Bethenny Frankel is expanding her empire.
The reality show star and entrepreneur will reveal today that she is extending her Skinnygirl franchise from spirits and specialty foods to fashion.
In partnership with One Jeanswear Group, Frankel will launch Skinnygirl Jeans, a collection of denim, knit tops and jackets for women, at retail beginning this fall. The line will be targeted to department stores and will retail for around $100. It will also be sold online.
Frankel said she hadn’t been searching to enter the apparel space, but a friend introduced her to Jack Gross, chief executive officer of OJG, and they hit it off.
“Jack said he was meeting me as a courtesy because he wasn’t looking for any more celebrity brands right now,” Frankel said. OJG has collections with Gloria Vanderbilt, Jessica Simpson and William Rast (Justin Timberlake’s line), among others.
But once they discussed the possibilities of creating a collection, they both agreed they should move forward.
“I said I would give her 15 minutes, and after 10, I knew this would be a big idea,” Gross said. He said since that initial meeting he has been even more impressed with Frankel’s commitment to the collection.
He said she has a high level of engagement in the creation of the line and will call or text with input on fabrications, fits and even the font on a label. “It’s really unusual, but she’s a can-do, will-do person,” Gross said.
Frankel said her “favorite things” are T-shirts and jeans, the latter of which is a “very emotional purchase. There are your ‘going on a plane’ jeans, your ‘squeeze them on for a date’ jeans, your boyfriend jeans, ones with fringe.” And Skinnygirl jeans will attempt to fill the bill for all occasions.
In general, Frankel said she appreciates fashion but doesn’t consider herself a fashionista. “I have nice things, I think I have decent taste,” she said. “But I’m not someone you’ll see in the front-row in Paris. I’m more sensible and practical. I’m not snobby about saying it’s this season or I bought it yesterday. I like structure and good quality — classics with a little bit of flair mixed with a little something hip and of-the-moment.”
Her collection will use premium fabrics, elevated washes and offer a number of fits. Gross describes it as a “multifaceted denim line that is key item-driven.” He said silhouettes will include stretch as well as more rigid models, a fit that is “coming on strong.”
And both Gross and Frankel stressed that although the collection is called Skinnygirl, it is intended to appeal to a wide audience.
“Skinnygirl is a state of mind and a sensibility,” Frankel said. “It’s not about the words. It’s about applauding your strength and feeling good about yourself. It is important to me that this line is inclusive of all shapes and sizes.” In fact, Skinnygirl will also be offered in plus sizes as well, they said.
“Especially now when the derrière is so coveted and everyone is loving a more-voluptuous look — I don’t have that look, I have a flat butt — we’re going to accentuate the positive,” Frankel said. “That’s the spirit of skinny.”
Gross said the point-of-sale materials will also reinforce the brand’s commitment to “feeling good about yourself. It’s all about feeling positive and women’s empowerment.”
For the launch, one model of the jeans will be signed by Frankel on the inside pocket and dated. Gross said the price for these will be the same as the regular collection and the concept is intended to further engage her fan base. “We’re hoping that eventually they’ll be on eBay for $1,000,” he said with a laugh.
In addition to hosting a launch party in New York on Tuesday, Frankel will tap into her large social media following — she has 1.6 million followers on Twitter and 1.5 million on Instagram — to help support her line.
Frankel said that down the line, she hopes to work with Gross to explore expanding the Skinnygirl concept to other categories. “I could definitely see business dresses,” she said. “They’d have to be comfortable, secure and comfortable, but that would be a natural fit.”
Gross envisions even more category expansion, with sportswear, outerwear and swimwear on his radar. “It’s unique and different from what’s in stores now,” he said of the jeanswear collection. “It has a clean sensibility and a nice edge. I think it will be one of the most exciting launches we’ve done in a while.”
Frankel, too, is optimistic. “It’s a very crowded space but I think it’ll do well,” she said.
Since entering the public eye in 2005 in “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” and then as a member of the “Real Housewives of New York” in 2008, Frankel has parlayed her celebrity into a multipronged business. She sold her Skinnygirl Cocktail company to Fortune Brands’ Beam Global for an estimated $100 million in 2011.
But with celebrity status also comes challenges. She is often tabloid fodder, whether it’s her custody battle with her ex-husband or her relationship with banker Dennis Shields.
But Frankel shrugs all of that off.
“It rolls off my back,” she said. “It’s been such a great journey and I am so lucky. [My celebrity] is allowing me a platform for launching a great jeans line. I’ve learned that you can’t pick and choose [what is reported about you] and you can’t be upset by the vehicle.”