A Cut Above or Below: Ranking Celebrity Clothing Lines
Back in the days of Sinatra and the Rat Pack, a triple threat meant someone who could sing, act, and dance. And while that still holds a lot of way in good old Hollywood, it has given way to the new millennium celebrity who essentially has to do everything but build the kitchen sink.
Now, I do not want to chastise celebrities who still master one talent as opposed to several. And the industry agrees. Meryl Streep is not the most nominated actress for no reason and neither is Aretha Franklin one of the most respected women in all of music in the pat half century. But there is something quite incredible about celebrities who decide to do more than one thing in order to maintain their status and income.
Let's face it, the reason the classic triple threat has faltered is mainly because our society as a whole has a very short attention span which means you have to think of inventive ways to get people's attention. And that's why celebrity fashion designers who usually are moguls as well have essentially become the new mark of the celebrity icon. While there are a few exceptions to this observation, for the most part those celebrities with fashion lines depend on their name, brand credibility, and the uniqueness of their clothing.
In this hub I will focus on a few celebrities who have particularly carved a niche for themselves with their clothing lines. And I will also evaluate these lines based on originality, pricing, and everyday wear. I will call this hanger swag with up to five hangers being the benchmark for a great clothing line.
Jessica Simpson is the last to come to mind when you think of the pop princess era in the late 1990s. She had a decent voice but she was not as cute and bubbly as Mandy Moore nor did she have the advantage of being trained by the Mickey Mouse Club like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Interestingly enough, Jessica Simpson auditioned for the MMC but after seeing Christina Aguilera sing she freaked out and blew the audition.
Fast forward to many years later, Jessica Simpson's career is really only based on the fact she's managed to use reality television and self promotion to remain relevant. Her last album, a country effort released in 2008, was for all intents and purposes a failure commercially and critically. However, I think Jessica Simpson knew that her music career (or lack thereof) would need to be supplemented.
Even back in 2003 when her show Newlyweds (alongside ex-husband Nick Lachey) took over MTV, it was evident that she knew that the best way for her to succeed in entertainment would be to diversify assets.
Enter a clothing line that began in 2005 as a shoe collection that quickly bloomed into a multimillion dollar empire that netted $750 Million in 2010, making her easily the most successful celebrity designer around.
Her line focuses mainly on outfitting women in everyday looks that stylish yet simple. There's no real indication of her targeting a specific demographic or lifestyle but really everyday women who want to look good doing what they do.
Her prices are not the lowest around but at the same time they are not astonishingly high. The lowest pries I saw were around thirty dollars and they go up from there. Simpson not only has her own website from which you can buy from but she is one of many celebrity moguls to have an advertising and merchandising deal with Macy's.
In March 2012, she will debut as a judge for the NBC version of Project Runway, Fashion Star so it looks like her best fashion instincts will be shared by others.
Even though I have not personally bought her clothes, I think she is very accomplished at really knowing what women want to wear and buy.
Hanger Swag: 5/5 Hangers
Before you ask, "Who is Russell Simmons?" think for a moment. He is essentially one of the big reasons that hip-hop is at the cultural forefront and has been for over thirty years. He entered the music business as a manager for his younger brother Joseph "Run's" group Run-DMC. Alongside NYU student and hip-hop enthusiast, Rick Rubin they founded Def Jam which has grown to become the biggest hip-hop record label of all time.
Def Jam has been the home to such artists as LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and so many more. He has also helped mentor several hip-hop businessmen such as Diddy and Ludacris.
But Simmons did not stop there. He also saw that hip-hop could be global and has since started other businesses such as Def Comedy Jam, Def Poetry, Rush Communications and quite possibly the biggest hip-hop fashion labels of all time Phat Farm and sister label Baby Phat.
Phat Farm started back in 1992 in a small showroom. The label itself has hip-hop influence but has come to popularize the hip-hop preppy look by mixing such tones and textures as baggy jeans and argyle sweaters.
Sister label Baby Phat was started in 1998 by Simmons' then wife and former model Kimora Lee Simmons. This line emphasizes bright colors and bold prints that are supposed to help women be fashionable and fearless in any element of life.
What Simmons did most masterfully was mix hip hop culture with boardroom ambition. And it is not like he tries to be something he is not. I think of any celebrity business person, Russell Simpson is near the top of the heap in terms of being business savvy and in terms of following instincts.
And while Kimora Simmons no longer helms the Baby Phat imprint, her keen sense of style also helped Baby Phat be successful. Both lines are smart in offering clothing choices for the entire family instead of just adults.
The price range is comfortable but definitely not what I would consider a bargain. But if you like hip-hop influenced clothing with a bit of a twist, this line is definitely for you.
Hanger Swag 4/5 Hangers
Beyonce is so big that she officially goes by one name. And it does not matter what happens, she always manages to cause a stir. Let's be honest, who else can announce their pregnancy at the end of a performance and be lauded for it? Or who can make a song about non-committal men and turn it into an anthem? Only she can do such things and be considered among one of the classiest and dynamic women in modern popular music.
Beyonce has managed to also transition into film, fragrance, and fashion with a very high success rate. And she's managed to stay rooted quite literally. Her father, Matthew was her manager and her mother, Tina is her stylist and partner in developing her fashion label, House of Dereon named after her maternal grandmother. The tagline is Couture. Kick. Soul- reflecting the three generations represented in the label Tina, Beyonce, and grandmother Agnes Dereon Beyince.
Beyonce and her mother also have a spinoff label, Dereon targeting the Juniors' audience with lower prices. However, both labels are very similar so there are no overt differences in design. A common feature is the prominent use of labels and emblems reminiscent of architecture. What Beyonce and her mother also master is fitting the shape of a woman's curves without going too far.
However, the label has not been without controversy as the label's marketing of girls' wear was questioned because of it's blatant use of sexuality. While that has been an issue, it did not slow down progress of the label. But one thing that is definitely interesting is how much the label has not been the focus of Beyonce's brand. It's mentioned from time to time but it's nowhere near other hip-hop lines such as Phat Farm or Rocawear. So while it is doing well, it's not doing as much as it could.
But in the long run it may go to benefit Beyonce as quality and not quantity is the key focus. So only time will tell how this will shape up to be.
Hanger Swag 3/5 Hangers
Justin Timberlake somehow went from the Mickey Mouse Club to the modern renaissance man. While that has been no easy feat, he has managed to make himself a pop culture commodity by recognizing what's hot and capitalizing on it. And while he has been open in admiring the careers of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, he's managed to modernize it on his own terms.
Beginning with his solo career that launched ten years ago, it's been all about staying hungry and remaining determined. And in 2005, he took it to the next level by launching his very own clothing line alongside childhood friend and fellow fashion lover, Trace Ayala. William Rast is a combination of the first and last names of their respective grandfathers, William Bomar (JT's grandpa) and John Rast (Ayala's granddad).
Initially, William Rast did not succeed due to a perceived over-saturation of celebrity fashion labels. But that did not deter Justin and Trace from success in the fashion world. They consulted with high-level designers while also observing the trends of those around them. And eventually, they built a groundswell of attention through word of mouth and unconventional advertisements.
That home spun approach has been a recurring theme throughout the company's short history. An ad campaign in 2008 featuring Timberlake and supermodel Erin Wasson as fictional character William Rast and his girlfriend generated a unique form of buzz for the line. Also helping were the number of starlets who were spotted wearing the jeans that were the specific focus of Timberlake and Ayala.
Of all celebrity fashion labels, the influences of the roots of the designers are among the most palpable. Justin and Trace seem to want to stay connected to the fact that they are southern and very proud of it. And they are also smart about keeping in check with the needs of the consumer by doing a limited edition deal with Target.
Truth be told, the prices are still not that great but it seems like the value of the clothing is made to match the fact that these clothes are intended for long use and wear.
Hanger Swag: 5/5 Hangers
Other Celebrity Designers
There are several other celebrity clothing lines to discuss at length but some are more explicit stories of failure or success instead of a combination of struggle and triumph like the others I have mentioned.
Gwen Stefani: Widely regarded as a fashion icon since No Doubt's coming out party in the 1990s, Gwen Stefani launched a clothing line around the same time as her solo career in the 2000s. L.A.M.B. (Love Angel Music Baby) which is also the title of her solo debut has done substantially well and spawned a second label, Harajuku Lovers. To be honest, I admire Gwen Stefani's swag but there's no way I could wear most of her label everyday. But she's managed to carve her own niche quite successfully.
Diddy: P. Diddy, Puffy, Sean Combs, or whatever he's going by nowadays, he's managed to make his own name based on a line of great business decisions and great market instincts. And while he has become the quintessential hip-hop entrepreneur, it is quite obvious his clothing line is here to stay. And as much as he promotes his products, I am sure many of you know what he sells among other things.
Jennifer Lopez: Good ol' Jenny from the Block has definitely moved up a few blocks from the South Bronx where she is from. However, she also has kept a watchful eye of those still on the block. Her first clothing line J.Lo launched in 1998 and became massively successful. The line benefited greatly from Lopez's status as a growing pop culture icon in both movies and music. The line endured several controversies before finally leaving the states. Jennifer Lopez, however, has developed a new line called Jennifer Lopez Collection exclusively for Kohl's. It essentially is a sophisticated update of J.Lo and is definitely budget friendly for those J.Lo fans who are now working moms just like good ol' Jen.
The list goes on and on and I'm sure somewhere in our closet or fantasy closet, there's that one piece by our favorite celebrity fashion designer that we long for. I know I do. Either way it's always interesting to see how celebrities continue to evolve in this ever-changing cultural landscape.
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Fashion Label Websites
- Jessica Simpson - Official Site: Womens shoes, boots, dresses, apparel, handbags, jewelry, clothing,
Shop women's shoes, boots, handbags, designer dresses, coats, and more at Jessica Simpson. Latest fashion and designer clothing, sweaters, tops, bottoms, jackets, jewelry fashion star. Jessica Simpson news, music, pics, videos
- Phat Farm - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- House of Dereon
Beyonce and Tina Knowles' line of clothing and accessories embodying couture, kick, and soul.
- William Rast Official Store
WilliamRast designs denim jeans, tee shirts, hoodies and jackets for fashion-forward men and women.
L.A.M.B. - a flirty rocker label representing Gwen Stefani's style, music and personality.
- Sean John
Sean "Diddy" Combs line of clothing, accessories, and more for men, women, and boys.
- Jennifer Lopez Clothing for Women | Kohl's
Jennifer Lopez's lifestyle brand of clothing, accessories, and other items for women.