Doris Raymond and her La Brea Boulevard vintage shop The Way We Wore are the focus of a six-episode unscripted docu-reality series called “L.A. Frock Stars” that debuts March 7 – on Smithsonian Channel.
Shot over the course of 24 shooting days in early 2012, it follows Raymond and her staff both through the process of hunting down high-quality, high-end designer vintage as well as catering to Hollywood clientele that includes costume designers, stylists and stars themselves.
At first blush that may seem like an odd fit, but the channel, whose audience is predominantly men in the 30+ demographic, is making a conscious effort to attract a female audience, and after just a few minutes of watching the premiere episode, it’s obvious the show and the channel fit together like Lady Gaga and the body-hugging lime-green Versace gown plucked from the store for her to wear.
FOR THE RECORD:
“L.A. Frock Stars": A March 10 article about vintage expert Doris Raymond’s reality TV show, “L.A. Frock Stars,” misspelled the first name of fashion designer Sonia Delaunay as Saunya. —
Gaga is just one of the celebrities name-checked in the series; others include burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, who appears on screen (trying on pieces once owned by Edie Adams), actress Debi Mazar (shopping for an anniversary outfit) and Linda Ramone (widow of the late Johnny Ramone, shopping for a Grammy outfit).
And don’t worry if you’re blanking on the name “Edie Adams,” because helpful graphics fill the screen to let you know that Adams (1927-2008) was an “American comedienne ... Famous for her impersonations of Marilyn Monroe and Mae West.”
And that’s really “Frock Stars’ ” strong suit – serving up a veritable mother lode of fashion factoids plucked (mostly) from Raymond’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of vintage, and set against the glittering backdrop of the Hollywood dream factory. The information ranges from basic terminology and historical context (the definition of couture, for example, and the info-nugget that corsets can be traced as far back as ancient Greece) to a crash course in Famous Fashion Designers 101 (contextualizing the likes of Paul Poiret, Bob Mackie, Alexander McQueen and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac among many others).
In advance of Thursday’s premiere, we had a chance for some frock talk with the vintage guru, in which she shared how the show came about, her shrewdest frock market investment to date and what she thinks of the similar but oh-so-different vintage retail-meets-reality show “Dukes of Melrose” that bows on Bravo just one day before her show premieres on the Smithsonian Channel.
All The Rage: The show is called “L.A. Frock Stars,” so it’s only fair to ask: If you were a real rock star, what instrument would you be playing up on the stage?
Doris Raymond: The piano.
ATR: How did this show come about – and how did it end up on Smithsonian Channel?
DR: It was an evolution actually. I first had the idea with my publicist Margaret Schell about five years ago and we kind of dropped it. But we’ve been approached – I’m not exaggerating – by at least 15 production companies a year interested in developing a show around my business, but everyone I spoke with either wanted to do a quote-unquote reality show that would have been something I’d be embarrassed about or they wanted me to sign a ridiculous contract. So it never went anywhere.
Then, about two years ago, a company called NHNZ -- which stands for Natural History New Zealand – contacted me. I told them what my issues were and they were totally on board with that. Long story short, they made a sizzle reel, shopped it around and it was purchased by Smithsonian Channel, which is co-producing it with BBC Worldwide.
ATR: When you say “issues,” what do you mean?
DR: I didn’t want [a TV show] to be about me – I wanted it to be about the clothing. I didn’t want my personal life brought in. I didn’t want to be [asked]: “How do you feel about that person that just walked out the door?” I wanted it to have integrity. My feeling is [that] reality shows are one of the reasons why bullying is so strong in this country – people feel they have a right to be rude. So I wanted to be sure that there was integrity.
ATR: Still, every reality show has to have a good catch phrase. Are there any good candidates?
DR: Do you mean like “frock on”?
ATR: That’ll work. On a couple of episodes we watched, you make it a point of saying instead of investing in the stock market you invest in the “frock market.” Give us an example of an investment that’s paid handsome dividends.
DR: I think the [Saunya] Delaunay cloche and scarf which you see in one of the episodes is a good example. [In the episode, Raymond explains she purchased the items for $300 and they are now valued at $150,000.]
ATR: Throughout the series, you’re very transparent about the publicity value of loaning pieces to celebrities, and about letting designers and stylists use your vast collection as inspiration. What do you think the exposure that comes with this show will do for your business?
DR: I honestly don’t know, but intuitively I think it’s going to be amazing. In just one week, the “L.A. Frock Stars” Facebook page that the Smithsonian Channel put up got over 17,000 likes, so the social media response makes me think there’s a real appetite for this. I think it will attract vintage clothing lovers, fashion history lovers and fashionistas in general. I think the biggest result will be in bringing members of my tribe to my business – like-minded souls.
ATR: Looking at your show, Bravo’s “Dukes of Melrose” and an upcoming retail reality TV show called “Resale Royalty” executive produced by Rachel Zoe, what do you think is behind the enthusiastic pop-culture embrace of vintage?
DR: The confluence of “Dukes of Melrose” and “L.A. Frock Stars” pleases me to no end, because it only confirms that vintage is mainstream -- there’s no way this could have been done 10 years ago. And I feel like there’s plenty for everyone; Cameron [Silver’s] clientele and style are completely different from mine, so people will be able to enjoy two different points of view.
ATR: What would happen if the “Frock Stars” film crew and the “Dukes” film crew ran into each other? Is there some kind of rule about who has the right of way – like cars approaching a four-way stop?
DR: That’s a very funny thought.
“L.A. Frock Stars” premieres March 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel