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Switched off: fashion TV going down the tube

If this column has proved anything it’s that I’m a telly addict and, on the whole, rubbish telly at that.

One thing that recently struck me as peculiar is fashion’s rocky relationship with the box, which was brought into focus with the cancellation of the Rihanna-fronted, at times quite good fun, Styled to Rock.

As two huge global sources of entertainment, inspiration and excitement, fashion and TV should be a match made in heaven, but for every Fashion House (the show that ‘discovered’ Gareth Pugh) and Project Runway (note, not Project Catwalk) there are countless bloopers, from Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags to 10 Years Younger.

Frock Me, why haven’t there been more shows to really capture the hearts and minds of the millions of fashion fanatics across the globe? I feel the square fashion peg suffers from being mashed into the round hole of light entertainment, a thin, largely patronising area of that particular medium, giving rise to programming without depth or intelligence. Jazzing things up with a belt seems to be preferable to a sensible conversation on an industry that contributes £21bn to the UK economy. From mild mocking of London Collections: Men on BBC Breakfast (a televisual ‘would they wear it in Wigan?’) to the over-exaggerated fashion PR caricatures on The Work Experience, as an industry we’re not getting the right type of airtime.

But why should we care? When the original The Clothes Show was on our screens in the late 1980s and early 1990s, viewers could engage with the issues, trends and personalities of the day in an accessible yet grown-up way, and we need to return to programming like this to enhance the fortunes of the fashion industry – we only need to look to magazines to see how ravenous for fashion the public is, yet the most populist mass medium is doing us no favours. Intelligent fashion programming is the way forward but it looks like we’ll have to make it ourselves.

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