When it comes to selling jeans, celebrities matter.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s no longer aspirational, it’s an actionable moment,” said Susan Kaufman, editor of People StyleWatch, who explained that when women see celebrities wearing certain jeans brands in the magazine, they go out and buy them for themselves.

A study People StyleWatch conducted among 2,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 found that three-quarters of them are influenced by celebrities more than ever before. Sixty-six percent said it feels good to see a celebrity they admire wear something they would wear; 74 percent said they get ideas from celebrities even if they don’t realize it; 76 percent said celebrities have more impact on fashion today, and 61 percent said they get style ideas from celebrity photographs rather than runway models.

Kaufman believes women relate more to celebrities, whom they feel they know and who come in different shapes and sizes from a skinny 5-foot, 10-inch model they don’t know and by whom they are intimidated.

Also, three-quarters of the women surveyed said they would pay more for something if a celebrity were wearing it; 40 percent said that seeing a celebrity wearing something is like a recommendation from a stylish friend, and four in 10 women have purchased a product because they saw a celebrity wear it.

“They will pay more for premium denim if they see a celebrity wearing it,” said Kaufman. “They might not be able to afford a $2,500 Gucci bag — that’s serious aspiration — but they can afford a $150 jean, or a $255 jean, and they’re buying into that dream and that validation that they get from the celebrity wearing it,” said Kaufman.

“When we run our denim stories and do reporting on a brand, and which celebrities are wearing them, those jeans sell out,” said Kaufman, who added that the magazine is planning a Denim Awards issue in November.

Kaufman also believes that celebrities make new trends understandable. Women often get intimidated by new silhouettes and new shapes. When People StyleWatch took a poll after skinny jeans hit the market in 2004, it found that 90 percent of the women surveyed said “no way” to skinny jeans. The magazine started doing stories and showed how celebrities were wearing skinny jeans and what tops they were wearing with them. Six months later, 50 percent said they would wear skinny jeans, and within a year, 99 percent were wearing skinny jeans.

Kaufman said her office is sent 300 pictures a day of celebrities. Within one week, she’ll have at least 100 images of celebrities in jeans. In the April issue alone, there were 76 celebrity IDs for jeans, and 13 brands represented. There were 39 credits from one brand, which she declined to name, but later revealed it started with a J. (Hello, J Brand.) She said it’s a missed opportunity for a vendor if a celebrity photo runs without a credit.

Kaufman cited some additional statistics from her study, such as the fact that women said jeans were the second most important thing that they can’t live without, behind their cell phone, and are the item they are most likely to splurge on, behind shoes. “Some 48 percent of women said they are more excited getting jeans on sale than having sex,” she said.

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