The Rise of the Celebrity Fashion Line

There’s a recent trend threatening to take over the hearts and minds of Americans. This is a threat so prominent, so pervasive that it may cause a fundamental rift in our delicate relationship with our closets.

It’s the rise of the celebrity “designed” fashion line.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Jacqueline Smith, Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton, Daisy Fuentes, Lance Armstrong, Prince, Amanda Bynes Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake, Scartlett Johanssen, Shaquille O’Neil, Queen Latifah, Kate Moss, Paula Abdul, Carson Kressely, Kylie Minogue, Katherine Heigl, Gisele Bunchen, Stephon Marbury, Delta Burke and every other A, B, and Q list celebrity have clothing lines.

As much as I may grimace, the current , celebrity-turned-designer trend is nothing new. I’m sure Mary Tyler Moore had a line of women’s career shirts sometime in the 70s.  However, it wasn’t until Jaclyn Smith partnered up with K-Mart in the early eighties on the development of her hugely successful eponymous clothing line ($600 million dollars in annual sales), that we saw the potential financial benefits of having a celebrity “designed” line.

Unfortunately,  the trend is going to get much worst, before it gets better. Globally, we have an insatiable appetite for all things celebrity and an even bigger appetite to emulate the perceived lives of celebrities.  This appetite has created a strange shopping twist with Machiavellian overtones, where consumers feel “grateful” and “privileged” for the opportunity to purchase clothing “designed” by celebrities, while the celebrity makes an insane amount of money by doing this “good deed.” An example of this twist is the near virtual riot caused by fans of Sarah Jessica Parker, when I suggested that her motivations for doing the line was less altruistic and more monetary. Even the questionable quality and even more questionable manufacturing practices (remember Kathi Lee Gifford and her ill-fated line with Wal-Mart?) of these lines becomes secondary to the perception that owning a pair of Jessica Simpson shoes will brings you one step closer to actually being Jessica Simpson.

Now, not every celebrity-designed line is well received by the public. Madonna’s line at H&M received a lukewarm reception and there’s some retailers, most notably Target, who’ve rebuked the celebrity-turned-designer trend, focusing most of their energies on developing partnerships with award winning designers. Wal-Mart, for the most part, is doing the same thing with their George clothing lines. However for every Target and Wal-Mart there’s at least five other retailers jumping at the chance to get the runner up to the Apprentice to design a line of suits.  As long it doesn’t compete, of course, with the Trump line.