Love it or leave it, celebrity-hood seems to automatically segue into fashion design these days — no questions asked. But who’s really holding their own at retail, especially given the ground-shaking economy?
This story first appeared in the October 2, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That’s a question more easily posed than answered in a sector that takes hype to new levels. After all, these singers and actors may be called “designers,” but most of them are just signing apparel deals for the cash and publicity to pump up their record sales or films. Which means there’s no shortage of new names coming into the jam-packed, $3.1 billion category, according to the Licensing Letter — and no shortage of retailers eager to give them a whirl. Even Michael Jackson is said to be jumping in. And why not? His sister Janet just unveiled some innerwear (for a company, not her own). Rihanna is tempted, Matthew McConaughey is planning to add a designer title to his résumé and Natalia Vodianova is collaborating with a French lingerie label. Katie Holmes, Amy Winehouse, the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus are among the many marquee names reportedly looking to leave their stamp on a clothing collection. Then there’s the Texan polygamist sect that drew international attention in the spring when hundreds of children were seized in a raid has launched a line of Laura Ingalls-like prairie dresses, much like the ones worn by its members.
But a big name doesn’t always mean big business — just ask ill-fated “designers” Scarlett Johansson, Mandy Moore and 50 Cent. Others like Serena and Venus Williams, who admittedly jibe each other about whose respective clothing line is better, have had their share of fits and starts. Ditto for Kelly Osbourne, who recently shared an uppity-ness about fashion that seems to be part of the celebrity package. “I’m not the kind of person who would just attach my name to a clothing line. That is not fashion. That’s making a quick buck,” she said. “And I don’t want a stinky perfume either. I would rather do something and do it right.” Big talk for someone whose Stiletto Killers line flopped.
Still, such stumbles don’t seem to be slowing the juggernaut, with new names entering the fray almost daily. So much so that it’s hard to keep them all straight. Here, WWD provides a scorecard of who’s in the game — and how their labels are playing in the stores.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
With three burgeoning lines — The Row, young designer apparel at Barneys New York; Elizabeth & James contemporary sportswear at Intermix, and marykateandashley apparel, accessories and lifestyle products at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — the pair reportedly have a $1 billion business with Dualstar Entertainment Group. The twins are designing an Elizabeth & James fine jewelry line with Robert Lee Morris and men’s wear for The Row. “Elizabeth & James is a really important line for us and the collection just continues to develop,” said Sari Sloane, fashion director at Intermix, who also carries the new jewelry line.
Now that she is Mrs. Jay-Z, the House of Deréon label she started with her mother, Tina Knowles, has taken on a more sophisticated turn. Slow to get out of the gate despite all its hype, House of Deréon repositioned itself as an eveningwear line and launched Deréon junior sportswear, which has proved to be the bread-and-butter and will soon add costume jewelry.
With baby number two in tow, the musician is onto the next project — designing uniforms for Rande Gerber’s Living Rooms at the W hotels. Her Harajuku Lovers young contemporary apparel and accessories are also going strong, according to retailers, as is her new Harajuku Lovers fragrance. The L.A.M.B. fragrance has an estimated $30 million in annual sales and Harajuku Lovers has already tripled that. And while Stefani’s attempts at runway shows weren’t a great idea, “Gwen is really on her game, and the L.A.M.B. collection is really rocking out the door,” said Holt Renfrew’s Julia Hearst, divisional director for contemporary women’s wear.
Twins are on the way for him and new wife Ashlee Simpson, but this Fall Out Boy hasn’t taken his attention away from building what he hopes will be a fashion empire. In his hometown of Chicago, his first store, Clandestine Industries, is reeling in customers eager to copy his onstage looks. Wentz has DKNY Jeans to thank for jump-starting his fashion career. “Not only is Pete a wildly popular rock star, but he has a genuine interest in fashion and a real interest in being involved with his line, which is hugely important,” Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising for Nordstrom Inc., has said. Nordstrom has the exclusive this fall for the label’s wholesale.
She may be a big star on “The Hills,” but Conrad is even more serious about fashion, claiming she’ll always be a designer even once the reality show ends. Not above manning her trade show booth, she worked the crowd of 500 screaming fans at Bloomingdale’s earlier this month. The year-old line is already a $4 million business. “The sell-throughs have been fantastic,” said Frank Doroff, vice chairman at Bloomingdale’s. “We got it in and sold out immediately. We can’t get the merchandise on the floor fast enough. It is, by far, the best-selling celebrity line we have. It’s so much better than I thought it would be.”
A favorite with the tabloids for her escapades, most recently for her much-publicized affair with Balthazar Getty, Miller is surprisingly more low-key about the line she designs with her sister, Savannah. Besides selling in Saks Fifth Avenue, Intermix and Henri Bendel, the Twenty8Twelve by s.miller label has its own store in their native London. “We’re constantly learning, not only aesthetically, but from the point of view of being a new business,” Miller said.
Forget that Williams has collaborated on a sunglasses and jewelry line for Louis Vuitton, the rapper-producer also has his own clothing lines: Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream (which is a play on hip-hop speak, with ice meaning “jewels” and cream as “cash.”) Williams teamed up with Bathing Ape founder-DJ Nigo to
create his first store, a spaceship-inspired shop in
New York’s SoHo. His upcoming gig to do ads for Microsoft, ousting Jerry Seinfeld, should help boost
the label as well.
He had a rough start in fashion — i.e., the William Rast line founded with his boyhood friend Trace Ayala in 2005 was a flop — but since Timberlake hired pros Johan and Marcella Lindeberg as creative directors, things are getting on track. Last month’s New York runway show for the Rast label earned high marks from the fashion press. “William Rast does quite well, but nobody seems to know it’s Justin Timberlake’s line, that probably helps,” said shop owner Lisa Kline, whose signature shop is a favorite with the L.A. crowd.
Kimora Lee Simmons
Her reality TV show “Life in the Fab Lane” may at times be unflattering, but consumers don’t seem to mind. Simmons is now in charge of all the lines at the company founded by her ex, Russell Simmons, who’s since left, ranging from Baby Phat to Fabulosity to Phat Farm. Baby Phat is sold in 3,500 doors. “Baby Phat has bridged from an urban brand to a fashion brand that offers really good product,” said Rob Smith, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for Macy’s East. Kimora Lee also has KLS Collection contemporary sportswear, and her Fabulosity label recently landed in 600 J.C. Penney doors and at jcp.com.
The rapper is about to shed his uncharacteristically low profile of late — he has to make some noise for his just-released album, “Brass Knuckles.” But don’t look for him to be wearing any Apple Bottoms, the line he designed to make women’s posteriors look more attractive. The company just launched Apple Bottoms Signature, higher-end premium jeans for $175 a pop. Apple Bottoms, which is sold in 3,500 doors, will also open 26 Macy’s shop-in-shops this year, James Ferrell, vice president of marketing at Apple Bottoms, said.
Not content just to wear the latest styles in ads for other brands, the supermodel is lending her style to Sir Philip Green’s fast-fashion chain Topshop for a signature label that is one of the retailer’s top performers. And after having sold in Barneys New York, Moss’ line will get even more visibility Stateside when Topshop opens a New York flagship in the spring, where the line will have its own concept shop. Barneys’ Julie Gilhart said, “Kate has never let us down in terms of style, and she is a great stylist. We completely relate to the design direction that she has given.”
The seven-time Tour de France winner is back on the bike and, for now, out of the lothario game, gunning for his eighth win in Paris. But Stateside, his latest winning streak appears to be Livestrong. The Nike-produced label features women’s, men’s and children’s apparel and footwear with all profits donated to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Launched last fall, the label sent a $2.5 million check its first season and expects to keep that cadence.
Like most new labels, this one had a slow start and then things got more complicated. The singer and her master licensee, The Camuto Group, were sued by Tarrant Apparel Group, the brand’s apparel licensee. Settled this year, Camuto was allowed to move forward to grow the brand, but sportswear isn’t part of the equation. While sources say the shoes continue to sell at a rapid pace, bringing in about $250 million at retail, others question whether the brand has true staying power. When was the last time someone told you they were wearing a Jessica Simpson dress? The singer-actress also has signature coats, lingerie, fragrance and accessories.
If only her clothing line got as much play as her personal life, Hilton would really be in the money. Produced by Dollhouse, the brand is still quite young and in test mode. “I love fashion and I worked really, really hard on this line,” Hilton said. Unproven as it is, stores like Macy’s are behind it. “We have a big new shop for the Paris Hilton brand at Herald Square, which is doing well, but it is early,” said Dena Stokes, vice president, divisional merchandise manager for juniors at Macy’s.
After launching sunglasses and denim, the former Spice Girl is on to dresses, which were well received during New York Fashion Week. “Dresses are very signature for me, as I have always dressed in a very feminine and ladylike manner,” she said. After launching her dVb label with jeans and sunglasses, the dress collection is the third fashion extension for Beckham. Intuition owner Jaye Hersh said, “The jeans were OK. The sunglasses have done fantastic. She wears them all the time and has been photographed in them, so they are identifiable. Sometimes it takes denim a while to have a presence.” But her beauty deal has been a hit: 2,000 screaming fans turned up in the rain to see Beckham and her soccer-playing husband, David, at Macy’s last week where they were plugging their fragrances, Signature for Her and Signature for Him.
Ali Hewson may be Bono’s wife, but she’s also the brains behind Edun, the brand they started with Rogan Gregory in 2005. Now that Gregory has left, Hewson is working on an evolution of the line designed by her and Sharon Blankson, U2’s longtime stylist and new creative director at the contemporary firm. They aim to produce eco-friendly clothes through sustainable farming practices in Africa, Peru and India. Two hundred stores carry it. Next up, Hewson plans to open two pop-up shops in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “It’s been OK,” said Michael Mente at revolveclothing.com. “We’ve seen some of the same thing as other lines, so when it first arrived, it was hot then fell off, but time has seen interest build slowly and now it’s more solid and starting to develop. A lot of people still don’t realize at this point that it’s Bono’s deal.”
After seeing a slew of fans copy his onstage look, Jay-Z thought “Why not start my own line?” Today, the hip-hop mogul’s Rocawear brand rolls on — reporting annual sales of more than $700 million at retail. Now that he is out of Def Jam, the rapper has more time to scout those acquisitions he’s allegedly been on the lookout for. Today, Rocawear licenses children’s clothes, juniors, big and tall clothes, accessories, outerwear and sunglasses. With offices based internationally, there is room to grow. Iconix Brand Group, which acquired Rocawear in April 2007 for $204 million in cash, inked a deal for a set of Rocawear fragrances for men and women, cosmetics and skin care to be produced by Elizabeth Arden.
Nearly four years after McEntire joined forces with Dillard’s, they’re hanging in there. The country singer’s sensible style seems to suit Dillard’s shoppers and their bank accounts. “I came up in the school of hand-me-downs, so I had no expertise whatsoever in being a fashion designer,” McEntire has said. On her Web site, she claims to wear her signature jeans daily. But she hasn’t taken to all things fashion. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to January being a spring month in the fashion world,” she said.
With 30 categories, the bulk of which are in home, the model was ahead of the curve for the celebrity trend, teaming up with Kmart in 1993. The chain followed up with her own clothing line, which it dropped a few years ago. But Ireland then added thousands of independent retailers to her distribution list, and, by 2005, had an estimated $1.4 billion in retail sales in 15 countries for all of her products.
After shuttering her justsweet label, it’s back to the drawing board yet again for Lopez. Now the new mother of twins plans to bring her JLO by Jennifer Lopez brand back to the U.S. via e-tailing on shopjlo.com, while her Sweetface label is still kicking, too. Critics are skeptical she can make it work this time around, but with 25 freestanding JLO stores internationally and 13 more planned by the end of this year, she’s determined to do so. Lopez recently said of her women’s fashion, “I wait for the day that we open up here somewhere. I’m still working toward that, and we’re going to do it one day. We’re plugging along.”
Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes and Venus Williams
All three have exclusives with Steve & Barry’s, which is just emerging from bankruptcy with new owners and is closing 103 stores. Earlier this month, Williams said her collaboration is going forward. She wore designs from her Steve & Barry’s “Eleven” clothing line when she won the Wimbledon singles title. And Parker talked up her Bitten here and there, while plugging this summer’s blockbuster “Sex and the City.” But still, the chain’s financial woes prove that celebrity lines don’t necessarily mean huge volume, no matter how cheap the prices are.
The heiress has shown her Nicholai by Nicky Hilton line on runways in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but to no avail. Perhaps her mini shorts and matching jackets were too edgy for the typical ready-to-wear customer. Hilton didn’t have to brainstorm to come up with the company name. It is actually her given name — not that many are seeing it. Macy’s Smith said, “It just didn’t work, we no longer carry it.”
Jude Law’s ex designs FrostFrench ready-to-wear with fellow Londoner Jemima French. After serious financial woes with its British investor, the duo have formed a new firm with another investor, John Joakim, called FrostFrench London Retail Ltd., and are on the move again. So is Frost, who is reportedly relocating to Horsham, England, from Primrose Hill in London.
Just Out of the Gate
LL Cool J: LL Cool J Collection at Sears
Avril Lavigne: Abbey Dawn junior apparel, exclusively at Kohl’s.
Rachel Bilson: Edie Rose for DKNY Jeans junior sportswear.
Janet Jackson: Pleasure Principle lingerie
Kristin Davis: Kristin Davis better sportswear with Belk Inc.
Danity Kane: Girl band Danity Kane junior jeans, exclusively at Macy’s.
Sean “Diddy” Combs
While Diddy has been successful in men’s wear, women’s apparel has perennially been a stretch. Talks are under way with a few possible licensees for women’s apparel, while G-III continues to produce women’s outerwear. Surprisingly, Combs has had better luck in fragrances: Estée Lauder will launch a second women’s fragrance next year.
The rapper-actress is trying this year for the fourth time with another relaunch of Fetish young contemporary apparel. Arnold Williams is on board as design director to try to drum up $10 million in its first year back at retail, which seems like a stretch, given her past efforts.
The U.S. Open champ made the rounds at fashion week, but it’s been a while since her pals Brandy and Kelly Rowland walked on her runway. Aneres eveningwear is only available in a few stores, but lingerie is reportedly in the works, as is a fragrance.
Rumor Has It
Michael Jackson; Amy Winehouse; Jonas Brothers; Patti LaBelle; Miley Cyrus
And There’s More
Lou Doillon; Kim Gordon; Daisy Fuentes (exclusively at Kohl’s); Hilary Duff; Kelly Ripa; Sheryl Crow; Whitney Port; Jaime Pressly; Pamela Anderson; Jaclyn Smith (exclusively at Kmart); Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe; Travis Baker of Blink 182; Milla Jovovich; Queen Latifah; Charlie Sheen; Denise Richards; Heidi Montag (exclusively at Anchor Blue); Ashley Judd (exclusively at Goody’s); Christina Aguilera.
Gone, Baby, Gone
What: Scarlett Hearts Rbk activewear.
What: Mblem contemporary sportswear
What: G-Unit apparel.