Clothes-minded—October 16, 2007

By Allison Cassing

To become a successful designer nowadays you have to do more than design great pieces—you need to be a personality. More and more, the designers who once only ran in the fashion circle are breaking into the mainstream and becoming part of the generally iconic. From the other direction, we’re seeing loads of celebrities who fancy themselves designers: the Olsen twins (sorry, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake, Ivanka Trump, Sarah Jessica Parker, Serena Williams, Scarlett Johansson, Paris Hilton…the list goes on and on. There have been mixed reviews as to whether the celeb collections merit recognition for more than the star power behind them. It’s about time we consider a few of these sew-lebrities and see how they measure up.

We’ve watched Mary-Kate and Ashley grow from their terrible twos on Full House to fabulous fashionistas. With all the fashion press these starlets have been getting, it was only a matter of time before they created their own labels, The Row and Elizabeth and James. The Row’s upscale fall collection focuses on androgynous, clean basics in a black, white, and gray palette. With leggings, T-shirts, and tuxedo coats, the line seems to be an extension of their own closets, which is no surprise given the huge amount of input the two have in the line. From start to finish, the twins are hands-on with the pieces, and their hard work has paid off with enthusiastic responses from fashion editors and shoppers alike.

Same goes for their contemporary line Elizabeth and James (named after their younger, previously nameless siblings). The twins’ personal style is in every stitch of Elizabeth and James, from the super skinny pants and button-downs to the blazers and sequin dresses. With the undeniable success of their fashion collections, it seems the twins have really hit the ground running in their five-inch Balenciaga heels.

Along with Mary-Kate and Ashley, the Millers are staging another designing sister act. Actress Sienna (star of Factory Girl and Jude Law’s ex) and designer Savannah recently launched their line Twenty8Twelve. The brand’s name comes from Sienna’s December birthdate.

The look for the line follows Sienna’s bold, vintage style with layers of knits, dresses, ruffled tops, masculine shirts and jackets, and, of course, jeans. Even before you could buy the sisters’ designs at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, Sienna’s look was widespread: A stroll down any trendy, semi-alternative street would show many Siennas strutting past. With Savannah’s design experience and Sienna’s way with clothing, Twenty8Twelve brings a funky, vintage vibe to more classic pieces. We’ve never looked forward to three days after Christmas more.

What do we know about the new label William Rast? You could call it upscale Hollister, on par with Lucky Brand Jeans, or simply Justin Timberlake’s designer alias. Timberlake and his longtime friend Trace Ayala got together with an idea for producing chic sportswear. After putting their grandfathers’ names together in late 2006, the line was born. William Rast’s sporty looks for men and women include many styles of denim and varicolored hoodies, jackets, and T-shirts, all perfect for lounging on a Hollywood set.

The pieces have an athletic, street-smart style, and have been seen on the likes of Jessica Simpson, Cameron Diaz, and Jessica Biel (girlfriend’s gotta represent). The ’N Sync alum sure has kept himself busy since breaking from the boy band. For JT, whether it’s a new restaurant or clothing line, it’s all about bringing sexy back.

Just as ’N Sync and the Spice Girls fought for play time in your Discman, so Justin and Posh vie for space in your wardrobe. Victoria Beckham has stylishly evolved from her Union Jack– and platform-wearing days into a fashion icon with her first-class, polished look. After a very successful collaboration with jeans company Rock and Republic, Beckham started designing her own line of denim, DVB (Denim by Victoria Beckham). In addition to a wide array of superstar jeans, DVB carries huge sunglasses that are perfect for poolside basking or dodging paparazzi.

Most of these superstar lines don’t come cheap. Luckily for those who want a big name on a smaller price tag, a couple of celebs have teamed up to design for mass retailers. Madonna and Kate Moss have joined with H&M and TopShop, respectively, to create collections exclusively for the stores. Madonna’s sporty style showed up in her M by Madonna H&M partnership, which was released in March 2007 and showed typical Madonna tracksuits and spruced-up leisurewear suitable for an evening out. Across the pond, queen of style Kate Moss has continued to create pieces for TopShop that let the average Jane take home a bit of Kate’s je ne sais quoi. The pieces range from a scandalous jersey “bondage” dress to vests and skinny jeans that are ever-so-Kate.

Not only can they sing and act, but these celebrities have channeled themselves into fabrics for public consumption. Does the appeal actually lie in the creation? Or is it the name behind the label that has shoppers snapping up these collections? Either way, it seems that star status guides fashion success. Sure, it’s important that your designs be brilliant. But to be successful nowadays, you have to serve it. These celebrities certainly do, and they’re piping hot.