LOS ANGELES — Lauren Conrad, the star of MTV's reality hit "The Hills," aims to have more than 15 minutes of fame by building her own fashion brand.
After making her television debut as a high school senior on MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," and moving to Los Angeles to study fashion and work as an intern at Teen Vogue, as chronicled on "The Hills," Conrad is launching a capsule collection of her namesake contemporary clothing line in September.
That would be a dream for any independent fashion designer, let alone a 21-year-old who has gained a degree of fame for being herself on camera. In addition, MTV is taking the unusual step of being a financial partner in Conrad's clothing business, the Lauren Conrad Collection.
"This is really a unique situation for us," said Lisa Silfen, senior vice president of program enterprise at MTV. "It seemed like a natural extension to us [to partner with Conrad]."
MTV declined to disclose the details of its financial stake in the Lauren Conrad Collection, but network executives said they introduced Conrad to her label's creative director and merchandiser, Sherry Wood, who was creative director of the Los Angeles sportswear label Tart. MTV also helped Conrad build an e-commerce site, shoplaurenconrad.com, which will be the exclusive retailer for Conrad's 10-piece fall collection after the site goes live on Sept. 15.
If successful, the formula could be repeated by other networks for reality TV personalities. Still, companies have yet to master the art of matching the right person with a loyal fan base to an appropriate product and supportive retailer.
"This is about taking someone [like Conrad] that is uniquely qualified with desire and talent and abilities, and helping her connect with her audience, which is also our audience," said Lori Megown, vice president of consumer products and radio at MTV.
It's a playing field full of potential and profits. The Aug. 13 premiere of the third season of "The Hills" was MTV's highest-rated show this year, drawing about 3.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Of that number, women under the age of 18 made up 17 percent, and women between the ages of 18 and 34 were 49 percent.
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