Next In Fashion is all about designers. "Designers of a really high calibre and design experience already, who are fantastic in their own right but just haven’t had the opportunity to be a globally recognised name," Alexa explains. They’re challenged on their ability to master different areas of fashion – from tailoring to activewear and everything in between – and prove they have the skills to succeed in the business of fashion today.
You’ll be pleased to hear that it has the dramatic urgency of challenge-oriented favourites like America’s Next Top Model but, as Tan explains, "there’s no drama for the sake of drama." There are no strategic setups, cynically timed close-ups and choreographed arguments here. But there is a lot of pressure, high emotions and a hell of a lot of talent to gawp at – which we’re guided through by our favourite double act.
What’s it all for, you ask? Contestants will be pouring their blood, sweat and tears into their collections to win $250,000 and a chance to retail their products on Net-A-Porter. Yep, it’s a big deal. And if you had any doubt about how high the stakes are here, use the involvement of celebrity guest judges Christopher Kane, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim and Tommy Hilfiger as a guide.
Tan and Alexa sat down with Refinery29 to spill the beans on what to expect from the season, as well as their own favourite Netflix shows, celebrity crushes and biggest fashion faux pas. Here’s everything we learned.
What was it like coming together as a double act for the show? It looked really fun!
Tan: It was fucking amazing!
Alexa: It was really fun. Tan is also a very generous co-host. On day one he was like, "If I do anything to piss you off, if I step into your light, just let me know."
Tan: I really want us to have the best experience! I am blessed to work with people who I can actually really have a laugh with and so I think we both just wanted to have fun, first and foremost. Yes, I know it’s a competition show and we want to find somebody amazing, but we both want to really be excited about coming to work every day and working together. And I'm so happy with how it all worked out. We worked together so much within that six-week period. The days are so long. If you don't like someone then, holy shit, you're in for a rough ride.
Did you have favourite contestants on the show?
Tan: Yeah! Here’s the thing: we are two of the judges, so we made sure the ones who are the very best were in the final.
Alexa: Actually, not consistently [the best]. There were a couple of weeks where they weren’t good.
Tan: Yeah… It was very much like it was shocking, but it made for good TV. And it just shows that we were honest with our judging – sometimes you’re in the bottom because you didn’t do well that week. But yeah, we absolutely had favourites.
What was your favourite challenge to watch play out?
Alexa: My favourite theme was rock because I like music, but it was also an iffy one because it can skew so cheesy. Some of those outfits are quite costumey, so that was an interesting week. Tailoring was lovely to see.
Tan: I loved red carpet because it was the first. We got to know [the contestants] over a couple of days within that first week of the competition but we didn’t really know what they could do. We didn’t know any of the contestants beforehand and so that was the first time I started to get excited, thinking Wow, this is actually going to be fucking great, because they produced some incredible stuff. And the finale is amazing.
We’re really excited about there being a new great fashion competition show. It feels like we haven’t had one on this scale in a while. Why do you think people will be excited about it?
Alexa: It’s binge-worthy TV I think, and competitions are always compelling. Fashion is a feast for the eyes and frivolous and, of course, you know there’s going to be drama attached because of the time constraints and because of the nature and flamboyancy of the personalities that are drawn to that as an industry. But it’s not cartoonish in that sense. It’s a respectful portrayal of how hard it is to make it.
Tan: Like we said, it’s Bake Off but fashion. And I think that’s something that people will really appreciate about the show. There’s no drama for the sake of drama. You know how on scripted shows they’re usually very much scripted? Like, "This bitch said this about you…"
What do you think is missing, if anything, from the world of reality and competition TV? We’ve got everything from Love Island to Next In Fashion, but what’s the next big thing?
Tan: I know I’m bigging my own work up but I don’t care. I think what’s missing is decency, compassion, love and respect. I think a lot of the issues we're having now are because of what we see on TV and thinking that that's decent behaviour. And it's not. I think the way that a lot of people communicate with each other is learned behaviour from what they see as reality TV. What they don't realise is that it's so heavily produced. Queer Eye came along and showed the most real version of reality TV I've ever known of.
There are so many networks now who are trying to find their version of Queer Eye. I'm not talking about a gay makeover show. I'm talking about just showing kindness and people together, not aggression, violence and hate. And I love that we're part of another show like that, where we're just saying, you don't have to be a complete vile bitch to succeed in this world. You don't have to tell your fellow woman down or gay down or whatever. You can just be kind to each other. And then maybe you can succeed – that's what's missing.
Alexa: And a skiing show…
Wasn’t there a celebrity one last year? The Jump?
Alexa: Oh, and they had to stop it because they kept breaking their legs? What about archery? Wait, do you ever watch First Dates? Best show ever. People really go on there to find love and sometimes they do, it’s just so sweet.
What is the last thing you watched on Netflix and why?
Alexa: I watched Next In Fashion…because I had to! [laughs] Before that it was Don’t F**k With Cats. It’s really good but I couldn’t sleep after, I was really freaked out. I’m also obsessed with The Crown.
Tan: Oh my god, I really fancy Prince Charles.
Alexa: Well, now I’m confused because he’s made me fancy real Prince Charles.
Tan: EW! No, he hasn’t done that to me. Josh [O’Connor, who plays the prince] is just exceptionally hot. I slid into his DMs. I’m married, he’s in a relationship but I just wanted to tell him how handsome and lovely he is.
What was the last thing you watched, Tan?
Tan: Messiah. Well, actually that’s a lie, that’s the last season I finished – loved it. The last show I started watching yesterday was Cheer. Very, very good.
Alexa: Can I ask a question? Is Cheers on there? Do you think people are getting confused?
Tan: No, definitely not. [laughs] You’re the only one who’s confused by that. Nobody’s excited about Cheers all of a sudden.
Can you think of a show or film that you love that has great fashion in it?
Alexa: Phantom Thread. The fashion in that film isn’t that good but I think his clothes are great.
Tan: Killing Eve I thought had wicked fashion. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel…
Alexa: Mork & Mindy?
Tan: [laughs] Actually, The Crown.
Alexa: Christine Keeler has good clothes because that’s all '60s. Actually, no! Euphoria, obviously. Best wardrobe ever. Hands down.
Dilemma: How do you tell a friend that you hate their outfit without ruining your friendship?
Alexa: I think you don’t focus on that, focus on when they look good. Like, "Oh you look so lovely in that colour." You just pay them compliments when you think they look good. He on the other hand…
Tan: My American [friends] can’t put up with this but I will tell my English friends. I’ll be like, "Mate, you can’t, you’re having a laugh." With the Americans it depends. If we’re already out then don’t say anything because you’re a dick at that point. That’s not fair, they can’t change. If I’m at their house, we have options. I’ll say, "Hey, I know you’ve got better options in your wardrobe, let me help you find them. I love you in these other things, let's go try them."
What is the biggest fashion faux pas – if you believe in them at all – that either of you has ever made in public?
Tan: When I was 21, on my birthday, I stupidly wore head-to-toe Von Dutch.
Alexa: I love it, that’s commitment to a vibe.
Tan: Oh no, my T-shirt was a V-neck and it was green with orange text that said "Von Dutch". It was fucking hideous. And I used to have the Pete Wentz hair.
Alexa: Why did I spend all my beautiful years in a Peter fucking Pan collar? [laughs] I like it, and mad respect to everyone who’s bringing back the pilgrim collar over a jumper – I get it, I see it, I’m into it. I felt sexy inside but I just wasn't expressing it on the outside. I feel like I spent a decade in loafers being like, "Don't look at me." Now times have changed, you're allowed to have an opinion and celebrate your bod. I don't know. I wish I'd have got it all out a bit more to be honest with you.
Any advice to share?
Alexa: It’s Nora Ephron. Go and find a fucking bikini and don’t take it off until you’re…well, she says 26 but I disagree with that. I think being young is beautiful; my mum used to always say that. Youth is so beautiful as this 'thing'. It doesn’t matter what they look like, young people are gorgeous and now I’ve started getting old enough where I’m like, "I can’t even tell if you’re attractive or not, you’re just gorgeous and young."
Tan: I don’t have that same feeling. [laughs] I look at older people and think Wow, you look so beautiful, like you’ve lived. You’ve embraced your age, accepted what you are and have tales to tell. I love age with a person, especially women.