MTV renovates House of Style, looks behind scenes

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — The "House of Style" that MTV built back in 1989 has undergone some serious renovation, but it always had good bones.

The show's past and present come together in a documentary, "House of Style: Music, Models, and MTV," that premieres Saturday (10 p.m. EST).

Originally launched with supermodel Cindy Crawford, "House of Style" made the logical links between music and fashion at a time when some of the biggest style trends were coming from the videos that were the bread and butter of MTV: Madonna's many looks, including Jean Paul Gaultier's 1990 cone bra; Run-DMC's Adidas sneakers; and Michael Jackson's many leather jackets.

Crawford interviewed designers Gaultier and Todd Oldham, runway buddies Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, and video staples Duran Duran and Will Smith, back when Smith was The Fresh Prince.

"It was the right show at the right time," says Crawford. "People saw designs from fashion before, but this helped introduce the people behind fashion in a way that hadn't been done before."

She isn't claiming credit, but Crawford also notes that fashion didn't have the broad pop-culture appeal two decades ago that it has now. That access is fueled by all the behind-the-scenes interviews and instant runway replays available on your cellphone, she says. "House of Style" was important in whetting that appetite, she says.

The show grew up through the 1990s, adding new hosts Daisy Fuentes, Molly Sims and Rebecca Romijn, and ending its initial run in 2000.

But with fashion risk-takers such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry again dominating the style-setter conversation, it was time for "House of Style" to make a comeback.

Now, the mini-episodes hosted by top models Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls stream online. But the feeling of exclusivity and excitement remains.

"We could have done this reboot three or four years ago, but I don't think it was the right time. We're in a time now that there is again the interest in models, in music and there are so many visual platforms," says Dave Sirulnick, MTV's executive vice president of news and production. He was also behind the original show.

Viewers might come to the new "House of Style" as more educated fashion fans, he says. Still, an insider as a curator is unique.

"You don't know when cool things might happen or pop up, and 'House of Style' follows that," says Smalls. "It's always exciting. I got into this business because it is more challenging and more creative and more expressive. I didn't want a 9-to-5 job. I don't know where I'll be flying to tomorrow, but the show might take you there."

They've covered interviews with Stella McCartney and Alexander Wang, gone backstage at Victoria's Secret and revisited Gaultier.

Don't expect nostalgia, though. "We're not aimed at the same people now as we were. The 22-year-olds of 20 years ago isn't who we're targeting, we want the 22-year-olds of today," says Sirulnick.

He adds, "I hope the 42-year-old might still watch, and I hope they're interested, but we have to move forward."

On Smalls' wish list to cover in upcoming episodes are a trip to her native Puerto Rico "which I think is an emerging fashion scene," a segment on Japanese street style, a personal survey of Carine Roitfeld's closet and a sit-down with Rihanna.

Crawford says she doesn't go back and watch old episodes often, but occasionally her kids will make her watch one on YouTube.

"I was not hip back then. I was musically illiterate — and it was MTV! ... I thought Def Leppard was a person. That played on TV in a fun way."




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