“Everybody wants to do everything, everybody needs to do everything, and everybody feels that he can. And I’m still feeling that a dancer should dance and a chef should cook and a singer should sing and a designer of clothes should do clothes. Because the moment we try to do everything for ourselves, we’re becoming very mediocre in what we do, and we don’t go to extremes and we don’t touch excellence. And I prefer to touch excellence.” – Alber Elbaz
The quote above is from the very talented creative director behind luxury label Lanvin and taken from a series of interviews from of Style.com’s Dirk Standen, entitled The Future Of Fashion, that I came across last May. I must say, Alber, I do concur. Despite having read the interview over a year ago, it recently came to top of mind after a recent announcement from Elle Magazine regarding James Franco’s contribution to the publication as a fashion photographer. Yes, a fashion photographer. And yes, that pseudo-hottie from those Spiderman movies. Of course, annoyingly intrigued, I took a peek at what the thespian/cinematographer/author/comedian/helicopter pilot..(ok, I made the last one up) had to offer. After a thorough one-minute review, I could only muster up a drawn out “meh” as my final judgement. It wasn’t terrible, but the guy’s no Irving Penn or Annie Leibovitz. This small anecdote leads to the question: Can celebrities truly be Jacks or Janes of all trades?
Immediately, I think, “No! Of course not! Enough with the perfumes and discount clothing lines already. Leave that to the experts!” Although, it all may be standard procedure, part of the celebrity contract; become famous then glue your name to any business project that appeals to the masses. Sure, there are several celebrities who’ve forayed into various business ventures, completely foreign to their native industries; but let us focus on a few examples from the world of fashion, shall we?
First (and quite possibly the biggest flop): Lindsay Lohan for the Emanuel Ungaro fashion house. I’m sure you all have read/seen/heard how acting as “fashion advisor”, the “actress” (yeah…let’s call her that…) bombed the Ungaro’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection. Fashion critics around the globe reverberated their utter dislike the utter distaste for the explosion of hearts and sequins that resulted from Lindsay’s first (and most likely last) attempt to transition into high fashion. Lindsay’s disastorous tenure at Ungaro is like one of those houseguest that have over stayed their welcome and will more than likely never be invited back again.
Another fashion “figure” failure? Jennifer Lopez’s Sweetface clothing line. The label, launched in 2003, halted production in 2009 with hopes of re-strategizing and introducing the brand in the future from a new perspective. Now in the throes of 2011, there has been no word on whether the label is set to re-surface. Of course Sweetface, an urban street wear spinoff of the JLO label, isn’t Lopez’s only fashion set back –JLO closed distribution in North America due to declining sales. The JLO label received a great amount of hype in 2001 when it first launched, naming Lopez as a pioneer in the celebrity-designer genre. But we all know what happened afterwards….
There are, however, some exceptions, although few and far between. The reason for Lohan’s complete flop? Maybe she didn’t do her homework. Unlike rapper Kanye West, who’s been a regular fixture in the front row at fashion weeks. West has also been a very vocal cheerleader for womenswear designer, Pheobe Philo, of French luxury fashion house Céline. He even had the honour of presenting a CFDA International Award to her this year. As educated as he seems now, West didn’t always have the chops for design, in 2009 he made his first attempt to infiltrate the industry with his brand Pastelle and was often seen sporting pieces from the collection. Never heard of Pastelle? For reasons unknown, the line’s release never came to fruition. Rumour has it, however that West has relocated to Paris and is designing a collection for spring 2012 under his own name. The world will have to wait to see if West can rightfully add “fashion designer” to his cachet. Let’s hope his clothes will be as great as his music.
Another huge success story: Mary-Kate and Ashley Oslen and their luxury brand The Row. These lifetime-celebrity twins have full creative and business control over the direction of their brand. The label has been well received by the industry, worn by fashion editors and stylists alike, with a nomination for a Swavorski Award for Womenswear at the 2011 CFDA Awards. The Olsen’s have been involved in the fashion biz for a long time and have, over the years, put in the all man hours necessary to create a label with real staying power. They’ve done their homework. The clothing makes sense and the quality is unmatched when compared to the clothing lines of their celebrity counterparts. The Olsen’s also share great success in their diffusion lines; Elizabeth and James, a parisienne type chic to everyday dressing; and Olsenboye, a line for teens inspired by influential cities around the world and exclusively sold at JC Penney. They clearly know what they’re doing. And are doing it very well.
If anything can be learned from celebrities making the cross over into fashion, its that it may be best to stick to what you know and do well. Others will thank you for it.
What do you think? Are there any other celebrities turned designers/photographers/authors/magicians that you like? Let me know in the comments section below.
photo credits: various websites
^AMSocial tagging: celebrity designers > clothing label > fashion photographer > kanye west > pheobe philo