Beyoncé was looking at me.
“Buy from my new clothing line,” she said.
Her sultry gaze and dangerous curves were inviting but looked out of place at the bus stop billboard. When did fashion design become the fallback career for music artists? I mean, don’t get me wrong the music industry has always had a place in fashion, from trendsetting to personalised T-shirts and merchandising, but this is a whole other level. Anyway, I wondered for a moment and walked away.
The Lemonade singer is only the latest of an array of stars who have dipped into the waters of fashion design. Her athleisure line Ivy Park just landed in Topshop shops and other retailers with great praise (if the garments are kind or not to your vagina is a different story), but only time will tell if it will become a timeless brand or just one more forgettable celebrity venture in a long list of famous faces who’ve tried their manicured hands at fame-propelled business endeavours.
Having famous people license their names is nothing new. Elizabeth Taylor launched her perfume White Diamonds back in 1991 and since then, other celebrities have only been copying the formula. It just so happens that the trend seems to be getting stronger in recent years. Apparently, everyone from TV reality stars to YouTube personalities want to make some extra cash from licenses — and who can blame them? The problem is that the market is saturated and, more often than not, these brands seem to start out strong, but end up crashing and burning at alarming speed — leaving behind a cemetery of dead social media profiles and maybe even a couple of lawsuits.
There is only a handful who seem to survive the test of time.
But really, is Beyoncé designing those leotards?
It is hard to tell how involved these personalities really are in the production process, but it is safe to say that it changes on a case to case basis. Before we make any judgements, there are several points we need to keep in mind:
It is difficult to determine (if not impossible)
The reason why it is difficult to determine the involvement of these new designers is that no brand would ever release a statement saying that the person they’re named after only shows up at the office once a month, if at all. Ultimately, the success of these brands lies in selling the lifestyle of a star. It’s a fantasy and once a fantasy is ruined, disappointment follows.
Fashion design is not a part-time job
Even though some celebrities like Selena Gomez claim to be involved in the design process from start to finish, I find it hard to believe it just by judging her work schedule. Unless the former Disney Channel star has discovered a way of being productive on just one hour of sleep, I find it difficult that she can design an entire apparel line and plan a world tour at the same time. Fashion design is a full-time job (especially if you’re producing two or more collections a year) and when these celebrities claim to be doing it all without any experience, it belittles the work of professionals who have studied and spent years mastering their craft.
The internet can make or break these brands
As I made my way into the world of celebrity fashion lines, I found a seemingly endless line of dead social profiles and outdated web pages. Which reaffirms my belief that these lines are a second thought and a way to the bank on their extended fifteen minutes of fame instead of an honest passion or business endeavour. Avril Lavigne’s Abbey Down last updated their Facebook profile on November 27 of 2015, and the same thing goes for the line of Sleeping with Siren’s vocalist Kellin Quinn who’s website showcases a sad “We’ll be back soon” sign. Other lines that have gone cold quietly include YouTuber Andrea Russett’s FLAWD and Will.i.am.’s I.Am.
As far as I can tell there are two ways public figures can go about this:
First, there’s that license thing
What I believe that happens more often than not is that celebrities simply license their name, give a few guidelines on how the general look of the brand should be and then call it a day. More on licenses here. This is pretty obvious when they jump from project to project (announcing a clothing line one month and starring in a movie the next).
Then there are those who immerse fully
Famous personalities who’ve introduced themselves fully to the fashion design world, like Victoria Beckham, have stepped out of the spotlight and spend their time entirely on their brands. Gwyneth Paltrow announced in 2015 that she would put a halt on her acting career to focus solely on her lifestyle brand Goop. Other celebrities who have followed a similar path include Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
Types of Celebrity Clothing Lines
There are mainly two types of clothing lines, the most obvious one is the collaboration which features an already established company joining forces with a public figure. And then the second one is the standalone line, which is just the famous person creating a line on their own.
A) Collaborations (partnerships of celebrities + brands)
The age-old business model: celebrity + brand = money. These type of endeavours take many shapes and forms (the endorsement being the most popular) but today we’re talking about the launch of a new line of products. The benefits for the public figure are obvious, exposure and a new source of income. The company, if they play their cards right, will benefit from the star’s popularity and will gain access to a new pool of consumers. Some notable examples of celebrity and company partnerships are:
Zooey Deschanel and Tommy Hilfiger
Back in 2014, the star of the hit TV show New Girl designed a special capsule collection for the brand of American designer Tommy Hilfiger. The line called To Tommy from Zooey featured 16 dresses inspired by the quirky-vintage-posh style the actress is known for. While the collection received great praise for its aesthetics and quality, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to release a new one in the near future. It’s a shame, really. We would like to see more of those cute dresses!
Bethany Mota and Aeropostale
The YouTube sensation was recruited by Aeropostale in 2014 to design a special line for them. The collaboration continued until the first quarter of 2016 when Bethany announced the final collection for the American retailer. What she forgot to mention on her Instagram post, though is that Aeropostale is on the brink of bankruptcy and hiring the fashion guru as a creative director was probably just one of their attempts to stay afloat.
Nicole Scherzinger and Missguided
The former X-Factor and Pussycat Dolls leading lady released two back-to-back collections for online retailer Missguided. In this case, Nicole’s fame helped the upcoming brand reach almost the £100m mark in revenues for 2015. Thanks to strategies such as these, the company founded by entrepreneur Nitin Passi is quickly becoming a rival to be reckoned with for online retailers like ASOS and Zalando.
Nicki Minaj and Kmart
Late last year the female rapper launched a collection for American chain store Kmart. The premise was to offer fashionable clothes at reasonable prices (because we’ve never heard that one before). The line has received good reviews so far.
Will.i.am and Coca-Cola
Love him or hate him, we have to admit that he is ahead of the curve. As with anything led by Will.i.am, this brand is a bit different from the rest. The Black Eyed Peas frontman paired up with Coca-Cola to launch Ekocycle, a new project meant to (simply put) make recycling and reusing cool by selling products made out of plastic bottles. Thanks to newly announced partnerships with W Hotels and Misfit, Ekocycle seems to be growing strong (unlike Will.i.am’s first clothing line). Other notable collaborations have been Miley Cyrus and Max Azria with WalMart and David Beckham with H&M.
B) Stand-alone lines
These are celebrities who have ventured into the new business without the partnership of a household company. The list is far too long to review completely here, but we’ll take a look at some notable cases.
Jessica Simpson’s Collection
The queen of the celebrity brands. Currently, Jessica Simpson’s line sells more clothes and makes more money than any other. Her secret? The singer herself states that she knows what the average American woman wants. She has been quoted saying “I have been every size on the planet, and I understand—I feel like I understand women,”. Is the success due to embracing what some people despairingly refer to as “middle America”? Or is it something else? Some experts claim that Jessica (or whoever is managing her, who knows at this point?) simply surrounded herself with the right people. It started back in 2005 with a shoe line, but now the Jessica Simpson name holds 22 licenses that include clothes, glasses and even a home decor line. What’s even more impressive is that the brand is nearing the $1 billion in annual sales and it hasn’t been launched overseas! Sure, the website offers international shipping, but you may not find it in a department store like Harrods (yet).
Justin Timberlake’s William Rast
The brand was started by the pop singer along with his life-long friend Trace Ayala. Justin is obviously the face of the company while Ayala seems to handle the business side of things. The brand describes itself as “Nashville meets Hollywood” and specialises in premium denim. A sort of Urban cowboy with a touch of hip-hop. Other celebrities who have started their own clothing lines include Kanye West, Sean Diddy Combs, the Kardashians and many others.
These new trends are only a natural consequence of fast fashion. With retailers such as Zara and H&M changing the stock on a weekly basis, the old model of retailing has become obsolete.
Pop Up Shops and Concert Tour capsule collections
Recently both (former lovers) Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have designed capsule collections for their concert tours. Concert tour merchandise is as old as concert tours themselves, but they have never extended to a full collection and have certainly never been produced by professional fashion designers. Pop Up Shop and limited fashion pieces give the consumer a sense of urgency and when a celebrity name is added to the mix then it’s the shopping equivalent of throwing a Champions League final ticket to a horde of football fans.
Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour
On May 5th the Canadian heartthrob opened his Pop Up Shop in New York to an endless line of screaming fans who had been waiting in line for hours. Unfortunately, that didn’t guarantee to get first picks since some of the items sold out in minutes. The garments were designed by Jerry Lorenzo, creative director of Fear of God, who also designed the singer’s wardrobe for the tour.
Selena Gomez’s Revival Tour
On the other hand, his ex-girlfriend will launch a special platform during the first presentation of her tour in Las Vegas. The collection will be available to concert goers who may only purchase through their smartphones or tablets. For those who stay at home, a limited version of the line will be available through an online store.
Celebrities and their lifestyles
Where does such and such person buy their jeans? Eat? Go out for lunch? We’ve always been fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the numbers of gossip blogs and sensationalist magazines. But it seems that it hasn’t been until just recently that celebrities discovered how to capitalise on this fascination we’ve always had on them.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop
Unlike other celebrity brands that have very “in your face” orchestrated launches *cough* Beyoncé *cough*, Goop has been growing quietly, but steadily through the past few years. The business that started as a weekly newsletter where the Oscar-winning actress would list her favourite recipes, travel guides and beauty tips has grown into selling their own products on top of organising Pop Up Shops in strategic cities around the US.
Chris Brown’s Mechanical Dummy
The controversial rapper started his own blog where he talks about music, street art, technology and the endeavours of fellow artists such as Justin Bieber and Pharrell Williams. The platform was also created to sell Brown’s very own clothing line Black Pyramid, which was met with complaints about its elevated prices.
Pharrell Williams’ I am OTHER
More than a blog or a lifestyle magazine, I am OTHER is a platform where all of Williams’ endeavours meet. Under this multicolour umbrella, Pharrell sells his clothing lines and promotes his music promotions. I am OTHER is dedicated to the outcasts, and creative thinkers of society, a place that aligned with a compelling YouTube channel supports those who are different.
The former Made in Chelsea starlet made her way from the television screen to the world of online retail with success. The brand named after herself has got a boho chic, vintage vibe to it. The success of the line is not just due to the fans of the TV show, but mostly due to how she has marketed a lifestyle around it. Along with her maxi dresses and suede tops, the sound entrepreneur is selling her cookbook with healthy recipes and sharing pictures of her Instagram account about her exclusive travels and exercise routines.
Other celebrities jumping onto the “lifestyle” bandwagon include Reese Witherspoon, Blake Lively and Gwen Stefani that has reinvented her clothing line as the “L.A.M.B. experience”.
Celebrity brands should be approached carefully — a famous name does not equate quality. Then again, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Because for every cold-cash-grabbing gimmick, there’s a line that succeeds in offering a beautiful and well-made garment. All I’m trying to say is that they should be held to the same standards as any other clothing line. Only time will tell which ones deserve a spot in your wardrobe and which do not. I guess in the end it all comes down to this:
Just because you like someone’s music it does not necessarily mean you have to buy their stretch pants.
What are your favourite celebrity brands? We would love to know! Please, let us know in the comments below or by dropping us a message through any of our social media outlets. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.
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