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Madonna. Sarah Jessica Parker. Lindsay Lohan. Jessica Simpson. Jennifer Lopez. Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen. Sean Diddy Combs. Justin Timberlake. Beyonce Knowles. Britney Spears. The list goes on and on.

How many of our most popular young — and not so young — celebrities are also talented clothing designers?

It’s uncanny. It’s outrageous. It’s…Liza Minnelli?

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Now I bet you’re expecting me to come down hard on these celebrities for cashing in on their popularity and sticking their names on clothing lines they (let’s be honest) have very little involvement in other than some modeling and personal appearances (and collecting their paycheck).

But I won’t. I don’t see much difference between this and true designers taking credit for the work of their design staff. (We won’t name names)

Most people understand that brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Halston, and Balenciaga are designed by others. They have to be: these designers have been dead for years.

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At this point — when most clothes are made in the far East regardless of brand — does it matter whose name is on the label if you like the clothes? And if you don’t like them, are you going to buy them just because Beyonce is on the tag? (I guess that’s what manufacturers are hoping.)

When did this start, exactly? I know Esther Williams endorsed Cole bathing suits back in the 40’s and later started her own bathing suit company. But that sort of made sense, right? She spent a lot of time swimming.

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And people can be multi-talented and have multiple careers. Tony Curtis was also a painter; Ginger Rogers liked to sculpt; Phyllis Diller has her own brand of canned chili. (That’s not a joke; I’ve tried it.)

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But singer Jessica Simpson has an entire clothing line: shoes, dresses, intimate apparel, luggage, you name it. She is big business Perhaps busy Jessica does have some creative control, but not even prolific Karl Largerfeld could design the amount of stuff she’s offering in her collection.

Then there are people like Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith. These two women are powerhouse brands unto themselves — clothes, home collections, wigs, make up. It’s mind boggling.

Fashion is a crowded world and a celebrity name obviously helps move the merchandise. But it’s only going to fly if the clothes work, right? And it’s going to have to be competitively priced, especially today. Shoppers are pretty savvy and have a lot of options, after all.

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Readers, what’s your take? Would you seek out Britney’s shoes or Jessica Simpson’s because you like the singer behind it or her personal style?

Does the celebrity fashion designer thing annoy you?

Are celebrity fashion designers good for fashion or bad — or just (cynical) business as usual?

Your thoughts, please!

~Peter

When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”

93 Comments

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    Aug 21, 2014, 05.22 AMby Audrey Barton

    i wear and buy what i like and can afford. before this article i never put any thought into it. i hate miley cyrus but i have a miley cyrus shirt because i liked the color and the sleeves. its just a woven blue long sleeved shirt with those plastic squaresyou see on bels up the wrists. i dont think this is right that a famous person gets more famous on other’s work but i still buy it. even if the celebrity wasnt endorsing it i would but it. it was $5 and i liked it.

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    Feb 19, 2012, 06.40 PMby Gabrielle Ruffino

    Please excuse improper format and grammer, that statement was typed on a phone

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    Feb 19, 2012, 06.37 PMby Gabrielle Ruffino

    I came across this article while writting a paper on his exact topic. I am a fashion design student at the fashion institute of technology in NY and i would like to illistrate a point I dont think man people consider when buying from celebrity designers. What if your doctor performed a life saving surgery and when he was done some random person on the street walked up and claimed the thanks for the operation just performed? How about if a school teacher taught your child to read and the principal came up and shook your hand saying the were the one who deserved the thanks the parents handed out? What if you had a dissertation to write for your masters degree and someone wrote it for you and your professor found out? Would you argue that because the person who actually wrote it was popular so you should still get credit? All of thes scenarios involve people taking credit for somthing they not only dont fully understand but more importantly something they put no work into. In no way are any of those scenarios morally sound or fair. People would not allow these situations to occur withut something being sad so whydo we give famius people a pass?

    Now think of somone like me who spends 13+ hours a day at school perfectng my craft so i can get a good job when i graduate and fulfill my dream of opehing my own fashion house. Imagine how i feel when I’m working on four hours of sleep trying to perfe t the fit on my sixth garment I’ve made that week and when i take a break to eat I open a magazine to see a celebrity clothing advertisment and I know that there was someonenlike me who worked every bit as hard as I am then passed the credit onto someone who doesnt know the difference between a charmeuse and a tweed. The more celebrity designers oversaturate the fashion market the less room they leave for entrepreneurs like me. It is utterly imoral that these peple walk down runways taking credit for clothing lines they never once laid down a proper sketch, construction packet or fabric story for. It questions the very fiber if their being that they would so brashly put their name on something they know nothing about and dont site the real brains of the operation. It infuriates me that these people get away with plagarism everyday and make millions even billions for it. Its a detriment to the industry i work in and is a slap in the face to anyone who has ever worked towards the dream of becoming a desinger.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 04.36 AMby gedwoods

    I may buck the trend, but I don’t get too worried about celebrity fashion lines, for a number of reasons.

    First of all, I know you mean something different when you talk about celebrity fashions, but the first name that comes to my mind is… Stella McCartney. However, I think we would all agree that Ms. McCartney is in a separate category – she learned the business young, from the inside, and is truly a fashion designer in her own right (and widely recognized as such). However, I also think it likely that her parentage gave her an extra boost in getting her designs marketed.

    It takes a sizable chunk of money to get into the fashion business, and if a celebrity franchise can be used to assist the process, I can see why people might be tempted to go this route. I understand your argument about a designer feeling like they are a “ghost” to a celebrity, but from a business perspective, once you get the business launched and going, you can always recoup your losses and make your name then. It’s not what I would choose to do, but I could understand someone who did.

    It’s also true that the fashion business is very competitive, but it’s also true that the market is still growing. There is room for new designers – I don’t think the presence of celebrity designers has a huge effect on what is possible for new designers, one way or the other.

    From the celebrity perspective, celebrities have been “diversifying” their businesses for quite some time. In the old days, an actor/actress did just the one thing. Now they are often directors or producers, or singers/musicians, etc. And singers are also branching out, as are models. A celebrity is a “brand” in its own right, which is why they are branching out into these other domains, like fashions and perfumes and so forth. A celebrity is, indeed, a “luxury brand” and since fashion and perfumes are also considered luxury brands, this is a “natural choice” for them. I suspect their agents/publicity teams push them to develop their brand in precisely these ways. This is part of a change in the way our culture handles fame. Is it going away any time soon? I have my doubts. Clearly as more celebrities do this, there is an overall loss of “quality” in the results, and the reputation of several celebrity franchises may fall as a result. I think this is more likely what we are seeing in the so-called “peak then decline” of celebrity fashions, but I have my doubts that the trend is decreasing.

    And while today most of our clothes are made in Asia, there are indications of a change… the tide may be turning on this, as both labor and shipping costs in Asia increase. Some experts are predicting that the manufacture of clothes may be partially returning to the west over the next few years, and that the cost of clothing will begin to increase. This, in the long term, may have more of an effect on trends such as celebrity fashions than anything else, and although we may all regret paying more for clothes, there are benefits to such a change.

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    Apr 18, 2011, 06.03 PMby shelley .

    No. Nobody knows if they designed the cloth by their own and I don’t think that a celebrity is able to use a Sewing machine.

    2 Replies
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      Apr 19, 2011, 02.19 AMby Peter Lappin

      In theory one could, but I doubt they’d have the time to design an entire fashion line!

    • 318475_289225844427495_149114805105267_1417786_198827818_n_large

      Apr 19, 2011, 07.25 AMby shelley .

      Yeah, and it’s not good to get the money for the hard work other people did.

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    Apr 18, 2011, 02.18 PMby cikk

    It all comes across as greed to me – like celebrities don’t make enough money doing their own thing! Viz, Madonna – she’s one of the richest women in the world – good on her, but hey, stay out of the style business! The only one whose products I buy is Paul Newman – because they’re sooo good, and because all profits go tocharity. That was one cool guy. The ones who really do contribute to charity are the good ones.

    Personally I feel more turned off than attracted by celebrity makes. And when celebrities sell themselves cheap – like byonce “sweating” all over the place in her glued on little dress for "her " perfume – Heat (ahem!) – I totally lose respect for them and go off them – I used to quite like B’s music, but now, I don’t.

    I love looking at people’s creations on this site. I can’t wait to start putting up my own, now that I am getting into sewing again. I think it’s so cool that we are creating our own style, doing what WE like, making gorgeous things out of anything from remnants to costly fabrics, and looking unique! We don’t need so called celebrities to tell us/sell us what to wear!

    1 Reply
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    Apr 17, 2011, 11.59 PMby rachelhead

    lets continue making our own stuff….don’t shop, instead search for and make treasures. Let’s not all of us lose our integrity. One should never accept credit for something that never even touched his/her hands. It’s embarrassing that these people get respect in our culture. Even the gossip surrounding them is ingested like candy. We can cover ourselves in designer clothes if we have money…if we don’t, we make beautiful costumes ourselves. Either way, you can’t cover up greed and a phony heart…those things always seep through and are quite visible. We who see can choose to look away, not endorse, walk alone if we have to, in our colorful dresses and sentimental trinkets.

    2 Replies
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      Apr 18, 2011, 12.30 AMby Peter Lappin

      Beautifully expressed, Rachel. :)

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      Apr 20, 2011, 03.44 AMby gcamus

      Very well said:-)

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    Apr 17, 2011, 07.18 PMby aurorapoison

    Celebrity designers bore me. They are more trendy than fashionable and over priced

    1 Reply
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      Apr 17, 2011, 10.51 PMby Peter Lappin

      Trendy — and spendy!

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    Apr 17, 2011, 04.59 PMby prairieponygirl

    Nope! I really can’t take it when all of the sudden a celebrity designs they are a designer yet they have probably never even sewn a garment before. VERY annoying!

    1 Reply
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    Apr 17, 2011, 03.07 PMby omcny

    Having made a career in the fashion industry for over twenty years – not as a designer – I am truly revolted by this trend. The sheer gluttony of todays celebrities is repulsive. Why are they not content to do what they do well? Perhaps it is because so few of them have any true talent that they just leverage their 15 minutes by putting their name on any crap product they can, in order to squeeze every nickel out of the ignorant consumer? Or their box office power is fading and they desperately want to maintain the lifestyle they have become accustomed to?

    Very few of these so called celebrity designers have any street cred within the fashion industry, the Olsens’ lines Elizabeth and James comes to mind as a chic, contemporary line that most fashion editors covet as Mary-Kate and Ashley have some knowledge of fashion and a refined aesthetic. Instead these brands are recognized for what they are – low-brow cash cows for mass market retailers and the advertising industries.

    There are many, many true designers that have the talent, experience, taste and drive to have their own lines, but lack the star power to secure any backing. Retailers and merchandisers have been so shaken by the lousy economy they are unwilling to promote true design talent and instead are relying on the lowest common denominator to push sales. There are very few retailers who offer truly compelling product assortments, instead the retail landscape is a sea of cloned celebrity brands featuring bland, watered-down trends with obnoxious branding. It’s just plain tacky.

    Thankfully, this trend seems to be reaching its peak as several celebrity brands have recently closed. Hopefully the American consumer will stop buying into these brands and retailers will be forced to offer real fashion at great price points.

    Sorry for the rant, but this topic touched a raw nerve.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 17, 2011, 10.50 PMby Peter Lappin

      Bravo! Well said and thank you for your insider’s take. I’d love to hear more!

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    Apr 17, 2011, 02.34 AMby hukilaulei

    As an added note Peter, this is the second article of yours that I’ve caught (not really sure if you’ve done more or not) but I wanted to let you know I do enjoy your articles thus far.

    1 Reply
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    Apr 17, 2011, 01.30 AMby hukilaulei

    I agree with what I’ve read in the comments thus far. I’m annoyed that a celebrity can walk briskly past a table of sketches, gingerly point in one direction or the next, and stake that as claim that they have worked soooooo hard to make their clothing line “accessible” to the common man, woman, and child shopping at Target in the middle of Iowa. I also happen to be a big Gwen fan since I met her in 1994 (not really I say I met her but I really mean I saw her on Mtv and I felt a “personal connection”…. I know, sad yeah?) Seriously folks, it really does make one question what is real nowadays. It’s insane the entitlement a celebrity immediately gets for being tacky in a music video, or real life for that matter. I myself have managed to shun most of the nonsense that involves celebrity notoriety… Mostly because I cannot afford that crap but also for the aforementioned statement….. It’s kinda crap.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 17, 2011, 11.29 AMby Peter Lappin

      Totally. Great comment!

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    Apr 16, 2011, 11.22 PMby artemis-ivorywings

    Honestly, when Britney Spears’ line first hit Kohls, I was walking through the store with my sister, and my first reaction was to turn to my sis and exclaim “She’s not serious! These things are sooo ugly! Look, just because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you should design clothes….” And that’s been pretty much my mantra. I’m not against celebrity designers, if the clothes are good, but most of them, quite frankly, are rather ugly – at least the ones geared towards late highschool and college…..

    1 Reply
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    Apr 16, 2011, 01.26 PMby kknight

    The celebrity association can be a hindrance, too. A few years ago when I got married, I found the perfect simple, affordable ballet flats for my bridesmaids, and ultimately did not buy them because they were Jessica Simpson. I just couldn’t stand giving her my money, or allowing her to have any part of my hard-earned wedding budget.

    1 Reply
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