But attaching a star’s name to a T-shirt or earrings does not guarantee success. Generally, how well a line does will vary greatly, depending on the star’s popularity and involvement in the design, the quality of the merchandise and marketing of the brand. “The celebrity name draws the fan base to the product, but at the end of the day, the product has to stand on itself,” says Michael Stone, president of The Beanstalk Group, a global brand licensing agency. “It has to be well priced and well designed.”
Indeed, industry experts say for every celebrity brand that is a hit, five others flop. Anyone remember hip hop star and actor L.L. Cool J’s casual clothing line with Sears? It lasted less than a year after its launch in 2008. One reason was that the collection of hooded sweatshirts and jeans failed to catch the eyes of Americans at a time when the country was in a deep recession.
It’s also key that the clothes reflect the personality of the celebrity because many consumers will want to emulate their style. For example, Lopez, 43, shuttered her Sweetface clothing collection in 2009, six years after launching it at several department stores, in part because shoppers didn’t believe that the line matched her glam style. The collection, which included sweat pants instead of the fitted dresses Lopez is known for sporting, were seen as too casual.
Lopez learned her lesson. Last year, she launched an exclusive collection for Kohl’s, which offers $99.99 platform wedge boots and $60 animal print faux-wrap dresses under her name. The collection is faring well, according to Kohl’s, although the chain declined to give sales figures.
“Every look in this collection … is something that people know I would wear,” reads a statement by Lopez on Kohl’s website.
It’s also important that a celebrity doesn’t say or do things that could reflect poorly on a store’s image. Earlier this month, an angry customer started an online campaign calling for Macy’s to dump Donald Trump’s line of $65 power ties and $65 dress shirts after he verbally attacked President Barack Obama on social media after he won reelection.
Angelo Carusone, 30, has collected nearly 673,000 signatures on petition website signon.org. Carusone, once a loyal Macy’s shopper, says he won’t shop there again until the retailer severs ties with Trump. “Macy’s is building a brand on Trump’s consequence-free bullying,” he says.
But Macy’s has stood by the billionaire, and the uproar has since died down. “Macy’s marketing and merchandise offerings are not representative of any political position,” says Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for the chain.
Odd pairings can also be a concern. Indeed, Sears, a struggling retailer that is best known for selling appliances, raised eyebrows when it announced that it would carry clothes under the “Kardashian” name. The collection, which was launched last year, is named after Keeping Up With the Kardashians realty TV stars Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian.
The fashions embrace the individual looks of the sisters – Kim’s glamorous style, Kourtney’s Bohemian chic look and Khloe’s rocker influence. There are $99 leopard print maxi dresses, $24 snakeskin print earrings and $40 metallic striped tops.
When thinking about Sears as a possible partner, Khloe says she at first thought of the retailer as a place just to buy “washers and dryers.” But then, she says she and her sisters realized that Sears would enable them to achieve their goal of selling affordable clothes nationwide.
“We felt it was a good fit,” she says. “It’s like if you date a few people and then you want to marry that person.”
Ron Boire, Sears’ merchandising chief, declined to give sales figures, but says the line is doing well and gives the chain’s clothing department a “younger, more progressive feel.”