'Fashion Star' a hit with retailers, but not with viewers

NBC's new talent contest 'Fashion Star' is a hit with the retailers it plugs, but not so much with the viewing public.

The much-hyped Tuesday premiere drew just 4.6 million prime time viewers (its lead-in 'The Biggest Loser' drew 6.3 million viewers), but sales of the night's winning fashions soared.

The show's original conceit is that the winning fashions you see on the show Tuesday will be available in stores Wednesday. Host Elle MacPherson and celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos spotlight 14 unknown designers and give them the chance to debut their collections in three of the nation’s major fashion retailers: H&M, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.

A representative/buyer from each of the stores serves as a judge on the program, and at the end of each episode, Americans are able to purchase the weekly winner’s outfits online or at retail outlets.

So far for the stores, so good.

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H&M on 5th Avenue in midtown New York told us Wednesday afternoon that they only had a couple of Tuesday's winning dresses left, while Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan said their items were “selling really well." Macy's said on its website that its featured skirt had sold out.

But some people who tuned in to watch the show weren't as happy.

“When I first heard about the show I thought it sounded like a great way to combine fashion and business, but honestly I’m not impressed. The format felt very repetitive, and the show seems to benefit companies more than it will budding designers,” Jaimie Hilfiger, supermodel, fashion expert and niece to legendary designer Tommy Hilfiger, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I lost interest halfway through. It’s just like a big infomercial.”

Some critics say “Fashion Star” simply doesn’t work as a cutting-edge reality show.

“Let's call this for what it is: It's what the Home Shopping Network would look like if you mated it with ‘The X Factor,’” wrote TV.com blogger, Seth Abramovitch. “It's supposed to sound cutting-edge and futuristic, but really the concept feels more like something they might have cooked up in the 1950s."

Others argue that the infomercial fused into reality programming is a sign of the times in today’s channel flicking media landscape. Branding expert Mark DiMassimo of DIGO Brands said the concept of going beyond passive product placement and blatantly pushing a big name brands onto viewers is something we can expect to see more of.

“Imbedding the brand in reality television is experiencing mushroom growth right now. From this show to ‘Undercover Boss’ to the upcoming ‘The Pitch’ in which ad agencies compete for real clients, companies are increasingly turning to entertainment ‘content’ as advertising,” he said. “It can be a game-changer for a company. But boring television shows -- nobody wants to watch a 90-minute ad, right? -- don’t work for anyone… smart producers and advertisers won’t screw this up.”

NBC did not respond to a request for comment.