Celebrity Glitter Still Sparkles

Celebrity driven brands and licenses are on target to perform well in a year expected to show some incremental growth at retail.Despite industry expert predictions that consumers would grow tired of purchasing products fron

April 6, 2018

10 Min Read

Celebrity driven brands and licenses are on target to perform well in a year expected to show some incremental growth at retail.

Despite industry expert predictions that consumers would grow tired of purchasing products fronted by celebrities, licensed apparel and accessories promoted by the famous–from movie stars to celebrity designers–are flourishing. i1_916.jpgi1_t_172.jpg

Many celebrity licenses first got attention in fragrances or accessories. Emboldened by success, retailers hope to get people to buy more pieces curated by a favorite celebrity for the rest of their bodies.

That's not to say there aren't a few gambles when hinging a product line on a celebrity. Retailers dropped 6126, Lindsay Lohan's legging line, following several heavily publicized legal problems. Most public figures, however, ignite sales when their names are attached to products. Celebrities driving retail sales today aren't only the traditional movie or pop stars. Reality television personalities and characters based on television shows are also popular for licensing deals. i2_516.jpg


Madonna's recent appearance scooping up Golden Globes proves there is still a lot of "material" left in the singer. She is launching her second lifestyle brand, Truth or Dare by Madonna, aimed at a more mature consumer than her debut Macy's exclusive Material Girl collection. The architect of the brand is MG Icon–the joint venture between Iconix Brand Group, Madonna and Guy Oseary.

"The interest and excitement globally for brands developed by Madonna are significant," says Neil Cole, chief executive officer of Iconix Brand Group. "After the highly successful launch of the junior brand Material Girl, we knew there would be a tremendous demand for a brand that Madonna herself is the face of and that truly captures her essence." i3_354.jpg

For her part, Madonna says she has been approached many times to create her own brand and that the timing and partnership was right with Iconix.

Material Girl, which Macy's calls one of its top five junior brands, enjoys an exclusive distribution relationship. The retailer will continue to be the distribution point of the Truth or Dare by Madonna brand.

Beyond the new line, Material Girl will be extended with launches in beauty, intimates and sleepwear, and programs will be expanded for denim, outerwear and social dresses. i4_274.jpgi4_t_88.jpg

Avril Lavigne

Musician Avril Lavigne is bringing her edgy rock look to footwear for this spring.

Lavigne's Abbey Dawn brand, originally founded in 2008 and re-launched in December 2011 as a clothing line produced by San Diego-based Blank Generation, conveys a rock-star vibe with plaid, animal prints and hardware. i5_210.jpgi5_t_70.jpg

"It started off with my favorite things to wear, and I wanted it to be rock 'n' roll," says Lavigne, who already makes women's and men's apparel and handbags. "I took (materials) that I love and added them to the shoes."

The line of roughly 39 footwear styles includes a mix of boots, sneakers, heels, ballet flats and flip-flops featuring a variety of hardware such as studs, spikes and skulls. The line is produced in China and will retail at select stores for $50 to $80. Her debut on the runway last fall featured a wide range of looks including a worn American flag motif and a flirty black party dress, among others.

Jessica Simpson

Under the savvy guidance of the Camuto Group, Jessica Simpson has strutted from strictly shoes into 23 categories totaling more than $1 billion in annual sales. i6_153.jpg

At MAGIC this year, the collections shown will encompass footwear, dresses, jeanswear, sportswear, girls' apparel, swim, eyewear, handbags and jewelry. The tween line, produced by The Jones Group, hit stores late last year and has already achieved retail success.

In an recent interview, Simpson called the tween collection, which she worked on with sister Ashlee, "a combination of both of our styles. (Ashlee) is very rock 'n' roll, and I'm very American."

Simpson has signed a maternity line deal, and will be working on girls' footwear. Simpson, like many celebrities with eponymous brands, has a hands-on approach that is credited with helping her success across several categories. Her latest sportswear looks, for example, are her effort to give young women a chance to look good at a reasonable price. The expansion is also a result of the popularity of the jeanswear collection.

Industry sources estimate footwear remains the lion's share of her business, followed by fragrance, jeanswear, handbags and jewelry. With Camuto's interest in vertical retailing, many wonder if a full Jessica Simpson store could be in the making. Simpson is a trusted figure, according to WSL Strategic Retail's Candace Corlett. i7_119.jpg

"She is approachable," she says.

Corlett praises her efforts for visiting stores when her merchandise debuted at Dillard's and Macy's, and points to the "American" look that is approachable and affordable as drivers of the brands success.

"In our research," says Corlett. "Those are two of the important factors driving consumers to buy apparel."


The world-renown club DJ Tiësto merged his love of electronic dance music and fashion in a collection, Club Life.

The first delivery unveiled in December 2011 at select retailers in North America with t-shirts for men and women at prices ranging between $48 and $56. U.S. retailers include Bloomingdale's, Kitson, Atrium, National Jeans and Nirvana. It is also available at Simons in Canada and online via ClubLifeClothing.com.

"The line was inspired by elements of light, color and symmetry that are pervasive in Tiësto's performances, as well as themes popular in the EDM (electronic dance music) culture," says Sam Hafif, chief executive officer of The Movement International, Tiësto's licensing partner.

The Movement International maintains this initial launch is only the beginning. A master apparel license will be announced in the near future, with a second apparel collection making its debut at the Ultra Music Festival during Miami Music Week in March.

Fashion tied to music is a natural marriage for the brand.

"(The EDM community is a) unique culture with a massive following," says Hafif. "They are avid fans of the music, the lifestyle and the artists."

Hafif declared that Club Life "is the most relevant extension of music to fashion since hip hop emerged on the fashion scene 15 years ago."

Tiësto, who has been ranked the world's number one DJ three times by DJ Magazine, has been wearing the designs and promoting them heavily through social networking, tweeting and posting about the line on Facebook.

Gwen Stefani

Musician and mother Gwen Stefani has been among those to see opportunity in licensed children's clothing.

Launched last holiday season, Stefani's latest licensing deal is under her Harajuku brand and includes an exclusive boys and girls apparel and accessories collection with Target.

Called Harajuku Mini, the first rollout includes 80 apparel and accessories pieces–from plaid-print jumpers to fuzzy hoodies, faux-leather jackets and even tuxedo-style onesies for babies. The collection, designed for a wide range of children from ages six months to 16-years, is priced from $3.99 to $29.99. The second installment, set for launch in spring with an emphasis on nautical themes, shipped in January.

"I've always been inspired by the cool children's clothing in Japan, but it was always so hard for me to find it here," says Stefani. "That's why I am so excited to partner with Target because I'm able to create something inspired by that look but that's easy to find and affordable. Now all the moms can get their hands on it."

"Harajuku Mini is an affordable line of clothing and accessories that captures Gwen's vision as a preeminent fashion designer," says Trish Adams, senior vice president of apparel and accessories, Target.

Stefani's collection is one of many new licensing initiatives aimed at the younger set–an untapped market according to many retailers.


Iron Fist Clothing, a Los Angeles based-footwear, apparel and accessory lifestyle brand, has teamed up with style personality RuPaul and World of Wonder to produce a collection of RuPaul inspired footwear. The launch coincides with the fourth season of RuPaul's series "Drag Race."

"We see RuPaul as a fashion icon," says Leanne Anderson, chief creative officer, Iron Fist Ladies. "We are excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with him on a line of footwear that will appeal to women and men of all shapes and sizes."

"I've worked closely with the folks at Iron Fist to create a line of shoes that are sexy, fashionable, comfortable and affordable," says RuPaul. "What woman doesn't want runway-ready shoes at a price where you can pick up several pairs... I know that's what I'm looking for in a shoe! I am so proud of the Iron Fist Drag Race shoes."

Iron Fist Drag Race shoes will feature a variety of styles in sizes 5-14 and will retail between $75 and $90.

Jennifer Lopez/Marc Anthony

Not even a marital separation could keep Kohl's from going forward with the launch of the Jennifer Lopez Collection and the Marc Anthony Collection, which debuted in September 2011. The buzz is that Lopez is outselling her former husband, but sales figures have yet to be released.

The ranges include women's apparel, accessories, sleepwear, shoes and a home line, the Jennifer Lopez Home Collection, under the Lopez banner; and men's apparel, sportswear, dress shirts, neckwear, suit separates, sport coats and shoes from Anthony.

Kohl's sources say an on-going update of its store design is helping all licenses, as is the cross-promotion of the brand with Lopez and Anthony's Spanish language talent series, "Q'viva! The Chosen." The stars and series cast members are wearing pieces from their collections on-air. The series debuted on Univision Jan. 28 .

The Kardashians

The Kardashians are a multi-pronged and multi-shopping channel brand. In the last year, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe launched K-Dash on QVC and Sears' exclusive Kardashian Kollection. Kim and Rob Kardashian sealed deals with Skechers and Op, respectively.

The word is that the Kardashians could build into a billion dollar business worldwide within two years. APA Talent & Literary Agency reps all five Kardashian sisters, which include Kendall and Kylie Jenner, and helped to secure the Sears Kardashian Kollection deal with Jupi Corp., their biggest fashion deal yet. The Kardashian Kollection is on target to generate $200-300 million in retail sales in its first 12 months, according to Bruno Schiavi, Jupi president.

The K-Dash line with QVC, which hit 100,000 units by the end of last year, is being extended. At Sears, despite the departure of John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home and news the retailer is closing some stores, the Kardashian Kollection is one that is bringing new shoppers to stores.

Sears has also added Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez at its Kmart division and Sofia by Sofia Vergara. Vergara fuels interest in the line by making appearances on-air to bolster her brand.

Jason Wu

Last year, the launch of Missoni's line for Target crashed the retailer's website and sold out merchandise almost immediately. This year it is Jason Wu's turn as he launches an exclusive line for Target on sale through the beginning of March.

Wu, who designed first lady Michelle Obama's Inaugural Ball dress, is launching his debut line for Target in a 53-piece collection.

Also notable at Target is the pop up in-store shops that will be set up for six weeks. In apparel, Target will feature unique ready-to-wear from Miami-based retailer, The Webster.

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