Style Stars

By Suzanne D'Amato
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 28, 2007

There's the Jessica Simpson denim. The Mandy Moore tees. The Beyonce blazers. Today's celebrities aren't content to kick back in their Malibu manses, surrounded by platinum records and People's Choice awards: They want to dress you, too. (Whether you want to dress like them is another story: Consider Paris Hilton, budding designer and No. 1 on fashion guru Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list.)

The celeb-as-designer concept is nothing new, but recently even more boldfaced names have started going the "Project Runway" route: Justin Timberlake, Nicky Hilton, Travis Barker. (Travis Barker?) Jennifer Lopez, one of the category's pioneers, is introducing a new line. And high-fashion fiends soon will have a new way to copy Sienna Miller's devil-may-care chic: The actress plans to debut a collection this year.

As the breadth of offerings becomes more expansive, certain lines are getting more expensive -- and potentially pricing themselves out of the competition. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen appear to know their sweet spot, building an empire out of $10 tank tops for Wal-Mart-loving tweens. But with her House of Dereon line, Beyonce Knowles has gone from standard-issue denim to cleverly cut jackets and sleek slacks -- with hefty price tags to match. It has proved to be a less-than-winning combination for some stores. "It was more things that Beyonce herself would wear," says Wendy Red, fashion director of Washington-based chain Up Against the Wall. "But sometimes it's hard to duplicate that to a mass market."

That pesky mass market can invite other problems: A clothing line can be too "mass" to appeal to the very celebrity whose name appears on it. Take Simpson, whose burgeoning fashion kingdom includes tasseled tote bags, platform sandals and two affordable apparel lines, JS by Jessica Simpson and Princy. Simpson regularly sports luxe labels such as Chanel and Michael Kors, so it's plausible that her brands' offerings didn't speak to her. But when the singer told an interviewer that her favorite jeans were pricey True Religions, rather than Princy, Tarrant Apparel Group, her lines' manufacturer, was less than happy. The company sued her for $100 million. The allegation? That she failed to adequately promote her own collections. (Simpson denies the claim, and a countersuit has been filed.)

Some might think such issues would deter A-listers from dabbling in design, but this is one trend that shows little sign of abating.

Gwen Stefani

Military-inspired pencil skirt, $265
Military-inspired pencil skirt, $265(Renee Comet And Kathryn Norwood - Washington Post Source)
The Goods: L.A.M.B., Stefani's collection of printed skirts, glamazon dresses, edgy sweats and rasta-stripe handbags, first rocked the retail scene in 2004.

Fashion Forecast: The singer's most recent album, last year's "The Sweet Escape," may have garnered mixed reviews, but her clothing line is routinely cited as one of the best. "It's really quality," Brooks says. "You get a sense of her edgy sophistication." Which could explain prices that have edged into very sophisticated territory indeed: A velvet-trimmed leather satchel sells for a cool $725; a cotton trench, $385.

(Renee Comet And Kathryn Norwood)

Wear It Well: Stefani's sleek skirt could work with boots or stilettos, while her cropped, Fair-Isle print cardigan would look great over a clingy tee and jeans.


Jennifer Lopez

The Goods: Sweetface, launched in 2005, features off-the-shoulder tops and tiny dresses perfect for those wanting to rule the red carpet a la Lopez.

Fashion Forecast: A mixed bag: JLO by Jennifer Lopez made its debut in 2001 but has struggled at retail. By contrast, Lopez's higher-end line Sweetface is considered pretty, well, sweet. "That really distills the essence of J.Lo," Brooks says. It's "body-conscious in a uniquely Latin way." Another jewel in the crown: A new line, Justsweet, that will offer leather jackets, hoodies and denim at a lower price point.

Wear It Well: Sweetface's skinny jeans have legs beyond the runway: Try them with flat riding boots and a slouchy oversize top for balance.

Beyonce Knowles

The Goods: House of Dereon is a line of slinky tops, cropped pants and denim that the "Dreamgirls" diva created with mother and longtime stylist Tina Knowles. Launched in 2005, the brand's name refers to Beyonce's late grandmother, Agnez Dereon.

Jacket, $216 at Lettie Gooch (
Jacket, $216 at Lettie Gooch ( Comet And Kathryn Norwood - Washington Post Source)
Fashion Forecast:"We get phone calls every day asking about the line," says Theresa Watts, owner of D.C. boutique Lettie Gooch. "Customers are very excited about it. They know it's Beyonce, and I think that's what's driving the line . . . everyone wants to look like Beyonce or be associated with her."

Still, Watts is debating whether to stock House of Dereon this spring, citing high prices and inconsistent fits. "It's an issue for me because it's an issue for my customers," she says.

Wear It Well: This wrap-front pleated jacket would pair wonderfully with a printed A-line skirt.

Jessica Simpson

The Goods: Shoes! Bags! Sunglasses! Jeans! When it comes to her forays into fashion land, this designing woman has taken a more-is-more approach.

Leve cap-toe ballet flat, $62.95 at
Leve cap-toe ballet flat, $62.95 at Comet And Kathryn Norwood - Washington Post Source)
Fashion Forecast: To hear some industry analysts talk, Simpson probably should have stuck with her day job. Her shoe line, launched in 2005, is popular with shoppers looking for trendy styles, but the singer and actress has reportedly ruffled feathers for failing to embrace one of celebrity fashion's most basic commandments: Thou shalt wear thine own brand's clothes. "A PR disaster," says Claire Brooks, president of brand consulting company ModelPeople Inc.

Wear It Well: High fashion right now is a sea of chunky-heeled platforms, but ballet flats still look classic dressed up or down -- and they're one of Simpson's bestsellers. "The flat trend is exploding," Lisa Mitchell, spokeswoman for Jessica Simpson Footwear, said in an e-mail.

Coming Soon to a Shop Near You?


Madge will follow up the tracksuit H&M created for her last year with M by Madonna, a full-fledged collection due to hit the Swedish retailer's stores in March. While London's Daily Telegraph dubbed the tracksuit a "sartorial disaster," this line will be closely based on Madonna's personal style (see sketch at left). "This time, she's going to be involved in the designing," Brooks says, "and they're offering clothes that are going to reflect her classy sensibility."

Kate Moss

The uber-waif inked a deal to design a collection for British fast-fashion retailer Topshop, scheduled to debut this spring. If you have trouble envisioning Moss doing anything so mundane as pinning a hem, have no fear: "She will come in for a few hours every other day or so, set the inspiration for the line, and then our designers will interpret that," Topshop's Sir Philip Green told Women's Wear Daily last year.

Sienna Miller

So far, she's mostly famous for dating Jude Law, but with a new movie and a fashion line out this year, Miller may get to change that. The movie is the much-anticipated Edie Sedgwick biopic, "Factory Girl." The clothing line is Twenty8Twelve, a collection of denim, knitwear and dresses that Miller created with sister Savannah, right, who has worked for famed British designer Alexander McQueen. (Stumped by the brand name? It's a riff on Sienna's birthday, Dec. 28.)

>>Photo Gallery: New and Notable Celebrity Fashion Lines

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