. I shop at department stores, I thrift shop. You know, it just really depends on my mood. I don't really have a strong preference.

QUESTION:
[Any] specific designers that you’ve been really inspired by lately?

NICOLE RICHIE:
I am always one to dress for me and for who I am as a person and not necessarily the label that is attached to the clothes.

QUESTION:
Maybe if you do a lot of vintage era that go for when you’re thrift shopping?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Not necessarily. You know, I really just try and have an open mind when I shop.

QUESTION:
And what can we expect next from your brand and designing? What's next for you after the fashion show?

NICOLE RICHIE:
Well I am doing another QVC launch in August. So that would be the next big move for me.

QUESTION:
Could you talk a little bit about how challenging it is as a designer in terms of getting your clothes into retail outlets and why this show offers such a great opportunity for the contestants? Because I'm not sure that everybody watches really understands how difficult it is to get your stuff sold in Macy's and these other stores.

NICOLE RICHIE:
Yes, you know, we’re talking about three of the biggest retailers in America. So one could only imagine the long line of aspiring designers that want to be carried in these retailers. To even get an appointment with one of these buyers is something that people have to wait years to do. Ultimately…the big goal in Fashion Star is to have your clothes carried in all three retailers. That is something that neither John, Jessica, or myself have. None of us are carried in all of these three retailers. This is major and this is, you know, you're talking about prime, prime real estate.

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