Celebrity fashion brands bowing out

17 September 2009

NEW YORK: After several years of consistent growth, sales of celebrity-based clothing and toiletries brands are now rapidly declining, according to recently-released figures.

US sales of celebrity-licensed products fell to $2.9 billion (€1.9bn; £1.7bn) in 2008 after peaking at $3.5bn three years earlier, according to the trade publication Licensing Letter, which predicts the current downturn will continue.

Among the casualties are singer Justin Timberlake's William Rast clothing brand, conceived as a premium denim line, and recently expanded into "lifestyle fashion", but which is growing rather more slowly than expected.

"Being a celebrity gets your foot in the door, but once you are there, people go, 'OK, now what?'?" says Timberlake, who was named GQ magazine's best-dressed man earlier this year.

This summer, the Jennifer Lopez-backed Sweetface fashion line was withdrawn after six years, its empty hangers joining those of reality star Heidi Montag, pop singer Mandy Moore and Nicky Hilton, the sister of Paris Hilton.

"Every D-level celebrity who thought they could make a quick buck by designing a handbag or whatever is going to disappear," says Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. "And I think that's a good thing."

The rise of magazines and blogs that track celebrities' every move has given the stars more clout in influencing mainstream fashion, but not every celebrity brand is suitable.

"Regardless of the personality behind the label, the product must be on trend to be successful," says Ron Frasch, president of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Frasch cites L.A.M.B., a five-year-old brand designed by the platinum-haired singer Gwen Stefani, as one example of the few such labels that the retailer carries.

Stefani, who presented her spring 2010 collection to the trade last week, says of her fashion line: "I always envisioned it being something that would be able to stand on its own four legs."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff