FASHION HOUSE was a telenovela that was featured in the very early days of MyNetwork TV. The series starred legendary movie actress, Bo Derek and TV soap veteran, Morgan Fairchild as two enemies whose lives were intertwined in many ways.
Ms. Derek starred as Maria Gianni, the widow of Antonio Gianni, who was the owner of the House of Gianni, a prestigious Los Angeles fashion design firm. Ms. Fairchild starred as her arch enemy, Sophia Blakely, whose husband, Charles, had an affair with Ms. Gianni and conceived a child.
Besides being the owner, Maria was also the president of House of Gianni. She was cutthroat, extremely ruthless as a businesswoman, highly conniving and at times, completely evil and heartless. She had no qualms about hurting anyone, be they family, co-workers or whomever, in her aims to get what she wanted.
She had a son, Luke (Taylor Kinney) who was later revealed to have been born from her illicit affair with an artist named Charles Blakely. Charles was the husband of Sophia, who later committed suicide. This solidified Maria and Sophia as enemies.
However, despite Luke being Maria's son, Sophia had no hatred towards him (she in fact rather liked him and thought better of him than his mother) and both she and her son, William Chandler (Joel Berti) considered him part of their family. William in particular was quite protective of his brother.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Michelle Randall Miller (Natalie Martinez), a budding designer, had just served her husband, accountant, Lance Miller (Mike Begovich) with divorce papers, when she caught him cheating with his assistant, Gloria Thompson (Donna Feldman).
Looking for work, the resourceful Michelle, finds a job at House of Gianni. She catches the eye of Luke, who falls hard for her, much to Maria's disgust. She finds that her best friend Nikki Clark (Nicole Pulliam) is a model at House of Gianni.
While there, she is befriended by a gay duo named Harold and Hans (Garrett Swan, Tony Tripoli), two designers whom she works for as their assistant. They gave her advice and they were the ones who gave her support and help with her designs. They also are very protective of her, especially later in the series.
Also seen at House of Gianni were Lexi Walker (Erika Schaefer), Maria's backstabbing and duplicitous assistant, who, beneath her plain Jane looks, hid a manipulative and deceitful nature only matched by Maria's; John Cotter (Ethan Erickson) a rather arrogant designer who annoyed everyone, especially Harold and Hans, and Michael Bauer (Robert Buckley), a fashion photographer who was Luke's best friend, and later began to date Michelle's friend, Nikki.
One of the antagonists of the show, aside from Maria, was model Tania Ford (Mini Anden). The drug-addicted Tania once dated Luke (and resented him when he began to date Michelle, although she stayed clear of her) and it was clear that she hated everyone, especially Michelle's best friend, Nikki. She and Nikki fought constantly over everything.
In fact, taking a cue from the late great Dynasty, catfights were often the order of the day on this series. Most of them involved Maria who just knew how to aggravate everyone in her life. Some others included catfights between models Tania and Nikki. However, the most widely remembered catfight was between arch-enemies Maria and Sophia, after the former was jilted at the altar by the latter's son. It was during that fight that Luke found out that Maria's husband, Antonio, was not his father, but Sophia's late husband, Charles, was. William told Luke the whole story, which caused Luke to get a DNA test, however, Maria revealed what everyone already knew, which angered Luke against Maria and he broke away from her.
After her wedding dress design was plagiarized by Maria, a furious Michelle and a distraught Lexi leave House of Gianni to start their own business, Michelle Miller Designs, with the financial backing of William and Sophia.
At first, Michelle and Lexi were partners, but later Lexie had backstabbed her, with the aide of Maria. Michelle never forgave either one of them, and that led to Michelle having a huge public catfight with her enemy Maria, causing the former to nearly drown the latter in a fountain!
Others in the cast include screen legend Tippi Hedren who played Doris Thompson, the mother of Gloria Thompson and grandmother to Alec who passed away due to cancer; Jordi Vilasuso who played mobster Eddie Zarouvian, who made a lot of trouble for pretty much everyone else, and Mark Totty as Dr. Russell Woods, Maria's psychiatrist, to whom she would often confide (and/or brag about) her bad deeds to.
During the show's run, alliances constantly changed and shifted like the weather. However, there were some stable associations, most notably, Michelle gaining the support of her husband's former mistress, Gloria, after a botched assassination attempt (a shooter was to kill Michelle, but his aim was no match for his enthusiasm, and accidentally shot Alec, Eddie's son by Gloria, which earned the assassin his own death); and when Gloria figured out what happened to Michelle when she, Nikki and Michael were attacked in a brazen home invasion and kidnapping which was engineered by Zarouvian.
At the series end, Maria was dead (she had been murdered by the totally unbalanced Tania Ford, who was arrested); William had been jailed by Maria for tax evasion (and she even threw in freezing his assets as well just for spite) before she died and he left Los Angeles. He left Luke his cell phone number in the event that he needed him for anything, showing the world how much he loved his brother; Michelle and Luke were reunited, this time for good, and they moved to New York to open a design studio after House of Gianni was sold; Harold and Hans got back all of their good friend, Michelle's designs, with some that had been unable to be recovered sold on EBay (giving the profits to Michelle), and then they told the power mad Lexi Walker, who had taken over as head of House of Gianni before it was sold, exactly what she was and where to get off! Lance was dead, killed by Zarouvian's goons; Zarouvian himself was arrested for attacking Nikki, Michael and Michelle (he was also charged with kidnapping the latter); Gloria had gained a new job and a new romance as an assistant to the doctor who had been treating Alec for his injuries from him being shot by the assassin. Gloria had also redeemed herself to Michelle, after Lance was killed, and the two women became friends.
Maria was given a funeral, which allowed Luke to vent his rage about the hypocrisy in his life, although he and Michelle had a long talk about what his mother had done to them afterwards, and they reaffirmed the love they had for one another.
However, stealing the show at various times was the irrepressible Sophia, who was known for her inappropriate fashion sense at major events (she wore red at her son's halted wedding to Maria, and let out a cackling laugh when he jilted her at the altar; and yellow at Maria's "funeral"), and her stinging, bitchy, and exceedingly humorous wit.
Some of her best remembered quips were: "Well, well, if it isn't the one who put the 'hor' in horrible!" and "It's time to put the 'fun' back into funeral!".
It was revealed at the very end that Maria was not dead. In fact she was alive and well and on a resort island! What she did not realize was that her arch-foe, Sophia was on the other side of the large swimming pool!
Most of the actors were rather new to television and to the series, since this was one of the then-new My Network TV's original shows. The show's most notable alumni, aside from Bo Derek, Tippi Hedren and Morgan Fairchild, established performers all, were Taylor Kinney and Natalie Martinez, who played the star-crossed lovers, Luke Gianni and Michelle Miller, respectively.
Taylor is currently starring on the series, Chicago Fire and its spin-off, Chicago P.D.; and Natalie had also been seen in the first two seasons of the now-defunct Summer series, Under the Dome, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.
A soap note, Ethan Erickson and Jordi Vilasuso (Ethan played arrogant designer, John Cotter; and Jordi played mobster Eddie Zarouvian) had, at different times, played roles on the now-defunct daytime soap, Guiding Light. Ethan played J. Chamberlain, the son of Quint and Nola Chamberlain; and Jordi played Tony Santos, who found love with Michelle Bauer.
- BO DEREK -- Maria Gianni
- MORGAN FAIRCHILD -- Sophia Blakely
- TAYLOR KINNEY -- Luke Gianni
- NATALIE MARTINEZ -- Michelle Randall Miller
- NICOLE PULLIAM -- Nikki Clark
- MINI ANDEN -- Tania Ford
- JOEL BERTI -- William Chandler
- ERICKA SCHAEFER -- Lexie Walker
- DONNA FELDMAN -- Gloria Thompson
- JORDI VILASUSO -- Eddie Zarouvian
- TIPPI HEDREN -- Doris Thompson
- MIKE BEGOVICH -- Lance Miller
- GARRETT SWAN -- Harold Huff
- TONY TRIPOLI -- Hans Dailey
- ETHAN ERICKSON -- John Cotter
- ROBERT BUCKLEY -- Michael Bauer
- MARK TOTTY -- Dr. Russell Woods