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Jessica Simpson: A Real, Live Girl

Her personal philosophy of approachability has helped propel her fashion business toward the $1 billion mark.

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Jessica Simpson in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” 2005.

Photo By Warner Bros./Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Jessica Simpson in “Employee of the Month,” 2006.

Photo By Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection

Jessica Simpson in “Blonde Ambition,” 2007.

Photo By Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Special Report issue 03/28/2011

Growing up, she said she never liked to wear the same outfit twice. “I had to be very creative, because I couldn’t go out and buy different outfits. My mom’s been my stylist since I was born. I was a preacher’s daughter, so I did have an image I had to uphold,” she said.

Simpson described her personal style as “classic…Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Michael Kors. I like sleek and beautiful. I also like the fun, quirky stuff such as Lanvin and Alexander McQueen. Valentino is a definite inspiration for me,” she said. “I love dresses. I love short skirts and showing off my legs. Sometimes I have to try and hide the boobs. I love wearing a suit jacket with a pair of cutoff jean shorts, and a great fun necklace with a T-shirt. I’m pretty simple. My style never gets too complicated.

“I don’t always like to dress up. I like to have something dressy and mix it with something casual. If it’s sequins, I still think it can go with shorts. In L.A., you always need somewhat of a jacket. It’s chilly at night.”

Describing herself as a “homebody,” Jessica lives in a secluded 5,500-square-foot home in Beverly Hills, once owned by Ellen DeGeneres, which she purchased for around $5 million in December 2005. Her parents live about 15 minutes away. During the evenings, she’s more likely to be found sprawled out on the couch than crawling the nightclubs. “In my downtime, I’m wearing sweats and on my couch catching up on TV shows. My fiancé is really into art, and I am, as well. We’ve been watching a lot of fun documentaries and going to art galleries and hanging out with some cool painters. My house is my little château. I like to stay home with my friends and cook, or we all order in. My house is a revolving door. I always have at least five people over all the time.”

Simpson said she even met Johnson in her own home. “He was out with some of my friends, and I was at home. One of my friends said, ‘You should come back to Jessica’s house.’ He came to the door and said, ‘This is Eric Johnson, and I said, ‘Who?’ And he said he was coming to hang out. And I haven’t let him leave the house. We got engaged at the house. It’s one of those rare stories.”

Will he work in the family business?

“No,” the women replied in unison.

“Eric’s a great guy. He’s taking art classes at UCLA. He’s very artistic. It’s nice to have an artistic athlete. You don’t find that too much,” said Jessica. Together they hike, bike, and live with a five-year-old Airedale terrier, who came with Eric. “We’re very relaxed. It takes a lot to get us stressed out. We talk through everything. You’ll see him off in the corner, and what’s Eric doing? He’s just meditating.”

“He’s a nice man for Jessica because she has such a crazy life. He’s a great balance for her,” added Tina.

Turning back to business, the duo said they were pleased with the relationship they’ve established with their licensees.

Jessica and her team frequently travel to Europe for inspiration — Jessica took a trip with Johnson to London and Paris in early March to visit stores and do some vintage and fabric shopping. Although Simpson designs a line for teens and young women, she doesn’t feel that it needs to be cutting edge. In fact, she said often the trends need to be filtered down before they are sought by their customer.

“We like to see the trends that are coming. Trends that are in the magazines right now, we’ll have next year. We’re not too far behind, but we are behind,” said Jessica.

Unlike some other celebrity lines that often fade out as fast as they arrive, Simpson’s brand appears to have staying power.

“In all honesty, I think people really trust me,” she said. “They trust that the product is going to be great, because they’ve given it a try and it hasn’t failed them. As far as how I’m different, I’m very real with who I am. I don’t take myself too seriously, and I’m very approachable. I want people who wear my clothes to say, ‘Yeah, this is Jessica,’ that I’m their friend and I have invested my time and my energy. I want everybody to feel like themselves in my clothes. I don’t know how other celebrities handle their businesses, but I’m very hands-on and I think you have that personal touch with me, and I think that outreach is very important.”

When her sportswear launches this fall, Simpson will be hitting the road to visit stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s. “The in-stores are really to say thank you to the buyers,” she said.

Asked whether the sportswear launch will be exclusive to one particular retail chain, Simpson laughed and gave a football analogy: “When we launch the sportswear with Jones, we’re going to go long and wide. We have too much time invested with this. We saw with our denim we did a soft launch, and it did so well. We could have come with a huge launch, but they were testing it. Now there’s not much to test because people trust the Jessica Simpson brand.”

 

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