A New Crop of Stars Prepares for Sales

New celebrity designers include Rachel Bilson for DKNY, LL Cool J for Sears, Avril Lavigne for Kohl's and Kristin Davis for Belk.

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It’s almost go time for a new round of delebrities — celebrities as designers.

This story first appeared in the July 10, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing, as the newest crop of actors and entertainers prepare to enter the industry and unveil their lines for fall. LL Cool J will hit Sears stores with a full range of apparel for juniors, young men and children; Avril Lavigne will launch her Abbey Dawn line at Kohl’s; Rachel Bilson’s Edie Rose for DKNY Jeans brand will take the floor at department stores, and Kristin Davis will soon be selling her line on the better floor at Belk.

While the track record of celebrity apparel lines has been filled with missteps — Jennifer Lopez’s collection has gone through numerous iterations; Beyoncé Knowles’ House of Deréon line had a slow start; Eve’s Fetish collection never succeeded, and Diddy’s women’s line never got off the ground — the allure of the category hasn’t dimmed. Retailers are responding by securing these personalities with exclusive lines intended to generate buzz for the stores.

“From Wet Seal to J.C. Penney, stores are all looking for the next big thing to be able to bring in new customers,” said Michelle Roback, a sales executive with Jerry Leigh, a licensing firm in Los Angeles that had a major role in the deal between Lavigne and Kohl’s. “Bringing in this sort of talent can certainly do that for these stores.”

But the forecast is mixed as to how these brands will perform once they hit the sales floors.

“Avril has her own funky style….But I’m not sure I could see her making supergirly dresses if the trends move in that direction, so I really don’t see this brand as a long-term thing,” said Lisa Chase, founder of CelebrityEverything.com, a Web site for the celebrity-obsessed crowd.

Chase sees LL Cool J working well for guys, since he “has the best pecs in Hollywood.” However, she isn’t sure a junior apparel line from LL Cool J would work quite the same way.

“With all the competition out there, I really can’t see girls seeking out clothing from LL Cool J for themselves to wear,” she said. “Rachel Bilson, on the other hand, is a modern classic. She has great style and girls will want to dress like her. I could see her line lasting a long time.”


Michael 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, said celebrities must have staying power for their brands to work.

“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.”

While many of the newer celebrity brands have been geared to the teen and tween customers, Davis’ line will sit in the better sportswear area at Belk stores.

“It’s become clearer and clearer that our customers want more on our better floor,” said H.W. McKay Belk, president and chief merchandising officer. “This is an opportunity to put something there that’s much stronger. Customers are gravitating to what’s new in the stores. What’s old and hasn’t really changed is not that exciting.”

This new crop of celebrity-designers will walk a path blazed by Lopez, Knowles and Gwen Stefani, as well as the Olsen sisters, who have a multitier business, encompassing everything from sportswear to area rugs as part of their more than $1 billion empire.

Other celebrities in the fashion game are:

– Justin Timberlake with his William Rast Southern-inspired contemporary sportswear.

– Jessica Simpson has shoes, bags and outerwear, while Pamela Anderson has lingerie.

– Jaime Pressly launched a line of contemporary sportswear and Hilary Duff has sportswear and accessories.

– Sarah Jessica Parker and Amanda Bynes made deals with Steve & Barry’s, which filed for bankruptcy Wednesday.

– Victoria Beckham and Sheryl Crow have denim lines, and Kate Moss has a Topshop line.

– Sienna Miller has Twenty8Twelve by s. miller, a contemporary collection, with her sister, Savannah.

– “The Hills” star Lauren Conrad has contemporary sportswear, and Heidi Montag, also from “The Hills,” has a collection with California retail chain Anchor Blue called Heidiwood.

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