LOS ANGELES — MTV’s hit reality series “The Hills” is spawning mini fashion brands.
Co-star Whitney Port is the latest cast member seeking to capitalize on the show’s popularity with young women, creating a contemporary label called Eve & A. The other members of the triumvirate, bitter rivals Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, started apparel lines within the last year.
Launching for fall with 20 pieces wholesaling from $50 to $220, Eve & A is intended to be sophisticated enough to go from the office to a cocktail party with its mix-and-match pieces in silk and wool. Heavy on black, the line features judicious pops of bright colors, including purple and Port’s favorite hue of pink.
The line also emphasizes versatility to enhance value. For instance, a hood and giant gold zipper help transform a $195 wool jacket into six shapes, ranging from a double-breasted top with a sailor flap in the back to one with a poufy shawl collar.
Another multifunctional item is a $50 slip whose fit can be finessed with adjustable straps and a corset-style tie in the back. The single body, available in hot pink, gunmetal gray, navy and beige, features a ruffled hem that allows the slip to be worn alone or layered under another top or dress. In addition, a $100 wool skirt is constructed with pins that the wearer can adjust to be a mini or float above the knee.
“I wanted people to feel more daring,” said Port, who came up with the label’s moniker by combining her middle name with the first letter of co-creative director Adrienne Baravetto’s first name.
Port, 23, maintains a relatively lower profile than other reality TV personalities. But she has benefited from the public’s fascination with celebrities. In August, Port appeared next to Conrad in a saffron-tinted minidress by Luella on the cover of Teen Vogue, where the two were interns and whose lives were being documented in “The Hills.”
Conrad’s MTV-funded namesake contemporary line, which wholesales for about $40 to $200, is sold at retailers such as Holt Renfrew and Intuition. Montag is collaborating with teen chain Anchor Blue on apparel and accessories retailing for no more than $60.
Port comes from a family entrenched in the apparel business. Her father, Jeff Port, is president of a young men’s line called Shades of Greigh. He also oversees Eve & A, where Whitney’s older brother, Ryan, runs production and her teenage sister, Jade, modeled in the look book.
The Port clan is so tight that at a recent preview of Eve & A at the Movement Showroom in the Los Angeles downtown fashion district, Whitney was accompanied by her parents, three siblings and a future brother-in-law.
“We want to keep [Eve & A] close to home,” Jeff Port said. “We don’t want anyone to abuse Whitney’s concept. We want to last a long time.”
To maintain better control of quality, the inaugural collection will be made in Los Angeles. Declining to disclose projections for first-year sales, Jeff Port acknowledged that the retail market is less than hospitable for a new line. But he is up for the challenge. “In a bad economy, it’s more important than ever to be different,” he said.
Retailers that have ordered Eve & A include Revolveclothing.com, Kitson in Los Angeles, Bella Rosa in Los Gatos, Calif., Maxine in Studio City, Calif., and the five-door Southern California specialty chain Planet Blue, whose proprietors also own Movement Showroom.
With a bachelor’s degree in gender studies from the University of Southern California, Whitney Port got her fashion training by doing secretarial work for her father, counting rhinestones and photocopying pictures of jeans for manufacturer Swat Fame in City of Industry, Calif., and assisting with photo shoots as an intern at WWD. She is now working as an intern at fashion public relations firm People’s Revolution, picking up tips on how to merchandise at fashion shows for Sass & Bide, Julia Clancey, Whitley Kros and Orthodox.
“I was never one to know to match the fabrics and color scheme,” Port said. “I have to remember that I’m not looking at someone’s closet. I’m looking at a line that represents one vision.”