StyleCaster weighs the pros and cons of NBC's new fashion reality TV against Lifetime's reigning reality series, Project Runway.

Is Fashion Star Better Than Project Runway? (Our Definitive Pros and Cons List)

Summer K

For years and years, we’ve invested our reality TV energies into Project Runway, never once veering from the path of high-pressure catty couture even when the producers and Bravo had a falling out, forcing us to admit we do in fact watch something on Lifetime. Then last season, word spread that a NEW fashion reality program was coming to TV, and with it Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and designer John Varvatos as fashion mentors for a whole new set of designers. Our interest piqued, we waited anxiously last night for its debut to finally answer the burning question: Is Fashion Star REALLY better than Project Runway?

Well, yes and no.

You see, Fashion Star isn’t out to discover the next great designer (they even say so in the intro) — they’re out to find the next great fashion icon. Which means the pressure is off the designers to make patterns, sew and worry about the accessory wall. Each designer has a crack team of people for that every week. Instead, the focus is on designing ready-to-wear clothing that will (hopefully) win over the judges and be sold in H&M, Saks or Macys the next day. Oh, and they also get 6 million bucks for a full line at one of these stores if they win, so tangibly, they already make PR‘s 100K payoff a wee bit shabby.

In an effort to highlight the differences in all the areas that are important (you know, freak-outs, gayness and quotable judges), here’s a quick breakdown of how they each stack up.

1. Host: Elle vs. Heidi

Sorry, but Heidi Klum wins hands down over Elle Macpherson. Not only is she funny when she needs to be, she also is part of the judging process, which takes into consideration of what a professional designer, model and editor think. On Fashion Star, it’s all about the buyer’s take, with the mentors getting a chance to save one person each week. That’s just one perspective compared to three, plus one guest judge thrown in for good measure. Why doesn’t Elle get a voice? After all, she does have a successful lingerie line and knows a thing or two about clothing. Throw this lady a bone already, NBC! (At the very least give her a catch phrase better than “Auf Wiedersehen”.

Winner: Project Runway

2. Judges

NOBODY is ever going to top Michael Kors‘ pithy one-liners, but Nicole Richie came pretty close last night when she blurted out, “It looks like somebody’s grabbing her in her vagina,” in response to the cut of one of the contestant’s pants as they came down the runway. Hilarious, but now she’s set the bar for herself.  As far as the buyers, they’re not exactly warm and fuzzy. On PR we know who’s cheering for who, who likes what, and what exactly their pet peeves are. On Fashion Star, it’s all about what sells, which we think outweighs everything else. Come on, Mondo and Austin’s creations are to DIE for, but could you really picture yourself wearing them to work? Meanwhile, a cool skirt that has a zip-away exterior so you can switch it out for different prints is EXACTLY the kind of stuff we’d spend money on (and frankly Saks agreed, so you can actually get it today!).

Winner: Fashion Star

3. Mentors

We love Tim Gunn like no one’s business, but it’s hard to compete with three of the biggest-selling icons in the industry. When one of the contestants suggested to Jessica Simpson that she didn’t know enough about men’s fashion to weigh in, we wanted to kick him in the shins. Dude, she may not be the needle and thread type, but her line is worth OVER A BILLION DOLLARS. (Um, get a clue, kay?). Meanwhile Nicole Richie is about the cutest thing ever and really honest, while John Varvatos has a strong opinion about what’s trending and what’s actually sellable. And whereas Uncle Tim will offer up some suggestions, he never tries to infringe on the designer’s vision….which often leads to an elimination. This crew on the other hand is invested. Thanks to Jessica’s helpful advice and direction on a color scheme, one lucky contestant has a lovely little dress available for sale at H&M today.

Winner: Fashion Star

4. Contestants

Our biggest pet peeve with Fashion Star is the lack of screen time for the contestants. What makes Project Runway so great is the investment you feel for the designers after watching them triumph and tragically tumble from week to week. With the briefest of background stories and the rush to get them on stage showing off their stuff every week, we worry that we won’t be excited enough tune in every week unless we learn more. Who hates who? Who’s having troubles at home? Who’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown/backstage freakout? (Feed us, Fashion Star, feed us!) And yes, while El Salvador-born and self-styled leprechaun Oscar Fierro is amusing to both us and the judges, this is going to get really gay and real old REAL quick unless we get a chance to bond with some other peeps very soon.

Winner: Project Runway

Alas, we’ve reached a tie. Which means we’ll be tuning in every week and offering up a recap the next morning to further suss out Fashion Star‘s staying potential. But in the meantime, tell us what you think in the comments below. Do you love it? Hate it? Would you buy any of the stuff chosen last night by the buyers?