NEW YORK — Just like a good beach read, Tommy Hilfiger’s new reality show, “The Cut,” serves up plenty of entertaining summer fun — full of bitchy fashionistas and hardcore competitiveness.

WWD got in on a sneak peek of the first hour of the 90-minute premiere episode, airing Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBS. While much of the first 20 minutes or so is an introduction to the 16 colorful contestants (and an extensive introduction to Tommy, just in case you never heard of him), you can see right away that the next 12 episodes (the last nine shows will air on another night, which will be announced at a later date) are going to be packed with catty, clashing attitudes and plenty of backstabbing.

After Hilfiger gives each contestant the once-over, with comments about their clothing choice for first impressions, two teams are broken up to work on their first task — designing a Tommy Hilfiger billboard in Times Square here. Each team is given two days and $3,000 to complete the task and at the end of the episode, someone from the losing team is cut. Who that loser is will remain unknown until Thursday night, as will the catch phrase, which Hilfiger wants to keep a secret until the debut.

Hilfiger has said that this show is not like “Project Runway” or “The Apprentice,” since he’s not just looking for a winner who can be only a fashion designer (although the winner does get to design under the Tommy Hilfiger label and a $250,000 salary). He said he’s looking for someone who is creative, business savvy and socially appropriate — someone who will fit into his multibillion-dollar lifestyle brand. While “The Cut” may not be “Project Runway,” Hilfiger could very well be a Donald Trump of the fashion business. He may not have Trump’s charisma (or hairstyle) and there are few riotous laughs, Hilfiger does come across as a professional businessman and you know he’s taking the choice in designer seriously. Instead of a boardroom, there’s a style forum, and instead of the winner running a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate, he or she will design clothes for the billion-dollar brand — so it does seem “Apprentice”-esque.

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The Cut” could be a big boost for Hilfiger’s business since the company’s been going through some trying times in recent years, with wholesale sales still standing at half of what they were in 1999. Hilfiger has been looking for ways to reinvigorate the $1.88 billion brand, and if he can’t do it through the clothes, he hopes he can do it through reality TV. It could be tough since the premiere episode is up against the star-studded “MTV Movie Awards.” Then again, it’s also up against reruns of “Joey” on NBC and “The O.C.” on Fox. So perhaps new will win out over repeats.

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