Mariotti: Celebrities often do not succeed when trying to design own fashion lines

We live in the era of the all-powerful celebrity.

We read in tabloids that they’re actually “just like us,” with photos of them taking out the trash or filling up their gas tank. Images of them cover our magazines and dominate our televisions. They can even boost a designer’s credibility by wearing their design on the red carpet to this Sunday’s Academy Awards.

But all of this power is going to their heads. It’s making some celebs think they can step outside of their profession and try to become a fashion designer. Successful lines usually thrive because of celebrity status — not artistic merit. Yet there are some celeb designers that do deserve the attention.

Victoria Beckham, formally known as Posh Spice, debuted her dress collection in spring 2009 to glowing reviews. Style.com runway reviewer Nicole Phelps went as far as to say “Her sheaths and shift dresses … will sell not on the power of her name but on the sophistication of their cut and fit.”

The Olsen twins’ line The Row is a study in minimalism chic. Their designs don’t just copy the twins’ style. Mary-Kate and Ashley created their own aesthetic.


Gwen Stefani, who named her clothing line L.A.M.B. because she wanted people to buy the clothes for their own merit not for her celebrity status, layers prints in a haphazard yet chic manner.

With these examples as a starting point, it would seem the celebrity-turned-designer trend isn’t all that bad. Yet no one can forget the epic mishap that was Lindsay Lohan’s turn as a senior consultant at French fashion house Emanuel Ungaro at Paris Fashion Week in 2009.

Emanuel Ungaro bluntly said, “Lindsay Lohan’s collaboration was a disaster. I am furious but I can’t do anything about it. I have absolutely no link with that house.”

The line featured ill-fitting fur stoles, bad 80s jackets, drop-crotch pants and — worst of all — tasteless sequin pasties. Kanye West blamed her for ruining the credibility of celebrity designers and called her collaboration “The 9/11 of fashion.”

After this disaster, it would seem Lohan would stay away from fashion design. But of course, she continued work on her leggings line 6126, named for Lohan’s favorite icon Marilyn Monroe’s birth date. Lohan said the line was inspired by “the iconic Marilyn Monroe and the timeless, confident glamour she represents.”

Since when did Monroe wear sequined leopard-print leggings? The garish leggings line featured cutouts, sequins, leather and, yes, quilted kneepads.

Another flop in the celeb-turned-designer world is “Laguna Beach”and “The Hills” reality star Lauren Conrad. While Conrad certainly dresses well, her line, The Lauren Conrad Collection, was safe and boring. The designs consisted of jersey tunics, T-shirts and skirts galore. Though wearable, the designs lacked originality and weren’t worth the high prices. Alas, the line failed, yet Conrad is still designing her LC Lauren Conrad Kohl’s collection.

For struggling fashion designers who studied design for years, it must be infuriating to see someone like Kanye West decide he wants to design a women’s line and immediately land a spot at Paris Fashion Week.

Also, who really knows if these celebrities are actually designing the clothes. With their red carpet appearances, recording albums, going on tour and filming movies and television shows, how would these celebrities have time to design a fashion line? It only makes sense Beckham’s and the Olsen twins’ lines succeeded. They abandoned their former singing and acting careers to become designers.

The appeal of these celebrity fashion lines, however, isn’t necessarily that they made the designs. It’s that they liked it.

Hey, celebrities, how about you just stick to what you’re good at? If that happens to be designing clothes, just stick to that, like Beckham and the Olsen twins do. That’s usually not the case, though. So make your movies, record your albums — and stay away from our clothing.

Allison Mariotti is a senior magazine journalism major. She has too many shoes to count, but could always use another pair. Her fashion column appears every Monday in Pulp. She can be reached at [email protected].

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