Thursday, November 05, 2009

Celebrity Designers: Fab or Flop?

Whether it’s the daring and risqué clothing choices of Lady GaGa, or the sophistication of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, almost everyone has a celebrity style crush. This idea of major style icons has been around since the times of Marilyn Munroe and Audrey Hepburn. Recently though, the trend of “celebrity gone fashion designer” has sprung, and exploded. Dozens of celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to 50 Cent have some form of fashion line. Whether its Miley Cyrus’s collaboration with Max Azria sold at Wal-Mart, or Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. line on the runways of New York Fashion Week, celebrity designers are everywhere. But do they even have any real talent or are people just buying into the clothing because of the celebrity title? And they here to stay, or are celebrity designers just a trend?
Many people have been quoted insulting this “celebrity-gone-designer” trend, saying that they have no credible training. In an interview with Telegraph UK, Sir Paul Smith shows his disdain for celeb designers. “They have neither the training nor the design awareness necessary in the business, which means it must be purely about ego and money.” While taking evening tailoring classes, Smith was discovered by the chairman of Harold Tillman, where he started off his designing career. From there he and his wife (an RCA fashion graduate) opened his first store, and went on to have his lines shown at London Fashion Week. He says that he “wouldn't bring in a celebrity to work at Paul Smith in a million years.” Anna Wintour has also been quoted criticizing celebrity designers. She recently told The Wall Street Journal that “Every D-level celebrity who thought they could make a quick buck by designing a handbag or whatever is going to disappear. And I think that's a good thing." Even the Olsen twins, former child actresses, think the trend is just a money making ploy. Ashley Olsen recently stated her opinion about celebrity designers at Glamour Magazine’s panel about the future of fashion. “When I look at it as a celebrity brand, it's almost silly to me, because I'm not coming at it from a celebrity standpoint” Having gotten out of acting at age 18, Olsen feels that her and her sister are in a different boat then these celebrity designers she speaks of. “(They) get involved because they get a licensing partner, want to slap their name on clothes, and it will add to their brand. And for us, it was totally different. That wasn't my point.”
There are however, some celebrities who have managed to actually prove to us, that they do have validity as designers. Take Gwen Stefani or Victoria Beckham for example. Stefani has been showing her very successful clothing line L.A.M.B. (annually grossing at about $90 million) at New York Fashion Week since 2006. Nicole Phelps, a writer for writes that “Stefani is the most dedicated of our celebrity designers, and certainly the most talented.” Stefani purposely did not name her clothing line after herself because she did not want people buying the clothes just because they had her name on them.
Likewise, Victoria Beckham has also established herself as a successful designer. She started out in 2007, with her line of denim and moved on to designing a line of dresses in Spring 2009, which was also shown at New York Fashion Week. Phelps writes about Beckham’s potential with her new line for Spring 2010, “The showstoppers—no surprise—were the evening dresses…When Beckham does want to join the big-timers on the runway, she'll probably need to expand further into daywear, but three seasons in, she's certainly established herself as a red-carpet expert.” In addition to winning over the fashion critics of the world, Beckham is also winning over our hearts as consumers. When her designs first hit stores they sold out within a month. This is clearly just the beginning for her fashion career, as Beckham is set to launch an accessories line in 2010.
Celebrity designers clearly have mixed reviews. Very few are raved about by those in the fashion industry while most are brutally criticized. Lindsay Lohan, for example, was recently named artistic advisor for Ungaro, her first collection for the designer shown at New York Fashion Week for Spring 2010, where New York Fashion Magazine called her debut “disastrous.” However, the magazine also reported that Tim Gunn’s compliments about Lohan, saying that she has “a great sense of fashion and (knows) what works and doesn’t work,” were what helped her secure the position because of his obvious authority on the subject. Lohan has obvious critics, however there are some that will stand by her side throughout her designing career (Lohan has a multi-year contract with Ungaro).
Whatever you opinion, celebrity designers do not seem to be going anywhere, any time soon, as more and more celebs are adding the word “designer” to their job descriptions. Those most recently joining the group are Alicia Keys, who is releasing a jewelry line, and Dina Lohan, who is said to be working on a line of shoes. No matter how many celebrities try their hand at designing and either crash and burn, or get placed into the “one-hit wonder” category, we can at least be thankful that a few of these designers seem to be in it for the long haul.

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