Riches to Racks

As published here:

Originally written: 23/10/2011


It was recently revealed that Jessie J is to design a range of tights for Henry Holland’s Pretty Polly collection. After I got over my initial annoyance (Henry – yay, Jessie – nay), it struck me that actually, it’s almost expected nowadays for celebrities to do clothing collaborations. A surprising amount have their own fashion houses. But aren’t they busy enough doing what they normally do for a living? How can they find time to take on jobs as creative directors too?

It’s kind of a given that most celebrities love fashion (with the amount of freebies they get, it’d be rude not to, right?). On a slightly grander scale than us commoners, they’re just people who love clothes. They’re invited to fashion weeks, sit front row, befriend the designers. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise when one announces they’re setting up her own fashion label. After all, if the years have given them insight into the industry, if it’s something they’re passionate about and can afford to fund – why not?

Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. label has been going for several years now, and shows alongside ‘regular’ designers at New York Fashion Week. In the past, the singer has claimed it was something she’d always wanted to do – in her No Doubt days, she’d often make her own stage costumes. For Stefani, passion is key.

Jay-Z’s Rocawear label was established in 1999, and each year it generates sales of around $700 million, with everything from childrenswear to accessories.  Though he remains CEO, Jay-Z sold the rights to Rocawear in 2007 for $204 million. So there’s money to be made if you’re savvy.

But for most celebrities, that’s probably not their first consideration. Perhaps they want to show that there’s more to them than what you see on TV or in magazines; or like Gwen, they simply have a love of making clothes.

The Olsen twins are well known world-wide for their hugely successful Mary Kate and Ashley film, TV and book franchise, as well as a clothing line for Wal-Mart. Aged twenty-five, they are now established fashion icons and run two fashion lines, high-end label The Row (this season featuring a £23,000 alligator backpack, if you’re interested) and lower-priced sister label Elizabeth and James, named after their siblings. In 2007, the twins were thought to have amassed around $100 million from their various enterprises. Not bad for former child stars.

For those not so keen on the catwalk, the high street presents an alternative. Some celebrities have taken to simply designing a few things for a retailer. Kate Moss’collections for Topshop over the past few years has yielded crazy queues outside stores, and some even-crazier bidding on eBay for those unable to obtain items from the greatly coveted collections. Women everywhere were battling for their own piece of Kate – but why?

The garments she designed seem to almost come with a ‘golden touch’, her own personal seal of approval, the kind of thing a non-celebrity label, or the retailer alone, can’t give. To own a Kate Moss Topshop dress is like having your very own piece of Kate’s style – not to mention this works out a lot cheaper than any of the catwalk celebrity designers. Prices for Kate’s clothes ranged from roughly £20-£150; Victoria Beckham, L.A.M.B. and The Row will set you back considerably more.

There’s no doubt the Kate Moss lines have been hugely successful, so does this mean we’ll be seeing more celebrities doing high street collaborations in the future? It’s one of the easiest ways to imitate their style without breaking the bank (if your elbows are sharp enough to fight off the crowds). As far as promotion for the store itself, announce a celebrity collaboration and the customers will come flooding in.

The Jessie J line is no exception – one of this year’s biggest stars, Jessie has done wonders for the tights trade by wearing all types of zany designs, including the original Henry Holland tights, a walking promotion of the trend for crazy legwear. But getting the celebrity in question to actually design the goods they’re trying to sell to you brings ‘celebrity spokesperson’ to the next level.

Clearly, fame carries weight in the fashion world, and it seems whether on the catwalk or on the high street, there’s always a market for a product with a celebrity’s name on it – no matter what the price tag.


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