Did you know What Not to Wear started just a year before Project Runway? It's strange, because even though both shows paved the way for multiple fashion reality television series, What Not To Wear is more of a fixture, like the fashion reality version of the Late Show With David Letterman. As if it'll always be there, and always be as good as it was on Day One. (Maybe even a little better.)
But alas, after 10 years of makeovers—both sartorial and emotional—What Not to Wear is ending. In anticipation of the final season—the first episode airs at 10 PM tonight on TLC, with the series finale scheduled for October 18—I spoke with cohost Stacy London about what she's learned over the past decade, and what's next. She had some really interesting things to say.
Fashionista: How are you feeling right now? It must be bittersweet. Stacy London: It's a weird combination. Excitement, relief, melancholy. It's the end of an era. A decade of your life is a very significant amount of time, in which a lot happens. I spent my entire thirties, really, on the show. I grew up. I have a mortgage, I'm a grown-up person!
You went from being a fashion editor to a TV personality—you didn't choose to be famous, really. What was it like to suddenly be recognized all of the time? People feel like they know me. Not like they know an actor, which is awe or fear. You are part of their family. I never expected...at Mademoiselle I was a little bit of talking head. I did Entertainment Tonight, a fashion show for MTV, bits and bobs, but never expected to be on television at all. A lot of my friends in fashion were like, "Oh, that's so pedestrian and mass market."
Ha! How times have changed. In some ways, our show really led that change. And also The Swan, Queer Eye, and Project Runway. We made fashion something accessible and less exclusive to the general public. It was kind of the first look inside—people thought fashion was this secret, exclusive society where you had to wear sunglasses and be Anna Wintour. We led the brigade to really opening it up. Now you have the internet, and Anna Wintour sitting next to bloggers at fashion shows. It's remarkable. Now fashion is a common language for people.
Do you find more young people contact you for job advice now than in the early years? What's interesting is that I get a lot less people who are interested in fashion. I get a lot of people who are interested in being famous. And I find that to be a very dangerous thing. What I worry about—now that everyone is a micro-celebrity—is that they don’t think they actually have to have any skills. All you need is followers and you can sign a contract. Not sure for what, but you can sign one. But followers do not replace skill and hard work. A society that is quickly rewarding very little talent makes me nervous. Being famous is not a career goal, and it certainly was never mine. You still need a skill, you need to enjoy a craft. It's a very tricky time. I get a lot of, "I want to be you when I grow up." I worked super hard for years as an assistant—all hours—I learned what it meant to pin clothes, sew things, how to work with garments. It's not by accident that I know how to fit people in clothing. You need experience, you need practice.
What advice do you have for those who say they want to work in fashion? Truly have an earnest love for fashion—holds true for everything, no matter what you want to do. The privilege of working hard is that you get to work harder. You need to love it with all of your heart, and you need to make it not about yourself. If you're working for an editor, it's not about you, it's about them. Anticipate their needs, become indispensable.
Ah, I love that advice. So you now that you've wrapped up What Not to Wear, what's next? The Truth About Style comes out in paperback September 3. I'm definitely going to work on another book. I'm couched at the point of style and self esteem, confidence and certitude. Everyone asks me about the rules of style. But the older I get, the less it is about rules. It's about how to evoke a sense of certitude. It's infinitely interesting, and I want to investigate that more on a basic, logical level. The way that we see ourselves is very much connected to our physical self image, and there has to be a way for us not to be at war with that. For if to play a role that doesn't feel like narcissism.
Okay, so I'm sure all the TV sites will be running preview stories detailing the final season, but I just have to ask: what was the biggest moment that you can share? Probably the finale. It's a two hour special that runs the gamut of my emotional life. It's almost manic. It also features my incredibly wonderful singing voice.