NEW YORK — Parents probably don’t want their teenage daughters to become as notorious as Paris Hilton, but will they want them to dress like her?
Retailers are about to find out, since the actress/model/famous-for-being-famous Hilton is about to become the latest celebutante to launch her own line of contemporary sportswear and lingerie (including undies — perhaps destined for free-as-the-breeze former pal Britney Spears).
The collections will be introduced at retail for fall 2007.
Of course, Hilton is adding the much-abused word “designer” to her résumé at a time when some retailers contend the bloom is going off the celebrity fashion rose. Among those collections said to be suffering at retail is that by her younger sister, Nicky.
Still, this isn’t the first time the 25-year-old Paris has placed the fashion world among her dabblings. She is a front-row fixture at New York Fashion Week (although, in many cases spending more time on her Treo or talking than actually looking at the clothes). And in 2004 she launched a fragrance with Parlux Fragrances Inc., which currently is in mass market distribution, although the initial buzz about it has faded. Parlux also just launched a line of Paris Hilton handbags and will soon have watches.
The latest world of Paris is the sportswear, which is licensed to BBC Apparel Group Inc. BBC is the $100 million parent company of the Dollhouse brand, which first launched in 1995. And, while many observers might cringe at the idea of even more Hilton, BBC clearly plans to milk her name for all it’s worth. In addition to manufacturing the sportswear, BBC has obtained the master license for Paris Inc., which gives the company full control of the brand and future licensing agreements. The entire Paris Inc. assortment will be housed in the Dollhouse showroom here at 1407 Broadway.
Hilton wasn’t available for comment Thursday, but Dollhouse executives claimed she’s more than just tabloid fodder. “Paris has also been and will continue to be very involved with the brand,” said Deke Jamieson, senior vice president of marketing and licensing at Dollhouse. “She comes in, meets with designers, works with them here in New York and in California. She has made a commitment to this and is serious about it.”
Presumably, she was serious about acting and singing, too, though.
“This is a huge brand undertaking for us and we are very ready for it,” added Jamieson.
Hilton is certainly no stranger to the spotlight, receiving endless press (some good, mostly bad) for her nightlife appearances (brand consultant Beanstalk Group, which reps Hilton, said she has commanded a staggering $1 million to show up at an event). Then there’s her former relationships with ex-fiancé Paris Latsis and Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, and the infamous sex tape with Rick Salomon, who was married to ex-“Beverly Hills 90210” star Shannen Doherty at the time. She was also a Guess girl in 2005 and has sold more than 320,000 copies of her first book, “Confessions of an Heiress” (Simon & Schuster), published in 2004. She released her debut album, “Paris,” in June, which resulted in only one semi-hit single, “Stars Are Blind.” Hilton continues to star in her reality show, “The Simple Life,” and is working on her acting career — she’ll star in “The Hottie and The Nottie,” due out in 2008.
But this all-Paris-everywhere has its price. On Thursday, CBS News reported that two nightclubs known as Club Paris no longer will be associated with their namesake, Hilton, according to club owner Fred Khalilian. He said he “fired” the heiress because she failed to attend scheduled appearances at the clubs in Orlando, Fla.
For her new fashion venture, the creative team at Dollhouse has developed the brand’s logo, which is a graphic of the letter “P” made to look, appropriately, half devil and half angel. The new logo will be seen throughout the product categories from now on.
And while Hilton is famous both clothed and unclothed, the sportswear consists of an array of styles, from denim jeans, woven tops and T-shirts to activewear and dresses. While the samples are not all in, early sketches show gold foil-coated twill pants, French terry dresses and hoodies and Modal thermal tops. There are also many details throughout that Hilton herself added, like the graphic of her famous Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, that will appear on T-shirts and hoodies, as well as sayings such as “boy candy” and “love.” Girly details are sprinkled throughout, including pink bows on sweatshirts and pink lace on the interior waistband of the pants.
Targeting department and specialty retailers, the sportswear line will wholesale from $20 to $40.
The lingerie, which is licensed to SBH Intimates Inc., includes mesh baby-doll nighties, corsets, panties and bras, all with girly touches, such as the leopard print camisole accented with ruffles and pink bows.
“Paris was big on the ruffles, we couldn’t use enough ruffles and enough pink,” said Sammy Sitt, president of SBH Intimates. “It’s very flirty, but also girly and fun.”
Dollhouse executives declined to give first-year sales predictions for the Paris Hilton line, but did say they are on the prowl for more licensees for categories like fine and costume jewelry, footwear, swimwear, outerwear, eyewear, luggage and, naturally, pet apparel.
And while there will be plenty of doubters that Hilton’s line can make it in the celebrity glut, others point out that the power of celebrity — even of the tabloid variety — shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Paris has had great commercial success with everything she does; ‘The Simple Life’ is top-rated, the perfume sells incredibly well, her book has been a consistent bestseller, so a fashion line is a perfect next step,” said Gail Stern, senior vice president of Beanstalk Group. “With the clothing, it’s all about great product and perfect quality, it’s very important to Paris.”
Stern claimed Hilton has been looking for a partner to launch a line for some time and selected Dollhouse when she meshed well with the company.
Industry observers still believe the partying heiress’ popularity is valid, as she continues to land on magazine covers.
“Love her or hate her, she is very popular with teens,” said Michael Wood, vice president and director of syndicated research at Teenage Research Unlimited, a Northbrook, Ill.-based research firm. “She was recently on Seventeen magazine, which tells us a lot about her popularity.”
Hilton is entering the celebrity fashion world at a time when other lines are struggling. High-profile brands such as JLO by Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson are having their fair share of slow sales. As for the junior sportswear line Chick by Nicky Hilton, introduced in 2004, it seems to be struggling at retail, too. The line launched in more than 200 doors and quickly grew to 500 doors, but in recent seasons, the line has cooled, according to industry sources. Rob Smith, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for Macy’s East, said last month that overall, celebrity fashion lines have slowed down at retail, but he did try Chick by Nicky Hilton, which didn’t perform well.
“It just didn’t work, we no longer carry it,” he said.