Celeb threads: from Moss to Rihanna
Kate Moss, whose Topshop collection sold out in hours
Rihanna working on her new collaboration with River Island
Anna dello Russo's gaudy baubles remained on the shelves at HM
Kelly Brook, whose New Look line in underwear became one of the British high-street store's best-selling ranges
With their poor track record why do high-street brands clamour for celebrity collaborations, asks ROSEMARY MAC CABE
The words “celebrity” and “style” have always been, at best, uneasy bedfellows. For every best-dressed list, there are 10 worst-dressed lists – and for every young actress or singer who consistently gets it right, there are more than you could fit in a Japanese subway car that seem to consistently get it wrong. So with the odds ever-stacked against them, why do high-street brands continue to clamour for the ubiquitous celebrity collaboration?
It would be safe to say that it started, as so many of fashion’s most memorable memes seem to, with Kate Moss. In 2007, Moss signed up with Philip Green’s Topshop to design an exclusive collaboration for the UK high-street giant. At the launch, the supermodel posed in the windows of Topshop on Oxford Circus. People came in their droves to see her flaunt the wares that bore her name on the label; the collection sold out within hours.
Moss may have proven how powerful the combination of fame and fashion could be, but she wasn’t the first to go native and lend her name to the high street. In 2006, British model and actress Kelly Brook launched an underwear collection with New Look. Last year, she launched her first full clothing collection, also for New Look. Her underwear range is one of the store’s best selling.
And just this weekend, Rihanna launched a collaboration with another British high-street name, River Island, at a much-hyped launch during London Fashion Week.
In a teaser trailer released late last month, Rihanna spoke about her decision to launch in the UK rather than the US, giving the credit to the “kids and young people” on the British high street. The video opened with a montage of women cutting patterns and sewing; a few moments later, we see Rihanna pick up a garment and suggest a change – “this should sit right here”, she says, pointing to the waistband of her cut-off shorts.
So how much designing do these celebrities actually do? The official line is that they are “very, very involved”. That’s a quote, by the way, from almost every press department from almost every high-street store that has ever been involved in a designer collaboration. There are no figures for hours spent drawing, cutting and sewing.
Perhaps the most famous celebrity designer today, Victoria Beckham, who was named Womenswear Designer of the Year at the 2011 British Fashion Awards, is honest about her contributions. She cannot draw, she admits, but she has the first, second and final say about what goes into – and comes from – her collections.
The power of the celebrity collaboration is derived from more than a mere stamp on a label; Jessica Simpson, famous more for her Weightwatchers endorsement and ill-fated reality TV show, MTV Newlyweds, than for her career as a singer, is one of the US’s top-selling fashion designers with her eponymous fashion line.
The Kardashian Kollection, konversely, has failed to meet expectations, despite the enduring popularity of the Kardashian klan (too much already?) – the collection of bodycon dresses and metallic jackets, which sells in the US with Sears and in the UK with Dorothy Perkins, met a muted response and poor sales.
It would seem that star power has little to do with how well a celebrity collaboration sells when it hits the ground; Madonna’s HM collection failed to sell out, and that is not a reflection on HM itself – similar lines with Versace, Karl Lagerfeld and Lanvin all sold well for the Swedish chain.
Maybe – just maybe – celebrity collaborations are the one area in fashion where taste truly wins out over money; Anna dello Russo may be the ultimate street-style tastemaker, but her collection of garish and gaudy baubles for HM remained on shelves long after the dust had settled on the velvet ropes, while both Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby lend their names to pretty, if unexciting, ranges for the Littlewoods group.
Whether or not Rihanna’s collection will cause queuing chaos at River Island has yet to be seen; it will go on sale on March 5th and, judging by her own unpredictable style, there’s no telling what’s to come.