Celebrity Style. The Celeb Designer Juggernaut Continues

March 27, 2008 • Magazine


Lauren Conrad Dana Dress $115

Sadly to those of us who truly love fashion, it appears the craze for celebrity apparel deals has picked up steam —
despite a track record filled with missteps and few lines that have had
any consistent, long-term success. Many new agreements have
been announced, and some are in the works as vendors and retailers look
to build buzz any way they can.

In the past month alone, Avril
has signed a deal with Kohl’s Corp., Rachel Bilson introduced a
line with DKNY Jeans, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz said he’s designing a
collection for Nordstrom and even TV personality Kelly Ripa is
venturing into activewear design with Ryka, according to an article in today’s WWD.

Industry insiders
said the celebrity-as-designer phenomenon (which WWD has dubbed the
"delebrity") is alive and well — and pointed to stars ranging from
Fergie to America Ferrera and Hayden Panettiere as prime for deals of
their own. Even cracked-out Amy Winehouse could be a possibility — proving once
again that controversy sells.

With retailers and vendors increasingly looking for exclusive
lines to gain a competitive edge, these collections can be a
win-win.Besides, the stars need the cash. Music sales are tumbling, and the
writers’ strike earlier this year left many actresses looking for ways
to bolster their suddenly reduced incomes.


Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

The new crop would be joining the explosion of music and Hollywood
stars who became designers several years ago — with mixed success.
Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles and Gwen Stefani were among the first,
but in no time, everyone from A- to Z-listers were turning themselves
into clothing and beauty brands. Today, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have
a multitier business, encompassing everything from sportswear to area
rugs as part of their more than $1 billion empire; Justin Timberlake
has a Southern-inspired contemporary sportswear line William Rast;
Jessica Simpson has shoes, bags and outerwear; Pamela Anderson has
lingerie; actress Jaime Pressly launched a line of contemporary
sportswear; Hilary Duff has sportswear and accessories; Sarah Jessica
and Amanda Bynes both have deals with Steve & Barry’s;
Victoria Beckham and Sheryl Crow have denim lines; Sienna Miller has
Twenty8Twelve by S. Miller, a contemporary collection, with her sister
Savannah; Kate Moss has a Topshop line; "The Hills" star Lauren Conrad
has contemporary sportswear; Heidi Montag, also from "The Hills," has a
collection with California retail chain Anchor Blue called Heidiwood,
and even celebutante and reality TV star Kim Kardashian has a
collection in the works.

Oh and let’s not forget about fragrance! Lopez,
Celine Dion, the Beckhams, Moss, Stefani and, most recently, Halle
all signed deals with Coty Inc. for scents. Reese Witherspoon
signed a fragrance deal with Avon and Britney Spears, Mariah Carey,
Christina Aguilera, Timberlake, Sarah Jessica Parker, Usher
and Sean
"Diddy" Combs
are only a few of the other famous names who have
fragrance deals.

But for each success, there has been a
celebrity brand that failed to take off — or that flared and then
flickered rapidly. Jennifer Lopez’ collection has gone through numerous
iterations; Beyoncé’s House of Deréon line had a slow start; Eve’s
Fetish collection never succeeded and Diddy’s women’s line never really
got off the ground.

Twenty8Twelve Aura Strapless Mini Dress

Stone, president and chief executive officer of the Beanstalk Group, a
brand-licensing agency that works with celebrities such as Mary-Kate
and Ashley Olsen and Paris Hilton, agreed there has been a renewed
explosion in celebrity deals.

"Retailers are hungry for more,"
Stone said. "I’m sure there will be some failures. The key is that in
order for them to survive, there has to be longevity in the celebrity;
the retailer has to be able to see a future for the brand."

Julia Hearst, divisional director for
contemporary women’s wear at Holt Renfrew, said that while she does
sell a number of celebrity brands such as Kate Moss for Topshop, Lauren
Conrad and Elizabeth & James (the contemporary line from the Olsen
twins), it’s the product that sells, not the name. She said that when
she looks at a new celebrity brand, she looks at it as she would any
new brand—— a possible new resource for the selling floor.

celebrity name means absolutely nothing to us," she said. "It’s about
the quality and style. That is what inspires us to buy. Product always
comes first and the brand name comes second. There are a lot of
celebrity brands out there that we wouldn’t go anywhere near because
they don’t match our fashion direction."

Fraser Ross, owner of the Los Angeles-based
Kitson stores, said his number-one issue with celebrity clothing lines
is the lack of participation from the celebrities. "There has to
be more support for their retailers. The celebrity has to be 100% involved with their own line and they have to be willing to
support the retailers who are selling it. Having a clothing line should
be treated by them as no different than selling an album or promoting a
movie," he said. "I’m fighting right now with Victoria Beckham‘s people
because she lives here in L.A., we sell her line and she won’t come in
here to do an appearance.

Personally, I can’t bring myself to ever buy a celebrity item of clothing. I just can’t cross that threshold. Even if I loved the item, I  respect the fashion industry too much. Even if they don’t respect me as a consumer.

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