Blame it on karaoke or the ever-increasing fixation on fame. For better or for worse, pop's scantily clad vixens have captured the collective imagination. They have fueled the craze for teen trends such as midriff-baring Ts and low-slung jeans, and after an Emmy show at which the boring black suit ruled, divas like J.Lo, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani and Beyonce Knowles are the girls an easily bored public is counting on to keep fashion fabulous.
Whether she's corseted, laced into custom-made leather or doing her saucy schoolgirl routine, Britney's sexed-up look, created for the past two years by styling duo Kurt and Bart, infuriates parents. But retailers seem to like it just fine. Who else but Britney could successfully promote the sorry old gym sock, like the one she wore on her arm at the Super Bowl last January, as an accessory? "Everybody was like, what's up with the tube sock?" said Bart. "But then Urban Outfitters did a little line of them."
Of course, the fashion medley Madonna's team put together for her "Drowned World" tour also made a major impact. Jean Paul Gaultier turned his work on the diva's wardrobe into an Oriental excursion at the spring couture. Meanwhile, Dan and Dean Caten, the Canadian-born twins behind the Milanese men's label D-Squared, who also designed the tour's Western-wear segment, gained exposure by their labors. "Millions of people have bought copies," said Dean.
Over the past two seasons, Richie Rich, a former club kid and Ice Capades skater, and Traver Rains, a real-live rodeo rider, turned their knack for catering to pop royalty — such as Spears, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, the Backstreet Boys, Shakira and Jessica Simpson — into the campy new fashion line Heatherette. When a star like Mariah Carey or Alicia Keys needs a customized T-shirt asap, these are the boys she calls. The duo often arrives at New York's photo studios with an air-brush machine and bedazzling kit in hand to whip up their wacky creations onsite. "Basically, we came up with Heatherette for the pop star in everybody," said Rich.
The appeal of pop's sauvage T-shirts and newfangled denims is all about accessibility. While most fans will never be able to afford Versace or Roberto Cavalli, they can rip up their T-shirts or don a little something from one of the many new pop-centric clothing collections. For her part, the 22-year-old rapper Eve launched a new clothing line of her own called Bombshell, while, in a crafty bit of cross-marketing, the junior clothing chain Wet Seal inked a deal with the WB to produce Popstars, a collection based on the popular TV show "Popstars2."
And then there's J.Lo. "Growing up in the Bronx, I wanted to emulate what I saw on TV and movies and videos," said Lopez, "but then again, I still wanted to be cool in the neighborhood." In April, the star partnered with Andy Hilfiger and translated that neighborhood cool into a junior line full of lace-up jeans and denim jumpsuits, dangerously cropped T-shirts and tiny miniskirts that any diva-in-training would love. "Eventually," said Lopez, "the J.Lo brand will branch off into a lifestyle type of thing where you have all the different types of products: perfume, lingerie, hosiery. But I want the clothes to stand on their own first."