You’re nobody unless you’re famous.
Only a few years ago, the realm of celebrity-endorsed apparel brands was viewed by true fashion connoisseurs as a kitschy sideshow, the habitat of Greg Norman golfing polos and Jaclyn Smith lingerie. But that’s all changed since Sean Combs, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé Knowles and Donald Trump stormed fashion’s gates, not only appearing in ad campaigns, but also signing deals to design their own collections at an unprecedented pace, making 2004 the Year of the Celebrity and making fashion’s interaction with celebrities the story of the year.
A look at the blockbuster star arrivals in fashion and fragrance in the past 12 months is a revelation in itself, even meriting its own list-within-a-list. Here, the top 10 celebrity fashion moments of the year:
1. Nicole Kidman signed to become the face of the Chanel No.5 campaign, appearing in a commercial and print campaign directed by Baz Luhrmann. To build buzz, Kidman helped create an international sensation at Chanel’s spring ready-to-wear collection in October, when she and Karl Lagerfeld set off an overwhelming paparazzi frenzy, albeit one that was, to at least a partial extent, manufactured to replicate a scene in the ad.
(For more star-charged beauty deals, see “Beauty’s Box-Office Bonanza.”)
2. Beyoncé stirred up the fashion waters on both sides of the camera, signing on as the face of Tommy Hilfiger’s True Star fragrance while plotting her own designer label for 2005. After much anticipation, the singer, who is developing the collection with her mother, Tina Knowles, signed a deal with Kids Headquarters, the $700 million producer of children’s wear for such brands as Kenneth Cole, Rocawear and Ecko Unlimited. And in September, the Knowleses revealed the name of the line, The House of Deréon, after Beyoncé’s maternal grandmother, the late Agnes Deréon.
3. Hollywood’s reigning blonde bombshells, Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson, created a near riot when they coincidentally arrived at the WWDMAGIC trade show in August to promote their licensed collections. Smith unveiled an Anna Nicole line of trendy tanks and denim skirts, manufactured by NTL, parent company of Von Dutch Originals, noting, “I could never afford clothes growing up, so now I want my line to be affordable to girls who want to be sexy and feel sexy.”
Meanwhile, Anderson showed her own apparel and lingerie, as well as a new accessories collection, including charm bracelets and necklaces, Swarovski crystal bangles and cocktail rings — you know, “stuff you can wear to pick up your kids at school, while still looking appropriate,” the actress noted.
4. Sean “P.Diddy” Combs became the first celebrity to earn the fashion industry’s highest mark of approval, embraced as one of its own, when, after multiple defeats, he finally won the Menswear Designer of the Year award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards in June. With his Sean John Clothing label, Combs also is turning into a veritable apparel mogul, opening his first freestanding store in September, becoming an equal partner in Zac Posen’s signature line and making headway in his plans to launch a women’s line — which has been delayed until holiday 2005 — having hired Max Wilson as vice president of design and Wendy Chivian as senior vice president of women’s apparel.
5. Following up on its high-profile ad campaign with Madonna and Missy Elliot, Gap unveiled its fall collection — along with the tag line “How Do You Wear It?” — on Sarah Jessica Parker, the eclectic actress who best personifies fashion’s drive toward individualism for her clotheshorsey work in “Sex and the City.” Parker’s involvement went far beyond that of the Material Girl, appearing in an extensive commercial campaign and on the exterior of Gap stores around the country, even dropping buy its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan to help customers figure out how to customize their own look by wearing Gap clothes.
6. Mainstream fashion companies have pounced on the long-term potential for apparel brands associated with hip-hop culture. Following Liz Claiborne Inc.’s acquisition of Enyce, Kellwood Co. nabbed in January one of the most prominent players in the urban arena, Phat Fashions, the company owned and run by Russell Simmons, for $140 million. Both Russell Simmons and his wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, who designs the Baby Phat collection, are continuing in their roles at the brand, expecting the deal will give Phat more muscle in the market. “This marketplace needs diversity,” Russell Simmons said.
7. Just as the rush of celebrities into fragrance licensing deals seemed to reach the point of absurdity, along came Donald Trump The Fragrance, which launched at Macy’s last week. Bold and brash, Donald Trump, the real estate mogul-cum-reality TV star revved up a crowd of fans by telling them, “Any man who wears this fragrance can have any woman — or man — that you want. It’s your choice.” Now that’s salesmanship.
8. After Marc Jacobs’ collaborations for Louis Vuitton with artist Takashi Murakami and the late designer Stephen Sprouse proved to be blockbusters, the designer tapped singer Pharrell Williams to help design the brand’s first sunglasses collection. The results won’t hit stores until April, but Williams had the audience at the Vuitton show buzzing in October as he demonstrated the “Scarface”-inspired styles to actress Catherine Deneuve. “Sunglasses are basically a reflection of how you feel,” Williams told WWD afterward. “At one point in time, they were intended to keep the light completely out of your eyes. But it’s become such a fashionable item that now sunglasses can be worn anywhere, like when I am sipping my wine thinking, ‘Is it going to be incredible when girls are walking by on the runway, my legs are crossed and now I have these on my face?’” And how.
9. In May, rapper-turned-designer Eve swapped her licensing partner for her Fetish collection from Innovo Group Inc. to hip-hop entrepreneur Marc Ecko, apparently dissatisfied with the past production of the line. “Signing with Ecko [Unlimited], for me, it’s a no-brainer,” Eve said. “They know quality, they are young and hip and Marc gets it. They are going to give us what we need for longevity; they are going to give it the quality and attention it needs. That’s always what I’ve wanted for my brand.” It was also a big coup for Ecko, who had just lost out on the Beyoncé deal to Kids Headquarters.
10. Last but not least, fashion’s celebrity bacchanal of 2004 would not have been the same without the antics of the House of Hilton, from guessing the name of Paris’ fragrance launch with Parlux to designers debating whether it would be good for their images to appear on matron Kathy’s upcoming reality show. But the classiest turn of the clan this year goes to lil’ sis Nicky, who managed to launch her Chick by Nicky Hilton collection in the midst of her star-crossed nuptials to New York party boy Todd Meister, 13 years her senior. While Chick, a West Coast lifestyle-inspired sportswear collection, lives on, the wedding, alas, did not. The marriage was annulled in fewer than three months.