NEW YORK — The Queen line, which launches on HSN this August, is not inspired by the head of the British monarchy, but instead is designed by a different, much-admired Hollywood royal — Queen Latifah.
The actress and singer is jumping into fashion with a lifestyle brand that encompasses everything from apparel — sweaters, jeans, leggings and T-shirts — to handbags and even clip-on hair extensions. This is Queen Latifah’s first-ever fashion line, and in an exclusive interview, she couldn’t conceal her enthusiasm for the project, which had its origins in a meeting with HSN Inc.’s Mindy Grossman.
“After meeting Mindy, we found we had a similar outlook on the things we wanted to do — a brand that I felt I could wear wherever I wanted to go, with pieces that can mix and match,” Queen Latifah said, adding she wanted to offer “something that really represented the women who I have represented through the years — uplifting, feeling good, feeling sexy, positive and servicing HSN’s audience.”
Just don’t call it plus-size. “It is a word we need to bury at this point,” she said. “It’s for all sizes. Even just taking into account the various body shapes and body types of women as they range through those sizes, and making sure that everything is sized properly for them, has been exciting.”
Queen Latifah added that she was keen to incorporate all sizes in her lineup. “I wanted to make something size two and up,” she said. “The truth is, we all would like to wear the same clothes. We all want to wear beautiful, fly clothes no matter what size you are, and so for me it was important to match with a company that understood and respected that ideal.”
It’s one of the reasons she hadn’t tried her hand at designing clothes before. “I felt like larger girls were not respected, even though we are huge consumers,” Queen Latifah said. “I felt the marketplace didn’t respect us in the way it should. I was not going to step out with a clothing line that didn’t respect a fuller-figured woman or a curvaceous woman, and really all women.”
According to The NPD Group, the Port Washington, N.Y. market research company, the large-size market currently accounts for 16 percent of the total $107.3 billion U.S. women’s apparel market.
Queen Latifah, who will make her first personal appearance on the home shopping network on Aug. 27, knows her designers, and she has a laundry list of personal favorites. “I love Ralph Lauren, just as a designer,” she said. “I still think he could make some better sizes with his clothes, but I like the idea of his classic American style. I also love Donna Karan. She is someone who always understood a woman’s body and mastered clothing that makes women feel beautiful, no matter what their shape or size. I work with Carmen Marc Valvo, who is fantastic. Badgley Mischka did a great Oscar gown for me. I love Marina Rinaldi, the Italian company that makes clothes for curvaceous women like myself. Of course, I love the Pradas, the Guccis and the Louis.”
In recent seasons, HSN has stepped up its fashion and celebrity quotient, with lines from the likes of Badgley Mischka, Rebecca Moses, Naeem Khan, Loulou de la Falaise, Iman and Mariah Carey.
Grossman lauded Queen Latifah’s wide-ranging appeal. “I think that Queen will attract her existing customer and a new customer that is coming in because of her and may not yet be familiar with HSN,” Grossman said. “She has not done fashion until now, and she has a really strong voice and a point of view, and knows what she wants to do. She is authentic.”
Grossman declined to give projections for the line, but said that it won’t just be a one-season deal. “We are looking to build a long-term, sustainable and sizeable business with one another, and we are putting all efforts behind this launch because we believe it has tremendous opportunity.”
The apparel will be priced under $100, while leather or suede handbags and outerwear will retail for $170 to $300. New York-based Tiger J LLC is manufacturing the products for the Queen line. “We flew our team to Atlanta to work with her, and she has worked on each and every style,” Tiger J ceo Mark Locks said. “It’s really an extension of her lifestyle and of her.”
For her part, Queen Latifah enjoyed the design process, from sketches to samples coming in. “I think it’s been a great experience stepping into the fashion world, but with respect to it,” she said. “I want to make clothing that I would wear myself. If the clothes are good enough for me, I think they are going to be good enough for everyone else.”
She plans to expand Queen in seasons to come. “We will build this into what I hope to be a huge brand franchise, with things that I discovered throughout the world,” Queen Latifah said. “Whether it’s beautiful candles or a perfume…it’s bringing it all under the same umbrella to make it something that is, really, a lot of fun.”