Being rejected by Anna Wintour may have been the best thing that ever happened to Project Runway creator Eli Holzman. Not only did it lead to his prosperous partnership with Elle magazine for five seasons of Runway on Bravo, but it also gave him the idea for Stylista, the reality show in which contestants compete to become Anne Slowey’s assistant at Elle premiering October 29.
The 33-year-old Holzman explained to a Cut spy in Los Angeles that he took a meeting with Wintour to discuss a Vogue partnership with Project Runway as that show was just getting off the ground. Back then, however, he “didn’t know anything about fashion.” “I remember I was going to have breakfast with Anna Wintour. I went to Vogue dressed the same way I dress all of the time — sneakers, whatever.”
And then he met the queen of fashion. “When Anna walked out on the floor at Vogue, you could cut the tension with a knife. I could just feel it and I thought, Wait a minute, there’s a great TV show here.” Even though Vogue didn’t sign on to Runway, Holzman said the meeting was great and Anna was “lovely.” “The thing is, Vogue is so conscious of being Vogue and what is cool and not cool,” he explains. “What’s amazing about Elle is that they’re confident enough to say, ‘Hey, we’re Elle, we think we have pretty good taste and we’re not ashamed if you don’t think we’re the coolest people.’”
That’s not to say Elle editors are pushovers: Early footage of Stylista reveals Slowey as a demonic cross between Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestley and Cruella DeVille. “People are already inclined to think of it as somewhat fake, but Anne has a bullhorn at her desk that her assistant got her, because she was tired of her losing her voice from yelling at her,” Holzman reveals. And thus, a Stylista star was born.
And that breakfast challenge we all saw on YouTube? You can thank that breakfast meeting at Vogue. “When I had breakfast with Anna, the fruit plate was exquisite, with perfectly arranged star fruit. Someone was demonstrating their taste. You knew that you weren’t meeting just anybody right now. Thanks to some assistant.” Or, you know, caterers. —Matt Sullivan