5 September 2009

Celebrity Clothing Ranges In The Men’s Market

If, thanks to the likes of Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Lopez and Elle MacPherson, the women’s wear market has long accepted direct celebrity involvement, it is – apart from the hip hop and urban clothing market – still a new idea for men’s wear. Until now.

In November new men’s wear label Pretty Green, a casual wear line with leanings towards Mod culture, will launch in Selfridges. It also happens to be designed by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.

Alongside the singer’s new venture comes Nikki Sixx, bassist and founder of band Motley Crue, who will launch his Royal Underground brand in the UK this autumn, not to mention Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who are planning a men’s wear line to complement their women’s wear label The Row.

But will such name recognition help or hurt a brand when it comes to men’s wear? “There’s always a danger of losing credibility when a celebrity is behind a fashion brand,” says Pharrell Williams, of the band N.E.R.D., who partnered with Tomoaki Nagao, the Japanese designer behind A Bathing Ape, to create the Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream lines. “When it’s a world you don’t know much about, you need to team up with an expert. That said, however, name recognition also helps – we’ve been able to build up a dedicated fan base quickly,” he says.

According to Simon Aboud, director of brand consultancy Make Believe, now may be the best time for a new brand to have genuine celebrity involvement. During a recession consumers are more likely to re-examine brand values and seek those with heritage and integrity. And, says Aboud, “Celebrity values are among the most potent, especially now that fashion advertising has collapsed.”

Yet stars can be divisive, too. For every man who buys David Beckham’s forthcoming sportswear collection for Adidas Originals, there may be many who will be put off precisely because it is Beckham who is involved. A celebrity-backed men’s wear line is, says Nigel Grant, director of Pretty Green, a complex proposition to manage, as the demise of Vinnie Jones’s 2003 fashion line suggests.

Barry Grainger and Neil Adam, co-founders of new British men’s wear brand Citizen Seven, whose main investor is the Manchester City and England footballer Shaun Wright Phillips, have been subtle in publicising their famous backer.

“It has to be a drip feed,” Grainger says. “Clearly there is value in mentioning Shaun – it gives the brand appeal to terrace fashion fans. But we also know that it may alienate some people, maybe even simply because they support a rival team.” Although Phillips’ involvement is largely financial, the new label’s promotional material does mention him. “You have to accept that a brand with deeper celebrity involvement, rather than mere endorsement, may need more time to find acceptance.”

Grant of Pretty Green adds: “Consumers are seeing through those brands that have simply had a celebrity name lent to them. Ultimately, the product has to stand on its own.”

Trace Ayala, who co-founded William Rast with singer Justin Timberlake in 2005, says: “Running a brand with a celebrity is a double-edged sword. Men are more inclined to think that if a celebrity is involved, it’s them lending their name for the cheque. And there is a danger of the celebrity overshadowing the brand, which is why, after a while, it helps if they move into the background.

“That said, a famous name generates media interest and tends to open doors with buyers. Ask a department store to stock you, and the buyer is invariably not interested. Tell them that Justin Timberlake wants to meet them for dinner to discuss matters, and you get an altogether different response.”

Source: www.ft.com


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