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Daisy Fuentes has done what many of her more famous celebrity peers could not: keep a fashion brand in stores for a decade.
With her spring collection, being presented today at a runway show at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York, Fuentes marks the significant anniversary that has proven elusive to others, demonstrating impressive staying power and persistent appeal to customers at Kohl’s, which has held the exclusive on her label since the beginning. Although she may not always grab headlines like the Olsen twins or Jessica Simpson, Fuentes, whose namesake apparel brand has racked up an estimated $1.5 billion in sales so far, should be put in their league for building a fashion business that keeps registers humming.
This story first appeared in the September 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Fuentes, a former model who rose to fame in the Nineties as an MTV VJ, will be the first to acknowledge that gaining success in the fashion industry is trickier than gaining success in Hollywood. “There are so many elements to it. It’s so moody, it’s so of the moment and on to the next. It’s hard to find customer loyalty. So when you find it, it’s like a rare gem, and you have to celebrate that,” she said. “That’s why we are celebrating the longevity.”
Considered by Fuentes to be a hobby at its inception, the brand was meant to fill a white space at Kohl’s between missy and junior, said Haim Dabah, executive director and group president of LF USA, which designs, sources and markets Daisy Fuentes for Kohl’s. “Once we defined the space, we thought a celebrity brand would work for it. We liked Daisy because she had good crossover appeal. We did not bring it to Kohl’s as a Hispanic brand. We thought it was a brand for the modern woman,” he said.
Of course, Fuentes’ ethnicity — she was born in Cuba to a Cuban father and a Spanish mother before moving to the U.S. at a young age — was attractive to Kohl’s as it pursued Hispanic customers, but the retailer learned early on that Fuentes’ reach wasn’t isolated to a particular group. “The Daisy Fuentes collection targets a broad range of ages and lifestyles, most importantly a shopper who wants to add a chic and feminine look to her wardrobe at an incredible value,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s Corp.’s chief customer officer.
Fuentes, currently the host of Telemundo’s kids’ singing competition “La Voz,” believes one of the keys to her brand’s longevity is that she left television for a time, allowing her to focus on it. “If I had a full-time TV job, I wouldn’t have been able to do the line,” she said, elaborating, “I didn’t start doing this because I wanted a celebrity line. I wanted to be involved in fashion and be creative with something that had to do with fashion. The opportunity came, and I thought it would be a dream. I really took my time with every category. I didn’t just put out a line with everything. I chose partners carefully and made sense of the whole thing.”
Dabah credits the design approach as crucial to fostering customer loyalty. “It’s not girly. It is flattering. It’s tastefully sexy, but not overly sexy. It has strong prints,” he said, adding, “People say, ‘It looks great on me. It is easy to build an outfit with it. It is fashionable without being expensive. It flatters my figure.’ As long as we stay true to that, the brand has another decade at least.”
Gass concurred, noting, “Daisy Fuentes has real women in mind when creating her collections.”
Fuentes is perfectly comfortable not chasing trend after trend, but touching on those appropriate for her brand’s customers, who are primarily between the age of 25 and 55. “There’s a confidence to it, and it has to do with the fact that I’ve grown up in the last 10 years, too, and gotten away from wanting or needing to know what every trend is. I just know what works for me and put that into the line. It’s glamorous and elegant with an element of trend. That’s how it’s progressed. It’s still fashion-forward, but it’s not a slave to fashion,” she said.
Daisy Fuentes’ sales have remained strong even as competitors, notably brands by celebrities such as Sophia Vergara, have filtered into the market.
Don Brennan, Kohl’s chief merchandising officer, said, “The Daisy Fuentes brand was our first exclusive brand and has resonated well with the Kohl’s customer. Over the past 10 years, the collection has expanded into petites, women’s plus, intimate apparel, jewelry, accessories and home. The brand has contributed to the growth of our overall private-exclusive brand portfolio, and we are pleased with the success of the collection.”
For spring, Fuentes isn’t changing the formula that has been working for her. Inspired by the Malibu vibe, she said the collection contains “great gold tops, nice sand-colored knits, some pretty flowy skirts with blues and greens. There’s a new take on the maxiskirt that is really pretty. I’m looking forward to wearing all of it. That’s the whole point of doing it.”
Next up for the Daisy Fuentes brand could be footwear, but Fuentes isn’t going to push into new categories before she’s ready. “I’ve never been a very ambitious girl at all. I don’t make big plans. I hope to just continue doing everything we’ve been doing right and growing with our consumer. We listen to our customers, and they dictate what improvements we make and how we move forward,” said Fuentes. “We’re changing with the times, but not so much that our customer doesn’t identify with us.”