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Oct 18, 2010

I'm not just a celebrity, I'm a fashion designer!

Madonna.  Sarah Jessica Parker.  Lindsay Lohan.  Jessica Simpson.  Jennifer Lopez.  Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen.  Sean Diddy Combs.  Justin Timberlake.  Beyonce Knowles.  Britney Spears.  The list goes on and on.

Do you realize how many of our most popular young (and not so young) celebrities are also talented clothing designers?

It's uncanny.  It's outrageous.  It's... Liza Minnelli!

Now I bet you're expecting me to come down hard on these celebrities for cashing in on their popularity and sticking their names on clothing lines they (likely) have very little involvement in other than some modeling and personal appearances (and collecting their paycheck).

But I won't.  I honestly don't see much difference between this and Donna Karan designing (years ago) for the Anne Klein label.

I mean, it's not like Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, or Givenchy are sketching anymore, right?  Or even Ralph Lauren -- and he's alive.  Most people understand that somebody else is designing these lines.

At this point -- when most clothes are made in the Far East regardless of brand -- does it matter whose name is on the label if you like the clothes?  And if you don't like them, are you going to buy them just because Beyonce is on the tag?  (I guess that's what manufacturers are hoping.)

When did this start, exactly?   I know Esther Williams endorsed Cole bathing suits back in her MGM days and later started her own bathing suit company.  But that sort of made sense, right?  She spent a lot of time swimming.

And people can be multi-talented and have multiple careers.  Tony Curtis was also a painter.  Ginger Rogers liked to sculpt.  Connie Stevens sells skincare.  Phyllis Diller has her own brand of canned chili. (That's not a joke; I've tried it.) 

But singer Jessica Simpson has an entire clothing line: shoes, dresses, intimate apparel, luggage, you name it.  She is big (and getting bigger).
Perhaps busy Jessica does have some creative control.  But not even Karl Largerfeld could design the amount of stuff she's offering in her collection.

Then there are people like Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith.  These two women are powerhouse brands unto themselves -- clothes, home collections, wigs, make up.  It's mind boggling.

Fashion is a crowded world and a celebrity name obviously helps move the merchandise.  But it's only going to fly if the clothes work, right?  And it's going to have to be competitively priced, especially today.  Shoppers are pretty savvy and have a lot of options, after all.

Wise readers, what's your take?  Would you seek out Britney's shoes -- or Jessica Simpson's?  Would your kids? 

Does the celebrity fashion designer thing annoy you?

Would you like to see a line of Male Pattern Boldness poolside lounge wear inspired by Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens?  (Google Troy Donahue Bathing Suit and see the surprise link!)

Have you ever thought about starting your own line?  Quick: would you sell out to a celebrity if the price were right? 

Seriously, though:  Are celebrity fashion designers good for fashion or bad -- or just (cynical) business as usual?

Your thoughts, please!


  1. Beyonce is not the designer for Dereon, her mother, Tina Knowles is. Beyonce is just the face and body....

    I have thought of starting my on line of clothing. I was once engaged to a man with his own line of street wear. He taught me a lot about clothing and it's subsequent manufacture. I would love to have more information on that, since I have a very limited target market....

  2. Once I was in Nordstroms and made a beeline for a pair of shoes that were so perfect, so darling, so....and then I saw they were Jessica Simpson. They might as well have put "made of anthrax" on the label as fast as I threw them down.
    Who exactly is their target demographic on that one?

  3. Celebrity labels? To me a big turnoff! Same with all the perfumes. I wouldn't one any of these people sitting on my bathroom shelf. I don't give a toss about the whole celeb industry.

    I don't even like many designer labels and would never ever wear anything with a screaming out logo. Likewise I'm so not impressed if someone prefers to be a walking advertisement for any brand.
    So they're not my peergroup I guess. :-D

    I wonder, would celebrities wear eachothers labels?

    BTW, your blog is such a joy!

  4. I have spat TEA all over my computer laughing at Stella above - 'made of anthrax'! HAHAHA! Felt exactly the same about Sarah Jessica Past-It's forays into the world of scent - damn, it actually smelled quite ... er... Lovely - but HELL NO!

  5. I might be in the minority here but I don't mind celebrities putting their name on a fashion. I wouldn't buy something JUST because of the label and I wouldn't NOT buy something just because of the label.
    I think 'Coco Channel' has become just as big a name as 'Beyonce' since neither of them have much to do with their fashion line I don't see how it's any different.
    And if there is a celebrity who's style I like it's nice to have an easy way to emulate it. Even if I don't actually BUY their clothing line.
    (Also I do like Jessica Simpson's shoe line. Mostly because they come in a 5 and it's hard to find cute heels in a 5. Once I find a brand that is comfortable and makes shoes small enough for me I burn their name into my brain as 'OK with me'.)

  6. My response probably has the sting of jealousy to it, but I find it annoying. Same with celebrity restaurants-or celebrity anything. I still like to believe that talent and hard work will be rewarded. Sometimes-sometimes not.

    Jeff in VA

  7. Jeff and others: do you think these celebrities are crowding out other more worthy designers without the name recognition?

    At that price point, I doubt it. This stuff sells at places like Kohls, Target, and Macys. It's probably these labels, store labels, or other established brands.

  8. Hmmm, I wonder if celeb designers are hogging the spotlight AND the market, therefore minimizing the number of new, non-celeb designers who can edge in.

    That said, a few of the lines have some real merit. Jessica Simpson's shoe line has some great-looking offerings, though they're fairly cheaply made. Justin Timberlake is behind the line William Rast, and it's damned decent. MK and Ashley's The Row and Elizabeth and James are mixed bags, but some of the stuff is STELLAR.

    Is it fair that celebs use their pull to make fashion lines happen? HELLS NO. But I imagine the market weeds out the total crap eventually. (Then again, perhaps that's naive thinking.)

  9. It probably began long before Ester Williams; Shirley Temple dolls were extremely popular and still are with some collectors. I seem to remember seeing a picture of the 'real' Shirley with one of her dolls. Marketing types know that celebrity endorsements (old cigarette ads anyone) will boost sales and interest. I am more inclined these days to seek out products and sites endorsed by Peter, Gertie, Cidelle, and NVL etc!

  10. OMG! and how could I forget her royal Selfishness!

  11. Isn't this why we sew? To be our 'own' designer? Since RTW is truly disposable - does any one buy a piece of clothing as an investment to wear season after season? We do if we sew - well, at least I do. When I make a tailored garment (working on a blazer right now from a '97 Burda) I am making a classic styled garment that I will wear for years. The whole celebrity culture doesn't influence my clothing choices - in fact even the fashion magazines have little affect. I sew/design what I want to wear - not what 'Banana Republic' is preaching. Sorry BR fans.

  12. As sewists, we're going to have a slightly skewed perspective and we're much more critical.

    SaliO, a celebrity endorsement is different from presenting yourself as a designer. Endorsements have been going on for a long time and often Hollywood actors or actresses had no say: it was the studio that decided what you'd be endorsing and the studio that would profit.

    I'm not even sure what a designer is anymore. If I gave you $200,000 to shop the vintage flea markets of Europe and come home with some clothing/fabric samples, don't you think you could come up with a pretty decent line of clothing? I would argue that most of us could. But how would we get it out there? That's where the celebrity name comes in. I'm pretty sure when Macy's heard about "Material Girl" all they saw were dollar signs.

  13. I think there's a different between celebs who "have" their own line (say Britney for Candies where her input is reduced to answer the question "do you like the red boots or the black ones") and celebs who are more hands on their brands (say Gwen Stefani or MK & Ashley's The Row who seem to do more than "choosing" designs). I guess that the J. Simpson and Madonna's lines are somewhere in between. I'm fine with them existing in the market as long as nobody pretends that the celeb actually sketchs the designs.
    Then again there are certain lines that you'll never see me wearing out of principle (anything by J-Lo).

  14. Just for the record, Peter : Hubert de Givenchy is actually alive (though no longer designing), too!

  15. Carlotta, just don't tell me he's putting out an album! LOL

  16. I think that celebrity 'designers' are a joke. Unless they actually design the collection themselves - which I guess most of them certainly don't - its completely unfair on the 'real people' who actually work damned hard to get that collection into production. Ive worked in fashion for 8 years and I know how it works! Its all about getting the sales though which the celebrities do I suppose. I wouldnt buy a 'celebrity' brand on principal, for all of us genuine (non celeb!)designers out there.

  17. I'm more interested in an items quality than the name but there are some that I would refuse to purchase just because of the person behind them.

    A MPB line? Now that would be interesting!

  18. I admit that celebrity product endorsement irritates me--and that's really what this is for the most part--celebrities selling their names to product manufacturers. (Yes, perhaps there are a few exceptions.) It seems whorish and greedy, particularly for extremely successful performers. (How much money can one person spend in a lifetime?) Unless perhaps it's for charity--but even then, it appears to be more about the publicity. (And rarely do all proceeds go to charity.) It just feels unseemly to me.

    I read last year that marketing studies are indicating that celebrity endorsements are not nearly as effective as they were in decades past. It sure doesn't seem that way, but it's never made me feel like buying, not even when I was younger. If my favorite performers came out with a perfume or a clothing line or slapped their names on something else, I'd be turned off rather than tempted to buy.

    I have bought items that bloggers have recommended, but only because they have demonstrated the use of specific products for sewing garments and because they have earned my trust by generously sharing their skills. It's a very different thing. Why would I take fashion advice from a star that has an army of fashion "experts" on hand to create a look?

    Remember when Cher did some big films in the 1980s? I'd never considered her as a serious actress before, but she was fantastic, and her films did very well. It wasn't long after that, however, that she seemed to start showing up on tons of commercials, hawking everything from shampoo to gyms, to baubles on the Home Shopping Network. I am not sure if she ever put her name directly on a product, but she sure did do lots of shilling. I can't help but think it derailed her film career, which is a waste. In the public eye, she no longer seemed credible as a serious actress, but as something else.


  19. My main brush with celebrity fashion lines lately has been the inpouring of Hannah Montana gear into my kids' wardrobes. >_< Some of it is cute. Some would be cuter without the big logo. The quality is low, which can be frustrating---a Hannah Montana winter jacket I got my daughter a couple of years ago never did zip up properly, I wound up replacing the zipper within a few months.

    Some celebrities seem a natural fit for fashion lines---Madonna, for one, or Gwen Stefani. These are people who've turned our heads with their style over the years as much as with their music or movies. Even if they're not designing the actual clothes, presumably they're pulling together a line that reflects the flair and style they go for. I'm less convinced about Jessica Simpson or Paris Hilton, but anyway. I'd like to put myself in the brand-neutral category, in that I'd rather judge the item on its appearance than its label, but sometimes the labels are just obnoxiously prominent. When the label becomes the product, it annoys me. (And I'm thinking of some of the CK and Guess accessories I've seen that are basically big letters representing the brand).

  20. Peter, you are right, we're talking about "designers". My DH has a Jerry Garcia 'designed' tie that we bought new at least a decade after JG passed away. And who believes that Carlos Santana shoes were designed by him and not just representative of shoes he likes to see women wearing! Original, unique design is an art, a craft, a vocation, not just something celebrities can whip off between TMZ appearances. So, answering your question, does it annoy me, not really, but I feel badly for the true, unsung designers of the lines.

  21. I read some rubbish that fell out of Mrs Beckhams' mouth recently about how she wrapped herself in a metre of silk and had a lightbulb moment. I don't believe for one nanosecond that she had much to do with anything that they overcharge for in Selfridges. shift and column dresses are hardly a new design. It galls me when celebs give themselves the tag of 'designer' . Its a name they are selling and people fall for it. I think the real skill lies in the interpretation of an idea. I wonder how many faux celeb 'designers' could even thread a machine, let alone create a pattern and make it up.


  22. And I bet Justin Timberlake couldn't make a Western shirt on a 1920 Singer treadle! ;)

  23. So, shall we assume that the MPB line will not be featuring suits?

  24. Snort! Good one, Debbie!


  25. Stella,
    I did the same thing with a bag I loved. Walked into a fairly high end store in town, went straight to a bag that immediately caught my eye, decided on the spot to buy the bag until I saw that it was from the Jessica Simpson line. I immediately set it back down and ran away.
    Funny thing is that next time my DIL came over with the kids, she was sporting that exact same bag.

  26. sigh. I confess that I bought a SJP fragrance and I have admired Jessica Simpson "designed" products.
    It does not make me feel good about it, though!

    I hope that whoever REALLY designed the Jessica Simpson stuff sees these compliments floating around. They can feel good their stuff is liked. And hopefully they got paid well.

  27. hee hee that would make for an interesting article (or blog post!)-
    An interview with the designer behind the celebrity.

    On another note, my first husband is a professional musician who works with big names. He said Jessica Simpson is dumber than a rock. (Doesn't read music, doesn't bother to memorize it, doesn't come to rehearsal prepared, etc). oops, maybe I wasn't supposed to repeat that. Don't tell anyone I said that.

  28. That Troy Donahue bathing suit trick was fun! I bought a pair of Jessica Simpson boots last year and still really like them. And (even better) they were a great end-of-season deal. Thank you to whoever designed them. Just as I wouldn't say yes because of whose name was on something, I wouldn't say no either if I had run across the department store shoe department because they appealed so irresistibly. That being said, there is always a premium attached to those name things just so that celeb or "luxury brand" gets its cut. And that's where they usually lose me. My favorite shopping experience is rummaging through the tables at the flea markets. You know, you can find some pretty great designer brands there!

  29. Business as usual.

    Like tanitisis, I avoid visible labels--- and many celebrity lines are splashed with names and logos.

    Remember the scene from "Back to the Future" in which Lorraine thinks Marty's name is "Calvin Klein" because it's written all over his underwear? A similar joke showed up in "Blast From the Past" with Ralph Lauren underwear.

    Those guys aren't celebrity designers, but I'd rather not flaunt their names either way.

    Now, if someone named REBEKAH had a line, I'd be tempted. I almost bought a "BECK" shirt for that reason.

  30. I think there are some celebrities out there whose brands and designing are legit. The clue to me is whether the stuff has the celeb's name slapped all over it or not. L.A.M.B., William Rast, Elizabeth and James are all lines with celebrities behind them, but Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, and MK & Ashley Olsen don't have their names anywhere on there, and you wouldn't even know they had anything to do with it without doing some homework. They want the brand to have its own merits; of course it doesn't hurt to have the capital, connections, and everything else that comes with celebrity to back it up. And I think all of those aforementioned celebs do play a role in designing their stuff. I know MK & Ashley are very much in charge of their brands and they have really stepped back from acting/celebrity to be designers.

    The stuff with the names slathered all over them is way sketchier in my mind. Sometimes they have cute items, but then I realize they have big glaring logos and am disappointed - I would wear some of the stuff if it didn't have CELEBRITY NAME written on the pockets or whatever. If the logo/brand isn't visible on the item (except for a tag), then I'll buy it if I like it, regardless of who made it.

  31. I just want to know where to get Phyllis Diller's chili.

  32. If I liked a product, a celebrity endorsement wouldn't encourage OR stop me from buying the item (some of JSimp's shoes *are* rather cute), but I wouldn't brag about it.

  33. I don't like anything about the whole celebrity craze, but I can live with endorsement. It's the celeb's labeling themselves as designers which I can't stand. (personally, I don't buy anything with a visible logo, but even if a celebrity brand wouldn't have one, I still wouldn't buy it).
    Yes, I do believe they are crowding the market, stealing the limelight from more worthy, real designers.
    I know that's how today's popular culture works, and probably some of those real designers can make a good livin doing the actual work for the celeb brands... but that doesn't mean I have to like that system, or agree with it.

    Some people mentioned how 'everyone knows' those celebs aren't really designing... That's my problem, in fact. A lot of them claim they do, and reading through the comments here, a lot of people are sort of buying into that (maybe even without realising it themselves).
    I have just enough experience with the fashion industry to know this: when a 'celebrity designer' is said to have 'a lot of creative input' into his/her brand, that means the actual designers took a good look at the celebs wardrobe, mayby even with some pointers of the celeb him/herself and when the sample were made, the celeb actually took the time to look at them and say 'yes' or 'no' for each piece. And that's for those who are very much 'involved' with their brand...

    And Loren, no offence, but your comment made me scream at the computer screen. 'Coco Channel' has become just as big a name as 'Beyonce' ??
    Coco Chanel died before Beyonce was even born. She lived and breathed fashion. As long as she was alive she actually designed for brand that she founded and which still carries her name. And, in fact, she chose the person who was to succeed her. And he still does and still pays hommage to her iconic style with every collection.
    I know the names of the old couture houses have become labels just as much as those celebrity names and in many cases, they've wandered very far from their original style. However, despite the ubiquitous labels (something mademoiselle started out with herself) Chanel is not an example of that at all.

  34. If the line is cute, I assume that the celeb "designer" must have some talented people behind them.

    AND I can't wait for the MPB line to hit Nordstrom!

  35. I've never yet noticed a celebrity designer item that pushes the fashion envelope. Maybe I'm shopping in the wrong stores, but so often the items are derivatives of the exact same items of the fashion moment.
    To be fair though the celebrity names do make me take a second look. I supose it is curiosity or the hope that the item is somehow better or more stylish.
    I'm mixed on labels since as a rule I don't care for a prominent name branded on my apparel. Especially if the item is otherwise unremarkable in make or design. And I cannot afford true couture where the designer is recognizable in the garment itself. However, I think that there is a place for fairly well made items that have a branding if for no other reason than for the occasional need/want for conspicuous consumption.

  36. Hello again,

    This is a little off subject (sorry Peter). But Coco Chanel's name has come up in the discussion of fashion (as it should and always does). Recently I came across a You Tube an interview with Coco Chanel and instantly saw why she may have put such an emphasis on comfort in her clothing. She seems to have the type of personality which whould be impatient with constraining and uncomfortable clothing. Plus, as a French woman, she gestures and shrugs constantly and is always moving.
    Chanel was a designer in the true sense of the word and her name is still recognizable because her designs, which were revolutionary at the time, are still wearable and relevant. IMO the modern celebrity designer is similar to an endorser of a line of products much as an athlete sponsors a shoe brand.

  37. don't they have enough money, power, & fame? let the people who study to be desingers bask in the fame for the clothes they design. i appreciate actors and musicians who really do have a talent other than what they became famous for...but seriously i don't want to see you everywhere I go.lady gaga and polaroid barf. madonna and her tween daughter with a fashion line where momson is the spokes person, momson as an avante-garde punk anti-social rock star, kardashian as anything but a self leaking accidental porn star, jessica simpson still famous, lauren conrad & lizzy maguire as bestsellers...barf to it all. give me real talent not ghost writters, ghost designer, and haus of $%&?#.


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