As Bravo’s Project Runway contestants attempt to “make it work” as they cut, cry, and create what they hope to be winning garments indicative of their personal style as well as meeting the challenges’ requirements, 30-something Los Angeles-based bikini designer Ashley Paige struggles desperately to keep her dream alive and to stay in business in the new TLC reality series, Ashley Paige: Bikini or Bust (Fridays, 10 p.m.)
As much as I love reality competition shows like Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model and American Idol, I believe they do both the viewer/aspirant and the contestants a grave disservice for they promote the idea that all the hard work and sacrifice it takes to make it big in the industry can be encapsulated in a 6 to 10 week series of “challenges.” It is no wonder that these shows produce so many disillusioned “Where are they now?” has beens who would sell their favorite body part for even D-list notoriety.
So it’s refreshing to see a show that addresses the not-so-pretty side of the fashion industry in which designers struggle to pay their rent and to find sponsors/backers, yet continue to try to make clothes that satisfy their inner muse and the fickle public.
In the first episode of Ashley Paige: Bikini or Bust, we meet the frantic, frazzled Ashley who has just been told by Davis Factor, director of LA’s IMG Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, that she must stage a show for the event– which will take place in two weeks — if she is to have any hopes of becoming a real industry player.
Despite having, no money, models, tailor or seamstress, she forges ahead. But what she lack in a monetary capital, she more than makes up for in human capital, for the stringy-haired, slightly hapless, bikini builder has surrounded herself with loyal and caring employees who believe in her dream as much as she does.
For example, after it looks like she will be unable to raise the money necessary to put on a show, one of her models, Chrishell Stubbs, a beauty from the Caribbean island of Turks and Caicos, contacts the tourism board on Ashley’s behalf. In an 11th hour save, the Board give Ashley the $30,000 she needs to proceed.
After Ashley gets the money, it’s all systems go as she scrambles to create the 40+ items to be displayed in the runway. Juan, her knitter, gets some of his relatives to help make the bikinis. Martine, her design assistant, serves as the fit model and later a runway model–strolling the catwalk for the very first time. Even Asihley’s mom/roommate, Leah, helps — or at least tries to — but every time she attempts to do so, she seems to make mess of things.
Let me stop for one minute, I got something I must get off my baby B-cups. It’s obvious from the accent that Leah is from the South and it’s also obvious that the very supportive and loving mother is being painted as hokey hot mess (she’s even got her own “crazy lady entering the room” soundtrack). Enough already with portraying Southern women as either dopey down home a**holes or uptight ladies that lunch. I hope as the series progresses, the producers give us a more well-rounded depiction of Leah.
Enough of that.
Well, Ashley’s collection and show was a hit. Good for the ego. Yes. Good for the wallet? That remains to be seen. “All it does it to create demand for a great product I can’t manufacture on a large scale…[I have] only one sample of each.” “To take it to the next level” she will need investors. In the meantime, it will be bikini or bust.