By Kristopher Fraser
In the world of high fashion, it used to take years of extensive training to become a designer, and even once the training was obtained, it would take a tremendous amount of hard work to make it to the top of the design field to a position like creative director of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, or Calvin Klein. People spend their whole lives, thousands of dollars investing in the proper schools, and hours on the sewing machine in the hopes that they will someday become the next great designer to be a household name. It’s a designers dream to see their dress on a celebrity, and having the masses type their name into google.
Of course, not all those in the realm of luxury fashion are gifted with extensive years of training. Some just happen to already be on celebrity status, and as a result, they have an easy time getting their foot into the world of fashion design.
One such celebrity who has managed to make a major impression on the fashion world is Grammy-Award winning hip-hop star Kanye West.
West, whose guest list for his recent NYFW show included Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and Givenchy Creative Director Ricardo Tisci, essentially gave himself fashion authority as soon as he started to do sneaker collaborations with Adidas and launched his own Yeezus line. He recently caused quite the upset in the fashion community when he decided to stage a surprise fashion show on Wednesday, September 16, 2015. He received a lot of flack from many fashion editors, most notably Cathy Hornyn at New York Magazine who said of West “He is an amazing performer, but his merits as a designer are still in doubt. And it seems to me that the fashion world should be holding West’s feet to the fire — expecting more integrity and discipline from him. After all, he still seems to need our approval: There’s something touching about his desire to belong to the fashion establishment.”
West also caused a major upset because his surprise show ended up being staged at the same time as designer Anne Bowen’s and Naeem Khan’s shows at 12 p.m. Bowen and Khan, both incredibly skilled designers, took grave offense to West, who isn’t considered a real designer by many, staging a show during their timeslot. West’s show pulled audience members, buyers, and editors away from their shows they had been scheduled to attend, but just because they chose to attend his show instead doesn’t mean he’s really earned the respect of the fashion crowd. Once upon a time, West was mocked and beleaguered for attempting to do a women’s line, now he’s being hailed as a true Renaissance man and jack of all trades for being able to move between the worlds of music and fashion, although many don’t find him cut out for the latter.
West lacks what many celebrity designers before him have, attention to editing and quality of material. Sarah Jessica Parker, on the other hand, is a celebrity who knows how to do clothing. The former star of “Sex and the City” can boast that her SJP shoe collection landed Bloomingdale’s as its first retail partner earlier this year.
Her shoe collection now sits alongside Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Gucci at Bloomingdale’s 59th and Lexington Avenue flagship store in Manhattan. Having played one of the biggest fashion icons in television history, and being a fashion icon herself, people turned out in droves when Parker’s shoe collection hit Bloomingdale’s. She isn’t the only celebrity who has managed to have a successful clothing line.
Take a look at Kanye’s fellow hip-hop stars Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. Combs’s Sean John line is a staple at Macy’s, and has a huge urban following from fans of his music. Carter’s Rocawear clothing line boasts sales of $700 million annually. On the other hand, Carter’s wife Beyonce Knowles is in that category of music stars whose fashion lines have failed.
In 2011, Knowles launched House of Dereon, a line done in collaboration with her mother Tina Knowles. While Beyonce is arguably the most powerful pop star in the world, pop stardom doesn’t translate into a top selling clothing line. House of Dereon quickly flopped. Knowles tried her hand at fashion again in 2012 in an attempt to revive House of Dereon, but again the line quickly fizzled out.
The lesson here is celebrities, just like regular designers, are hit or miss when it comes to the fashion collections. There are those who can successfully pull off a clothing line, like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jay-Z, and P. Diddy, and there are those who should stick to entertainment, like Kanye West and Beyonce. The world of fashion design should usually be left to the trained designers, but, sometimes celebrities can strike it out of the park.
Like all business endeavors, sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed. There is no magic formula for a great collection, it just takes talent, hard work, and perseverance.