Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Celebrification of Fashion

Celebrities have always been known to dabble in creative fields that they're not exactly qualified for. Many major actors and actresses have attempted crossover singing careers, while popular singers often try their luck at acting and just about everyone with notoriety has written a book. But most celebs attempting to crossover find that their success is quite short lived (if they're successful at all). Because the fields of acting, singing and writing are so huge and varied, stars don't have to fear for their careers when Paris Hilton puts out an album or Britney tries to act.

But the fashion industry is a different story, because the competition is extremely fierce, especially for up and coming designers, who must compete with brand names whose iconic names represent decades of quality and prestige (Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, etc). And whereas actors and singers have shelf lives that are dependent on their age (meaning a finite number of years to perform, once discovered), fashion brands can live forever and retain their cache, as long as the brand's identity is capable of remaining strong through changing times.

And if getting discovered and being successful enough to make a living from designing was challenging enough for young fashion designers, they now have to compete with celebrities who feel qualified to design without ever having touched a sewing machine or made a pattern. These celebrities get instant financial backing and tons of press, little of which centers on the quality or creativity of their designs. And whereas it's nearly impossible to hide the fact that someone can't sing, dance or act, a celebrity need only "consult" on a fashion line to be able to call it their own.

An article in last Thursday's New York Times perfectly captured the innate unfairness of this situation, as Phillip Lim declared the chances of a young designer making it in the fashion business, "slim to none," while many celebrity backed lines break the $100 million mark in their first or second year (3.1 Phillip Lim is expected to make $30 million this year).

It's been noted in a number of blogs that many of the newest and hottest celebrity lines are based on copying pieces from other designers. In her collection for TopShop, Kate Moss admitted that she copied vintage pieces from her own closet, while pieces from Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen's new line Elizabeth and James are eerily reminiscent of well-known pieces by other designers. If they're not stealing other people's ideas, celebrities churn out bland, inspiration-free collections, like Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten line or anything by J.Lo or Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat.

I know not every celebrity line is like this (Jovovich-Hawk seems quite respectable), but there seems to be no end to the list of celebs who jump on the designing bandwagon.

As consumers, we wouldn't accept the casting of talentless actors in our movies or fill our iPods with bands that suck, but we seem to welcome the collections of celebrity designers that populate our department stores. While you might not be in a position to choose between Chanel, Derek Lam and the Olsen's line (I'm certainly not), design trends and styles have a habit of trickling down from the top to the bottom, and if the market isn't supporting creativity, beauty and innovation at the high end, there's little hope for those of us shopping at H&M.


ricanprincess said...

I love your blog...but I must say I personally love SJP's line of clothing Bitten! It is made up of many basic peices very reasonably priced. I mean nothing in it is over $20 and you can't expect a lot for that price. I see your point but I personally admire SJP's efforts and having seen the line myself, I think it is pretty good.

ambika said...

Nice inclusion of Kimora Lee--she's especially untalented. Rhinestones do not a fashion statement make.

Bitten looks cheap and is terribly bland. I can find the same stuff at Target for the same price or at J.Crew in better quality. That was really the straw that broke my back--giant :p to SJP.

H said...

I was very disappointed in how cheap and poorly constructed the Bitten pieces look.

Another side to the celebrity fashion coin is that legitimate designers are forced to do more inexpensive lines to compete (and I'm not talking about Stella McCartney or Karl Lagerfeld's collections with H&M). Vera Wang is doing a collection for Kohl's -- that's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

"As consumers, we wouldn't accept the casting of talentless actors in our movies or fill our iPods with bands that suck ..."

Uhm, we wouldnt? I think thats giving way too much credit where, unfortunately, it is not due.