Celebrity/fashion designers like Katie Holmes and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen may be boosting the fashion industry in more ways than we know. According to Businessweek, celebrity fashion designers are helping increase sales for the whole women’s apparel market, which took a major hit during the recession. It is a process of the celebrity (or even their children) going out in public in a fashionable outfit (even if they didn’t design it) followed by the resulting media exposure from that outing and gossip about their style and association with fashion that send people shopping. These celebrities charge a lot for their high-end clothing but their presence in the industry is having a trickle-down effect. This is why Katie Holmes’ relatively new line, Holmes & Yang, is expected to have a big debut at fashion week. The line has buzz because of the media circus surrounding Katie Holmes.
According to Businessweek, women’s apparel sales climbed 3% to $108.1 billion in the 12 months ended in June, according to NPD, a Port Washington, New York-based market research firm. U.S. department-store chains sell more women’s apparel than any other category of merchandise. At New York-based Saks Inc. (SKS), women’s apparel represented 35% of the chain’s $3 billion sales in the most recent fiscal year. This is in part due to just these famous women being associated with fashion in a bigger way than just wearing a designer dress in public. Celebrities know so much more about fashion than they did 15 years ago and thanks to the birth of the stylist career, are more involved in the entire process. Maren Hartman, director of U.S. content for WGSN, a London- based trend forecasting firm, said celebs know “much more about fashion. When people learn about something, they think they know a lot about it and want to capitalize on it.”
Though not all celebrity designers make it big or make it big at all, there is a group that has definitely succeeded. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s line, The Row, is one of those. Newsweek writer Robin Givhan described it as “The Gap meets Jill Sanders” because the clothing is made up of simple, minimal pieces that are really expensive and their target consumer group is 35 to 45-year-old women. A Row jersey knit t-shirt has a retail price of $290. Fashion experts believe the company has managed to succeed, despite the priciness, because the girls know their products very well, are aware of what their consumer group wants and have tried not to use or rely on their celebrity to promote it. They didn’t even want to put their name on the label at first but eventually they did. The Row has also formed partnerships with TOMS Shoes, Steve Madden and the subscription shopping web site Stylemint. It brings in about $10 to $12 million in sales annually.